THERE’S MORE AT THE DOOR.

Hello and welcome to ‘The Willows’ and a big welcome to all our new Twitter followers.

Even though we have a very well insulated house with the floors, walls and roof all having 4 inches of insulation, there are always little problems with the wind through the side door especially when the wind blows from the east. All of the windows have insulation tape/draught excluder, so no draughts there, but the doors were difficult to sort out. Another problem was that all of our coats, boots, etc.  were hung up in the kitchen and when they got wet ( and knowing where we live, that’s often !), and were drying, it made the kitchen steam up and the floor wet meaning more heat was needed.

So, I solved this by building something so simple and easy, that has been used for exactly these reasons for hundreds of years, a porch.

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It was built onto a raised floor to stop damp, and the window was recycled from an old property.

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It was stained with a water based stain and then with linseed oil to waterproof it. The re cycled door and window are now ready for a lick of paint.

The difference it has made is amazing, no more draughts and all of our wet clothing hangs in there so no more dripping all over the kitchen floor, this has also given us more room in the kitchen and we’re not tripping up over boots !

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I decided to put this old door in so that we can fetch fuel/wood for the range or start the generator from inside the porch without getting wet, especially once the tin roof has been extended!

Obviously the porch itself has a few draughts, but once the coats etc have stopped dripping, they can come in for a nice warm and a dry but they have to go back out there. There’s a place for everything and everything in it’s place, as my Grandma used to say . And I bet yours did too !

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It would be virtually impossible to stop every draught but as long as they are only small I think they actually help with some ventilation.

So now the house needs less heating, less heating means less waste and so less of a carbon footprint, and so less money needed to be spent.

We would like to supply all of our own fuel here at ‘The Willows’, and we are trying as we have already planted lots of trees over the years,( too many to count,) and most of the willow has been woven into fedges ( I will post more about the fedges in a later blog). Each willow will produce hundreds of rods that can be mulched into briquettes for fuel. Some people say that willow isn’t good for the fire as it has a high water content, but we dried some out for a year and it burnt well, very well, but making a compact briquette makes it burn slower, but with a good heat.

So we’re off now to plant more trees that include Oak ,Beech, Birch, Alder and of course Willow for our Samhain celebration.

HAPPY SAMHAIN !

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Enjoy.

IT’S A SELF PRESERVATION SOCIETY

Whilst sitting here on a Sunday afternoon listening to ‘The Kinks’,I think it puts things onto perspective on living the alternative lifestyle. It’s also strange that  a certain time of year can bring a flurry of activity. As we grow most of our food and all of a sudden you have a glut of produce, don’t have a freezer, so what are you to do with it all ? PRESERVE it !

Over the past few weeks I think that we have made a massive leap forward with our preserving and if we want to continue eating over the winter months then we have to preserve our food.

Last year we preserved our cherry tomatoes and they were very successful ( we actually opened one of our last jars yesterday and they were perfect for pizza topping) and so decided to preserve more this season, but as there were so many green toms this year ( due to a poor summer !) E found a recipe for ‘Green Tomato Chutney’ and when I walked into the kitchen (after working on ‘Bertie’ our VW campervan) all I could smell was a sweet and sour sauce. We’ve now decided to use all of our chutney as a sauce for chinese stir frys ( it tastes just the same!) and doesn’t have all of the chemicals used in commercial preserving.

And so now here are the 2 recipes to preserve a glut of cherry tomatoes. Enjoy.

First prick the cherry tomatoes with a cocktail stick and place a layer in a clean jar, sprinkle a little salt and sugar, some sliced garlic ( and a few basil leaves if desired). Layer some more tomatoes, salt etc until you have filled the jar and place the jar onto a cardboard lined baking tray, placing the jar lid on top of the jar but don’t screw the lid shut.

Place the jar(s) into a cool oven for about an hour ( our Stanley range ) or until liquid is bubbling out of the tomatoes. When the liquid has almost covered the tomatoes, remove the jars from the oven and immediately screw the lids closed and leave to cool. Store in a cool, dark place.

