Taking it back to the old skool, cos I’m an old fool….For the past month or so our lives have been consumed with making lime putty. Processing quicklime and turning it into lime putty, ready to be mixed with sand just before it goes onto the walls of our straw bale house as render/plaster. An unusually high number of friends and family have been asking just why? Why didn’t we buy it ready made? Why are we using an old-fashioned process at all? Why are we putting citrus fruit on the walls of our house? Classic.

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It was spring 2016, and into the vast world of growing veggies we plunged. Dan and I built raised veggie beds out of recycled pallets during the autumn of 2015, with the wonderful help of our friends Tez and Helen.

Once constructed, we created what is known as a lasagne bed. A layer of compost placed directly onto the untouched ground, followed by a layer of unbleached cardboard. Another layer of compost after this and then a lovely layer of mulchy mulchy (in the form of straw) as the final layer. This was all left to settle in peace over the winter and following spring.

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Once the foundations and box beam of the straw-bale house were completed, we focussed on a quick project to create a beautiful space for yoga, meditation and general chill out. The foundations for this area were made during the summer with lots of help from our friends and they served as a practice ground for the rammed-tyre foundations we used to make the house foundations. Read More

Tyres and gravel have been a consistent theme at Les Vignes Basses over the last few weeks. With a lot of help from our friends, many bad backs and copious amounts of alcofrol (surprisingly, it has come out level!), we have completed the rammed tyre foundations and the structural box beam. Read More

A major part  of Permaculture is using what is naturally around you with a keen eye on reducing all waste and producing what you need sustainably. This post might not be everyone’s cup of tea but the aim is to highlight an under-talked about issue in the Western world; HUMANURE.

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It’s Mayday soon and spring has really sprung here at Les Vignes Basses. Despite an odd cold snap, the plants and trees are blooming and everything is turning a lush shade of green. We’ve been busy bees planting out seedlings as well as spring cleaning (and fixing) the caravan in preparation for summertime visitors 🙂

Dan has been busily mulching around our trees, which we planted last autumn to make sure that they aren’t out-competed by the ever-growing grass. Dan was a little overexcited about all the orchids that have popped up this year, including the elusive Vanilla Orchid. I think all flower walkers will understand… Read More

To realise our dream of building a straw bale house, our first port of call is the local town hall or “Mairie”. Although the land came with outline planning permission for two dwellings, we still have to submit our designs and have them approved by the powers that be – all hail the planners 😉

A daunting prospect at first, collating the information required took some effort on our part, indeed deciding upon a final design was a lengthy process in itself! Once our permaculture design for the land was finalised we knew exactly where to situate the house. From there we utilised the skills, knowledge and research of building techniques to design a….<wait for it>….rectangle. Although a round house would have been our preference, the Charente is super strict with its rules and regulations about new house design. This means a roundhouse is out of the question. Similarly, the other regulations are quite restrictive; windows must be taller than they are wide; the pitch of the roof must be no larger than 35%, which is extremely shallow; the roof must consist of French tiles; the list goes on. Although this sounds like a large list of restrictions, in some ways it helped to give us a framework to start designing from, and that coupled with the design restrictions imposed by building with straw bales moved us along greatly with the design.

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After spending a few weeks in September working in the Spanish Pyrenees we returned to Les Vignes Basses with fresh motivation to finish our workshop/woodshed. It was a design produced by Dan but which is is better explained via pictures. For those interested in how we built the workshop ourselves, here come the photos:   Read More

For a while we have been banding ideas between us, trying to decide upon which type of eco-building method to use. Comparing the different ways of building a sustainable, eco-house is a bit of a daunting task these days. Not that this is a bad thing; wonderful architects, designers and conservationists are finding more and more innovative ways to provide this much sought after form of housing.

So ideally the house would provide shelter off-grid with small rooms but enough space for family and friends to come and visit.

With energy prices predicted to rise and rise over the next few years, a house that is self-sustainable and perhaps even earns money by selling its energy to the grid, makes sense.

Now back to the question of which type of eco house to build?! There are merits to each and every type of sustainable build, choosing between them can feel like wading through a quagmire. We explored each option in as much depth as possible before committing to our final decision.

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Before we moved to Les Vignes Basses full time we lived and worked in South Korea teaching in the public school system. Whilst there, we had large chunks of free time to look a the internet, which we used to research, learn, read and discuss what we want from our lives in France and exactly what we want to do on the land. Through various blogs, Facebook pages, pages shared by friends and oodles of trawling on the internet we stumbled upon permaculture.
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