Big Update! – Lime Plaster – Floor Tiled – Terrace – Sep 2015

We have been hard at work even though the blog has been quiet.

Building a house with no previous experience is a lot of hard work, both physically and mentally.  You spend long hard days doing physical labour and then when you get home its time to get stuck into books, internet and youtube to figure out what comes next and how you are going to do it.  Its one long learning process.

My initial idea for the blog was that I was going to do more “how to” videos and quickly realised that this wasn’t going to be possible.  Its too difficult to film, edit, upload while you also have to learn to build and build.  The filming tends to get in the way.  I shoot mainly on a small point and shoot camera and so cant just set it up and leave it filming while I get on with it.  That wouldn’t be all that interesting anyway and would mean hours of sorting through footage and editing which I just don’t have the energy for.

I have been filming bits and bobs as I go along and am now going to make an effort to try and post an update every week or two.  When most of the building is complete I have the intention to make some more in detail write ups and videos on our building process.

So what has been going on at Ca’n Mandala?

Lime Plastering

Base Coats

We have almost all of the walls finished with a base coat.  The only room left to do base coats on is the master bathroom which has been our bedroom up until now.  That bathroom will be the last room to get finished as we are currently working on the smaller guest bathroom so that we can get in this winter.

Insulated Lime Plaster

As we aren’t going to be able to insulate and finish the outside of the building this winter we decided to do an insulated lime plaster on the north walls of the house.  In the winter, this will keep the heat in the house and the cold out.  I will upload a video on that some time soon.

Lime Plaster – Finish Coats

We have the finish coats done on the big walls in the living room and the kitchen.  We got two guys that were recommended to us by the place we get our lime from(Unicmall) to do the big walls and they did an excellent job!

Pic of the boys in action:
lime palstering in action

Here is a quick video on that:

On the second floor where we have done the insulated plaster, we have decided that in order to get in sooner we would just lime wash the base coat.  We might apply a finish coat later on when most of the more important things have been done.

Trial and Error

We have also done a finish coat in the bedroom where the wardrobe will be.  This was a test to see how this fine finish coat would go on.  Unfortunately we started doing this just when it started to get really hot.

Lime plaster needs to “set” or harden slowly, if it sets too fast then it doesn’t “carbonate” and it just powders off the wall.  This is especially true of thin finish coats that are only 1 or 2 mm thick.  It was 40 degrees C the day we wanted to do it and so it was setting so fast that it was turning to powder and not letting us polish it.  The plaster we had chosen was a type of stucco or polished lime finish, but the conditions made it impossible to finish properly.  Luckily, we did do a trial run inside the wardrobe before going on to do this process on one of the main walls in the house.

It has actually dried a lot lighter than you see in the pic and doesn’t look bad.
lime plaster

Here are some colour tests that we did to choose a colour for a wall in the living room.
some colour tests of lime plaster

Floor is Tiled!

Last weekend we got the floor tiled in most of the house and it looks amazing!  It has really changed everything and being able to live at the finca has suddenly become a reality.  With the dirty, dusty lime slab it all seemed a little far away still but now we are getting very close!

Terrace

We have finally covered the water tank and now have a lovely terrace!

There have been a few other things going on which I will cover in my next post.

If you would like to keep up to date on new videos and posts then please subscribe to our blog and youtube channel. Keep an eye on our youtube channel as I often upload videos there but dont make a post about them here.

Click here for our youtube channel

I will try and write a post every other week and hopefully in the not too distant future I will be able to give a little back to the internet community which has helped me so much along this journey by doing some “how to” videos.

If you have any specific questions then please leave them in the comments and I will try to get back to you as soon as I can.

The Mandala Garden Keeps Growing

It was spring when we planted and wrote about our first mandala (read the post here). We wrote of our plans to plant 6 mandalas, 2 weeks apart… This didn’t quite happen! Life and building took over and in reality the 6th mandala has yet to be planted. But our huerto has given us a lot of food ever since the beginning of summer and we are growing ever more fond if it!

P1010894

For me it has been and continues to be quite a learning experience, but the main lesson I have learned is that with a bit of effort and commitment, you can grow your own food with very little knowledge. I remember at first feeling very inexperienced and inadequate, and quite overwhelmed when we came back from the seedling place with what seemed like hundreds of little plants needing planted and nurtured… we had kind of agreed that the huerto would be my thing while Luke got on with the build itself but I didn’t feel at all ready to be left alone with it! Luke gave me a few basic instructions and left me to get on with it – I spent ages wondering whether each plant should be planted deeper into the earth, whether it would be better here or there, whether I had pressed the soil in enough or too much… I laugh now when I look back at my uncertainty as I plant away these days, quickly moving round each bed.

