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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 19

Article 19 of Natural Building and Appropriate Tech Internship

Rain on the forecast, but not much, so let’s keep going with the house! As usual we had a morning check-in where the different projects are discussed and the students can choose whatever they want to do.

Todays Options are:

  • grey water system implementation with Bob
  • finishing the rocket barbecue
  • and the sleep-out

I spent the day working on the sleep out. We had to dig out some pumice. It was amazing to see the different layers in the soil. First there is a top soil, very smooth and dark and straight after a layer of pumice, all crumbly and orange yellowish. And if we keep going we find some white silt that sticks together. The idea is to use the pumice to create a insulation layer. First, two inches of pumice, then a sheet of plastic and one more layer of pumice. Then it is time to raise the level of this floor. We don’t have a vibrating plate anymore and we are going to create our mud floor after we have a roof. So by laying all the material now we will compact it the next weeks only by working and walking on it.


Shelly and Tim, the compacting crew!

And now time to create the mezzanine. This means that we are not going to work on floor level anymore. Everyone climbs on the building, secure themselves, and begin to assemble the poles to have an amazing mezzanine. It is going to be huge but still inside the council regulations.


All in the air

Standing on a pole at 2 meters high and working with timber at the same time is not easy, however, some found tricks to stabilize the work being done.


Rafa stabilizing the timber for Big Ben to cut.

The other team are still working in the shed and we are looking forward to hear what they have achieved for the day!

~Oscar Morand, 21 March 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern

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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 18

Article 18 of Natural Building and Appropriate Tech Internship

It rained all night and my mattress is wet! Otherwise life is pretty good at the Kotare Village. With water pouring from the sky, it has definitely been a day to spend in the workshop and do some undercover work.

Every student had their own project.


Silus painting his solar oven with a waterproof paint layer


Tom and Sarah processing the skin of a possum that has been caught this morning by one of the trap.

Oscar Weld

One of the projects was to finish our rocket barbecue and do some more oxy-torch to adjust the steel g-shape to have a better draw.


And as soon as the rained stop we had two super motivated persons to jump on the building and keep work going!


Thanks heaps to Simon and Rafa.

 ~Oscar Morand, 15 March 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern

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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 17

Article 17 of Natural Building and Appropriate Tech Internship

And we begin the fifth week. Already halfway through the internship! As it is well known, time flies when you’re having fun!

Even as time goes quickly Monday felt like a pretty slow day. Two interns took Monday off to spend a longer weekend with their family. And when they came back they looked really happy and motivated to keep going. We missed them during this weekend and are glad that they came back.

During this weekend we had a special event. We helped Yotam, Niva and Lily to set up their new home, a tipi!

picture 1

Seven metres in diameter. It is a big one.

Very enjoyable experience and it gave me ideas for a future habitation.

We spent they day on the building site. The building is looking good and the walls are standing strong, all bolted at the base. Time to do the side walls and our team has installed the bracing. A big brace on the west side and two others on the east side.

The roof is going to extend the back of the sleep-out to create a veranda. So the poles to create the roof will need to sit on some others studs at the back. This means more foundations to create. Thankfully, Rafa and Big Ben look like they are in charge of the process, and have begun to create the different necessary parts to put the foundations in place.

I went with the group for installing a ram pump. We left the Institute and it begun to rain. Under the rain we surveyed the site, thought a little bit about the different options and fixed the ram pump. In the next few days we will go back there and install all the pipes. And we will see how well this ram pump is functioning. It is definitely an exciting moment!

 picture n°2

The Ram pump bolted to the stone under it.

~Oscar Morand, 19March 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern


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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 16

Article 16 of Natural Bldg and Appropriate Tech Internship

Two big days for us! We spent them working on our front wall.

Since Thursday, while the sun was shining on our sweaty bodies, we worked hard. Our skills improved, mastering the art of chiselling, drilling and bolting. Now that we already raised up our back wall we have more experience on what to do and what not to do. The process went smoother, definitely.


Oscar (myself) chiselling.


Simon with the homemade long drill to go through all the depth of the timber.


Yes! The windows fit.

 Some students also went on their own project. We are ready to set up the ram pump. And a group of people harvested heaps of pine’s needles in the forest. This material will serve as a light earth mix to fill in our walls. Good insulation, we are looking forward to put it into the walls.

 7 cubic meters of pine needles. Thanks to the group who went harvesting them.

 At the same time on the building site. Grasped by a highly vibrational cosmic wave Rafa begin to harmonise himself with the structure.



