Archive for the ‘Natural building’ 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


We are crowdfunding!

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

This video explains …

And the campaign is hosted here.

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.


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



Saturday, October 12th, 2013

It took a year, but finally the copper pot-still or alambique I rescued from the scrap man last year and built a cob ‘stoven’ for is all fired up and producing aguardente.

Alambique or pot still


Clay plastering

Friday, August 30th, 2013

There has been so much going on – and ongoing – this summer, I’ve fallen way behind in blogging it all. But having written about our earthen plaster recipes in July, it’s about time I posted what we’ve done with them so far.

Earthen plastering


Solar water heater

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

It seems a bit odd to be writing about solar water heating while it’s raining, but rain (and teens still sleeping off a night’s clubbing) is a great excuse to catch up the blog and leave the vegetable garden to water itself for once.

When we completed the plumbing and electrics for the cob bathroom back last November, I mentioned we’d allowed for a yet-to-be-built solar water heater to be used instead of the wood-burning water heater or bailarina in Summer. With such a wet and late Spring, it was April before we got the solar heater construction under way, but we’ve been enjoying hot showers from it since.

Simple solar water heater


Cob and earthen plaster recipes

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

There are a lot of projects underway simultaneously at the moment, but two of them have involved clay plastering. There is the cob bathroom, now well and truly dry and ready for plastering inside and out. And there is the interior of the upper room of the smallest of the two dry-stone schist animal houses on the quinta, the ‘wee house’.

Sieving clay for earthen plaster

Rather than include the recipes in posts about the buildings, I’m describing them here separately for ease of reference.


A step in the right direction

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Serendipity continues to play its delightful and ever-surprising part in the building works here. While we were working on the renovations of the smaller of the two buildings, I was contacted by an American stoneworker travelling in Morocco who was looking for a project to get involved in before heading back to California. (Facebook has its uses. I’m a member of a stoneworkers group and this is how the contact came about.) So I found myself at 04:30am one mid-April Wednesday morning waiting at the deserted train station in Santa Comba Dão to collect Michael Eckerman off the night train from Madrid.

Michael Eckerman


Cob bread/pizza oven

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

As part of the renovations of the smaller building on the quinta, we intended to create an outdoor kitchen under the new roof extension with all cooking to be done using energy sources on the quinta – ie. with wood-burning or solar. First on the list – mainly because I’ve been itching to build one – was a cob bread/pizza oven.

I followed the guidelines and proportions recommended by Kiko Denzer in his “Build Your Own Earth Oven”, the seminal reference book on the subject.

Outdoor kitchen counters under construction

First, we built a schist stone retaining wall for a kitchen counter, backfilling with rubble and stamping it well down, leaving enough depth for a substantial insulation layer beneath the oven.