Archived Newsletters for the Gatehouse Project.
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  • 2005 Workshop Flyer

    • 2005 flyer
  • 2006 Newsletter

    •   Gatehouse Project Update 2006:

      Just in time for the new year, the tarps came off the floor, the last of the mess from rendering was swept away and the stove was lit! Bliss! Finally we had a home instead of a building site. Many heartfelt thanks go to all those who have helped to bring this project so far. There is always more to be done, but it now feels the brow has been crested.

      It has been a long winter this year. Snow drifts up to half a metre in March. Severe frosts (up to -10o C) right through since October. The Slab Stove has proved quite capable of heating the house, though it does take two or three hours to start making an impact, longer if it's been out for several days. (See Stove section in Designs for more info) .

      Limewash & Render has stood the winter well except for the most exposed corner of the house where the limewash has flaked away gradually (due I think to frost action on rain soaked walls). Render underneath is sound ~ will reinforce this area during the summer. Straw seems fine and dry throughout.

      Ventilation has proved the most thorny issue. Unsure of the behaviour of the airtight roofing (pond liner) in practice, we left the underfloor uninsulated and a very large 'mouth' of unrendered and uncompressed straw infill right around the bow of the front (approx. 4 sq. metres in area), plus two substantial 'nostrils' in the apex of the roof.

      Initially, condensation on the windows inside was quite severe, probably due to the fact that there was no heat at all in the house until late December, allowing the damp to get a good hold. Humidity was then typically around 93%. However regular heating has now reduced this to around 64%, much more comfortable, and condensation is now rare and slight. But draughts in windy weather, especially wind from the North or NorthEast (also the coldest!) make heating the house difficult. In the short term I stuff the nostrils when the wind is Northerly and this makes a lot of difference, though there is also considerable draught through the 'mouth' at such times, and indeed the floor is always icy whenever the wind blows in any direction, since the drystane founds (designed to keep a good airflow around the base of the walls) work far better than anticipated! Think I'll stuff the joists with Thermafleece before next winter, put fine anti-midge mesh over the nostrils and see how we get on.

      There have also been several unexpected benefits:

      The acoustics inside are amazing. Very like walking around inside a drum or guitar, the place is 'live'. Any singing or playing inside resounds around you, but without the the long delay typical of a church. Test recordings made on the 12volt studio have a great intimacy. I look forward to developing this aspect of the house.

      The feel emanating from the surrounding natural materials is palpably different to a 'normal' building, helped by the absence of intense, disruptive 50Hz magnetic vibrations generated by mains electricity. Has to be experienced rather than described, but it is peaceful, calming, and I feel gently opens folk to other, more subtle influences around them.

      It has been pointed out that the alternating layers of lime/straw/lime in the walls, and straw/butyl/wood in the roof, effectively form an Orgone accumulator as discovered by Wilhelm Reich, which may account for some of the sense of vitality and inspiration within. Alongside this has been a deliberate (though largely intuitive) attempt at shamanic architecture, broadly speaking aimed at drawing down the sky to energise the earth and interior to create a healing space, as well as a home. And it's certainly working!

      Finally, though less unexpected, the sense of pride and well-being at having formed your own four walls, hewn your own heat, sorted your own sewage, and any other number of alliterative acheivements resulting from such a fundamental task as providing your own shelter from the storm is wonderfully empowering, at many levels, and something which far too many folk have been deprived of for far too long.


      Please pass this website around to as many folk as you feel may be interested in learning and helping with these projects. You can also download and print out a publicity/info leaflet (pdf format) using the Download button above.

      Wherever the dance leads, may the music always lift your heels,
      and may fond laughter collect in your footsteps.

      One planet, one life.

      Love from all at the Gatehouse.


      last update: 27/03/2006.

  • 2007 Original Workshop schedule

    •   Gatehouse Project Schedule 2007:

      Last year we abandoned any attempt to keep to a 'schedule' of work. Far too many variables and dependencies make a joke of fixed schedules. So this year we continue our VJIT (Volunteering Just In Time) system of project mangement.

