The covid drama was heating up last autumn and there was talk of mandatory vaccinations and a long cold winter. I felt uneasy knowing that we lived next to our village mayor and would likely be the first people to get a knock on the door if such a thing were to happen. I was conscious too that in the event of a prolonged power outage I would not be able to keep my family warm in our electrically heated home so I asked the Universe what to do and the answer was provided almost immediately but what it represented was so much more than just a house in the woods. It was the birth of a powerful new feeling and the reminder of something forgotten.
I am a builder!
This is the story of how I remembered what I am here to do. Perhaps we are all builders? Do you know of any children who don't love Lego? It seems to me that growing up, the majority of us forget our instinctive desire to put one block on top of another and build something which wasn't there before. So I am here to remind you of what you once understood, while also pointing out there is no better time in human history to be acquiring outdoor skills such as these!
I remember marvelling in Thailand at the intentional transience of their bamboo structures which by their very nature are destined ultimately to be eaten away by bugs and fall down to continue their cycle back into the earth. There was no attachment to the idea of permanence and as a consequence, house building was for everyone, even the poor. But these houses, rather than being 'complete' as we like them to be in the West, they were living and breathing like a member of the family with regular action required to keep them in good shape.
It was for this reason I felt confident using mud as my mortar, stones as my bricks and trees as my roof! But the most important thing I learned here is that living houses are not so much built with knowledge or tools but with a vibration, and if one is asking, the Universe will interact and provide all that is required to get the job done in style.
On a more physical level I learned that houses can be built exclusively from natural & recycled materials and no experience or money is required. So this really is for everyone!
I had always imagined that doing something like this would be super complicated and I am wondering now if perhaps this is what we have been conditioned to believe, through education & television programming? Well, I am here to tell you that it isn't complicated at all and the experience of building your own house in your own way is principally an intuitive one which has the capacity to change your perception of who you really are and what you are here to do.
How did the Universe answer my call for help?
The road to this stone house began with my desire to train our cat to walk with me to and from our allotment. On one occasion she jumped over the canal and ran off into a wooded area of the mountain, forcing me to follow. She didn't yet know her way home so I really didn't have a choice! Such is the way with the Universe.
So, my little cat led me up the side of a mountain, refusing to stop until she came to this.
I was stunned because despite walking in the forest many times I had never before noticed it.
A tin of tuna at the bottom of the rubble told me the house had been functional twenty years ago and I wondered what kind of person would have lived here? And why did they design the main wall in this strange way with the darker stones in the middle? Was it some kind of furnace? I didn't know the answers but I felt a sudden and intense drive to re-build this pile of rubbish into something meaningful. I felt like a child again, free to dream with no grown-ups there to break my flow.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can—begin it
The land wasn't mine of course but the location was concealed enough that I could potentially get away with it. The large quantity of rubbish all over the forest (much of which was very useful to me) indicated the owners didn't love their land and they didn't visit regularly. So I just went with the flow.
It took a few days to reveal what I was working with and separate that which was usable from that which was not.
And just a few days more to figure out where I would put four windows and a door.
I believe the house had just two windows in its original form.
During the entire 80 days of construction I was completely driven by an intense energy I have never felt before. It woke me long before sunrise every morning and permitted me to work through the day until sunset without any need for rest. I didn't want to go home for meals so I ate mostly oats, raisins, sugar, fruit, nuts & seeds.
At the weekends my children would join me and I really felt the importance of them experiencing this with me.
Despite it being a construction site (where children are not normally permitted) there were actually a bunch of games which were perfect for them. The kind of games which appeal to children of all nationalities, because they speak to the builder in all of us:
- Jenga skills were important when identifying the loose stones which needed to be removed from the existing structure.
- Tetris skills were important to figure out which way round each stone fitted into the next.
- Lego skills were important for areas like the windows & doorway.
That's right, it's all just kids games in an adult world!
Another job they enjoyed was cutting the roots out of the walls. Such is the way when half the house is underground.
If you had asked me to pick up that headstone for the doorway prior to this project I probably would have told you it was too heavy. Yet somehow, due to that enhanced energy I mentioned, I was able to put it in place without any assistance.
Esteban decided we needed some secret hiding places. And I agreed!
So we built a solid wooden floor at the entrance...
And under this I dug a hole, which was mostly through rock. Not easy without powertools, but possible!