 And after that, went to lift the whole front wall by himself.


But it is a lot of timber! So we came to help him!


Not so easy to lift. So we gathered all together, prepared ourselves and begin this big event. Ropes, a jack and a lot of muscles!

And here we go. RAAAAAAAH!






And… And… And…



Magnificent. So glad to finish the week with this awesome accomplishment. We are all satisfied and looking forward to keep going with the building.Here are the names and materials we used for the walls while they were horizontal.

Front wall

–          Four and a half studs

–          Two lintels

–          Two top plates

–          Two bracers

–          And a hell of a lot of threaded rod, washers and nuts

Back wall

–          Three studs

–          One top plate

–          One brace

–          And a little bit less threaded rod, washers and nuts

It is a lot of material. It was definitely a good idea to assembles the wall on a horizontal way. Having vertigo, climbing up there with these big logs is not for me. Working with round timber is an enjoyable experience. It does take time but the result is just beautiful, a true artistic structure. And even if we are assembling a square building the round timber add a harmonious atmosphere.

See you next week.

~Oscar Morand, 15 March 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern

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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 11

Article 11 of Natural Bldg and Appropriate Tech Internship

Firstly a picture from yesterday of the timber after it had been stripped of all the bark.


Stripped wood.

And finally, after all this suspense, I proudly announce the opening of the solar oven competition! The sun is bright, and the solar ovens are finished. A team of people spent the whole day measuring the temperature of some bottle full of water in the oven. I don’t have all the results yet, but what I can say for having tested it is that some plates inside the oven went up to 120 °C! That’s pretty hot my friends.


Shazad and Shelly in front of their shiny solar oven, with a lot of reflectors.

Otherwise, we are still working on the foundations of our sleep-outs. Time to set up the bond beam. For this we had to bend our r-bar very precisely and the team doing this job did very good.


Here is our bended r-bar, ready to be set up.

The bond beam will be composed of concrete with a core of r-bar to provide tensile strength. We decided it would be easiest to form the r-bar frame as one piece ahead of time instead of installing piece-by-piece. The 4 square r-bar that you can see on the top needs to be joined with each other in a square pattern. For this we had to create some square stirrup ties that will hold these 4 r-bar together. We estimated having to do 24 of these squares. And to do this task, what could be better than still using some r-bar? Firstly we had to build a structure that would allow us to bend the r-bar into a good shape and then shape out 24 squares. Personally I love working with metal and it was a joy to melt and bend these pieces of r-bar.


Silus creating the square stirrup ties to hold the bond beam in place.

Part of today’s task was to lay out 7 m3 of fill-in to raise the floor of our sleep-outs. A big truck came delivering all this material. We had a vibrating plate…Wait… A big truck burning fossil fuel that we ordered to bring us some material that has been mined somewhere else on earth? Having to hire a vibrating plate that smells so bad when it is running? Aren’t we doing a Natural Building Internship? What is natural about all this?

These kinds of thoughts came to me, and then, a realisation. I am not alone in this world, we are not alone. And we have to match the council’s regulations. It is not good or bad, it is and that’s it. And even with all this “non-natural” (if we can call something not natural) things that we have used it is not that bad. Our carbon footprint is still way lower than any commercial building. Definitely we could do better, but this is a universal law, we can always do better. And doing this, we are aligned with the legal entities around us. Our model can be replicated without any major legal complication in the area.


The hard fill arriving.


Foundations set up, waiting to be raised, levelled and compacted.

Anyway, as I am saying (more precisely writing) we had a vibrating plate to compact the hard fill up to the desired height. How did we do that? One person on the vibrating plate, some shovelling the hard fill in the wheelbarrow, other emptying the wheelbarrow and a few people racking and pre-levelling the hard fill before that the vibrating plate passes on.


Angry Ben on the vibrating plate.


The whole team working. Vibrating plate running, wheelbarrow following the rhythm and racking all this.

~Oscar Morand, 6 March 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern

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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 10

Article 10 of Natural Bldg and Appropriate Tech Internship

We had a lot of rain these last days and it was such a relief to see the sun shining yesterday. Tes had the opportunity to take the seed out to dry. And here we are in autumn, heaps of harvest everywhere, and it takes quite a few hours to sort this out. Let’s not forget that all the seeds here are processed by hand!


All the seeds waiting to be looked after.

Friday we harvested almost all of the logs that we need. And Monday we went through the process of taking off the bark. All together we took out our spades and our motivation and went through with the job. It was one of those tasks where every single person is working. No one’s standing there waiting for something to do. And Yeah! 10 people working together can do amazing things. In half a day we took off all the bark from the trees, ready to be used!


