The kitchen story

As soon as work stopped (suspended by lack of funds) on our new living space, we moved in and started living there anyway. As my mother always used to say, contemplating small nooks and crannies in the family’s holiday cottage in France that were all inhabited by some form of wildlife: “nature abhors a vacuum”. So we became the wildlife that moved into the vacuum of the empty living space.

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We soon installed a ‘temporary kitchen’ – a sink set in a plank balanced on old cupboards, an old table with a camping gas stove, and all our other old dressers and kitchen cupboards all clustered around the fridge and the oven… We lived like that, quite comfortably, for almost 2 years! Except that Chrisje was always longing for her first real and proper kitchen of her own… and, since my funds were now all gone, she was going to provide the resources to manifest it! Some of the kitchen equipment (oven, steam oven, gas stove) were already ordered and waiting for delivery, and Martin had already drawn us up some great 3d plans made to measure.

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It seemed to take forever to finally decide to ask Bert, the son of Michel who made our windows and stairs, to build the new kitchen furniture for us from organic ash wood. But once we did, there was a whole cascade of other stuff to coordinate and get done – all by different folks – beforehand: breaking down the temporary kitchen, emptying the living space and moving back into the old living space in the ground floor front rooms (us); fixing the warped planks in the ceiling – that needed scaffolding – (Paulus); and laying the beech wood floor (Guido); painting and oiling the new kitchen components (us); constructing the kitchen in situ (Bert); wiring up the electrics (Leo)…

It felt really strange moving out of that gorgeous, warm and light environment back into the dark, musty old front rooms at the end of January. We especially missed watching the birds in the garden as we sat at the table. But knowing we were depriving ourselves for a good cause, we made the best of it.

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Everything ran smoothly, and in late February Bert delivered all the component pieces of the kitchen for us to paint and oil – Chrisje prefers to do these things herself! Thankfully, we had a nice empty space big enough to fit everything!

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The new kitchen was installed in mid-March and since then we’ve been happily learning how to live in it!

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Posted in Manifestation, Renovation, The Build | 1 Comment

Resounding Earth comes to the Forge @ Ransberg!

Craft a Singing Bowl
with Gabriella, Heather and Quentin

June 12 – 14, 2015


June 19 – 21, 2015


“These workshops provide a rare opportunity to enter into an authentic alchemical process, whereby what outwardly appears to be a transformation of base metal, is in effect, a transformation of ourselves.”

I am thrilled to announce that one of my dearest dreams for our Dorpsstraat adventure is soon to come true – with a little help from YOU!!! Our beloved place has a vocation as a ‘making place’, and these workshops will be a first step in that direction.

The singing bowls born in Quentin’s forge bring new resonances into the world — their function is similar to that of the ancient Tibetan bowls, but their frequencies are resonant with the needs of today.

For details you can download the flyer here: Invitation Crafting your Singing Bowl Belgium

Register online here

Logistics: Friday 2.30 pm – 9.30 pm; Saturday & Sunday 9.30 am – 5.30 pm
The first workshop (June 12 – 14) will include a special focus on how the bowl-making process can support the practise of hosting transformative conversation – priority will be given to practitioners of the Art of Hosting and Participatory Leadership.

Venue: Dorpsstraat 136, 3470 Ransberg – Kortenaken
(close to Diest, Tienen, St. Truiden; about an hour east of Brussels)

Fee: £ 345 for workshop; details about costs for accommodation and catering on the registration form

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Planting trees – and so much more!

Well, our work weekend passed like a dream – thanks to all our friends who showed up in dribs and drabs over the weekend to help: Steve all the way from India (via Brussels),  Diane and Christophe from Luxembourg, Michaela, Dorothée and Gabriele from Leuven, Bruno and Jenny from Budingen, just round the corner, and Eike and Shuktaan from Brussels…

Ria went to collect the trees from Louis Melis’s nursery on Friday afternoon, so everything was ready when our volunteers arrived.

The picture left in our visitors’ book by Dorothée and Gabriele says it all (in Flemish):

The whole day in pictures

The whole day in pictures

We took the trees down the garden, Ria explained to everybody how to plant the trees, everybody worked hard (including the chicken, who was EVERYWHERE – but not Twinkie, who just sat and watched). We were through with planting trees much sooner than expected (before lunch on Saturday), but fortunately Ria had all manner of other suggestions of things to keep us busy for the day… all interspersed with opportunities to eat delicious food, thanks to Chrisje – including, mid afternoon, apple cake, freshly baked speculoos biscuits and hot chocolate made with milk fresh from the cow brought along by Bruno that morning!

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Planting Trees – Open day 6-7 December 2014

At last, at last, friends, it’s time to plant our fruit trees.

We have 20 lovely treelings of different types and varieties – apples, pears, plums, early, mid-season and late – plus some nuts and surprises… waiting to be planted on our swales this winter.


The ground on the swales is heavy clay, so digging holes won’t be no picnic. With this in mind, over the summer, Steve started the process of preparing the ground with piles of organic matter – scything off all the vertical green life that had sprung up with such abundance, and allowing it to compost down horizontally in the places where the trees will come. Hopefully this will make the digging easier.

Hopefully, also, our siren cry will tempt some strong arms and backs, sharp spades and an appetite for a challenge to come to our aid. In the knowledge that there will be food, drink, good conversation and as much laughter as we feel like making.


