Laurie first wrote for us back in 2014 about her journey as an owner-builder and the challenges of building with mud on the edge of Hwange National park, Zimbabwe. She recently posted an update and we knew you would want to see what she’s been up to…
Their cob home is complete and their gardens are thriving as they continue to live a simple life alongside wildlife.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to post anything and people have been asking how the house is, our life here, and so here is a photographic update. These beautiful photographs capture more of what we see and feel in our home, thanks to Brent for these.
The house is a dream come true, to wake up every day in these hand moulded walls feels sublime. The metal termite barrier works and checks are regularly done around the stone stem wall to check for tunnels to knock down.
Living in harmony with the wildlife
Our work as the Soft Foot Alliance is going really well, with many initiatives taking off in the less than 2 years we have been operating. The Soft Foot Alliance is dedicated to improving the lives and landscapes of people living on the boundary of Hwange National Park and at the same time achieving a sustainable co-existence with wildlife.
The Soft Foot Alliance serves to design and implement long-term sustainable solutions that promote human-wildlife co-existence. Lion, Hyena, Elephant, Baboon and Honey Badger are the main focal species as they impact people’s livelihoods on the park’s boundaries. By designing actions that firstly improve the lives and the livelihoods of the people living with these animals and, secondly promote the conservation of the animal, we hope to achieve co-existence between the two.
We have 2 hives and love love love the bees! We have been learning about bee keeping as one of our conflict mitigation initiatives is to test out fences made of bee hives throughout the community to stop elephants raiding crops.
This has had great results in Kenya and is a win-win-win: protecting pollinators, increasing crops, protecting people and elephants, and generating income from the sale of honey and wax products.
This rocket stove is almost 3 years old, we use it every day and it makes our lives so much easier, using just tiny sticks. More than 100 women have been trained by us to make these stoves and many have gone away to make more to sell.
Our new years resolution is to go plastic free by the end of the year, this takes time to plan but creating a plastic free system doesn’t have to be so hard.
This is a hand cranked oil press and flour mill. Baking bread once or twice a week, using cloth bags to buy any produce anywhere, growing our own natural sponges are just some of the ways we are using to eliminate plastic from our lives and the environment.
We still share our home with many creatures who are welcome, such as this wasp nest. The wasps pollinate fruit trees and eat caterpillars so are more than welcome to take some plaster and make their nests.
Gardening the simple life
Nyimo (after our favorite indigenous legume) is a new addition to our home full of life, he goes into everything he does with 100% energy, inspiring.
- Pawpaws growing
- Leafy trees
- For the fairies and the birds
- The banana circle with its compost pit, fed only from grey water, is producing bananas.
- The wormery producing composts and worm tea through the drain. A great fertilizer.
- 20 litres of chillies collected so far this season
- The many herbs growing in pots and wicking pots and beds, using very little water.
- Taro, the root is delicious, and needs a lot of water so grows in places like this, next to the dog’s drinking bowl.
- More of the creatures living in and around our home. We have seen more and more diversity as we regenerate.
- Terrible rainy season… 2 months of high temperatures and no rain, but some of the red maize survived. I need to grow more of these as baboons don’t like the colour!
- Passive solar drier made from pallets
- Chillies drying inside the solar dryer
- Tomatoes growing out of the pile of humanure
- Winnowing amaranth seeds. This has been a favourite leafy green throughout the rainy season and the seeds are a healthy grain to eat too.
- Bees pollinating the pumpkins
- Preparing materials for compost making, which is key for building the soil.
- Purple beans climbing a mango tree
- Pigeon peas, moringa, sweet potato, chia, millets, cow peas, jelly melons, are just a few of the species growing
- The banana circle thriving with multiple species around the compost pit and grey water outlet. This microclimate is flourishing, full of earth worms, banana, pawpaw, chillies, comfrey, and ridge gourd (for sponges).
- Bees pollinating millet
- Pigeon peas
- Sesbania fixing nitrogen
- Rosella seeds fall to the ground and grow every rainy season, no need to replant every year.
- Chia seeds all over. Bio-carbon has really helped to retain moisture and nutrients in some of the beds.