Everyone working together.

That afternoon we had time to work on our solar oven! Two out of four are finished! We will now wait for the sun to shine and the birds to sing (even if it doesn’t affect the cooking process) to bring out our oven and give it a try. I tell you, they are beautiful. I will post some pictures when the food is inside.

Another group had to work on the foundations of the building, preparing the site, reviewing the design and how it fits the council’s regulations.


The peeling process as demonstrated by Tom

And that night, rain again. And this morning, rain again. So, today we had a special session in the workshop, under the roof. And they are my favourite! There we have the opportunity to really learn some small but wondrously practical and valuable stuff. I had a lesson from Big Ben where he taught me how to sharpen chisels. I am really grateful, being able to look after our tools is so important in a possible future where the masses of obsolete products will be used up.

We started the foundation piles where there is only the bond beam, and we can get started on the wall bracing and roof. For the foundation we used some concrete at the bottom, a steel bar coming on top in the middle aligned with the walls. In the workshop, Tim lets us have a go with some of his tools. It was the very first time for me to do some welding and I found it very enjoyable!


Angry Ben having a go at the drop saw with the advice of Tim


Joseph experiencing the joy of welding.


Silus and Rafa creating the round structure that will hold the concrete around the steel bar.

After having all the bits and pieces we laid in the foundations in the holes made for it. It was a quick job, and well done. One had to mix the concrete and the other filling in the concrete and making sure that the foundations are at the right place. We used the profile to lay out a second square 90 millimetres outside the inside 10 square meters area. It defines the exact placement of where the steel bars are going to sit. These steel bars will hold the weight of our posts.


The two Bens and Simon checking the design.


Making sure the steel bars are level and at the right place.


Silus, super accurate and always a good smile with him.


Here are the foundations. 100 millimetres under the level of the strings will be our floor. Hard to imagine at the moment.

~Oscar Morand, 5 March 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern

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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 09

Article 9 of Natural Bldg and Appropriate Tech Internship

Big day today! Bob has finalized the designs of the two sleep-outs and now we are ready to harvest all the wood we need for them. So the program is to spend the whole day harvesting poles. We all put our rain gears, boots and gloves and we checked that the chain saw is running, two bow saws, tap measure and the checklist of the desired timber we need. And here we go! Ready for an other big day in the forest!


The whole crew ready to go! “On the road again”

We divided ourselves into teams, to get the most efficient way of working together. The markers (the one who mark the needed trees), the cutters (obviously the one with the chain saw), the measurer (rules, tap measure and a little bit of math to figure out the length of the trees) and the team I was in the muscles (the one who have to carry all this). We worked really well all together. Each one of us knowing what they have to do our aim was to clean this job in the day.


Tim making the chain saw running!


Chester and Rafa trimming and carrying the wood next to the road.

For this day we brought all our energy and good will to do the biggest amount of work possible and we did pretty well! Testosterones leaching from our body and the sounds of cracking timber surroundings us we were able to do massive amount of physical exercise.

And we are back! We loaded the trailer twice with all the wood and we have all the poles needed for one full sleep-out and more or less half for the other one. Quiet proud of what we did it was not yet finished for the day. The timber being very fresh we put the poles on a big stump to let the sap run out of the trunks. Even if it is only for a few days it is always less moisture inside them. We are fully aware of the fact that the timber needs to be cure and without doing this process it may twist in few months or years. But it is a challenge and it is definitely be a big learning journey for all of us.


The last effort unloading the trailer.


And here we have all the work that we did today! It is a big pile of wood.

We yet have something very important to acknowledge. The trees. Thanks to them humans have been able to build roof over their heads since millennia on all the continents. Thanks to them humans have discovered and use fire. Trees are sacred. They were here before us and will be here after us.

Thank you mother earth for your gifts. Thank you trees for being present. We will make good use of your bodies. May you rest in peace.

Blessed be nature.

~Oscar Morand, 1 March 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern

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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 08

Article 8 of Natural Bldg and Appropriate Tech Internship

Here at Kotare Village we begin to feel the shift in season. Good-bye the warm summer and welcome at the cool autumn. But even if it is colder during the morning we had an outside class. What a good way to energize ourselves by being bare feet on the cold morning dew. Better than any coffee!


Yesterday Tom did some research about the design of our two passive solar sleep-outs on how to maximise the catchment of the sun to keep us warm during this time of the year. And he did share all his questions and answers with us this morning.


