Yurt life

Finally: after three months, five house moves, an extra dog and lots and lots of hard work, we are living on our own land in Spain!!!! Huzzah!IMG_20160810_211658586_HDR[1]

We are loving yurt life!

Waking up to the views of the Sierra Lujar, constant blue skies  and the sound of the birds singing their morning chorus, is pretty special. We are mostly loving sleeping on our own king-size memory-foam mattress with a view of the stars through the ceiling dome of the yurt! Pure luxury!
It all sounds so idyllic, and in most parts, it is! We feel pretty smug most days to be honest. But it hasn’t been all fun
and games! Everything is hard work. Everything. Even the simplest of tasks takes us much longer here. Cooking food, having a shower, and going to the toilet are all quite the mission, but life is good folks! Its really good.

We constructed our yurt in parts. Firstly we had to decide on a base for the yurt. IMG_20160515_171302412[1]

We went back and forth for a long while between a wooden floor and an earthen floor, but in the end decided on a wooden floor.

We built a concrete block round base and filled with tons of sand. We laid a waterproof membrane before topping up with sand so that the whole circular base was level (ish). We then laid a framework for the floor which wasn’t as straight forward as we had hoped. Trying to lay the wooden floor which was bowing at a speed unknown to man, in the heat of the Spanish sun was pretty tough, or hilarious, depending on your point of view.

We had bought bare pine tongue-and-groove hoping for easy-peasiness. Oh how wrong we were. After three days (yes, three days) of floor laying, we had to stain the wood. Ah, but the paint was drying in the sun and turning to a tar-like substance so we decided early morning or evening would be best to paint.

We set an alarm. Got to the land just before 7am and got going. By the time the first layer of paint was done, the sun was too hot. Cue tarry stain. So we returned in the evening when it had cooled down a little to paint a second coat. Ah…so then the sun goes down, as it does! I will say that this is a complete novelty compared with back home. You’re waiting for it to stop raining, and it never stops raining!
After finishing the floor, which I will say, moves like a ship under foot (so much effort…so much time…so not worth it!) it was time to construct our yurt. IMG_20160520_145049894[1]

Easy right? Yeah! Me and Math had watched many many videos on youtube on
how to construct a yurt. It looked pretty straight forward. Door, walls, insulation, canvas, Done! Yes we had instructions. Yes we should have read them. But we didn´t.

So, full of the joys of spring and enough enthusiasm to sink a ship we get the yurt out. Lay it all out (well, not ALL of the yurt. That would have been sensible and had we known, is what the instructions were instructing us to do….silently…from inside the bag.) So we lay the wooden parts of the yurt out and attempt to get going. Ah. Problemo numero uno. The door has been damaged in transit. Like snapped. Bugger!
After searching the house for a tiny pot of glue, we glued the door (again, without reading the instructions….what is wrong wth us?) and eventually after two hours, its pretty solid again.
OK! Let´s build a yurt!!!!! By this time, its over 30 degrees and we are just getting started. The door sits in place.

IMG_20160520_152024212[1]Check. (After all it is just a door being held on a platform by our wonderful workaway volunteer Pip.) Next we need to attach the walls. Now. If we would have read the instructions, this would have taken us about an hour I reckon. But as we DIDN¨T read the instructions, this took us about four. Hmph! The walls aren’t just walls. There are different shaped walls that slot into place. I mean, we worked this out eventually but still, this didnt prompt us to get out the translator and translate those pesky instructions.

Next, we get the crown up (pretty straightforward) and then we need to insert the roof poles. Again, had we read the instructions, we would have known to tie ropes from the crown to the walls, giving them strength and holding them together until the outer ropes are attached later.  As we didnt read the instructions, we placed several poles in the roof and then ended up chasing them around the yurt as they were falling out faster than we could put them in. IMG_20160520_201719157[1]

After a few nasty konks to the head, we got them all in! Oh….the sun is setting. How pretty. Right. Best continue this tomorrow.

