So far 2020 has been a real eye opener, hasn’t it? With our usual jaunt in the Pyrenees working for Collett’s Mountain Holidays cancelled due to the COVID19 crisis, we took the opportunity (as soon as lockdown would let us), to set off on some new paths high up in the French Pyrenees. It seemed to us to be the perfect getaway amidst all the virus madness – with our own tents and enough food for a few days, no need to see anyone or stay in hotels.

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Now that we having running water in the house – and hot water no less, we decided it was high time to upgrade our grey water filtration system. Originally, we were granted planning permission after having a study completed of our land which ensured that it was suitable for a ‘Lit De Roseaux’, or reed bed system of filtration. The study outlined the exact measurements, tanks, locations and size of the filtration system. This was out of our reach in terms of cost and so we have essentially made a carbon copy of the system but utilising a different type of tank; namely a cast iron bath tub.

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Why FerroCement Water Tanks?

Having the ability to store water seems to create an innate sense of secure satisfaction now that our ferro-cement tanks are finished. Collecting and holding lovely cool, clean and fresh water in a passive way.

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International Women’s Day is a demonstration that our modern world fights the good fight daily in terms of equality, anti-discrimination and liberty to transcend gender boundaries. Some areas are making this transition in leaps and bounds whilst others are laggards stuck in their traditional ways with little or no thought towards progression. Thinking about this started a reflection process about our house build and the stereotypes which I unwittingly fought (and still fight) against on a daily basis.

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With winter well and truly behind us I find that now is the time to reflect upon some of the successes, failures and surprises which the winter and spring had in store for us and our straw bale house.

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Shakespeare knew where it was at; windows really are making all the difference to the house. It’s starting to feel like an indoor space now. Surprisingly we found the windows super easy and satisfying once we had all the right components. At the beginning, as with each stage of the house, it took a while to get our heads around it, and of course things weren’t standard because it’s a straw bale build! Despite the fact that everything else on the house is non standard, we decided to use standard, off-the-shelf windows and frames which made assembling the two together quite taxing at first, mainly due to the window ledges.

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To Render Or Not To Render

Earlier in the summer we really thought we wouldn’t be able to render the house until spring 2018. Everything we had read pointed to the fact that lime render needs to remain frost-free for three months after application. We were told by our straw bale building guru, Barbara Jones, that the only way to effectively protect it is to wrap the house up in bubble wrap each evening to protect it from the ice. So, we decided in September that it was too late and we wouldn’t be able to get the three layers on in time around the exterior of the house.

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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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“If the rules are such that you can’t make progress, then you have to fight the rules” 

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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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