Archive for the ‘Basic facilities’ Category

A dining area for the wee house

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Following on from the completion of the kitchen at the wee house, the next step was to create a dining area. The terrace in front of the house on the lower level was the logical place for this – lovely views through the olive trees down to the village and across the valley, and grapes vines already planted and just asking for a trellis to grow over to create a shaded seating area. Plus it had already been identified as a fine place to sit …

The wee house dining area

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Yurt makeover

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

The yurt has been my home for 5 years now. It’s stood up to the extremes of Portuguese weather reasonably well, especially after building a porch to protect the doorway (4 years ago) and covering it with shade netting to stop the canvas disintegrating in the sun (3 years ago). It’s settled nicely into the landscape and as the gardens mature around it, is becoming less and less obtrusive.

The yurt becoming part of the landscape

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Refrigeration

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

I had been thinking for some time on how to tackle the issue of refrigeration on the quinta. An early experiment hadn’t been encouraging. It’s all very well using a zeer pot for a few items (I have one in the yurt made from 2 large plant pots), but when there’s volunteers or guests staying, it’s a lot less practical. I found myself torn between the desire the keep it low tech and cool things naturally, and having the convenience of somewhere I could easily store more sensitive foods like meat and even indulge in the occasional ice cream. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I have two cats and a dog who do. With the price of pet food rising while the quality plummets, I’d also been thinking about making my own animal food. This would be a lot more tricky without a fridge.

Zeer pot used for refrigeration in the yurt

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The vermicomposting flush toilet completed

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Last year I wrote about our installation of a vermicomposting flush toilet – a worm composting system for a conventional flush toilet – in the outhouse for the wee house. It was all ready and set to go for a good while, minus the worms, but we couldn’t start using it until we had a water supply to the wee house since there would be nothing to flush with until we did.

With the completion of the quinta’s water storage and distribution system in February, I could at last commission the system.

Outhouse toilet featuring a composting flush toilet

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Waterworks completed

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Among many other projects on the go simultaneously last summer was the installation of some water storage capacity and supply lines to the various buildings on the quinta. The design and layout gives a good head of gravity-fed water to all parts of the quinta, and provides buffering for the vagaries of daily stream flow in late summer. The two tanks constructed from pre-cast concrete rings were fairly quick to construct. Finishing them proved more of a problem.

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A wood-burning masonry cookstove

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Ach! Where does the time go? I’m so hopelessly behind with blog posts and there are now so many pending I scarcely know where to start. I just checked the last post I made about the outdoor kitchen for the wee house and it was a year ago!

Alongside the cob bread/pizza oven I built last spring (and which is now producing fabulous food), I also constructed a wood-burning masonry cookstove. I found an open source Sketchup model online and adapted it for Portuguese fire brick dimensions.

Sketchup model for wood burning cook stove

This is the adapted model. Click on the image to download the Sketchup file and open in Sketchup (3D modelling software which is free to download). Firebricks are colour-coded for different lengths. You’ll need to be reasonably proficient with an angle grinder (at the least) to build this stove.

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Timber-framed grey water-processing greenhouse – part 2

Friday, February 14th, 2014

The last post on this build finished with the laying of the chestnut ring beam which forms the base of this sweet chestnut timber frame construction. The next part was to raise the main supporting structure.

Splitting out braces with a small axe

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A grey water processing greenhouse for the main building

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Another of this last summer’s principal projects has been restarting work on the main building. After the salutary lesson of the badly-built balcony and trellis, this time there would be no short cuts. We started taking apart the roof of the balcony back in spring to reuse the roof tiles on the wee house roof extension, and as work continued there on the toilet and battery house, we frequently raided the balcony for pieces of chestnut timber for floor and roof joists and for pine planking. So when it was finally time to demolish the balcony at the end of May, there wasn’t a whole lot left to take down.

Demolishing the remainder of the balcony

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Earthen floor for the bathroom

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

The last major job outstanding on the cob bathroom is now complete. The floor. It’s been a slow process, finishing it off between major renovation works on the other two buildings, but slow progress is still progress.

Cob bathroom with its green roof

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Waterworks

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Our water supply on the quinta comes from a stream that runs through it, plus a couple of small springs. When we first moved onto the land we collected buckets from the waterfall, then graduated to hose-piping our water direct from the stream for household use and irrigation.

But 2012 changed all that. We had a very dry summer following 2 years of failure of the winter rains. After diminishing to a mere trickle in February, the water in the stream stopped altogether in late August (the village above us used it all), only starting again when the rains did. I installed a 1,000-litre plastic drinking water tank for our household needs, fed mostly by spring water, leaving the stream for limited irrigation. The vegetable garden coped surprisingly well thanks to a lot of mulch, but we lost all our water-hungry plants like squashes. It really focused my attention on how vulnerable we are to drought. Since then I’ve been planning to build in as much water storage as practicable, and collect water both from the stream and from roof rainwater catchment.

Surveying the quinta for the water distribution network

Surveying the quinta for the water distribution network

This summer, along with all the other projects under way, we’ve been putting in some water tanks. Work has been progressing on a small rainwater catchment system for the smaller of the two buildings here, and also on two much larger tanks which will form the main hubs of our water distribution network, supporting both domestic use and irrigation.

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