I wondered also if we could waterproof this hole with a plastic sheet to create a place to clean dishes, clothes or even people. Certainly little people anyway ;)
Notice the cat chilling there. Her reward for finding this place was three months playing in a forest with me every day.
The more it took shape the more the energy flowed and the more the forest provided all I needed, exactly when I needed it. At times it was uncanny. All I had to do was place my attention on what I wanted and it would literally just appear.
Like this door & frame which someone dumped at the side of the road, just when I was thinking about it.
Sometimes, if I didn't know the answer to a problem, the Universe would show me in the form of a physical item, usually found within the forest on a route to and from my home. A route which I would adjust slightly each day to assist the manifestation process and stop tracks from forming. There were mushroom pickers at this time of year and I preferred to give myself the best possible chance of remaining undiscovered.
I noticed too that problems were often solved in the moment I went for a pee! My mind would relax with my bladder and I would instantly re-connect with that Universal Encyclopedia and in a flash I would know what to do. It felt highly significant because in the end, no plans were required, except for a few drawings.
The first one I did the day after discovering the ruin.
The second when I realised the stove needed to be more functional.
I was particularly excited to build the centrepiece to this little house, which I wanted to be of a sufficient size that we could easily use it for cooking.
With adjustable levels of course.
Here is the structure before I covered everything in mud.
I left these holes in the side intending to add a copper pipe water heating system in the future. With this we would have been able to produce enough hot water for a shower or bath system.
Once the stove was done I could start work on the floor...
Ash Cement & Living Walls
Every afternoon I collected the ash from the fire which kept me warm in the morning and mixed it with water to create a kind of cement. Once dry it has a lovely natural grey colour and is smooth to the touch. Quick side-note here, this kind of cement will require re-working over time if the area is underfoot, but we're talking about ash & water here, so who cares right?
I also used the ash cement on the walls around the adult sized bed, building in the candle holders and little shelves as part of the structure.
The other wall I wanted ash free, just mud & creativity.
The solar powered torch was essential in the darkness of the mornings.
And very helpful putting a spotlight on our living walls.
It was quite liberating being able to look at these walls as a canvas.
For the children's bed I attached a hinged front to this bench.
Once open it was big enough for the two of them.
The bottle windows I had been wanting to make ever since I discovered Earthships a few years ago. They are subtle from the outside.
Beautiful from the inside.
The one glass window was intentionally positioned on the south facing side and did a great job at illuminating the room.
I created a drainage system leading rainwater away from the entrance.
This helped avoid a swimming pool at the doorstep during heavy rainfall which just happened to arrive the day after I finished the job.
And what an enjoyable feeling it was to be warm & dry in my little home while the wind and the rain howled outside. The stove was ridiculously effective and there is no question that it was warmer in here than in our electrically heated home.
The roof was a mish-mash of things from the forest but did what any respectable roof is supposed to do. It kept me dry and was strong enough to hold snow. And the chimney hole was waterproof & windproof!
There are so many things I could tell you about this experience.Truly it was sublime.
In the winter it snowed as expected and we enjoyed visiting each day to make hot drinks with melted snow.
In the spring my sense of urgency dissipated, the allotment became more interesting and we stopped visiting the stone house so regularly.
Easy come, easy go
I am writing this post now because the need for secrecy is over. Yes, the owner did finally show up (two weeks ago) and apparently he was pretty angry about it because he smashed the glass window and messed the place up pretty good before dumping all the rubbish he could find in his forest in front of the door so that no one could get in. It felt quite aggressive and was a bit sad to see so I didn't show the children or take any photographs but I was grateful at least that he didn't decide to pull the place down and perhaps intends to use it in the future. He would be mad not to!
In the end there were no power cuts or mandatory vaccinations but do I regret building it? Of course I don't. This was was a dream come true for both me and my children and it was the appetiser before the main course which is coming soon to a mountain in the French Pyrenees when I build my first Earthship!
Anyone who wants to join us on our mission to continue living freely in these mountains (no matter what is happening in the world), please send me an email here: firstname.lastname@example.org
At this stage I am looking for partners who are interested in community building and able to invest in land with me, upon which we will build our future. But even if you don't have money, don't let that be the reason for not contacting me if you desire this kind of life. Skills & character are more valuable in many ways.
Love & Light everyone 🌱