• Talking rubbish – Turning trash into treasure

    Here at Bustan Qaraaqa they don’t simply sort their recycling, compost their vegetable scraps and put out the rubbish to be collected weekly – they take REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE to a whole new level. With no municipal waste management in Palestine, they have adopted a policy of ‘what comes on site, stays on site’, often collecting other peoples waste too! Using permaculture, creativity, knowledge and passion they educate and demonstrate by living sustainably themselves and maintaining a philosophy that there is no such thing as waste – just a failure of imagination. They hope to inspire Palestinians to stop throwing their rubbish down hillsides or burning it on the side of the…

  • Week 9 – Eco-building in the Pyrenees, Hosting a project and community living

    Over the 5 weeks spent with Pierre I observed how he managed us helpers, his projects, his family life and himself.  I imagine the whole process could be quite physically and emotionally rewarding but also draining – dealing with various people from all walks of life, interrupting your routine, sharing your space, managing the build, training, supervising, etc.   As mentioned in a previous post, community living often seems harder than the project or building itself. So, this week’s post is from Pierre’s perspective. We’ve asked him some questions which he has kindly answered for us.   How many helpers have you had? So far, to the present day, which is…

  • Week 8 – Eco-building in the Pyrenees, from earth bag foundations to plastering

    This post will actually cover the progression of Pierre’s projects in the Pyrenees over a 2 week period as we would like to use the last post, week 9, to share Pierre’s experiences of hosting volunteers for his projects. During my last 2 weeks at Pierre’s, we completed the ceiling insulation (see our week 5 post for details), continued painting the window frames (inside and out), finished plastering the internal walls, plastered the first coat for an external wall, made some earth bags, finished sanding and painting the floors, added some creative elements and contributed to some gardening in preparation for Anne and the family to move in. We had…

  • Week 7 – Eco-building in the Pyrenees, Inspiration in the Mountains

    During week 7 of my eco-building adventure, we spent a few days visiting Pierre’s mountain house to get some fresh air, a break from work and see some of the design elements he implemented there. It was inspiring to see his designs and thoughts about space actually implemented (see the week 6 post for more about designing space). This week I will simply share with you some images from the mountains and Pierre’s house and garden. He purchased an old house a decade ago and improved it substantially – essentially all by himself. As you look through the pictures, think about his use of space, the colours, the types of…

  • Week 6 – Eco-building in the Pyrenees, Natural Painting, Plastering and Designing

    This week saw us continuing the ceiling insulation, sanding and painting the timber ceiling and flooring with  linseed oil, painting window frames with natural paint and applying cow dung plaster. Linseed Oiling The linseed oil is actually a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine mixed 2L:330ml. It is used to protect the timber from the elements andincrease its durability. It also increases its resistance from being destroyed by insects or fungus. From what I’ve read, the function of linseed oil as a preservative is believed to be related to its action as a water repellent and drying agent rather than a direct biocidal activity.   Natural Painting  The natural paint is a mixture of pigment,…

  • Week 5 – Cob camp hits the road to learn eco-building in the Pyrenees

    Cobbing The beginning of week 5 was all about mixing and building cob since the roof was up and stable. There is so much to learn about cob that you can only truly understand through tactile experience.  You need to feel the critical proportion of clay to sand to ensure a plastic, cohesive, workable mix that won’t shrink and crack too much.  Depending on the coarseness of the sand and quality of the clay (and other components in the soil) the final mix should be between 5% and 25% clay.  By observing the soil composition from a soil test (seeing it settle in a jar with water) you can estimate proportions. But,…

  • Week 1 at Cob Camp – Eco Building and Community Living

    I just arrived at La Creuse, a region in the middle of France, in order to participate to the building of a cob house organised by AM Rustic with other volunteers. Jean on his side, went to Central America for few weeks, in order to do a consultancy with a British humanitarian organisation. I understood from the first day on the cob building course that this wasn’t really a structured course but a gathering of people with a shared interest in natural building coming together to live, work, learn and share their diverse experiences and skills.  Anita and Martin had ditched the ‘Day 1 – Designing your Cob House’ for…

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