Hot water you say?

By the power of the sun….we have hot water!

Hot water that comes out with excellent pressure to wash ones manky, dusty self! Oh it is wonderful. It´s not posh.
It´s not stylish. But it sure is the best shower I have ever had.  IMG_20160528_150342594_HDR[1]

We bought 100M of black water tubing and coiled the tube on the roof of our outhouse. The water tube then drops down to our lower terrace and is connected to a tap and a shower head. There is an old shower tray at the bottom with green tarp around four posts for a little modesty.
The water heats up in the sun and gives you a great pressure, hot water shower for about 7 minutes.
While showering amongst the olive and almond trees (and adjacent rubble pile) you can see the hill opposite, the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra Lujar. I´d exchange our little solar shower over the poshest bathroom any day! Apart from maybe in winter when I won´t be so enthusiastic and the water, not so hot.
For now, this is a more than adequate way of keeping clean. It’s luxurious in fact. And the best part is that the water heats up again in about twenty minutes.
Winner!IMG_20160528_150410210[1]

Compost toilet

I’ve explained the mechanics behind the toilet in a previous post. But just wanted to show IMG_20160528_150418359[1]you our makeshift toilet. Its pretty sweet. In you pop. Do your business. Cover with sawdust. close the lid and off you go.

Bucket full? No problem. We have a four bucket system. One bucket is full. Place the lid and clips on. Place a new bucket with sawdust in the bottom. And away to go.
Once all four buckets are full, we follow the steps to compost our humanure. Click here for full post.

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!

IMG_20160522_192156762_HDR[1]

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]

Living in Spain

We absolutely love living in Spain!

OK, so it hasn´t been a massive amount of time but we are loving it all the same!

It´s all very real now! I get up and go to work down on the coast and Matt goes to the land to work for the day! We meet at home, make dinner, repeat! Its all very normal, except the sun shines, the food is organic and fresh, people are happy and we are on our massive adventure!

Bryn´s nemesis!
Bryn´s nemesis!

Bryn is loving life! He hates the rain and would refuse to go out at home. Here, there hasn´t been many rainy days so he is in his element. He gets walked miles every day and has made lots of friends. He likes our land the best. He has an excellent view of the cabra (goats!) from the top terrace  and keeps his beady eye on them, warning off any that attempt to stray too close to his land! I think he thinks he is a goat, making daring climbs up ridiculously steep banks on our walks!

The scenery here is just amazing! Just walking out of the front door we have the Sierra Lujar on the left and the Sierra Nevada on the right. The constant chatter of birds is sometimes deafening, the music of the goat bells is magical and the mating frogs nearby are…well…loud! Owls hoot at night, the mules have a shouting match and there are only clear skies where more nights than not, you can see the milky way!

What can I say?
What can I say?

Yep, I think it´s safe to say that we are happy! We have met many lovely people! Some we´ve only spoken to once and others we see regularly. We have met people from all over. Who do all kinds of things. Everyone says hello in the street! We have had offers of help, and the lending of tools and time as well as lunch, coffee, cake and broken Spanish chats that have been truly enjoyable. We have loved struggling with the language. Gesticulating wildly in the street with the handful of words we know. We have branched out from individual words, to sentences and even full blown conversations! At least we think we have! Granted our vocabulary strictly contains words about gardens and tools, piping and plumbing but we are getting there.

We haven´t had much time to stop and miss everyone back home yet! We have had volunteers come and help us, an old friend come and stay, my parents come to visit, I´ve started a job teaching, met lots of new people, matt has been busy on the land and meeting new contacts, friends and like minded people, two of our best friends are coming to visit in May then more friends in June. We are so lucky to have support coming at us from all angles.

It hasn´t all been a bed of roses I will admit! The first house we stayed in was, let´s say, lacking in the cleanliness department, had been wired by god-knows-who! For a week I was getting static electricity shocks from everything, and couldn´t work it out! Turns out the house wasn´t earthed (which is just great for me with a pacemaker), the sewers backed up and all was looking a little dim (especially with the eventual lack of any electricity)! But then we moved to another place short term until our yurt arrived. Our yurt then didn´t arrive so we had to rent somewhere else….and then the yurt turned up! But, where we are staying is just beautiful, and if the yurt had turned up then we wouldn´t have had the opportunity to experience another part of town or countryside! We are living next door to a lovely Spanish couple with their young daughter, three dogs and two chickens!IMG_20160420_192614020_HDR

So this is our adventure story so far! I will update about individual projects we´ve been tackling when I get a chance. Life is getting in the way at the moment, and I don´t feel bad about that at all!

Hasta luego!

 

When all your plans change…

 

IMAG3381

….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!

