Saturday, April 20, 2013

straw bale rerevisited

I left the mountains in a snow storm, concerned that the roads wouldn’t be clear enough for the car.  Fortunately Pierlo arrived with a sturdy 4x4 which managed the conditions without a problem.  The weather has now changed for the better, the storms of the weekend have ceased and it appears that spring has decided to arrive.  

After such a snowy, cold winter it is surprising to see that lower altitudes in the area have already sprung into life, there are flowers everywhere, the fields have a new flush of green, the first buds are bursting on the trees and the bees are busy restocking their supplies as fast as they can.  Life continues even though the mountains are still covered in meters of snow, they are a view now, distant, cold and uninviting, rather than the purpose of being there.  The ski season over, a new chapter begins.

Straight back onto building mode, the early part of the week mixing earth plaster for the final indoor phase, finishing the walls of the living area downstairs.  The first floor rooms are now finished, decorated and well lived in, the rest should be done this summer.  It was great not worrying about being clean and tidy all the time, getting clay on my clothes and living in a house that is still under construction.  The straw bales, that had been visible  walls since the house went up, fast disappeared under a couple of layers of mud plaster, along with the strapping and electricity conduits, changing the appearance dramatically, giving the space clear flat walls.  The final coat will be added later on, when all the walls have been given the initial treatments and have had time to dry.  I’ll be back again to see the finished result and the transformation of the earth floor into something more durable and suitable for modern living.

The latter part of the week was taken up with gardening and starting a structure for some newly planted kiwi plants.  Part support for their climbing habit and part a shaded dining area for the family.  Constructed in a similar fashion to the greenhouse that I erected here a couple of years ago but a lot quicker.  Firstly because I only had a little over a day to get it done and secondly the wood needed a lot less preparation as it wasn’t going to have plastic stretched over the top, none of the knobbles, buds and pointy bits needed to be trimmed away.  Elsewhere in the garden I planted onion starts, harvested nettle tops for use in the kitchen, wild garlic for pesto, weeded, reconstructed a badly leaning compost heap, spreaded manure and transplanted hundreds of tiny seedlings.

It was great to be back at the house to see all that had been done the last year, to catch up with Pierlo and Sandrine, both of whom were on form and, with much improved french, have some much more indepth and interesting conversations.  Jules and Maryon have grown up a lot in the last couple of years and are mainly great fun to be around.  

The families’ diet is somewhat radical, but I love it for the time that I visit.  Mainly raw food, fresh preserved from the garden and market, minimal cheese, milk and meat products, minimal wheat, no alcohol or stimulants (tea, coffee etc) or refined sugars.  Amazingly I feel different after  just a few days, lighter , with more energy, more eager to get on and do things, less tired and infrequently hungry.  Each time I stumble on people who eat like this I am more and more sure that it is the way to go for the future.  I feel great.

Having said that, I did catch up with a friend, Simon, who took me along to a bbq one evening where the combined spread was amazing.  Everyone invited took a plate or two and bottle and something to cook on the fire.  Wonderful evening, a great group of alternative people, delicious food and drink Simon did his famous bbq roast chicken on a string, it’s always delicious, even more so when it is shared between twenty hungry people, all eager to try a bit.  MMmmmm, the quandary of eating what’s good and what’s nice. 
the morning I left the chalet 
sunrise from Esconetts

straw bale house from the garden

transforming the walls with clay render

living in a building site

finished wall and ceiling with bird detail


joy said...

What a difference now for the straw bale house . . wonderful . am sure I would not enjoy the strict diet of the family though you say that after a few days it is doing you good . .but you are healthier than most of us I expect . .still I'd rather have the alcohol and chocolate option. Pity about the plot of land you looked at . lovely in many ways but not in the important ones for making a living . .onward still. xx joy

Anonymous said...

....looks great....and sounds like you are enjoying it too....xx Like Joy I'd struggle to totally cut out the alcohol....and I love bread making so.........xx Keep enjoying! xx moi

Anonymous said...

Wow, all looking amazing. When are you coming over to the UK? It's about time for your spring visit?