After I’d slept soundly in bed I woke up next to a frazzled man in bed with me. He´d been up all night worrying and…and…translating the instructions. What a man! This translation made clear to us several things we had done wrong or missed out completely. When we got to the land we checked that things were safe and explained to Lilah and Pip that we were pretty stupid and should’ve read the instructions. Surprislingly, the second day went swimmingly!!! With instructions in hand we were winners! It still took us all day but we were definitely winners! Just a couple of easy steps.

IMG_20160521_143156906_HDR[1]White muslin over the top as a base layer.

IMG_20160521_154801144_HDR[1]Sheeps´wool felt as insulation (trying to keep Bolo, the foster dog from peeing all over this was a job in itself), then the waterproof membrane, then the canvas, then the ropes.

IMG_20160521_161251447_HDR[1]Then the glass needed to be put in. Then the skirt and hat.IMG_20160521_172735557[1]

We were all ready to collapse! A good hearty meal out, a couple of cervezas and vinos were definitely called for. Hooray, we have a home!

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We have now been in the yurt for over a few months and it feels like home. We love it. And we really couldn’t have done it without all of the help we had. The dogs helped the most of course. Bryn using the yurt as a running track for being a mentalist, and Bolo peeing on anything that smelled of, well, anything!

We now have one less dog, a vegetable garden and an extremely comfortable home.IMG_20160627_201715188[1]

When all your plans change…

 

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….kind of!

So we have many many changes to our original plan which was; get the builders in, we would fly down in February once they had done their basic work, we put in a kitchen, bathroom and tile the whole house and then its pretty livable. Then we were going to get our stuff delivered, then bring the dog down!

This isnt quite how things have worked out!

Best laid plans and all that….!

We’ve decided to drive down, through France and Spain with the dog and take 5 days over it. We’ve bought a small van to drive down with; and use for building materials when we are working on the house and I can get back and forth from work in it. We are hoping to rent a yurt for a month or two until the house is habitable.
I’ve given up on chasing buiders, im OK with the relaxed spanish attitude but I think we just need to be there to get anything done…which in hidsight is a much more sensible idea!
burnt windowSo we have decided to start clearing the upstairs ourselves when we get there. This involves, clearing the upstairs of burnt rubbish! Taking the render off the walls, pulling up floor tiles, cleaning the ceiling and getting rid of the burnt polystyrene thats stuck to the whole ceiling after the fire. While we are battling this we want to get in touch with our builder to do the downstairs work while we experiment with insulating with Hempboard and attempting to render upstairs. We are also going to tile the floors ourselves using natural terracotta tiles. We have chosen these tiles for a few reasons; they are the traditional flooring used in the area, they are ‘easy’ (ahem!) to lay and are more forgiving of a first time tiler. We will also seal the floors and so will be easier to keep clean. We are going to use the same tile throughout the house (upstairs and down) except in the bathroom where we will use decorative tiles.

Something like this?
Something like this?

We are not really intimidated by attacking the work ourselves, but there are some elements that we need skilled people to do for us. Like laying sewerage pipes and plumbing after removing the concrete floor downstairs, and cutting a hole in the ceiling to accommodate the stairs. I say we aren’t intimidated by the work but we haven’t got there yet so I’m sure it will be a shock. I am sure we will get there though. It will be slow work but actually it means we have greater control and can experiment with environmentally friendly materials other than the cement which was the only option given by the builder.
We are happier doing it this way, plus we will save some money (which is always good!) and be imensly satisfied with ourselves when we complete the project!

So, these are our plans. We still have to pack up our house here in Wales (we are very nearly there!!!) and be out of our rental house soon. So, as much as we can dream about our Spanish plans, we have a lot of work to do before we get there. This moving country malarkey is like a full time job!

Volunteer on our eco project in Orgiva, Spain!

We will be accepting volunteers from about April 2015 to help in whatever aspects of the project you fancy or have specific skills in (or whatever we need help with at the time).

Upper terrace of our land
Upper terrace of our land

Initially, there will be clearing the land of long dry grass and experimenting with the asequia system and creating irrigation trenches. We will (hopefully) have set up a makeshift green house by then and started off seeds for the coming summer. We will also need help with emptying the ruins as well, also help in the house!