If you want to come along and help, you’re welcome on 6 and/or 7 December 2014. We’ll be starting work at 10am (but you can show up at any time after that). Bring warm outdoor clothes, sturdy waterproof footwear, garden gloves and a sharp spade if you have one…

Address: Dorpsstraat 136, 3470 Ransberg, Belgium

Please let us know if you plan to come (comment on this blog or email to Ria or Helen), so we can cater accordingly. Children also welcome!

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Adding rooms

With the approach of the summer and my imminent move – downsizing to a smaller space in Brussels with the departure of my children to study abroad and transferring my cats and some of my furniture to Ransberg – it was time to continue work on the rooms on the first floor.

The first job was placing the ceiling in my future bedroom. As usual, our first reflex was to ask our friends for help. Chrisje did her usual epic paint job to get the ceiling slats ready for placing. Martin stepped up with his carpenting expertise, and Matthieu volunteered to join him as apprentice for a couple of days, to learn more about the craft. With Matthieu came Sophia and his three children on the first weekend, so we were quite festive while we worked! On the second weekend, I stepped in to help out – and learned that men like to work without talking! In the mean time, Ria was busily grandmothering, with granddaughters Pia and Ava on site, helping make biscuits to feed the hungry workers.

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Martin, Toon, Chrisje and Ria all took a big hand in everything else that happened. Placing the insulation, and the fermacell, slathering the brick inner wall with lime plaster and the insulated walls with the finer lime finish, laying the bamboo floor, reducing the entrance to a door-sized hole and fitting the door… I got to help Chrisje oil the floor as a finishing touch. What a gift: a beautiful bedroom, ready for occupation! I moved in towards the end of June, with help from Ria, Toon, and Tom. More about that in another post…

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Once my room was done, attention turned to the front bedroom, which needed to be ready in time to receive our first house guests at the end of July. Pretty much the same cast, only much of the insulation work had already been done in the previous phase of work.

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During August we placed the tadelakt on two walls in the bathroom. A very fascinating – and rather elbow-grease intensive – process. Quite amazing to use such natural materials to create such a beautiful, waterproof finish.

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This is indeed a place of abundance. Whenever there’s stuff growing, there’s something to harvest – either to consume or to keep or to reuse.

Riwa & the raspberries

Riwa & the raspberries


In the summer months we’re out picking (especially in the raspberry jungles) morning and evening, and spending our evenings surrounded by jars, bottles, pans and colanders, and every imaginable kind of sweetener other than sugar. We make jams, syrups and sauces, we bake, we freeze, we bottle, we juice, we dry, we steep in genever…

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We’re constantly stashing our extras in the freezer, and Chrisje always makes huge pans  of soup so she’s got some over to freeze. When the tomatoes glut, we make and bottle sauces, and our potatoes, beetroot, carrots and root veggies last out the winter in sand. The pumpkins hang around at (unheated) room temperature crying “eat me” until we do. And of course, there are always fresh veggies for lunch when there’s anything growing in the garden.

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Seeds – Beyond collecting seed for next year’s planting and for swapping at seed exchanges, this year we’re experimenting with dried beans to add protein for the winter months. I also love having dried peas to add to my seed mix for salad sprouts – they’re not so easy to find in Brussels health food stores.

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Organic matter – Although not everything that grows is edible, on a permaculture holding everything plays a part. Over half of the land here is not under food crops, but gets a short back-and-sides with the scythe every few months, delivering up beautiful heaps of hay for the apple trees, the fruit and vegetable beds and the humanure processing pile.

Harvesting hay

Harvesting hay

Peelings and food leftovers go to the chicken, who dutifully wolfs them down and converts them into protein in tidy ovoid shells. She also gets the buckets full of apples that just naturally fall into her terrain in late summer and autumn. I suspect that during those months she is permanently tipsy.


Tipsy chickens

Nor do we despise what many would call ‘weeds’. The omnipresent horsetails and nettles get mixed with the comfrey into potent and evil-smelling food for the veggies. Horsetail tea is also a potent fungicide. The thistles, brambles and ground elder all end up as precious brown compost materials that actually make it into the compost heap, which Ria manages in such a way that there is always compost ready for use when needed.

Rainwater – this might be Belgium, where it always seems to rain, but when you have a garden, you notice the droughts! We can tell the state of play by the amount of water in our little pond – a couple of times this year the frogs have had to take refuge in the mud at the bottom. Slowly but surely we are expanding our water harvesting capacity. Good guttering at front and back of the house, feeding into the rainwater cisterns, and now we’ve even guttered the woodshed. We use the water from the cisterns to flush our one conventional loo and water the garden when it’s dry.

Rainwater harvest from the woodshed roof

Rainwater harvest from the woodshed roof

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To my eyes, everything that nature brings forth is beautiful. By contrast, we humans – especially in our more modern manifestations – can be responsible for quite some ugliness… especially with our more utilitarian concrete and metal constructions.

One aspect of what we are trying to accomplish in our experiments here in Ransberg is the co-creation of beauty with nature. What can we humans, with our quirky perspectives and our best intentions, contribute to what nature already does without us?

Here are some glimpses…

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Posted in Action research, Appropriate technology, Manifestation, The New Life | Leave a comment