Hobbit house Robur
“My life came into a new phase in 2011. Since 2003 I had been living a nomadic existence in a converted light truck, due to an insuppressible need to roam. Normally my frugal lifestyle would have allowed me to live on my savings until I retired, and if I had run out of money by then, I’d meet that when I got to it… But something came ‘in/on the way’, which made me change my plans thoroughly.
In 2011 my father gave me a piece of family woods, that I called ‘The Oak’. It gave my parents peace of mind, for in their (very) old age they are constantly worried about my old age. The idea was that I would have a fixed place I could go to whenever I wanted and I would always have enough wood to light my fire. 🙂 A fixed, own place, that the nomad could return to whenever necessary. That was the plan.
It didn’t work out like that. The powers of government would not allow it. ‘The Oak is in an area designated for recreation and temporary living, and if you want to be there, there MUST be a chalet.’ And it had to be a chalet designed by an architect, so just buying a cheap flat packed garden shed was not an option either. Also selling the land was not an option, it would have broken my parents’ hearts. The land had belonged to my grandfather and I knew how important it was to my parents to pass it on to me as a safe space…
At the time I was in a relationship with a very technical and handy man, I had experienced life in tipi’s and yurts (Mongolian tents) and I was convinced that if ever I were to build, it had to be something round. I don’t take well to square or oblong spaces anymore, unless they have wheels under them. 🙂 Round is more natural and (life’s) energy flows more freely. Round is soft and nurturing. In short, round is healing, it has even been scientifically proven!
So the idea came about to build something in the shape of a yurt, we would do that together and rope in some friends. It would cost me a fair penny, but it seemed an interesting challenge to be ‘creative within the confines of the rulebook’ and I would still have some savings left to sort out how I would make a living. And so I started the administrative process, hoping for a building permit.
From the outset, Robur – that is the house’s name, after the scientific name Quercus robur, common oak – was intended to be a place of rest and cure for many. Both my then-boyfriend and I had felt the power of the healing energy of The Oak more than once. I knew that Robur at The Oak was not only for myself.
A year later, after an eight year long relationship, my friend and I split up, and I was desperate for building Robur would now be three to four times as expensive. I have no technical background and my body is not strong enough anymore, I would have to get a building contractor in, even if I would still involve some volunteers and do it all sustainably. Anyway, I didn’t have nearly enough money! Now what?
A great weight fell from my shoulders. I realised why I had never felt myself to be the owner of The Oak (that is only legally so) but the keeper. And I am not the owner of Robur, but the facilitator! My task is merely to do everything necessary to help Robur materialise, I don’t have to worry about the rest!
Gradually it became clear to me whom Robur was meant for: a space to find yourself, particularly for people who had suffered a burnout (or need to avoid getting one) and for artists/writers who want to work on their project. When Robur is not occupied he can be used for mini-workshops and meetings centered on the theme of peace, calm, tranquillity, nature, healing and creativity. So long as Connectivity is at the core!!
‘Robur at The Oak’ (find it on facebook too) has been a fantastic adventure so far. It has helped me realise the agenda of my soul: to experience and offer mildness – for this world needs mildness. I am only at the beginning, but Robur has already realised his nature completely: he is working his healing magic, bringing people together who would otherwise never meet, inspiring me and others, and he is supportive (and supported). In short, if someone were to say tomorrow that for some reason the whole project has to be stopped, Robur would already have completed his mission!
In a more relaxed frame of mind, I started to take the steps necessary to help Robur come into being within the existing legislation. My son Kris helped with the design, an ‘organic’ architect took care of the planning permission that was granted in April 2014, in November 2014 a temporary electricity source was installed with green electricity by Ecopower and since end of March 2015 there is pure water from our own, deep source, 143 cm deep… A pure gift of nature that we can use directly is healing and calming, and completely in keeping with The Oak.
Early 2016 an ecological water treatment cycle was installed: a canebrake with eight sorts of swamp plants, and a habitat for the cleaned water to run into. That closes the water cycle: the water that is pumped up and used, is naturally cleansed and restored and flows back into the earth in the same place.
Then for the building of Robur. A brilliant design office led the equally brilliant building constructor who did the main works: the foundation, the infrastructure and the roof structure. In the meantime skilled craftsmen do the works that really need knowhow or which I cannot find volunteers for. For the rest, I try to do as much myself and with volunteers – the Roburgers – as possible. In workshops more people acquire skills and experience in building ecologically. This way, Robur is connected to so many people, and their help is crucial to the process and progress. For Robur, it is exactly what he always wanted!
