Housebuilding / by Adrian Joyner

It is my birthday today (59, if you really want to know) but it’s also almost exactly six months since we arrived in the empty olive groves in the baking heat, when all we had by way of amenities was a water tap wired to a tree.

The house building project has gone pretty smoothly really, though I did fall off the roof in the early stages and crack a rib, which slowed me up for a week or two.

It’s a wooden structure, standing on a foundation of concrete blocks, about eight metres square, divided by a mezzanine (the house straddles two terraces) over a timber frame, the walls are constructed as a sort of sandwich with tongued and grooved boarding on the outside and inside and solid polystyrene insulation between.

We have a bathroom with a shower (but no bath), a washbasin, toilet and bidet. Power is provided by two generators. (6kw and 1kw) The toilet waste goes into a brick lined septic tank (which I have probably made rather small, so that I may have to shovel it out in a couple of years) Water comes from the village tank, a kilometre and a half away, down a black plastic pipe that runs alongside the track. In the summer the water arrives hot.

In the last couple of weeks since we finished our first olive harvest, I have added some decking and a balcony outside, which will double our living space in the warmer weather. I think Linda is pleased with the house. Certainly, she spends more time cleaning the new cooker and washing up, than seems quite healthy. Someone said, when they saw it for the first time that it was a very romantic house, which was a nice thing to say.

For anyone interested in the economics of the project: the four acres of olive grove cost us 45,000 euros, while the materials for the house (including timber, roofing, plumbing fittings, etc) probably cost a little over 20,000 euros. Harvesting the 200 olive trees was less testing  and more enjoyable than we anticipated.

The oil will sell for maybe 4,000 euros, and of course, we get free olives, olive oil and firewood for the stove and the excellent wood burning water heater. Linda’s two part time jobs teaching English in Kalamata bring in some hundreds of euros each month, though, by English standards, wages are very low, and my pension makes up the rest. We discovered, having conducted a couple of accounting weeks, during which we totted up our basic outgoings, that our living costs are fairly modest, maybe 200 euros per month.

It all seems like a long way from our life in the UK. We are planning a visit there in June.

The wooden house, after more than nine years, is weathering well, though Gordon and I did take off and replace the roof a couple of years ago to make it more weatherproof. We have re-varnished the exterior timber several times and the balcony decking gets an annual coat of old olive oil mixed with diesel. Last year I included the contents of the chip pan into this patent preservative. A faint odour of the takeaway hung about the place for a while after.
We moved into the big house maybe three years ago and the wooden house is now used by friends, family and couch surfers.