Everything started with a hamac.
Well, actually everything started with the dream of us to live in nature, on our own land, with our own water. A place where our kids can grow up, we do not need to pay any bills and we can rest from our travels and work on projects like our kidbook, bigger paintings on canvas or recording a new album.
In January 2014 we found this place. It was a few days after New Year. At this time we stayed in the former appartment of Zoé’s grandparents in Hungary. What Zoé found, sounded like a dream. A land in sunny Portugal in a beautiful valley full of oak forest and mature fruit trees and only 60 km away from the ocean.
We talked to the owner and without hestitating we booked a flight to Porto. Two weeks later we signed the promissory contract. In March we moved with our transporter and our three dogs to Portugal.
For us was from the beginning on clear: we wanted to live on the land. The only problem was, it was impossible to get a building permission or at least would take many years. The only option was a temporary construction.
Our first idea was a tipi. Joshua lived one year in a tipi village in the Alpujarras in the south of Spain and he loved it. We started to inform ourselves. One of our main question was if it is possible to live with a tipi in the north of Portugal, where it is very rainy and very windy. Well, possible is everything, but it seemed a tipi was not what we were looking for. Originally it is used in much more dry areas with snow in winter. A tipi with seven meter radius is also seven meter high. And the poles can be even up to twelve metres. A tipi is mainly a big canvas, like a sail. Being with this construction in an Atlantic storm seemed not to be safe.
The next idea was a yurt. We informed ourselves and found people who built yurts fully out of natural material. But here starts the problem. Already with the tipi we were thinking about it: fungus. Even if the cotton is waterproof, what will happen with a yurt or tipi when you leave for three month to Morocco and there is nobody who makes a fire inside? It will rotten. And building down the yurt everytime when we wanted to travel was not an option. Also where should we bring or store our household? What we needed was a house, that was considered by law as a temporary construction.
The definition is mainly about the fundament. A permanent construction has a permanent foundation, built with beton. We informed ourselves and we found the next hint: a Kote, an earthtent from the Balticum. It is in general close to an earthship. In our mind formed the concept of our house. A construction with a natural fundament, walls out of straw and clay and a natural roof. With this idea we moved to Portugal.
Nothing was like we imagined, in the two and a half years of Castanheiro Cho we encountered so many problems, found so many solutions and learned so much. After we spent two rainy monthes in a tent, we started to build the fundament of the house. We built a stonecircle.
Here we were going with the flow. We did not decide before for the exact shape, and put the stones together in a way how they fit the best. The next step were the walls.
But wait, back to the hamac. How we said in the beginning, our house started with a hamac. While we were buildig on the stonecircle, we created a chillout place more close to our spring.
And we realized that we actually spend all the time there. It was not an easy decision, but we never regret it. We moved the stones and built a new circle around the hamac.
It took us another two weeks, but then we finally started to build the main sceleton of the house. We wanted to put up the main props that later would hold the roof. We have to say one thing about the house. The whole house is built with round wood. We did not cut one tree, we did not use any power tools and we only roped the wood. For the props we were using big trunks that had in the end a shape of a “V”.
But how to fix such a prop without any cement? We were thinking many weeks about it, in the end a friend brought us to the solution. We put the props in big ceramic pots, filled the pots with stones and clay.
After we put up the 8 main props, we started to build the walls.
In the beginning our idea was cobbuilding. We ordered already 150 strawbales. And with this many problems started. First in our area it was impossible to get straw, but it was a half-half mix with hay. Second, a strawbale is fucking heavy, specially when you do not have road access. Third, it started to rain very heavy already in the beginning of August, and most of the strawbales were lost.
Our second idea was to build the walls with a lot of windows. Here the solution started. We could buy used windows with chesnut frames for cheap. Additionally we designed a big window a front door and a double balcony door also out of chesnut wood.
We connected the standing props with wood to create a frame where we could fix the windows.
Then we had to fill the space between. Here the idea was born. I stich myself a house. We were making pillows out of yute, filled them with straw, fixed them on the windows and the wood and clayed them. This was one of our best ideas. It is super easy to make, and you can create beautiful organic shapes.
All together it took us more time than expected. The last walls we closed in winter. Then we made a break and started a travel to Morocco… but this is another story. Many things has happened, an old spanish guy crashed in our car, our dog swallowed a fisher hook and needed a 1000 euro rescue operation.
So when we came back we could not work on the house but had to find a solution for our financial situation. We went for the summer to the Alps in Switzerland. You can find the travel diary under the title “One week on the top of the world and three weeks to come there.” in the category “Travelling”.
We came to our land in September 2015. Already autumn started, and the weather was not allowing to do much on the house. We worked a little bit on the walls, installed a wooden floor on one side of the house amd started to build a stage over our fireplace. Well, finally this year we wanted to make the roof. But one thing we learned many times, you cannot plan life. A lot of things have happened and we decided to move back to Hungary, and sell both of our properties in Portugal.
The last weeks we spent with making the wood construction of the roof ready to put natural stones, roof tiles or ground.
But this is another chapter. For us it is time to leave. So we will put back the pond rubber on the roof and make the house ready for the winter. By writing these lines, out heart is bleeding a little bit. We realized how much love we put into this house, and how beautiful it became.
Hugs and kisses,
Zoé and Joshua