The natural house
Another project they had was to build another little house that would accomodate their trainees. And as a living proof of faisability, they built it as much as possible with the materials they found on the land directly where they were located, such as earth, rocks, trees, etc. Well, guess who built a cute little home for 500 euros? It has a confortable kitchen, a lounge and two upstairs bedrooms. Yes, it isn't so proper like our modern homes built by men of trade, but hey, it's almost free moneywise, which means that everyone can do it...I mean, have a home for almost nothing !
Play "Braveheart" of the album "Many a story"
We first went to Eourres, a little village perched in the mountains. It was known by my friend who had heard of it because a couple from our hometown had moved there. He had seen a reportage of them about 2 years ago and hardly remembered the name. We googled it, obviously, and found out at the time it was "only" 60 km away. It took us 1h30 to get there, as in this region, we don't count in km but in driving time. Indeed the roads are narrow and windy.
Eourres was known to be an alternative village. We could feel a difference as soon as we hit the village "door". A sign says: "visitors park and go by foot, this village is pedestrian friendly only". So we parked ! How about that for a good idea? We walked up the path to the village, only about 50 metres uphill. There, another sign says "Eourres, star-friendly village". Only later in the day figured we out that at some time in the evening all public lights are switched off, leaving it all dark, and in fact, full of stars, free of light pollution. It must represent rather nice energy saving at the same time. All along this path to get to the village, the inhabitants had all agreed on planting fruit trees. I can imagine in a few years only, each one of these trees will produce virtually free and at-hand's-reach yummy fruit, while walking from the carpark to your home. It has only been 50 metres, I feel I quite like this place and these people I haven't even met. Yet, I am on for many more surprises.
At the entrance of the village, there is a bus stop like area which shows all the anounces from the village, a co-carring board for outter travels, offers and demands of help, exchange, equipment and a free clothes box. Little things, yet it can make life more enjoyable and people more connected.
Here is indeniably some positive community building at work. We go around the little village, in search for the couple we knew nothing about. We finally find the woman and, sharing the same hometown, she is keen for a talk. We go in her family size straw bale and earthen plaster home they built for themselves.
Her and her husband had an interesting story-path. They had fought a ciment factory near our hometown in Belgium they happened to live by. It started to run its production burning toxic wastes, which was without any doubt polluting the air and the nearby inhabitants such as them. They fought 4 years doing all they could to tell the world about it, to change things, to try to stop the pollution and the health hazards it would produce on not only the nearby inhabitants but also the people living in homes built with the ciment containing traces of the toxic wastes. They fought long and hard. And when all resources had been thrown in the game, they decided just to leave and seek nature and to build a life that would make sense. Instead of fighting against something, they would ride the alternative: to create what one wants to see in the world. And so they did, sold their house, moved to the south of France, bought a little section in this perched alternative village, the first they heard of, and built themselves a strawbale home with earthen finishes, all the most natural and healthy. And they didn't stop there, now our host's husband is teaching the strawbale building codes as a job and they work on passing on norms about both straw bale building and earthen finishes in France, all of it in order to spread the natural building as a normality. They also started a primary school, a non-profit organization "Sens et autonomie" that gives training and conferences in permaculture and natural building among other very interesting things.
Play "Simple is beautiful" of the album "Many a story"
The 500 euros House
Made out of pine tree trunks, straw bale and earth mostly, this house has taken quite a bit of work, but almost no money. Everything they used for its construction came out the land around, directly on site !
They have built it with trainees, including all the furniture such as the table, benches, kitchen, etc. The idea is to bring the trainees to their own ability to create one's home and all it contains. The big red barrel like thing in the middle is a Rocket Mass Heater (rocket stove coupled with a thermal mass bench). Click on the picture to go to Page 7 and attend a workshop about Rocket Stoves. These are truly interesting fire places and heater !
The rocket stove
Here a view from the other side. See the Rocket Mass Heater exhaust pipe on the left going down in the ground to the outside of the house while the chimney on the right side (left side on the previous picture) goes up in a thick layer of thermal mass mud mix and through the bedroom upstairs.
The outer wall has been used as an experiment wall for earthen finishes and natural paints.
Visiting the second bedroom
While our daughter stares at the bulb coming down the ceiling :)
...this is why we travel !
But that's not all
As we were having lunch in the mobilhome on the carpark, we heard that a workshop of basket making - "vannerie" in french - was going to take place in the nearby house (which happened to be another beautifully achieved strawbale and earthen plasters house!). We shoveled the food left in our plates, put our daughter under our friend's care and attended it! It is one thing to talk about nice things, yet another to have hands-on activities :)
The house felt great to be in, the space was nicely put together, and the materials were all natural, mostly wood and earth. Plus the dude was interesting - L'oseraie du possible
At the end of the 3 hours workshop, he showed us around the garden the live willow fences and little hut, as well as the "yourte" facing the valley.
The start of the trip.
After our two days stay in Eourres, we left to visit a community further north, a place called Terres Rouges, rebuilt from the scraps of an abandoned "hameau", french word for a "small village". This time, there is more to learn from it than to be inspired by it.
The basket making workshop
Another straw bale house.
Inside is...pretty nice ! I love the feel of the different natural materials used for its construction. It's moslty made out of wood and earth. We didn't ask, but "surely", that one must have cost more than 500 euros :)
The kitchen area
In the back along the wall, there is a large bucket with a lid. This is where the busket maker soaks his willow branches one week prior to use.
Our daughter came back and we played all together :) Note how she is so asleep on my partner's laps. With willow branches, we achieve a "fish", something rather simple for a first time. We didn't know yet we were about to make a whole big basket at another workshop only 3 weeks later (see "Nature & Progres")
After the workshop, we have a guided tour around the garden. What a lovely space.
The living fence
And as a good busker maker, he makes living fences made out of live willow woven together and grown over the years. I find this really naturally beautiful. It reminds me of the Elf like decors in the movies. The only downfall is that you need to trim it every year unlike a traditional fence.
The living hut
This woven hut is as well constituted of growing willow. Some of these branches have been planted about 5 years ago. We can hang out about 8 adults in there, and from the street, you are virtually invisible to the wanderer.
The yourte down below
Facing the valley, what a lovely location for a yourte !