We will be creating a permaculture garden as well as a rocket stove for outdoor cooking. Building humanure toilets and redoing the outside shower room. There are also plans to build a community room from cob on the lower terrace. There really is so much to do that if you have a specific interest or ability in something, I’m sure we can accommodate. There are too many planned projects to list at the moment, but as we progress I’ll update what we will be looking for on a month by month basis! Just get in touch and let us know what you fancy doing and when.

You can get in touch via our workaway page, link below, or by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page:

Come and help us be self sufficient in Orgiva, Spain!

Church on main street through town
Church on main street through town

In exchange for your help we will offer you somewhere to stay and breakfast and dinner each day. As well as a fun and relaxed atmosphere. We like music and dancing and like to dance while we work.

To begin with we will only be able to offer a tent in the land, or, if you have a camper, there is space to park up on our land. But once we get a little more sorted, there will be a yurt on the land as well as a room in the house with us, and eventually, the ruins too.

IMAG3275The town itself has about 6000 residents and over 67 nationalities. Orgiva is the capital of the Alpujarra region in the south of Spain. About an hours drive from Malaga airport or an hour and a half bus journey from Granada. We live about a ten minute walk from the centre of Orgiva. Even though its so close, we live in rural heaven.

Baraka
Baraka

There are lots of bars and restaurants in town that cater for a range of diets. Our favourite is Baraka, serving a range of middle eastern food and a huge range of teas. The staff are awesome and there is free internet. What more could a girl want?  Oh…a glass of wine! For this we like Albertos. He has excellent red wine by the glass (or bottle).

IMAG2428On a Thursday, it’s market day! And the town comes alive and you really get to experience the alternative vibe of the town. Many people who live in the area (Beneficio) come down from the mountain and sell their various lovely things in the market. I have seen, jewellery, soaps, oils, perfumes, and scarves. I have also tried some homemade sushi (which was delish). IMAG2438The market also has a lot of vegetable and fruit stalls, people selling nuts, olives and sweets, as well as a large amount of stalls selling really big knickers!!!!

Local advertisments
Local advertisments

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Orgiva is a pretty alternative place. If you need a massage, reiki, soul healing, reflexology…I could go on. You won’t have to look far. There’s all sorts advertised on little pin boards around the town, offering horse healing, or silent retreats in the mountain. There are even a group of parents opening an alternative school for their children. With all of these things being offered, you can imagine it gives the town a special ‘feel’. Its a pretty lovely place, you should come and experience it for yourselves. Oh, and the sun shines a LOT. Need I say more?

We hope to hear from you soon.

The ruins!

There are old animal shelters adjoining our house. They are about ten meters long and three meters wide. Currently single storey (ish). We want to renovate these into holiday accommodation and offer holidays for families with children with autism. As well as havingIMAG3377 a space where friends and family can come and stay.

As the space is small we were worried that they wouldn’t be big enough to house a family. But after looking on Pinterest (my favourite place for house porn) and playing around with design software, we have worked out that we just need to be canny when designing the inside space. There is so much inspiration online now about designing your ‘tiny home’ or ‘narrowboat renovations’ that its easy to see how we can make this work.

There will be a small kitchen and seating area with a sofa bed, a bathroom, a double bedroom as well as a single bedroom.

Realistically, this isn’t going to get done for quite a while. We need to renovate our house first aIMAG3379nd at least get some basic planting done in the garden, as well as our veggie garden before even looking at this project! But, we won’t be waiting too long; oh no, no rest for the wicked; as we will need to have some kind of income in order to live.

We will be entertaining work aways/volunteers to help with our project. We are unsure how the walls of the ruins will hold up against being meddled with, and as much as we would like to keep as much of the original building as possible, we do have a congiency plan. If the walls need rebuilding, we will rebuild using cob or sand filled bottles. We are learning as we go. We have no experience of building in this way (or building generally, to be honest) so any help from volunteers who have experience in cob or alternative building will be greatly welcomed.

For now, the ruins will make excellent storage sheds!

Fire!!!

So, we received news that no first time buyer wants to hear! “There’s been a bit of an accident” – Oh God!

The sorry tale goes like this…

We’d had an offer accepted on the house after completely falling in love with it in the summer. It had lots of work to be done, but we were OK with it. We figured we could take our time with it while living in the upstairs flat while doing downstairs; the house is split into two flats but had been left half done.

