Intensly grateful – and surprised

DSC04931 - 2017-10-31, The volunteers in this period

Due to the hustle and bustle in my inside and the outside world I have not posted anything for about two months, so now follows a comprehensive report on the progress at The Oak. From now on, more photos will be processed in this blog, because I want to use this public website for more than the closed Facebook group (where unfortunately a whole album has disappeared due to a mistake, with the only photos left after a computer crash).

How can I feel anything other than grateful for, and surprised by, the past period?  Tell me that once you have read this report!

Young volunteers from everywhere – from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, the USA, Venezuela, Mexico, Saudi Arabia – have volunteered to help build the dream of Robur at The Oak. They gave me more than just their time, energy and work – they were also ‘my children’ (they are all younger than my own children!) And they give me hope for the future of humanity and our planet.

In addition to ensuring sufficient accommodation for so many people – at the beginning of November there were eight helpers at once! – we were mainly occupied with the preparation and laying of the natural coating of the floor (screed), which consisted of sand (partly local, from the heath), lime, tras, water and a mineral additive. Pure and natural!

But before that, the rest of the half tree trunks were placed against the walls, because they would be worked on in the screed, and the company – who would come to install the heat pump already in December, due to a change in the planning! – laid the floor heating. That was nice to see, that system.









On 30 October we started chapping. That is not quickly done, it took a week. Yet it was so special that we all do that, none of us has ever built, we are learning it in the process… Luckily Wolf Jordan showed us how to do that.





In between, we also took time to relax too, for example a day trip to Antwerp, because most of the volunteers had never been to Belgium. And we ate in the neighbouring village of Beerse – traditional real French (actually Belgian) fries from a paper cone! Of course we drank Belgian beer and ate Belgian chocolate. That’s just a must. 🙂

2017-11-03 Belgian fries in Beerse(Photo: Feras Alsaggaf)

After the chapping, gradually a number of helpers left, and those who stayed on helped fill the walls with hempcrete, something that will continue for a long time after the winter. There is still a lot of work to be done there… nice and meditative, because that is very slow, we do everything manually. You are in nature and you work with your hands, at your own pace, on a human scale. That is connection!



On November 15 the last volunteer left, he had stayed for a while month.

And that is how I am now alone at The Oak for a while. I will stay a bit longer than planned, because we have entered the wet season, and the hempcrete dries too slowly, both the walls and the floor. And as is often the case with (construction) projects that have been delayed, a kind of domino effect has arisen, which is fascinating to see – and gives me the feeling that everything is right and will finally land on its feet. This delay in June, for example, has ensured that more volunteers are needed – with more possibilities for fantastic experiences for many more people (see also previous post); more (external) infrastructure – which can also be used later; and now also the decision to have the heat pump, which I had planned as an option for later, because of the high cost, will have to be placed quickly.
– the floor and walls can dry better with the heat pump that can run very gently all winter;
– the people who are going to use Robur and find the extra care for a rocket mass heater too much (after all, if they have a burn-out, or want to concentrate fully on their creative project, a simple system is better), will have a comfortable life in a fully ecological fashion;
– the space will always be pleasant, even if it has not been rented out for a while;
– the construction of the rocket mass heater (in the form of a workshop!) is less urgent and can be prepared more calmly.
– the savings will now be depleted even faster;
– the already installed solar water heater has to go, because the heat pump takes care of both the heating and the hot water, and the two appliances together don’t fit in the technical room… Interested? Or do you know someone with interest? Bidding is possible until 6 December, via


Before I leave The Oak again for a while in his hibernation, much remains to be done. A few things still want finishing before the winter, and I would rather not see the gypsy camp collapse in a severe winter spell of cold weather.

For me, everything just continues in the winter. The non-profit organization will be a year old in February and administratively there will be a few jobs to do that I didn’t have time for. My savings will be used up and I have no income besides of some gifts (which I am eternally grateful for), so the fundraising needs an extra boost. Since I have never done anything like this, all help and tips are welcome!

And so we go into the winter gratefully, to get new energy for the next construction season, because realising a dream takes time; it can go fast, but also grow as slowly and robustly as an Oak…

7 thoughts on “Intensly grateful – and surprised

  1. Fascinerend om te zien en te lezen hoe Den Eik langzaam maar zeker uitgroeit tot een heus huis! Met zoveel hulp van allerlei mensen van over de hele wereld. Er is hard gewerkt door velen en de foto met de frieten en zoveel blije gezichten geeft de goede sfeer en samenwerking echt weer.
    Binnenkort lekker gaan genieten Marieke van een ‘winterslaap’, lekker bijtanken en dan komend voorjaar weer gezond en fris aan de slag. Ik vond het ontzettend fijn om je afgelopen week even een bezoekje te brengen, al was het maar kort.
    Lieve groetjes, Nicole


  2. Marieke – Zwerfeikje, ik ben ook intens dankbaar en verrast!
    Dankbaar omdat ik Robur op Den Eik heb mogen meemaken en mee maken in hitte en in kou, in droogte en in natttigheid. Extremen die ik in mijn dagelijkse leven amper meemaak, althans in mijn eigen keuken niet.
    Robur heeft me dit jaar zoveel geleerd, van open harten en zinvol grenzen aangeven, over werken met wat (niet) aanwezig is, tot vertrouwen dat hoe dan ook alles in orde komt.
    Robur heeft nu al zijn eigen orde, zoveel is duidelijk! Een orde in overeenstemming met het grote geheel!
    Verrast omdat ik in die natte kou plots een warm bed in een warmhartig huis kreeg aangeboden. En omdat ik geheel onverwacht, zonder daar moeite voor te hoeven doen, een kersverse vriendin kon enthousiasmeren om een weekendje mee te doen.
    Warme winterknuffel en, wat Robur betreft, graag tot in te lente!
    Anne Martine


  3. This all looks so great, I can’t wait to be able to come and help out with your wonderful hobbit house. It’s a shame that your winters are too cold to continue the work as I wish to come sooner. But patience is a virtue.

    I will try to share the fundraising link and hope it drums up some financial support for you.


    1. Hi Jonny, as you can see the website is (slowly) getting an English version as well 🙂
      If you still intend to come help out, you can take a look in the new “Volunteering” section!


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