      If you are on our email list (you can subscribe using the link above) then we'll mail out a circular one to two weeks in advance of any definite groupwork event, and you just turn up on the day/weekend in question should you have a notion to partake. If you are intending to come, an email to here wiill be much appreciated to give us an idea of numbers. Food will always be provided, facilities in the house (currently: hot water, heat, cooking and personal washing) are improving all the time and free camping, music and bonfires are available on site. Please note that because sheep are loose all around, no dogs can be brought onto the site.

      Here are the main projects we hope to undertake during 2007:

      1. Compost Toilet ~ Build self-standing twin chamber dry-composting toilet, roundwood, reclaimed weatherboard, roof material yet to be finalised.
      3. Workshop/greenhouse ~ rear area to be roofed with polytunnel plastic. Original design was as shown below, a free-standing tensegrity roof built with rope and bamboo:

        but after many fun hours with a 1/10 scale model

        decided I'd rather experiment with the system some more in a less critical structure! So have opted for a modified tensegrity arched roof using 3" Polypipe, braced with small roundwood struts and tensioned with rope. Less architectural, but less of a headache too!
      5. Water Wheel Installation ~ major project of the year including building a small dam, millpond, lade, constructing and erecting the wheel itself along with associated generation equipment for 12 volt electricity and compressed air. Hydraulic lime will be used for the housing and lade for this breastshot 1.5 metre diameter wheel.
      7. Tadelakt shower cubicle ~ Tadelakt is a lime variant which essentially is liquid marble, plastic when wet, totally waterproof when set, and capable of many varied and beautiful colours in its highly polished finish. Anyone capable of running a workshop with this remarkable material please get in touch.

      Please pass around to as many folk as you feel may be interested in learning and helping with these projects. You can also download and print out a publicity/info leaflet (pdf format) using the Download button above.

      Wherever the dance leads, may the music always lift your heels,
      and may fond laughter collect in your footsteps.

      One planet, one life.

      Love from all at the Gatehouse.


      last update: 06/03/2007.

  • 2007 Revised workshop Schedule

    •   Gatehouse Project August 2007: New Workshop and Lade/Dam construction

      Below are details of the main project we're running this year. Also to be found in a much prettier form here on the Natural Homes website, well worth a visit or two.

      When, where and how much:

      Due to the usual weather issues, what we are doing is holding this workshop over a two week period from 18 August to the 2 September inclusive. Work will proceed as weather allows. I would appreciate some notification of your intention to join in at least a day in advance to make it easier to plan out the work, but otherwise please feel free to come and leave whenever you wish during this period.

      Obviously this will be held at the Gatehouse (Scotland). There is ample room for camping all around the house, and all the facilities of the house are freely available to you. Warmth, hot water and washing, shower, compost toilet, cooking facilities, comfortable chairs. NO DOGS please as the house is surrounded by loose sheep (not mine).

      There is no charge for this workshop or camping, but I cannot this year afford to feed everyone out of my own pocket, so please bring some foodstuff with you. I'd like to have a communal evening meal each day, so bring simple stuff to go in the pot, lentils, tatties, you know the drill. No shoes or meat in the house (my fascism) or the communal pot, so we can all share the same meal.

      Some wet weather gear is advisable, just to get around when it rains. Ground is firm but grass is very wet so good boots/wellies make life much more comfortable. A light rainjacket likewise. We do have some spare gear but your own is usually best. If you know Scotland, you'll know midges. They are by no means fearsome round here, merely very annoying when conditions are right. A net (about £7) makes you feel like a spaceman but laugh with scorn at the wee blighters, at least giving you the choice to be or not to be outside! Other than that you must rely on wind and sunshine, and avoid evenings outside.

      Contact details:

      Please email: steve @ envisioneer .neet

      If you have arrived at this page by a direct link and wish to view the rest of this website,
      please click here.

      Workshop Details:

      We're going to erect the new workshop space at the back of the house, and more or less simultaneously create the small millpond, lade and wheel pit for the breastshot hydro, though the wheel itself will be built and erected later in the year (prob. end Sept/Oct). If time/numbers allow, there is also a small roundwood  gazebo/firepit shelter by the burn to complete with a reciprocal roof.

