Thursday, May 13, 2010

Grey water treatment and straw bale houses

How to meet new friends: talk s**t ! I’ll explain: we’re getting to meet new people thanks to our grey water treatment system! Sophie Langlais, who is locally responsible for supervising autonomous sewage installations locally, has been sending people to have a look at our horizontal plant filter. As has Christophe Le Petit, the proud installateur of our system.

And so we met Bruno and Mélanie, who are building a straw bale house just a cycle ride away from us. They bought a plot of land with another couple, Samuel and Clarice, who are also building a straw bale house on their half. They’re apparently employing slightly different techniques. Quelle chance for us ! We’ll be able to follow both builds closely and so learn loads, which will help us with our own build.

When I say “follow both builds closely”, I mean very closely indeed. After a thorough look at our grey-water system and a walk around the rest of our permaculture smallholding, we retired to our house for apéros of white wine and slices of homemade chorizo. Before they left, we’d signed up to help. I’ve since spent a day helping Bruno, Bruno’s dad and a team of friends to mix and lay the floor slab. Within more traditional concrete stem walls, a precise mix of pouzzolane (crushed volcanic rock) sand and lime was tamped level.

The team of carpenters, comprising a couple of professionals and three volunteers, have arrived onsite to erect the Douglas fir load-bearing framework. Mélanie’s and Bruno’s (real!) work schedules leave a couple of holes requiring external catering help; cue Gabrielle. Yesterday, after a self-deprecatory apology to the cold and hungry workers that they’d have to put up with English cooking, she served up soup, beef bourguignon, locally produced organic cheddar cheese and pear and almond tart to compliments that it was the best meal they’d had onsite and when was she coming back.

With our plans now ready, Bruno is going to help me fill out the planning application for our own straw bale house, which will save me a lot of time fretting over the complicated five-page form with otherwise only our well-thumbed French-English dictionary for company.

The photos show: Bruno’s and Mélanie’s building site the day we laid the floor slab and the lunch that accompanied it and our plant filter as it looks today.