Timeline

Our story year by year

Since 2005, we’ve been building, planting, growing, and learning on our two acres of land in the mountains of northern Spain. This has involved an enormous amount of work, but an equally large quantity of fun. We’ve built three large and several small buildings, cultivated a food forest and met hundreds of fantastic people from all over the world. Here’s a timeline of our major activities to date.

2005

We buy the land: two acres of pasture in a tiny village with five inhabitants, a ruined chapel and a Zen view of the ocean.

2006

Plant fast-growing (“nurse”) trees to begin the process of converting the land into an edible “food forest”. Research and decide on cob as a building technique. Design Snail Cabin as a learning project and temporary accommodation. Organise ten-day cob workshop in April, during which 20 people begin buiding Snail Cabin. We continue working on the cabin during weekends and holidays. By the end of the year the structure is finished and covered, but it remains damp and unfinished.

2007

Plaster cabin interior and exterior, and close in the adjoining space to form a kitchen/workshop area. Do plumbing, electricity and the cob floor: the cabin is habitable at last. Begin earth moving for the main house.

2008

Install wood stove, and bathroom extension with a composting toilet, for the cabin. Create raised beds for vegetable garden. Build foundation and stemwall of the main house, and begin construction of ill-fated straw-bale wall for the first story.

2009

Build bottle walls, shower and washbasin for cabin bathroom. Continue main house construction with second story and roof. In the autumn, Abrazo House hosts its first “official” educational field trip: 20 Master’s students in Health, Ecology and Sustainability from the University of Deusto. Soon after this, we discover that the straw bales in the wall of the lower story have suffered major water damage and begun to lose structural strength. We support the second story on jacks and weigh our options.

2010

Start tearing down the rotten straw bale wall and rebuilding it with solid cob instead of straw bale. This process takes months but gives much greater structural strength, and we take the opportunity to improve the design of the house. Start a new, fun project: a permanent playhouse, built using left-over materials from the main house, which also serves as a test-bed for techniques from plastering to flooring. We do a lot of cob plastering on the main house (inside and out).

2011

A new addition to the cabin: a pergola to turn the patio into an all-weather outdoor space. Work on electricity in the main house, and cob plastering in both this and the playhouse, follower by interior gypsum plaster. Finish the roof edge with aluminium panels. Start installing windows to make the house weather-tight.

Clear brambles and make new vegetable beds in the garden. Take delivery of some chickens, who will live in a newly built chicken tractor and help to rotavate and fertilise the garden.

Begin designing a new project to build two more ecological houses for permanent residents, on another plot of land (full of gigantic brambles) in the same village.

2012

Interior work on the main house: partition walls, plumbing, upstairs floor, plumbing, electricity. Rendering the exterior with lime/sand. Start making the upstairs habitable with partitions, shelves and furnishings; lay the floor downstairs and install the front door: the house is finally closed in. install solar hot water system and wood stove, and furnish the house inside including the kitchen. Create the patio.

 

2013

Settle into our new home. Plaster and paint the exterior. Expand veggie garden and clear lots of brambles that have overgrown the forest garden. Renovate the cabin for use as guest accommodation.

 

2014

Writing articles about the house, working on plans for two new houses in the same village, experimenting with  and facilitating our friends and neighbours’ cob cabin.

 

2015

Fix weather damage to exterior plaster, lay out the patio in front of the main house, build a cob oven. Set up a slackline circuit in the garden and continue experimenting with biochar. New neighbours bring with them the art of silk acrobatics.

 

2016

Add a treehouse and a woven hazel dome to our collection of small structures, and start rebuilding the playhouse which has suffered serious water damage. Finish the paperwork for the two new houses and cut a load of eucalyptus for the timber-frame structure. Begin preparing the timber and start earthmoving at the new site, but then work is held up for five months due to a conflict with the water company who want us to pay €20,000 to move their water main.

2017

Good weather means we make rapid progress on the new houses, getting the timber frames built and the roofs on by the end of the winter. Build the foundations and the straw-bale walls, mix and apply slip and cob plaster, putting in doors and windows, interior walls, and start on plumbing and electricity.

2018

Carry on with the interior, building the loft and putting in the subfloor in the west house. Continue with details like the roof surround, bathrooms, the floor, electricity and plumbing. The houses are put on the market. Using left-over materials from the new houses, we start building a small roundhouse as a meditation space in the garden of Abrazo House.

2019

Continue working on detailing of the new houses, including rainwater collection and closing in the garage at the back of the West house. Interior plaster for the roundhouse. Plant a row of American red oaks along the road.

2020

The coronavirus pandemic finds us in lockdown at Abrazo House for an extended period. We use the opportunity to finish the interior and exterior of the roundhouse, perform much-needed maintenance on all our buildings, expand the vegetable garden, add a natural swimming pool and a polytunnel for tomatoes, a new chicken shed, and create a new website, as well as stepping up our production of acorn meal.

2021

Winter work includes a new firewood store. Spring brings blossom and the promise of harvest to come. What will the future hold for Abrazo House? Sign up for our newsletter and you’ll be among the first to know.