      The design for the workshop is a basic roundwood post and rail framework with a shallow arched roof formed from 3" polypipe using tensegrity bracing throughout (sounds more complicated than it actually is!). The whole thing is effectively a short, low and wide 8 metre square polytunnel with part-vented sides, one third used as greenhouse and the rest as workshop space to house the benches, lathes, drillstand etc. This will be used to fabricate the wheel later on, but also from next year on to hold small group, very low-cost training courses for absolute beginners/improvers in hand tool use, selection and maintainance, and the essential wood and metalworking techniques and confidence needed to start your own low-impact projects.
      The millpond/dam is a rock/hydraulic lime construction of a small notched weir about 70cm high and 4 metres long, the lade is buried drainage pipe and the wheel pit is a close fitting housing for a breast shot water wheel about five feet in diameter (i.e. 3 feet deep), effectively a primitive turbine, accurately formed from hydraulic lime. It will also incorporate rock platforms to carry the wheel bearings, and the tail race.

      Skills and Techniques on offer:

      Please note: the only power tool used will be an electric drill, and hand-powered alternatives to this will be used and available.
      The level of skill/accuracy required is fairly low here so this is a good opportunity to try your hand without pressure!

      You will have the opportunity to learn/practice the following techniques:


      1. preparation of raw timber ~ use of barking spade, use of mallet and gouge to dress knots (branchwood).
      2. design concepts and shaping of strong roundwood joints ~ use of framesaws, handsaws, brace and bits, gouges, mallet and chisels.
      3. basic construction techniques ~ lashing, jointing and fixing.
      4. reciprocal roof concepts and limitations
      1. basic introduction to this cheap, lightweight and immensely strong system which mimics nature's cell-wall construction. Using only light poles and rope an integrated series of opposing balances between rigid struts (poles) and tensioned ropes (most commonly found in tents) can create large, strong, self-supporting frameworks which can be used to enclose even large areas. Here I am only using it to create a rigid arched roof to carry the polytunnel plastic, resting on the post and rail walls.
      2. Simple techniques for tensioning ropework without fancy fittings
      1. Easy ways to form postholes in rocky ground.
      2. Techniques for excavating in rocky soil using only hand tools. (Much easier than you think when done properly!) ~ use of pinch bar, mattock, sledge and wedges etc. Learn how to tackle even solid granite in small doses.
      3. Simple pond and dam construction, principles and considerations in working with a living watercourse. Relive those childhood days on the beach!
      4. Identification and collection of suitable sand/gravel in a natural landscape
      1. All work on this particular project is using eminently hydraulic lime (harbourworks lime) which is very fast setting, so the use of retarders (citric acid) is essential. Unlike quicklime, this product is very safe to use.
      2. Use of former and templates for accurate render works
      3. possible inclusion of Schauberger/vortex style improvements to water flow if feasible
      4. General introduction to all forms of lime and their appropriate uses will be given as part of this course. Other parts of the house have used quicklime, hot lime render and hot limewash, so you can see these materials in use, how they stand the weather etc.
      1. Fixing and tensioning polytunnel plastic securely against gales and snow.
      2. Simple designs for water collection from large surfaces using readymade guttering or building your own from other materials.
      3. Experience the sheer feel of natural breathing buildings with no electro-magnetic interference.
      4. Discover your own unsuspected capabilities, stand tall with the knowledge that you can provide your own essentials in life!

        Bring instruments, stories, joy and hope, midge nets and toilet paper, and everyone'll have a cracking time!

      Please pass this website around to as many folk as you feel may be interested in learning and helping with these projects.
      Wherever the dance leads, may the music always lift your heels,
      and may fond laughter collect in your footsteps.

      One planet, one life.

      Love from all at the Gatehouse.


      this update: 08/08/2007.


  • 2007 Newsletter

    •   Gatehouse Project Update 2007:

      Last year went completely pear shaped due to an unexpectedly enormous software project which kept me working seven days a week right through till August. Loadsamoney (on my scale!) but no time and somewhat drained by the end of it. However once I came up for air, managed to crack on with many of the smaller jobs. With the much appreciated help of the Lochwinnoch cludge-heaving team (you know who you are), finally got the roof finished, and looks like it'll pretty much green over this year, with grass and sorrell being the main colonisers at present. Have planted strawberries, herbs and garlic, but will leave it to sort itself out while other major tasks await.

      Also sanded and varnished the floor, moved some furniture and a bookcase in and lastly completed the stove, which thanks to Eli's decoration wouldn't look out of place in the corner of Professor Dumbledore's study! Ended up merely lining under the floor joists with trashed blue fibreglass tarps (the same ones responsible for MkI getting demolished) but now performing very well as a breathable membrane under the floor which has been enough to stop the floor being icy cold even in the worst weather. By trapping air between the joists like a giant string vest, it works well, doesn't interfere with the efficient ventilation of the basement and doesn't create a haven for rodents as loose straw or wool might, nor smell either. A concern with unprocessed raw wool, rancid lanolin not being my favourite aroma, could be washed of course but then may not be as durable. Anyway thankfully, no longer an issue here.

      Winter this year has been mild and very, very wet. The fields are like sodden sponges, standing water in the basement, every footstep puddles with water. Only occasional hard frosts (up to -9o C). The Slab Stove has (unsurprisingly) improved beyond measure by the addition of a flue damper and a proper close fitting front. Can now regulate the draught and fuel use has been rewardingly slight. (See Stove section in Designs for latest info and photos).

      Again Limewash & Render has stood the winter well except for the most exposed corner of the house where the limewash has again flaked away gradually (due to frost action on rain soaked walls). Render underneath is still sound ~ will try limewash with casein or tallow on these areas this year to see if durability improves. Straw remains fine and dry throughout. Humidity rarely above 68% even when unlived in for a week or more in very wet conditions outside, often down to 52% when the fire is on. This is a huge improvement over last year, partly due to heating the house all winter, but also I think there was a considerable body of moisture remaining from the rendering, which was only completed internally in December last year. Lime is slow to dry and the walls themselves probably held more than we realised at the time. I also blocked off the East nostril as one seems sufficient in conjunction with the bowfront vent. Only Northerly gales penetrate this and they are thankfully rare, and it's still cosy by the stove even then, so I'll probably leave it at that.

      The poor old temporary workshop out the back has nearly collapsed after three winters, and needs to be replaced asap. This beautiful tensegrity design has proved to be far too troublesome to implement, at least for a structure of this importance, so have reverted to plan 263c and will use 3 inch poly water pipe on a roundwood frame to create a spacious if rather more pedestrian enclosure. Shame, but another day, another place.

      One of the most rewarding aspects of this endeavour has been the ability to open minds not only to the possible, but the essential need for people to rediscover both the inner peace acheivable living surrounded by natural shapes and materials, and the slow realisation that we really MUST no longer bow our heads to the yoke of debt, refuse to pledge our lives to further the multi billion pound free lunch of banks and speculators or even sell our children into debt, as they are now proposing. STOP paying millions of pounds every week to subsidise a national forestry dedicated to producing cheap toilet paper and use these national assets for the true national good, which can never be anything else but sufficiency and sustainability for all creation, not just the parasites. Which would you rather do; spend a year or two and a few thousand pounds creating a beautiful home and then get on with life, or tie yourself to an entire working lifetime of struggle, abuse and sacrifice for a matchbox that is not even guaranteed to last as long as your mortgage? Why are we not allowed to even make that choice in a 'free' country? If the best that civilisation can offer is a life that is nasty, brutish and expensively long, then perhaps it's time we looked somewhere else for inspiration.

      I think the nicest thing that anybody has said is: "It's a very cuddly house, it seems to softly put it's arms around you". We all deserve the choice to live like this.

      Please pass this website around to as many folk as you feel may be interested in learning and helping with these projects.
      Wherever the dance leads, may the music always lift your heels,
      and may fond laughter collect in your footsteps.

      One planet, one life.

      Love from all at the Gatehouse.


      last update: 06/03/2007.




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