Anyone close to us will know that for the last couple of years our lives have been dominated by our straw bale house. After the foundations got underway and finished last year, we began building upwards in earnest on July 15th this year. The aim was to have the superstructure of the house completed by winter time.

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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 Β 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰

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 landΒ 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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