Franz shows his fantastic eco fridge that doesn’t use any resources. No gas, no electricity, nothing. Watch while he explains with much enthusiasm how he achieves this sustainable feature in the summer heat of Central Portugal.
This video is edited with solar power in our mobile office. We are happy to show you around in our solar setup! With many thanks to Peter from Independent solar solutions for all his input and installation-advice.
Questions about solar panels on your camper van? https://independentsolarsolutions.nl
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We’re sowing and growing! Dracula makes space for a permaculture garden here at this crazy castle. Meet Sina and Michel, who’ve just landed at this place where they’re setting up their garden project. Being here you can’t escape a bit of craziness flowing through your veins, but working with mother nature will ground us again. Have fun watching another episode in this Finding A Better Way To Live journey!
Stomping around in a heap of horse dung. It’s not something I do every day. But when making natural bricks (so called adobes) this is a necessary part of the process.
We have gathered in Happy Valley in Benfeita, Portugal, where Prem and Roshni are building a bathroom with natural materials. Part of the walls will be made from a natural type of brick called ‘adobe’. These bricks are made from a mix of clay, sand, straw and some lovely horse dung. According to Bruno, who is teaching us how to make the bricks, the horse dung helps to provide elasticity to the bricks, making them less prone to crack. There are about 15 of us, plus a bunch of kids, and we are eager to get started.
The clay, dung and straw are locally sourced, and because clay is different in every region, it’s important to make sample mixes with different ratios of the ingredients. Bruno calls them cookies, which confuses us, until he shows us a bucket full of them. Indeed, they look deceptively like mouth-watering chocolate chip cookies. We are advised not to eat them if we are fond of our teeth.
Etched into each ‘cookie’ is the ratio of the main ingredients used for that sample.
Bruno prepared all of this in advance. He found that in this region the ratio for dunch/clay/sand has to be 1/2/2. He also already made the mixture for the bricks, with a cement mixer. It’s a huge pile, which we have to keep wet the whole day with a hose and work the water into the mix with our feet. Bring water, mud and a bunch of kids together and you know what is inevitable. Mud fight!
The adobes themselves are created by putting the mixture into moulds, that are made in a simple way from a few planks. “Really whack the mixture into the corners”, Bruno tells us, “Otherwise you might end up with wobbly bricks.” The mould is lifted up and the bricks are left to dry on the ground. To make the next brick it’s important to make the mould wet. The bricks have to dry for 3 days on one side, then they are turned and left to dry for another 3 days. That’s quite a while, but in this climate 6 rain free days is no problem at all.
The sun is shining, the kids are playing, the adults are working. It’s a good day: in the end we have made 300 bricks! That might look like an impressive number, but making bricks this way is a very labour intensive process. That’s why places that build this way often call on volunteers to help. But if more and more people transition to natural buildings, will it stay feasible to do it this way? I like pondering questions like these. To explore what will really work if the world transitions to a more sustainable lifestyle. But not now. Now I just know that I’m dead tired, have backache and a sun-burned nose, but feel satisfied and happy and look back on a wonderfully fun day.
Deep in rural Belgium we found a hidden valley: Shangri-Lah. Peter and Mieke turned it into … yes, into what? Words fail to describe. An attempt: Furby meets spirituality meets the Efteling. Or perhaps: a mystical, harmonious valley. But then again, the spiritual vibe here also invited us to meet some of the darker, unharmonious vibes in ourselves. This place strangely touched us. We felt at ease, yet also emotional. We can neither share this experience fully with words, nor with video.
If your curiosity is tickled: Go here to stay some nights in a trippy cabin and experience the vibe yourself. Mieke and Peter are great hosts and fascinating people. They will tell you all about how they cycled in India, how they met a spiritual guide, how they ran their own restaurant in Rotterdam, and why they left to come live in a valley in Belgium.
This sustainable eco house at the Hobbitstee uses mostly locally sourced materials. This is great because it cuts down on transport emissions. We help out for a weekend and learn about cob-plastering.
It’s like…we’re walking in a Hobbit landscape!
This Dutch neighbourhood consists of 23 “Aardehuizen” (based on Michael Reynolds ‘Earth ship‘ model). We meet residents and talk about their process of constructing and living together in this magical neighbourhood! We learn how they’ve build with tires, cob, strawbales and of course earth. How decisions are made with sociocracy. Which weed is edible and how the composttoilets are used. So much inspiration!
Visit the website of Stichting Aardehuizen in Olst (Earth Houses, Olst) for more information:
Or their Facebook page: