THE ENCHANTING HISTORY OF OUR
How it al began - a bit of history
One rainy day in April 2015 I was staring through the roof window of my houseboat in Amsterdam Centre, experiencing rain falling on the window for hours and hours. I started feeling the urge to leave this country of rain and leave to a place with sunshine and better temperatures. I started researching on the net for several places (the place needed to have a high school for my son who was 11 years old at the time, needed to have a nice climate, beautiful nature, and not too far from Amsterdam, since I still had my business renting out houseboats in Amsterdam.
Several possibilities came up but Ibiza was the winner. I told my son Noah when he came home from school: “What do you say when I told you we are moving to Ibiza?” “YESSS” he yelled, “I love that”, and the decision was made. We would go at the end of August, after finishing primary school.
I bought a Suzuki Vitara in and a trailer and filled it up with a tent, our tools and a wood stove and off we went on our adventure: Ibiza here we come! Yoehoe!
The first year in Ibiza we were staying in several places, and in the meantime we would look for our dream place: a piece of land we could rent where we could start a community, build some tiny houses, have our vegetable garden, and live a sustainable life.
Cowshed being rebuilt by the owner into a small house
With the help of friend Tony we found our dream place. It even had a torrento (small river) on it, there was a cowshed that would be rebuilt into a tiny house by the owner and it had possibilities to change it into a community place. We called it
"El Paisito", self translated from the Dutch word “het landje”. Later we found out “el paisito” is not really a Spanish word”, but we liked it and kept it.
Terrace being built for the Main house
In July 2016 the house was not finished yet, but we started already building the platform for the Yurt, our first project on the land. Coming from the Netherlands, we are used to making a proper foundation, putting poles in the ground. I can assure you that there was a lot of sweating in the middle of the heat of July, putting those poles in the ground which was hard because of dryness and full of stones. Nicolas, a musician and permaculture gardener who would also stay with us, helped us. So we did it and the Yurt was ready to live in.
August 2016 we started living in the Main house and the Yurt. The ground in front of the house was bare ground. We started removing stones from the ground and planting the first plants and cactuses around the house.
September was harvesting time for the grapes. We helped out and a few weeks later had our first taste of homemade wine, yammie.
November we felt the need for a Workshed for our tools and to work on projects and for a Woodshed to store wood for our woos stove. Because sustainability is important to us, we built those with 2nd hand pallets.
Noah started enjoying working with wood. He had the idea of making necklaces with sanded juniper wood. People loved it and he started a little business selling them. From this he had the idea to make himself a lathe out of a drill to shape and sand bigger pieces of wood. Somebody on the island noticed this and offered his professional lathe to borrow for a while. Noah made some amazing candle holders.
In December a lot of rain fell, so much that our small river turned into a waterfall at one point.
The rest of the river was not really visible because it was covered with caña and plants with spines. We decided to remove the caña and those spiny plants. This was going to take almost 6 months of cutting and cleaning.
To reach the caña growing in the river, we would not hesitate cutting from a surfboard or wading up to our waist in muddy waters
We would then shred the caña to use as mulch on the vegetable garden. The rest we would burn. It was a huge operation but we did it with the help of some wwoofers (voluntary people who were staying with us for a few months).
In February 2017 Jan came to visit us and taught us how to build with mud, adobe. The idea was building anEco toilet from adobe. We would stop using the toilets in the main house and use the eco toilet instead, to save water. We did not want to waste water for flushing toilets when Ibiza has a shortage of water. Another sustainable project.
We had lots of fun stamping our bare feet in the soil, sand, straw and water from the land, making it into layers of mud to build the walls with. The toilet was put on a hole we had dug in the ground where we put a container on wheels so we are able to take the human waste out and put it elsewhere later so it turns into compost for our trees and plants. It took us 6 weeks to build it.
Meanwhile there are always fun projects Noah invents. Like making zip-lines through the woods or making a pool in the garden, a seat high in a tree, an epic swing, a machine to make a rope, making salt from seawater, a ramp to make stunts with mountain bike, a hammock made from cañas, etc.
Ramp to make stunts with mountain bike
To do list of Noah
Noah enjoying his self built zip line
Self made “pool” in the garden with water from our river
Making a chair with wicker seat
Sunbeds next to the creek
Natural waterfall by putting pipe in running river water
In May we made a Sunbed area next to the creek. We cleaned out the creek, took cañas out of the way, put a pipe in the river to create a small waterfall and made a shower with running river water to have a natural sustainable shower in nature.
Meanwhile Nicolas started a Vegetable garden. With tubes and based on leverage, we take water from the river and bring it into the garden using sweat tubes.
Soon we had lettuce, kale, broccoli and parsley growing. And root vegetables, which sometimes took funny shapes because of some rocks still in the soil. The soil we covered with mulch in the way it is done in permaculture.
Nicolas harvesting sweet potatoes
Funny carrots because of stones in the ground
Name tags for the veggies in the garden
In June we felt the need to build a Guest Kitchen. We chose a beautiful spot under a tree which would give a nice and cool shadow from the hot sun. We started putting some pallets in a formation that would turn out to be the wall. And we had found some sunbeds which could work as lounging beds for the kitchen. This was going to be a community place where people can cook, eat, meet and hang out. Noah and Myra went to Hawaii for a holiday and wwoofers Ale, Theo, Gemma and Edo would finish the kitchen. Grateful to have such great wwoofers that time!
In September we thought it was a good idea to rebuild the ruin of the stone shed next to the creek. The roof was gone except for some sabinas, many stones had fallen out of the wall and a door was missing. Nevertheless we started cleaning up the ruin, selecting the big stones, determined to make a nice new home out of it. Until… the owner stopped us. He told us that rebuilding the ruin required special skills. He said he would rebuild it himself with the help of a Moroccan builder specialized in working with big stones. It would take another 6 months before the owner rebuilt it, leaving us impatient, but of course we accepted his pace. In 2018 it would be finished including a terrace, but it would take another 2 years for him to build a roof over the terrace, and an electricity wire to connect it, but hey, it turned out amazing….We renamed it Creek house and started using it as a living space from 2022.
Inspired by the mosquito net walls of Hawaiian houses, we built a Mosquito net house for our wwoofers. However, it did not make it through the first storm, but we were inspired to build something stronger.
Throughout the year of 2017 we have been cutting cañas at the river, it was a never ending project. So much work, especially since we also had to do something with them: shredding or burning.
But also it was very rewarding. By September, after cutting for 10 months, we had reached the area where the river begins. And that was a huge discovery: we found the source of the river which was like a small pond, around 5 x 7 meters and 2 meters deep.
That was amazing: we did not know it was there, being completely covered in plants. We cleaned it all out, standing in the mud in the pond. And added a wonderful spot to the community. Later on, Noah made a bench, and now we call it the “Meditation Pond”.
Halfway down the river we made a small bridge going to a relaxing area, we first put a bench, but a year later we would build a Bali bed right there.
We did not really have a storage, we just put stuff under a tarp for the first year. But then it was enough and in October we built a Storage shed from pallets and….. cañas. We started to find a new way of using cañas; to use it as cover for frames and walls. Looks beautiful doesn't it?
Tired of having stuff under a tarp for a year
More fun projects : in November Noah did another invention: to have some counterweights helping him climb a tree more easily, always full of ideas this one..
We have a vegetarian diet mostly, but once in a while we eat some meat from free range animals. There was this wild chicken that would go in our vegetable garden and eat our veggies and make a mess. Noah had the desire to hunt that chicken with a self made bow and arrow, to kill it and eat it. We talked about it and I thought it was a good thing to do, for the sake of education to be totally aware that when you eat meat, how it is to kill it first. So he did.
Plucking the feathers of the chicken
Two weeks before his 14th birthday, Noah said that he wanted to do a project just by himself. Until then we had been doing all projects together and now he felt it was time to do something all alone. “Fine, what would you like?” “A Treehouse!” he replied. Okay, great, I did not want to be part of building something so high up anyway. So he got my blessing. “Just tell me what you need”.
He gave me a list: 40 pallets for the walls and the stairs, 6 waterproof boards for the floor, beams for the construction and roof panels and a level. He still had a harness from the zipline adventure and a pulley from other projects.
He chose 4 trees and started building. He would climb the tree, secure himself with a rope and his harness and with the help of a pulley, pull up the beams. Leveled them out with a level and attached them with a clamp construction to the trees (not to damage them).
Cut some extra trees, pulled them to the place with my Suzuki and used those as extra support.
He built the whole Treehouse in 3 months, after school hours. So proud of him.
Up till this day it stands and people love to stay there. It has an amazing view over de valley and has the best place on the property for sunsets.
Next was the project of building the Bali bed. A comfy shady place at the river side to rest during siësta hours. It was made from cut trees and cañas.
In the meantime we would take further care of shredding the cut caña with the wwoofers, and in the end, also burning it. It was just too much to shred.
So from the start in December 2016, we had been working on cutting, shredding and burning caña for almost 1,5 years until April 2018. Longest project at El Paisito by far. And it grows back quickly every year, but at least it is growing straight up and not hanging over and thus covering the river anymore. But it remains a job to redo every year....
In May we started building the Guesthouse on a beautiful spot overlooking the valley, under a carob tree.
Learning from the experience of the Yurt with too strong foundations, this time we just levelled out the ground to put some bricks and put beams on top. Very simple, easily done.
We made a small wooden house, this time we wanted to work with pine wood, so we bought the material. For the roof we used high quality UV proof tarp and cañas.
A cute little house with a terrace.
Later we would make it twice as big and isolate it, but for now it was good.
July arrived and it was hot. We had a few wwoofers and the need arose to build the
1st version of a Bathroom for them. It had a cold shower and a sink and was good for the moment. We would use it for just one year until it was time for an upgraded version.
After an inspiring holiday in Norway (we saw amazing wooden cabins that would later inspire us to build the Garden house), we started expanding the Garden in front of the Main house in September. First the stones had to be removed, then some soil from under carob trees was added, and then we planted some small plants. It would take a few years to grow a beautiful garden.
November and December we took the time to thin out the forest at the side of the Main house, to create some views and create a garden.
In February we extended the Terrace of the Main house with a lower part made of stone and wood. We used the big stones coming from the land and made a wall from it. For the floor we used wooden planks. With the new terrace we are more connected to the garden beneath.
In May the Parking lot was improved by creating a Roundabout with plants in the centre. The soil was super hard so needed to be worked intensively to create some air in it. It would take a few years to have some plants finally growing there…
It was getting hotter again and in June we made a Natural River Shower: picking up water from the river with a tube, guiding it a bit lower through a shower and then letting the water flow back into the river again. Great to cool down on hot summer days!
Then it was time to make a
2nd version of the Guest Bathroom, this time complete with dry toilet, hot shower and sink.
Noah cut some trees in the forest into logs of 40cm. Those we used as building blocks for making the walls. But not before making a big hole under the floor for putting a container on wheels to catch the waste from the toilet. Same system as the dry toilet we had made before.
It would take us 2 months to build it (June and July).
Digging the hole for the dry toilet
In August we went on a holiday to Malaysia and when we came back in September, we took a break from all the building.
COVID lockdowns did not mean a lot to us at El Paisito. We had our own veggies growing, and had the freedom being in nature, living with a few people as a community. We started being even more creative. I started picking up my old hobby again: making Mosaics
Noah started to do projects for clients. Like building a Platform in a Tree for a neighbor.
And a wwoofer Mike constructed a
Fireplace at the kitchen area.
In April Tom started living with us. He is a beekeeper and a gardener and Noah was eager to learn all about bees and honey from him.
Because Noah is a good carpenter, he started building beehives and selling them with Tom.
Tamara started living with us and brought lots of joy and fun to the community.
In May apicots can be harvested from the 3 apricot trees at El Paisito to make delicious Apricot marmalade.
I made no less than 90 jars that month. It is a daily job for 3 weeks: all apricots are ready within 3 weeks, you have to pick them daily and quickly use them since they go bad easily. Delicious marmalade!
Meanwhile also the
vegetable garden was full on, all was growing and thriving well.
2020 /COVID was truly a time of creation. Many Signs were created by wwoofer Rinjani.
Noah created a beautiful Bench of sabina wood.
In September and November we did an Upgrade of the Guesthouse: we extended the house twice its size, extended the roof at the front, put insulation in walls and roof, put inside walls and a ceiling. And put a kitchen with running water. And a wood stove to keep warm.
A wonderful tiny house for Noah to start living on himself at the age of 16 and with his girlfriend at the age of 17 (with me around the corner).
It took us 2 months. Sadly we would only enjoy this upgrade for 1 year because by the end of 2021 all would go up in flames….
In May the owner of the land finished renovating the Creekhouse, it had taken him 3,5 years. We started renting it out to guests. It took another year though to have him build the roof over the terrace, and I can assure you: it was really hot in the summer without that roof..
I finished another mosaic table in May
And in July: harvest time of veggies: lots of tomatoes in several colors, sunfowers and peas amongst others.
By November our garden was blooming with beautiful plants and flowers
But then the rain came in heavily and the Parking turned into a pool. As a solution I ordered 7m3 of gravel to put on the Roundabout.
But it was not over yet with the heavy weather: in the night of 22-23 November 2021 we had nothing less than a local Hurricane going over our land and that of 2 neighbors and in a stretch of 1000 by 10 meters all was destroyed: 30 big trees had been unrooted, one had fallen over our road. One big tree had snapped just above where Noah had made a connection for the Treehouse, the upper part fell on the roof and damaged the roof heavily. The trampoline had been lifted and dropped 10 meters below, just missing the Eco Toilet, but totally bumped and damaged. The signpost had been blown over. And many more. OMG, really scary.
The next day we started cleaning it all up again with the community. Not too easy to take down the top of the broken tree which was laying on the caña roof. Noah climbed the tree next to it and went in with the chainsaw to saw it into smaller pieces and throw them down.
But the disasters were not over yet: not even 1 month later, on the evening of 20 December 2021 Noah’s home, the Guesthouse, went up in flames! We still are not sure what caused it. Noah came over to my house for a break, 15 minutes one fuse makes a click of shutting off, I see that it is the fuse of the Guesthouse, we open the curtains of my house and….. see flames going up like 10 meters in the sky at the spot of the Guesthouse (100 meters from the main house). Oh no! We ran to the house, Noah opened the door to see if he could save some of his stuff, but flames were gushing out and quickly he closed the door again. He was smart enough to disconnect the gas bottle which was outside, but connects with the kitchen inside. We could not do anything, except watch the destroying fire and wait for the fire brigade. I did not know 30 minutes could feel that long, finally they came and extinguished it.
All that was left was burned floor beams. The rest had gone up in flames. Noah had been living there together with his girlfriend, so all their stuff was gone: clothes, guitars, artwork, self written songs, study books and self written summaries for the final exams of high school, everything. And ofcourse the Guesthouse itself which we had built with our own hands and only recently had been upgraded it with a kitchen, insolation, etc. Very sad…
We counted our losses for a day and the next day Noah said to me: “What do you think mama, shall we rebuild the house right away since I have Xmas holidays now coming 2 weeks so we can make a good start?”. I agreed and we started drawing a plan, next day I bought concrete blocks for the foundation and on 24 December we already had lined out the foundation on top of the ashes. We felt like phoenixes. It felt good to change the mourning feelings into action.
Many friends felt sorry for us and helped out for 1 or 2 days. Very grateful for this help and love. We rebuilt the Guesthouse a bit larger and upgraded it this time with a bathroom with a hot shower and dry toilet. We called it the Casita. It took us less than 2 months to rebuild it, the roof was on just before the rain started again. Mid February Noah was living in it again.
Niels and friend helping
24th of December: foundation with concrete blocks on top of the ashes
Mish and Erica helping out
Pieter helping out
Tom helping out
Myra cutting wood
4th of January, result after 10 days of building
Keep on working on the Casita
24th of January: Myra constructing the bathroom
Noah burning bitumen on the roof just in time before rain started "I have never done it, so I probably can do it" as Pippi Langkous used to say.
Ted helping with the gutter
Max helping putting the 2nd hand kitchen in
Four layers of varnish on the floor
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16th of Febuary: Casita finished
After building the Casita until mid February, we upgraded the Treehouse in May with inside walls of caña, so it would be better protected against the wind and rain.
Despite of all the tubes I had installed for watering the hundreds of plants on El Paisito, many holes in the tubes were blocked because of the amount of calcium in the ground water. It took me the whole month of June to unblock all holes in the irrigation tubes so that the plants would get water again from the system. Just in time for the dryness of the coming months, because usually it does not rain the whole summer.
In July the owner finally found the time to put a Roof above the terrace of the Creekhouse, this was our wish already a long time, but we understand other people do not have the same pace as we do… Anyway we are very happy with the roof, now shadow is created and when it rains it will be dry. Wonderful.
Noah graduated for his final exams and I took him for a safari in South Africa in August to celebrate. Can you believe it that during this holiday we were fantasizing about one last building project? Because soon Noah would go off for a year of traveling and University the year after (studying Architecture, who would have guessed?
So when we got back in September, we immediately started organizing for our last project: a Garden House made from wood. Inspired by the wooden huts in Norway 4 years earlier, we wanted this one to be covered in beautiful natural wood, not just planks. We used “resteros” for this: the rest wood of trees that were cut for big planks. The rest pieces with bark nobody wants, but we do! It gives a beautiful rustic touch. Noah went into our forest with a friend, cut 20 medium trees, took the branches and the bark off and we started building another house.
Totally isolated, with a terrace, a woodstove and running water, it turned out to be another jewel on the property. Because of all our experience by then, it took us only 1 month to build it, including a self made wardrobe, bed and mosaic for the stove.
We were done building at El Paisito but in October we had to go to our houseboat in Amsterdam for a few weeks of renovation. Wow, a lot of building for us this year.
In November Noah was preparing his trip to Brazil and to leave me warm in the winter in Ibiza, he helped me cutting wood to fill up the woodshed for the whole winter. Grateful.