Driving to Spain with the dog in tow!

Happy New Year!

After some major procrastinating over Christmas and Newbryn driving dog to spain Year, plans are finally rushing ahead and time seems to be running away too!Eek!

Luckily we thought to visit the vet with Bryn in November to sort out all of his travelling needs (where this inspiration came from I don’t know…we are not the most organised of folk). We were a little worried about snowballing costs but as it turns out, it hasn’t been as expensive as we had first thought (still a few hundred pounds though). He is so worth every penny. Look at that face…..

At his first vet visit, he had his puppy vaccination (we bloody forgot about his booster in May so we’ve had to start again…sigh!) He’s already had another visit for his second injection. He was feeling a little under the weather (not quite as mental) after his jabs, but is now back to his normal foolish self.

What he needs for Spain is a Rabies injection (due next week) and we are also vaccinating him agaisnt Kennel cough (not a requirement); Bryn is likely to be in contact with other dogs around our home in Spain so we thought ‘better to be safe than sorry’. We have ordered him a Leishmaniasis collar to protect him from sand and biting flies. The collar lasts six months, it is an expensive collar (£38 – gulp!) but the side effects of this disease are horrific; we are quite worried about this. But what are we to do? He’s coming with us…He’s our baby (and plus we’ve already told him he can come now….God, we’re sad).

Once his Rabies jab is done the vet can write up his passport. Then, 1-5 days before we trbryn swimming driving dog to spainavel, he has to have treatment for Tapeworm.

And that’s it! Bryn will be ready for international travel!

It has been pretty straightforward sorting Bryn out for the journey (shame we can’t say the same for ourselves). It has ended up costing us around £260 including his puppy jabs, three months worth of flea treatment, kennel cough jab, rabies jab, medicated collar and his passport! The whole process will have taken about 12 weeks in total! Not too bad! That’s one member of the family sorted!

How are we getting Bryn to Spain?

We have decided to drive down through France and Spain in the car using the Eurotunnel. We researched taking the Ferry to North Spain (Bilbao/Santander) but the cost was quite staggering (especially as you have to book a dog friendly cabin on top of our tickets and a ticket for Bbryn beach driving dog to spainryn). The drive is considerably shorter using the ferry but we decided it wasn’t for us after weighing up our options.

We are going to take five days to drive down to Orgiva and use it as an excuse for a holiday, taking our time over the drive, stopping in pet friendly hotels all of the way down. I don’t really want to be driving more than four/five hours a day so the plan is to make stops at Rouen, Bordeaux, Miranda del Ebro, Toledo and then Orgiva!
Bryn is pretty good in the car so we’re hoping he will be OK. We are happy with our decsion to drive the whole way as he will get to be toileted, fed, watered and run when he needs!

Fingers crossed we can get ourselves sorted for the journey too!

Have you done this journey before? If you have any hints and tips, that would be great! Places to check out, places or routes to avoid! Please leave a comment.

Let the adventure commence!

After much to-ing and fro-ing we finally own our home in Spain!

We are so excited that the adventure is moving forward after many a set back. The Spanish law of ‘one more document’ couldnt hold us back! No sir-ee!

It’s now all systems go with getting the builders in….although the mañana mañana relaxed attitude (which I love) is probably going to drive me crazy when dealing with builders as we are kind of against the clock.

The basic building work needs to be completed by the end of February at the latest so that we have a month to get a bathroom and kitchen in, as well as receiving our (not yet) packed up stuff from Wales, before I start work in April.

I have been really lucky in getting four weeks work not far from where we will be living. It’s a good start, and a definite step forward from where we thought we would be work-wise!

So now all that’s left to do is pack up our home in Wales!
No easy task!
It’s not just a case of throwing everything in boxes because we don’t want to take most things with us! We have muchos crap! So we need to declutter our large three bed semi into 250 cubic feet (about the size of a quarter of a single garage) hmmm!!! This task is made even more difficult in that I cannot throw anything away…we will have piles for donation for refugees (SHARP in Swansea), piles for the local charity shop, things that don’t belong to us that have ended up in our house that need to be returned, and I’m sure I have friends who need my old crap…yes? There will also be a (hopefully) small pile for the tip. And we will need to sell some furniture and sellable crap.
I am not looking forward to this mammoth task. The problem is starting. I have spent hours looking on Pinterest on ‘how to declutter your home’ and ‘reorganisation hacks’. I am queen procrastinator. I know exactly how to declutter my home, I dont need pinterest to tell me. But the pictures are so pretty and its much easier to visualise the house being packed up rather than actually packing up the house. Hmff!

Well, I suppose there’s nothing for it but to get going on the ol’ packing!
Wish me luck!

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!