Photos from the 2020 Natural Building Internship

During the summer of 2020, we ran a 10-week Natural Building internship where guests joined for 1 week, 1 month or the whole 10 weeks to help build a barn from start to (almost) finish using sustainable building techniques.

There are terms such as ‘natural building’ and ‘low impact building’ but this time around we went for a ‘sustainable build’ that offsets carbon and has a positive impact. We used recycled materials, materials from our land and used a variety of natural building techniques including cordwood, wattle and daub, stone walling and straw bale.

Want to learn about Natural Building with us? then you have four choices

  1. Join one of our natural building courses for 1-week intense learning of all the techniques.
  2. Join a permaculture internship and do a form of natural building one day per week
  3. Join our natural building internship

Photos from the Natural Building 10 week internship

We set up a worksite next to where the barn would be. We created shade and measured up the recycled roof to make a design for the barn roof
Some afternoons we did some gardening but most of the time was spent building
Repurposed telegraph posts started going up. The whole barn has been built with natural or reused materials. Sustainable building isn’t just good for the environment, it is also either free or very cheap
As well as building everyone has a daily task. These include looking after the tree nursery, pigs, sheep, worms, doing breakfast, harvesting food or looking after the chickens. This gives guests a taste of what it is like to run a farm. Here the sheep are being rounded up to be fed in their pen where they will sleep. 
Julian watering the nursery carefully every day. This task also includes planting out seedlings and planting new seeds in their place.
The chicken run this year had 3 new chicks to look after, including soaking and sprouting seeds for feed and turning the compost daily
Daily Tasks
We are raising 2 pigs that have a large area to roam with a pond. This daily task includes soaking and sprouting their feed, checking the fencing, making sure they have water int he pond for bathing and getting to know their cheeky personalities
These large supporting timbers for the barn roof came of an old roof, we had to chisel in spaces for the old rafters to fit in
Once the posts and supports for the roof where up we made the braces with the recycled timber
In the hot afternoons we planted seeds or worked in the gardens
We planted a three sisters field with corn, melons and beans in spring. During the summer internship every evening an intern harvested fresh corn to feed to the sheep. They do not need the corn but we keep them trained so that they come to the barn when we want them to
Natural Building Central Portugal
The rafters going up. These were from rafters from an old roof and were twisted and bent and so a lot of hand-chiselling was done to get them all level with each other.
This is ‘ Ramma Lamma’ our Suffolk Ram. He loves life on the farm but is looking forward to the new barn
Nothing more fun than working with hand tools. Here Meike is chiselling in a rafter.
Strippingh Eucalptus
We needed to cut some eucalyptus trees down from our land and use them as rafters. Each tree was stripped of the bark so it lasts longer as insects get underneath the bark. Clearing flammable eucalyptus and planting oaks and native trees there instead is part of our reforestation efforts.
All the recycled rafters were installed here. We didn’t have enough so we needed to cut some eucalyptus trees down from our land and use them as rafters. Eucalyptus trees are a fire hazard so we need to remove them and using the timber in a building fixes the carbon.
Plantin winter vegtables
We started planting seeds for winter vegetables
We had plenty of time for rest where guests would find a hammock for some personal time
Outdoor solar shower to get clean after work
One of the best things about living out in the middle of nowhere is that there is hardly any light pollution giving you a wonderful area of stars every night and a shooting star can be seen most evenings
Dry stone wall practice
Everyone got to practice a small dry stone wall by themselves to get the feel of it before going onto building the foundations of the cordwood walls.
We have plenty of comfy hang out areas 

Stonewall foundation for the cordwood walls going down

Some guests learned how to plaster with lime and plastered inside the straw bale greenhouse and soon we will have a tropical indoor wood powered shower. This will also heat the greenhouse.
We cleaned and processed sheep wool for insulation for the barn. The wool was from our sheep.
Some cuts were too much for hand tools so I used a chainsaw to speed things up
Chisel Master
All guests got handy with hand and electric tools for carpentry
All the rafters up after many hours of chiselling ready for the battens
Collecting stones
We collected stones from around the land to make a foundation for the walls.
Each morning we have a short talk in the classroom about what we are doing that day
Up on the roof
Installing battens to secure the clay roof tiles.
Barn coming along
Roof tiles starting to go up, earthbags down, timber wall started, the stone wall for cordwood started
Old Roof Tiles
Last of the clay roof tiles going up. These are reused from an old roof
Straw bale timber support
Timber support for the straw bale wall going down.
Double-sided wattle and daub wall with a light earth insulation stuffing inside. The timber, clay and hay all collected from our land.
Someone offered us a free very old olive tree. We had to transport it and plant it. How lucky to get such an old tree
earth bags
Installing earthbags from recycled animal feed bags for the foundation for the straw bale wall
Preparing the walls for the timber frame
Processing acacia trees for the wattle and daub. These trees need to be cleared for fire break and then we fix the carbon into the house
Cordwood wall starting
Straw Bale wall starting
New chicks slowly growing
Cordwood wall starting
Straw Bale wall starting
Smoothing out the clay on the wattle and daub wall
Grapes that we harvested to make wine.
Using sawdust to insulate the cordwood wall
Throwing clay onto the wattle and daub wall
Glorious fresh vegetables coming from the garden each day. These are our sunken beds
Hay bale wall plastered with clay from our land
Cordwood wall going up. We did not have time to do the whole wall, the open spaces on the left are waiting for you to come and build with cordwood. A great way to build for free and offset carbon
Stuffing the cordwood wall with some wool insulation from our sheep

Want to learn about Natural Building with us? We have four choices:

  1. Join one of our natural building courses for 1-week intense learning of all the techniques
  2. Join a permaculture internship and do a form of natural building one day per week
  3. Join our natural building internship

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