GREEN TOMATO CHUTNEY

Makes 7-8 230 ml/8 fl oz jars

3  1/4 lb green tomatoes

1lb 2oz onions

1/2 tsp salt

3 1/2 oz  dried dates (we didn’t bother )

18 fl oz vinegar

10 1/2 oz sugar

1 tblsp mustard

1/2 tblsp curry powder

1/2 tblsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tblsp cumin

1/2 tblsp ground ginger

Paprika

Wash tomatoes,peel the onoin and roughly chop both. Salt them and leave to stand overnight.

The next day, drain off the liquid, stone and finally chop the dates. Mix them with the vinegar, sugar and tomato and onoin mixture, and bring to the boil.

Simmer, without a lid for an hour, stirring occasionally. Add the mustard and spices after 45 mins. Boil over a high heat for 5 mins to thicken. Immediately fill the jars with the mixture, seal tightly and stand upside down for 5 mins. Store in a cool, dark place.

ONE YEAR ON

Hello everyone, yes, this is our one year blog and we can’t really believe it ourselves !

We really hope that you’ve found all of the information helpful and maybe slightly entertaining. As we’ve said before, all we wanted to do was to show that it’s possible to build your own wooden house and live a sustainable life, growing your own food, preserving that food for the winter months and most importantly make your own wine from your garden produce. It’s just about the whole package of ‘The Willows’.

For us it always has to be about moving on. One problem that I found myself was that once the kitchen was completed, I had nowhere to make and repair things, so I had to do it all outside and this is never easy because of all the rain. It was also very difficult if I had to fix the jeep on the driveway in the rain ( well I never actually fixed the jeep in the kitchen anyway!), so the best thing to do was to build a workshop/garage. This would also give me a place to work and start making my own kilowatt turbine over the winter months.

Once I’d hired a digger for the week to put in the foundation stone it was time to start building. The base measures 18′ wide,24′ long.

Frame up, all levelled and the panels going on.

This is the concrete base in the middle to bear the weight of vehicles ( all mixed in a wheelbarrow by hand !) The windows on the left came from a house down the lane that was being renovated. We rescued 5 windows in all, as they would’ve just been smashed up and burnt ! Why? They are perfect windows.

I decided to alternate corrugated iron sheets with clear-plex on the roof as this will give as much natural light as possible, because we don’t have electricity to burn !

Well, what do you expect? It may be raining but this is ‘The Willows’, let’s have a barbi.

The finished product ! These doors were also salvaged from the same house down the lane. There are 4 doors, joined in pairs to fold back, and above the doors, 2 boards are on hinges to fold inwards to give an entrance of nine feet. The doors will be painted a nice dark green soon.

I would like to take this opportunity and give  congratulations to the retirement of my work boots. They have been loyal, hardworking and always turned up for work! I’d like to wish them all the best in their future hobby of horticulture, as they are going to become geranium pots.( Recycling !)

Enjoy.

A VERY DIFFERENT JOURNEY

After a week we are back on the site. We’ve been working hard on the house and like we said before ‘The Willows’ is a continuous project. When we started with just the caravan, we had nothing here, no water,no power, no toilet, no heating, but we moved in anyway. Yes, I know we are mad, but we found that by doing it this way things got done because they had to be done, simple as that! When we found a problem we had to find a solution, it wasn’t like we could just shut the door and walk away at night, we had to live it. This is why we started this site to show people that a self-sustaining eco house could be built without spending hundreds of thousands of pounds, we did ours for just a few thousand over time. But please believe us, the house has been comfortable for about 4 and a half years(we started about 5 years ago). We did have a time of being REALLY cold, but now we have got to the stage of a few creature comforts.I know it probably sounds silly, but over the past week we have sorted out a proper living room as before it was just the original caravan furnishings, you know the sort of thing. Other things had to be sorted first, obviously the kitchen, bathroom, and garden for our vegetables. Well, this is now our living room and this is still the original caravan side.

Laying the new floor.

At last, a proper living room.

With the way our eco house( buzz word!) is, we soon worked out that we really didn’t have to go without anything, But we did have to re-think the way it is used. As with the electricity system, IT’S ONLY SMALL, but it didn’t cost too much, which is why we have a few different ways of utilizing it. Now, if people want to spend fifty grand, hey, It’s up to them, but we didn’t have that kind of money and even if we had, it would have been a waste of our needs…we are never without power anyway!

No need for ‘Grand Designs’, just ‘Grand Ideas!’

Enjoy.