The foundations and the wooden frame were constructed in June-September 2015, and a year later the well-insulated and watertight roof was added, ready to be topped off with a green roof. On the North side the roof slopes down to the ground, so that it integrates into the natural surroundings.
For the heating and the hot water, a thermal pump was installed late in 2017. Later, in Robur’s own good time, there will be a rocket mass heater (which fits the back to basics philosphy better). What is it exactly? You could compare it with a tile heater: you stoke an hour or two a day, and it gives off heat for twenty four hours, because there is a mass – in this case loam – that absorbs the heat and slowly gives it off again. It is a very hot and therefore an ecological woodburning system that you can build yourself and it can be made in any shape you want.
We will build this heatingsystem in a workshop. The rocket mass heater will be used for cooking too, as it will have a hob and an oven. On summery days we will use LPG for cooking, as it is a fairly pure fuel. LPG is a byproduct of oilrefinery, and in that sense it is a way of recycling this gas, rather than torching it down.
In principle you could use the heater through a tube system, but it is tricky to keep that free of legionella and to avoid the water coming out of the tap boiling hot, so I decided against.
Early 2017 the windows and doors in the outer walls were fitted, all the water and drainage pipes were put in, the electrical cabling and all sorts of preparatory work for the international workshop ‘building with hempcrete’ on filling up the walls and laying the floor (22nd May to 5th June). It isn’t particularly difficult once you know how but it is very time consuming, because everything is done manually. At the end of the workshop we were not even halfway there… but then Robur at The Oak has its own, slow agenda, at a human pace, as if he wants to protect the workers against themselves. 🙂 And he seems to also want to ensure that enough volunteers from across the world can be deployed. 🙂
And so we are running out of savings. End of 2016 it became clear that a private crowdfunding campaign, my initial plan, was not a good idea for a number of reasons. My own (grown) children had already suggested setting up a not-for-profit organisation, because what I am doing, that is what a not-for-profit organisation is for.
In my own pared down nomadic existence, I had managed to reduce all administration to a bare minimum. Since 2004 my life is very simple and happy on four wheels… I didn’t want to give up that administrative simplicity!
However, the fire of the project burned hard enough in me to put the success of Robur at The Oak before my own ‘comfort’, and when the children helped me found a not-for-profit organisation in February 2017 and make a website in June 2017, I knew what I had to do. When so much help and support pours in from all sides, there is only one path to take: ‘Whether you want it or not, Robur will be built…’
Robur has been designed so the not-for-profit organisation can develop in many directions, and the limited, permitted space of 80 m² can be put to good use for others. For instance, Robur can:
– be rented out for a maximum of three (exceptionally six) months to people who are recovering from a burn out, or are in a pressing situation whereby they need to escape from their familiar surroundings for a while;
– be rented out as an ecological awareness raising and healing holiday home in the summer months, particularly to help avoid burn-out;
– be opened up as a location for burn out prevention and teambuilding for companies (and in due course may even have a full prevention programme);
– be rented out for a maximum of three months to a writer or artist who needs a few weeks/months of seclusion (this can be with hands on service, in that case I will cook and clean);
– be used for healing, relaxing, instructive, awareness raising, sharing, creative, holistic workshops given by third parties;
– be opened up for ecological education (school visits for instance);
The idea is to let as many people as possible enjoy nature, peace and quiet, healing and creativity!
Robur at The Oak is an exercise in focussing and letting go, both at once. The stream of life, the difference between being actively stressed and experiencing an adventure. The Oak is a place to enjoy. And if you want to be productive: do it playfully!
Will the non-profit organisation find enough funding to realise this dream? No one can predict the future, so I don’t worry, since in one way or another care will be taken of us. Will there be enough people taking care of (the completion of) Robur at The Oak? I dare trust in that!
My experience at the Oak is that everything goes smoothly and beautifully. Quite often, I get the impression that things are organised for me at a much higher level, that I am unconsciously ‘led’ and not the master of the plan at all. That goes for the people I meet as well as for all sorts of happenings, there is a synchronisation out of my control, and it plays an important role in bringing about Robur.
It gives me an incredible kick, it encourages me – and a few others too, now! – to go on, and that supportive network of family and friends, all the ‘Roburgers’, is gradually turning Robur into a physical reality!
In that trust I recommend to you the crowdfunding campaign for Robur at The Oak – now an official not-for-profit organisation, recognised by the King Bauduoin Foundation!
Will you support us?”