New Year, New Home!

After two years of hard work, we are finally in!

We now have running, hot water in the house, electricity from solar panels and internet!

We have been living here since just after Christmas and are really enjoying it.  We get to watch the sunrise every day while having breakfast and then see the stars come out at night.  Its amazing how disconnected you get from all of this when living in the city.  In the last place we lived in, we were surrounded by buildings and never saw the moon or stars, you couldn’t even tell if it was a nice day from inside the house. Its a real pleasure to live in a house that faces south, with big windows that let the light stream right in all day long which is a massive bonus on these short winter days.

Here is a quick video showing our progress on the finca and going over the basic things that we needed to get sorted so that we could start living here.

We will make more in depth videos on each of the individual components solar, water, chickens etc.  this video is just a quickie to wish you a Happy New Year and show some signs of life as our last post was a while back.

The general pace of the build has slowed down now and we have more time for other things (apart from just trying to get in) so I will make an effort to put up videos on a more regular basis.

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.

Time Flies!

Time Flies!

Where does the time go?

Its been four months since our last update and we have got a lot of work done although the winter has been a little slow.

Slow Motion

We worked really long hard days through the summer and then when the clocks changed in Autumn, it seemed like we were dropped in a vat of honey and everything was going in slow motion.  Being used to the long light hours I got caught out more than once finishing a job in pitch black, in the middle of nowhere, cleaning the cement mixer and tools by headlamp.  Not all that nice when you are tired and all you want to do is get home.
The short days combined with me working mainly on my own (as Tracy had been offered some extra work) meant that progress was veeeeery very slow.  This situation ended up running me down and the build started to feel a little overwhelming. I didn’t feel like all the hard work I was putting in was actually moving us forward much.  I was doing mainly prep work for plastering which isn’t very rewarding.  You’re basically filling in small holes and making the wall as flat as you can for a better finish while plastering.  I was also putting off any large walls for plastering as it goes very slow when you have to make mix, plaster, stop and make more mix when you run out and then wait for it to firm up so that the wall can be “floated” to even it out.  Also, having done most of the plastering in the summer I was used to it firming up a lot faster.  This  was one of the main reasons why in the winter the darkness was closing in while I waited to float the wall.

Tracy to the rescue!

Luckily, just at the point where I was hitting saturation, Tracy took a few days off and together we covered 3 big walls.  This made a huge difference and renewed my enthusiasm and energy for the project.


Spring is here and with the extra hours of light we are full steam ahead trying to get in.  We have all of the walls in the south side of the house with the first layer of plaster applied, and soon we will be getting some help to finish the second coats and final smooth coat.

We have lots more exciting stuff to tell you about and I will try to upload a video update of our progress in the next week or so.

We have started Plastering!

Its been a long time coming, but its finally here!

We have started plastering!

lime plastered larder

Our larder with part of its first coat of lime plaster.

We have done the first layer of plaster on some of the walls.  Our walls are anything but flat so it will take a couple of layers to get it looking…. rustic..

After a lot of research, a couple of courses and lots of umm’ing and ahh’ing we have decide to go with a base layer of lime and very fine gravel known locally as “cero”.

Benefits of Using Lime Instead of Cement

Our walls are made of a very porous sandstone (called “mares”) that acts like a sponge and sucks up water. If you cover this stone with a non breathable material (like cement)it will end up getting saturated, rotting and the result will be large parts of your plaster falling off.

Lime plaster is breathable, meaning that it lets vapour pass through it.  This allows your walls to regulate not only the amount of humidity in the actual wall itself, but also the level of humidity in the room. So, in theory we shouldn’t have the typical humidity problems that plague old houses on the island.

Another great benefit of lime is that its antibacterial and anti-fungal and so its a lot harder for mold and any other unwanted fungus’s and bacteria to grow in rooms that are plastered with it.

Lime is also thought to be more “eco” friendly as it takes less energy to make and emits less CO2 into the atmosphere than cement.  In the long run it actually absorbs more CO2 (from the atmosphere as it “carbonates”, which is the process which makes lime harden) than is used to make it.

Here are a couple more pics:

Master Bedroom
lime plaster wall with window and wooden beams

Kitchen/Front Door

kitchen door lime plaster

 

Its really nice to have some of the walls plastered as you can start to see glimpses of the house emerging from the barn.

If you are interested in learning how to plaster with lime and clay, Miquel Ramis does a 2 day course here on the island which is very good and cheap too!  He also speaks very good English for those of you with Spanish problems.

We saved a lot of money by going on that course as before it we were going to buy all of our plaster “ready made” and now we are making it ourselves at a fraction of the cost.

Construcción bioclimática y tradicional: Morteros de cal y morteros de tierra / Lime and earth mortars

http://www.artifexbalear.org/cursos.htm

THE MANDALA GARDEN by the Apprentice Permaculturist

Today was a momentous day – we started our veggie garden! It’s hard work but it’s worth it, knowing with every shovel of earth we are a little bit closer to eating our own organic veg 🙂

So our huerto (Spanish for vegetable garden) is – obviously – based on the principals of permaculture. As most of you know I am an Apprentice Permaculturist so was happy to work under the Head Permaculturist’s guidance while he got on with fitting the door to the solar battery cupboard! One of the first steps with permaculture, whatever you are doing, is planning: the better you design it, the better it will serve you and the more yield it will give you for the least effort. It appears that the current stage is where most of the effort goes – hard digging on a hot spring day!

So we are following a design for a mandala garden from Linda Woodrow’s book the Permaculture Home Garden. The concept is that the veggie beds are circular (which is the most efficient use of space) and in a keyhole design so that you can reach all over the bed either by walking round the edge or by standing in the centre. This is so that you never have to step on the bed and therefore avoid compacting the soil which would mean re-digging every season. Each bed is 4 metres from side to side and there are 6 beds, arranged in equal spacing around a central circle of the same size.

keyhole bedThe Permaculture Home Garden

After marking the outline of each of the beds, we chose one to start working on and then dug a path all the way round the edge, just wide enough to be comfortable to walk on. The earth that was dug out from the path was chucked inside the circle to allow more earth for planting. What this also does is to raise the bed up a bit, above the level of the path, so that in the case of heavy rain, the water will drain off into the path and the bed itself will not get waterlogged.

Once the path was dug and the earth evened out on the bed, it was time for one of the principal concepts in the world of permaculture: MULCHING! Mulching, a wonderful and very important word which is becoming a big part of my life. It basically means “composting in place” and is a great example of another key concept in permaculture: MULTIPLE FUNCTIONS. All you do is to lay organic material over the earth and look at all the functions this covers:

  • Protects the earth from the harsh rays of the sun to stop from scolding and drying out, keeping it cool and damp and stopping evaporation
  • Allows any water to seep in gradually to soak the earth in a more even and effective way
  • Provides protection for worms and beneficial insects
  • The organic material will decompose over time and enrich the soil
  • A thick layer of mulch will also provide wind protection for seedlings until they grow a little stronger.

Good materials for mulching are hay, cardboard (recycling!), paper (watch out for prints which may contain toxic ink), or any garden refuse that you may have from trimming back other plants. We are using hay as we have a few bales of it on the land right now. Don’t forget to wet the soil before starting to mulch, and if you are mulching quite heavily then you can wet in between layers too.

Mandala Veggie Plot

So now we have a nicely prepared bed awaiting the first round of veggies which are to be planted this weekend!  Yum yum yum yum…..