So we made it to 3 summer mandalas, which have kept us well fed on varying amounts of tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, chillis, beetroot, aubergine, onions and leeks at different times throughout.

October Aubergines in Mandala 3

October Aubergines in Mandala 3

We also had other fruit and veg planted outside the mandalas, as they needed more space to grow: melons, pumpkins, cucumber, butternut squash, courgettes, artichokes and okra. We enjoyed a lot of delicious artichokes, simply sliced and then fried in grass-fed butter…

Artichoke feast!

Artichoke feast!

 

Artichokes fried in grass-fed butter. Mmmmm!

Artichokes fried in grass-fed butter. Mmmmm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and this at a time when apparently nobody else’s artichokes were growing! Everyone was so surprised to hear that our plants were bearing fruit out of season – we were none the wiser and have now learned that this plant does not usually require a lot of water and we were watering it along with everything else and they obviously liked it! Let’s see what happens for the rest of the year when the “normal” artichoke season comes round! In the meantime they are providing some beautiful purple flowers that rather remind us of the thistles of Scotland.

Artichoke flowers masquerading as thistles

Artichoke flowers masquerading as thistles

It does make sense for me to be in charge of the huerto since I am also in charge of putting nutritious food on our table. As many of you know Luke and I are very selective about what we put in our bodies and what better way to control this than to grow our own food. It has been quite a challenge at times but also in a good way, encouraging me to look for recipes to create with the ripening food in our garden. One of my fave discoveries of the year was my tomato soup, invented on a strangely cold and rainy day in August when salad was on the menu but we needed something to warm us up. Luckily I could get my nephew-in-law the superchef Stewie on whats’app to check my progress and ask for tips and I was amazed how well this improvised soup turned out (I was brought up on tinned tomato soup and this is like a natural home made version of the Heinz classic). See the recipe here.

Ca'n Mandala tomato soup

Ca’n Mandala tomato soup

Anyhoo… we planted Mandala 4 in mid July, with our first winter veg and some black cherry tomatoes. We are very much still learning about what to plant when, how long the season lasts for certain veg, when to expect things to be ready… at first I felt a bit stressed by the not knowing, but now I have learnt to relax into the mystery! We are still eating from M4’s cherries and have just eaten our first broccoli, steamed, smothered in grassfed butter and sprinkled with sea salt – Mmmmmmmm!!!! However the cauliflowers and cabbages seem to take a little longer and they will also take a bit more prep I guess… happy to receive any suggestions for recipes for these as I have never cooked a cabbage in my life and feel like I’ve got hundreds on the way!

Before I sign off I must tell you about our latest salad. We have planted some straight beds to make the most of the areas where we had the melons and cucumbers in summer and they are looking just splendid. And since we have been having such amazing weather for October, and having had a bit of a break from salad since a bit of an overdose in summer, we are really enjoying the tender young lettuces along with the black cherry tomatoes, some feta cheese, walnuts and pomegranate seeds, both from our generous neighbour Pepe. We then dress the salad with a spritz of balsamic and a drizzle of our other neighbour Rafa’s olive oil, fruit of the olive grove we can see on the west side of our house.

P1010884

It is so beautiful to already be feeding ourselves from our land, before we even live here, and to be cultivating relationships with our neighbours, with whom we intend to share and exchange many more things in the future. We really are tasting the life we are creating for ourselves, getting away from the city and the need for public infrastructure, creating our own reality for the life we want to live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first steps to a dream-come-true

When I went on my first date with Luke on 21st April 2012 I had never heard of Permaculture. By the end of the day I had had quite an intense introduction, as Luke explained the concept to me from the point of view of his dream, while we rock-climbed in Calvià, ate pizza on the dock in Port Andratx, and walked Luna in the forest of Paguera. We said our first goodbye under the lemon tree at his gate, a mere 20 metres from where I sit now, but not before he had bamboozled me with the plans he had drawn for Ca’n Mandala, his permaculture dream-to-come-true.

Already then, we shared a common desire to live in harmony with nature, it’s just that he had already got into much more detail about how that was going to happen! Gradually Ca’n Mandala became a dream that we dream together, a dream that is now becoming a reality. A home built with natural materials (many of which will be reclaimed), which will warm us in the winter and cool us in the summer… where we can re-use all of our waste water on the land, turning our bodily waste into compost to nourish the earth… where we can step outside and collect vegetables from our garden and fruit from our food forest… where animals will help us to farm the land, just by doing what they do best… where we can be happy living a simple life together.

Luna in Kitchen doorway

August 2012

August 2012

We are at the beginning of a very exciting journey, as we build our house and our life together, and we hope you will join us as we share our experiences, the things we learn and the mistakes we make, the joys and the challenges, the triumphs and disappointments. Join us, dear friends, and if you would like to get involved, make some suggestions, lend a hand, please feel free! Welcome one and all.