And this time it is not Tom but Tim who showed use that basics bits and pieces of a ram pump and explaining us the theory behind it. Basically it is a pump that works without electricity. It uses the energy contains in the water of a stream to pump it out of the same stream. I would advice you to do some google research at the subject because it is fascinating.


Tim drawing the mechanisms of the ram pump.

Let’s walk the talk and talk the walk! Straight after that we went into the creek to make a survey of the future ram pump. We prepared ourselves to have our feet in the water and found two different suitable spots. Having the theory fresh in the mind, it is always such a good experience to go directly on the field to see the practicality of these kind of projects.


Here is a possible spot for the ram pump.


Tim and Big Ben surveying the site.

Today we also had a sad event. It was the last day of Joanna who was here for the last seven weeks. She designed and implemented a typical urban permaculture garden as a demonstration site and an experimental site to see if it is possible to provide all the nutrients necessary for good human health in a small backyard. And just before she left we had the chance to have her present her project. She really did amazing work in the last few weeks. Thank you Jo! J


Joe presenting all her work.

Today is also Thursday, and like every Thursday it is seed packing day! A moment where people in the village and the interns gather together around all the seeds to put them into the packets that will go to sale.


Seed Packing around the table.


Shaked preparing some blueberry cuttings. He then soaks the cuttings into water where little pieces of willows branches have soaked overnight. The willow as a great roots hormone that will help the blueberry to send back some roots.

~Oscar Morand, 28 February 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern

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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 07

Article Seven of Natural Bldg and Appropriate Tech Internship

Every morning we gather in front of the classroom and have a daily check in to see if anyone has a particular issue or idea. Also, we have an opportunity to speak about how we feel from the previous day as well as what we want to see happening. It is definitely an important moment of the day as everyone listens to each other.  Personally I feel empowered by the attention of the group on each other. It definitely strengthens the bond between us while improving the community dynamics

And now to the hill! We all went to the little valley beneath the hill where we harvested the Kanuka poles that we need for our two sleep-outs. One person, in this case Chester, with the chainsaw is cutting the poles, and another person is walking around and marking the wanted poles for Chester to cut. All the others are carrying the poles through the rugged hill.

How lucky we are to have Mel, our cook, who prepared us a morning tea break that we brought with us made of some powerful nut balls to raise our energy levels! Because I tell you, it was a hell of a job (like Shelly would say with a south African accent) going up and down with these poles, and three or four of us carrying the bigger ones.


Sometimes a single and strong man can carry one pole alone!


We don’t see it but this pole is quite long and heavy, which explains Shaz’s facial expression.

In the afternoon we had a really good conversation about how to set up a toilet system that could be approved by the council. Even though I personally live in Switzerland where the regulations are different, it is so interesting to speak about this “taboo” subject and actually see all the different ideas and systems that can be used to recycle our “organic human by-products” without using the massive amount of water that is currently used in most developed areas. And after theory, practice! We went to empty the composting toilet. The material coming out looks decomposed, without even a single bad smell. Ah to be humanuring!

~Oscar Morand, 27 February 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern

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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 06

Article Six of Natural Bldg and Appropriate Tech Internship

After having class the last whole week and a free day on Monday, we began the first day of the Building internship on Tuesday the 26th February. And my friends, what a program we have! Heaps of things to design and create. It’s gonna be full-on!

We already began Friday with the presence of Zack (a professional builder) to do the profile of the two sleep-outs. To do the profile of a building means to locate exactly the corners of the future structure. As I said, we began Friday and finished the task today. It is a meticulous task where accuracy is our main focus. How lucky we are to have Big Ben (there are two Bens in the group) who is an accomplished builder. He taught us how to do the first profile and after that we had a go at the second one without him. We had to learn and use practical tools like hammers, saws, and tape measures, but also our brains and the well-known Pythagoras theorem to create the perfect, accurate square. I learned about this theorem in high school, and what a good feeling it is to actually use it in a practical manner.


The Building team having gotten their heads around the calculations.

Another team of three courageous students, Big Ben, Angry Ben, and Shelly accompanied by Tim went to the top of the hill to inspect the place and begin to harvest big poles for the future sleep-outs. I have not been there but after seeing their faces when they came back, it looked like an enormous task. Selecting, cutting, and pulling these poles to the desired place was a huge task.

And this last weekend on a world première at the Koanga Institute we had a special jam with:


The show, not unexpectedly, received rave reviews.

~Oscar Morand, 26 February 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern