Small straw bale cottage in rural Devon
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Hi, we're Nicola and Myrtle and we're self-building our own small strawbale house in Devon. We're both passionate about sustainable living, particularly eco- and affordable housing and food (local, organic, including foraging and growing your own) and have backgrounds in grassroots activism including Transition Town Totnes. I (Nicola) am really into local low-embodied energy natural materials such as straw, clay and timber and have worked in community-led housing development (a CLT) for the last 7 years.
Harbertonford is a small village 3 miles from 'Transition Town' Totnes. South Devon is a beautiful area close to the coast, Dartmoor National Park and with lovely rivers - great for people who love nature and the outdoors. There is a shop and petrol station in the village and a bus to Totnes.
Little Owl Cottage is a 56m2 2 bedroom strawbale house with a timber frame. It's lime rendered externally and clay plastered internally (we are just finishing the internal plaster), with a solar PV array on the roof, and rainwater harvesting system (still to be installed). Nearly all the timber is locally sourced (within 10 miles) and milled by a friend, including larch for the frame, cedar for the windowboards and ash for the floor. We are making our own clay paints, and the clay for the plaster and paint was sourced from a friend's land in the next village. The remaining big tasks are: fit all the ash floor (plus sand and oil); install the bathroom (tiling, floor, 2nd fix plumbing) and rainwater harvesting tanks and pipes, finish plastering and painting, and lots of smaller 2nd fix (mostly carpentry) jobs including sanding and oiling various bits of wood, fitting curtain rails, sorting slates, fitting skirting and architrave, fitting shelves etc, maybe building some cupboards, and drawers for below the kitchen cupboards! If you have carpentry skills or are just confident measuring and cutting wood to length that would be great, plumbing skills also appreciated - but if you have none but are conscientious and eager to learn that's ok too. I know a fair amount about eco building, self building, planning etc now and I'm very happy to answer questions, talk about your plans etc. I've also got a lot of relevant books, and have several friends nearby who are also doing straw bale builds who I can put you in touch with or visit their projects! We have nearly finished the house, after 3 years and really want to move by the end of the year. If you can come and stay for 3-7 days your help would be so appreciated! I nearly always work on the house Mon, Tues, Thurs and sometimes Saturday - I've got commitments on Weds and Fri, so if you can do 3 or 4 days over the course of the week that's great, I can also do Sunday if that works better with travel arrangements :)
Depending on when you come, it might vary - as the house is small and we have to move things around to work in different rooms. There is a double futon in the bedroom and a single camp bed in the lounge. The kitchen is fully fitted with fridge, oven, hob, kettle, sink. The bathroom is only just started so there is a loo but no shower/bath yet. You can come to our flat in Totnes to shower! :) There is an electric heater in the bedroom and wood burner in the lounge as the weather gets colder, and lights and electric sockets in these rooms too (the electrics aren't fully completed yet).
We mostly eat vegetarian, local organic veg/dairy and lots of wholefoods. Vegan is no problem! When we do eat meat it's mostly from our friend's organic smallholding, or locally line caught fish. We can stock the fridge and cupboard with whatever you prefer for breakfast so you can help yourself, have a simple lunch together and you can make dinner or we can cook and eat together some nights. We need some nights to ourselves for peace and relaxation :)