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For our first wedding anniversary (& our 25th anniversary as a couple), we bought ourselves a sailboat. The 8.5 m long and 5 t steel ship came from lake Constance, the large lake between Austria, Germany and Switzerland. It took us many months to bring it to Lower Bavaria.
Early October we let it to water and now we have it at a great little harbour just across the boarder in Austria and we enjoy every minute we spend on her.
By the way, have a look around. Boats really aren’t expensive at all. So perhaps you’ll join us soon?
Some of you might know that we have a second home in Greece, where Achim owns a tiny olive grove. In line with our way of thinking, we don’t want to contribute to the worldwide problem of turning fertile soil into concrete jungles. We did however want to have a home in Greece. We decided not to build a foundation and not to connect to mains water or to electricity.
We built our home on stilts, use solar power and rain water. The aim was for our home to be (re-)movable by simple means, without leaving much of a trace in its wake.
Instead of a foundation we put down some gravel and a pile of cememt bricks. Then we sat the huts on top of that. (Remember, we were given two beach huts). Achim then joined the two huts with a screw together structure in 2017 and put down wooden floor boards. Finally he joined them with a roof.
We now have 3 rooms: a lounge with an outdoor kitchen, an indoor kitchen that can also be used as a guest room and our bedroom. Where is the bathroom you ask? I’ll get to that later. We’re also still building a verandah.
When we arrived this year we found that someone had bumped the unfinished verandah with a vehicle of sorts and moved the place, but I hope that with the extra screws that can no longer happen. It was about 2 hours work to but it back in place.
On our one month stay in 2018 we found, that we do not have to miss any important mod cons and are very comfortable.
For the first few years we really did it tough. Every little bit of water we needed had to be brought from the community tap. It was tedious, even tough we had the car. Then last year we put up the first of our 1000 L tanks and installed gutters on 1/3rd of our roof. After one month in Greece, we had used about 650 L for dishes, showers and the washing. We did use it very carefully. Now we have a second tank and in future we want to use the whole roof to collect the rain.
This year we still didn’t manage to build a bath room, so we still use an out-door shower. Hot water comes from a solar shower which be bought on
eBay for just under €100. It just fills with water which then heats up through the black plastic. We use a 12V pump like you would in a camper van to get the required pressure. I’m not sure whether I really like that solution but it’s early days yet. It seems to wast more water than our alternative system. When it’s colder or when we want to have a shower in the morning before the water heats up we use the second option: We heat the water on the gas or
wood fire and use a hose connected to pump, which we also got on eBay for under €20. We just fill a large bucket with tempered water und have a nice shower. 1/2-1 bucket full is enough except when I wash my hair, then I might need 20 L. That means we need one kettle full of boiling water to have a shower because remember, we add cold water to get about 40 degrees.
Last year washing was still quite an act as we had to do it by hand or trouble a relative. (And remember, we had to cart the water.) Once we even went to a camp ground and used their machine, but it was a real hazzle, as they didn’t want us there. This year I bought a mini washing machine. It is a top loader with seperate spin dryer and cost just under €70. The washing machine works on 240V. We get
that potential difference by either using a generator or, we go from the solar panel to the batterie and then use the inverter. It’s a bit more effort than the fully automatic washing machine we usually have but a huge improvement over hand washing. The trick is to soak the clothes first, which can already be done in the washing machine. The machine we have now has the advantange of being highly portable. It’s very light and I can carry it by myself. Furthermore, I can use the same water for a number of loads if I want to and I can add closes even once the cycle has started. It allowes a huge amount of control over the washing process. The waste water is then used for watering the plants. The machine is quite good, but I don’t understand why they used such crappy hoses. Better ones wouldn’t have cost much more and would last much longer.
As Greece gets very hot in summer, it’s nice to have a
space where you feel the cool breeze from the sea. That’s why we decided not to have solid walls in the middle section of the building. Even in winter it’s nice to sit outdoors and on the days where it is colder, we can go into one of the other rooms and we can close the curtains which we bought ready made as side panels of a pavillon. Cooking in 40+ degrees C is no fun either, that’s why we decided to have an outdoor kitchen, which can be moved indoors without too much of a hazzle. We opted for a sink and cook top from a caravan which we bought with the fridge for €30. Achim built a cupboard for it and we can carry it in, when we leave or in winter when it’s not so comfortable outside. In summer though the fridge really profits from the cool breeze, too and we managed to make ice cubes in it in the middle of summer. A verandah is in the planing then we’ll see whether we leave it all open or just keep the verandah.
Our fridge works on 12V, 240V and gas. We usually have it running on gas which we also use for cooking. The water comes from the tap which we run with a 12V pump.
The 12 V solar panel also provides us with light. LEDs are wonderful for that. We also use it to charge our electric tooth brushes and the computer. For the internet (should we really want to work) we use G4 which has excellent coverage.
Yes, we achieved our goal and the next years will be used to make ourselves even more comfortable. We still have to replace one section of the roof and there will be more gutters (at the moment we are using less than 1/3 of the roof) to collect rainwater. We also want to replace some of the walls that are brittle but over all, we can say, that we achieved our goal. The toilet situation is still not what I want it to be and the bathroom has to be built yet. We just can’t do it all at once. Once we’re done, we look forward to inviting family and friends to share it with us.
In total we will have a very, very, very comfortable home for less than €5000 (and hard work) for everything. Water, electricity, washing machine, new roof, bathroom, toilet, partly new furniture, partly the stuff we no longer need in Germany. YOU CAN DO IT, TOO!
This was the first year that we were there in October in time for the olive harvest.
Here are a few snapshots: The mechanical process of milling the oil, does heat it to about 26 degrees but that doesn’t do the oil any harm. Our olives have seen neither fertilizer nor pestizides or herbizides and we are lucky enough to have German neighbours who also go without.
Some of you might have heard that on August 18 a terrible storm with winds up to 230 km/h hit us. It was very frightning. Now, two months later, we are still not finished with the cleaning up. Where there were forests, the harvesters are coming in to clear the broken trees. Every single tree that is not damaged is left alone but most forests are totally gone. The road to us was closed in one direction for nearly 3 weeks. The road works that were due to commence in August have been postponed to next year.
I think the whole area is still in shock. We all can’t believe how our area has changed. We can see neighbours we could never see before because the forest that seperated us is no longer there. We ourselves lost a number of trees. The storm was at midnight and Achim was out at 6 am to clear the road of fallen trees. By the time the fire brigade arrived he was only one tree away from opening a path so we could at least come out in one direction. Most guests of the pub had to walk home that night because all the roads are blocked.
Here are just a few pictures to give you an impression but it doesn’t do the trouble any justice.