Inside; before fire
Inside; before fire

But then we get an e-mail from our agent saying there’s been a fire!

A what now? A FIRE!

I won’t go into the ins and outs of how it happened, just know, that it definitely happened! After much inner (and outer) turmoil over what the bloody hell is going on we decide to go back to the negotiation table. New price settled, we book our flights back to Spain to asses the damage.

upstairs burnt main room

Yep, there was definitely a fire, but do you know what? We still loved the place, so we decided to carry on with sale. We must be bloody mad. Matt asked if I thought he was actually going crazy, but we concluded that if he’s crazy, then I’m crazy, so let’s go and be crazies together in Spain!

The damage is actually cosmetic. There was bare polystyrene on the ceiling and fabric on the walls so when the fire started it literally just went up. It didnt burn for long so the damage is cosmetic; even though it looks horrific! There are four rooms upstairs, they all look like this. But downstairs was untouched (as the flats are still separate) so that’s still as it was. Phew!

upstairs burnt view from bedroom into main room

So this is our new home. Isn’t she a beauty? It’s a shame about the fire, and I have been a little bit concerned about bad juju, but we’re going to make such happy memories here that any bad juju won’t stand a chance!

Just need to start the MAJOR cleaning operation now! That should be a few days of epic fun times!

The project

So…we’ve bought a house! And its a do-er up-per! In fact its a bit of a mess. The kind of house your parents see and have huge question marks appear over their heads as their faces look on blankly! Yep, that’s the kind of house we’ve bought… and its lush!IMAG3381

The house isnt connected to mains elecricity and neither does it have any sewerage so that’s high up on our list of priorities. It does however have a delightful ‘black hole’ toilet outside which I have nightmares about just lifting the lid let alone sitting on. So a flushable toilet is a need of mine. We had many a discussion over whether we should have a humanure toilet or not, but I have managed to convince Matt that if we recycle our grey water a flushable toilet is definitely my preferred option. He agrees, as long as we can have a compost humanure toilet in the garden…deal!
We are opting for an uber solar system. It’s going to be a fairly large financial outlay initially but will mean no bills, which is definitely the way to go for us. We will have a battery storage system and it will run our lights, fridge, computer and washing machine! This, I am excited about. We visited the guys that will be building our solar panels and they run their warehouse completely off grid, build the panels themselves and its generally an awesome set up they have there! They are confident that they can build us an expandable system that will eventually be able to run the electricity in the ruins too (we are planning to renovate the adjoining ruins into holiday accommodation for children with Autism, but more of that another time).

We have opted for a septic tank to dispose of our waste. Again, we also discussed a reed bed to filter our waste water but logistics and the way the land is set out means this isnt really possible. We do want to minimise how often the tank needs emptying by not flushing toilet paper, and there is also some kind of eco-ball (I havent done very much research on this) that you put in every month or so to help break down the solid waste.

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Inside

The house at the moment is split into two flats, with no connecting stairway. The flat upstairs (where the fire was) needs to be completely ripped out; including the render on the walls and walls being knocked down. We need to cut a pretty big hole in the ceiling to accommodate the stairs, rip up the floor downstairs and level it.

Upstairs before the fire
Upstairs before the fire

Downstairs also needs the stairs to be built, and plumbing for the kitchen and bathroom. The whole place needs new windows and doors too. This is the work the builders will be doing for us and we will be finishing the rest; building a kitchen, putting in a bathroom, tiling, crafting internal doors, painting and finsihing off.
*As a side note. Anyone got any cost effective alternatives for levelling a floor apart from using concrete? Suggestions will be muchly appreciated (virtual hugs will be given!)

Once finshined, the house will have two bedrooms upstairs with a toilet, and downstairs will have one big room to include the kitchen and living areas and a seperate bathroom and storage area.

But these are all theoretical plans at the moment. I can see us turning up after the builders have left to sit in our empty shell in Spain and laugh…or cry and think ‘what have we got ourselves in to?’ but im also sure we will soon get over that and get stuck in to our dream project. Fingers crossed.

I’ll be updating this section as and when we do different projects on the house. Can’t bloody wait!