Help create a wonderful secret garden by dry-wallstacking and natural building, North-east France

  • Favourited 2 times
  • Last activity: 18 Mar 2023



 Min stay requested: at least 2 weeks



  • Description


    I love France and have been coming there all my life.

    For some time now I have been working on a project, a secret stone garden, on the spot where large barns used to be.
    The little house on the street will be preserved, but the barns will decay on their own and I will break down more and more. In its place there will be a stone garden, with in the future, roses and a vegetable garden.
    Stone staircases to nowhere, stone benches, follies, fireplaces, terraces.
    But that means that there will be a lot of stacking and building with stones.

    About myself: After my studies at the art academy in Arnhem, I continued to live there and started working for Art and Culture. Exhibitions, theater on location productions and art events. As a project manager I worked for museums, but also for location theater and individual artists. Eventually due to private circumstances I ended up in care. In 2014 I started studying Chinese TuiNa massage therapy. And I am still a massage therapist and have my own practice.

    For 10 years I have had a house there without running water and without electricity. Off grid. There is a compost toilet which works well. As well as a solar panel with battery where you can charge your phone and where the pump of the well works.
    It's really very primitive you have to love that to, because then you have to be extremely economical with water, for example. Not everyone is suitable for that. There is no light but a gas lamp. There is only a cold shower with a limited number of liters of water. But you can always go swimming 12 km away in the river.

    At the moment the drinking water still comes from the store and I always get water on the way from the washing place and from the well behind the house, which is probably spring water but I don't drink it. It's meant to wash you.

    My plan for this place is to reuse as many stones as possible that are currently present on the 600m2 site. Lots of natural stone from collapsed walls, where terraces, benches, a fireplace, a garden wall and paving can be made.
    My wish is to work with a number of people on the above by stacking stones, which also means lugging a lot of stones and you have to feel like it.

    Those who love rural can indulge themselves.

    If you also like tackling things and have a strong body, it would be nice to work together with others who also like that.
    At noon we have an extensive hot meal, as it should be in France, and another warm meal in the evening, then light a fire, look at the stars and hear the owls.

  • Types of help and learning opportunities

    Types of help and learning opportunities

    Help with Eco Projects
    DIY and building projects
  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    What can you learn:
    You learn how to fit stones with simple tools, sort stones and how to stack a wall in such a way that it will be there for years to come. You can build and stack stones and work with morter, pavement with natural stones and make a wall around a terrace for example.

    Off Grid:
    You can see whether off grid living in a very simple form suits you or what it's like to be in the countryside, instead of in the city. In the countryside, your neighbors are very important, especially if you live alone. But that also has something special.

  • Help


    Are you interested in cold-stacked walls, would you like to lay bricks with natural stone and sand-lime mortar?

    ECO: Stacking walls is one of the oldest building forms that you can still find everywhere in France but also in other countries. Life in these stacked walls is very diverse. Lizards, insects, slow worms, mice and various bee species find a safe place there.
    In addition to the fauna, there is also room for plants that need little to take root, such as ferns and mosses. So with such walls you increase the possibilities for animals and plants to settle in a garden.
    For example, I would like to house a bee colony somewhere in a wall, not for the honey but for the bees themselves.

  • Languages spoken

    Dutch: Fluent
    German: Intermediate
    English: Intermediate
    French: Intermediate

  • Accommodation


    From last weekend July to mid-August, 4 volunteers can stay at the same time. There is a sleeping area for men and one for women. Minimum stay 2 weeks. This year I am mainly looking for men and women who want to stack and brick with the existing natural stones, walls and terraces.

    For you there is accommodation and full board with three meals a day, in exchange for 5 hours a day of help, five days a week. Days off don't necessarily have to be weekends.
    To give you an idea of the daily schedule. In the summer it is quickly too hot to do anything, which is why we get up on time and follow a fixed schedule.

    Day schedule
    7.30 - 8.15 Wake up, freshen up, prepare breakfast and eat (If this is not appaeling to you, please don't come)
    08.30 - start with the tasks
    10.00 - Coffee break
    12.00 - 13.00 Main meal
    13.00 - 15.00 tasks
    5pm tea when you get there
    7:00 pm - Evening meal

    The rest of the day is yours to explore the area or whatever you wish to do, and we meet again for dinner. During the days you are there you will alternately work in the kitchen.

    Any delay in starting or extending breaks results in less free time and messy days and that works less pleasantly, leaving you with less time for other things.
    Everyone goes to bed between 22:00 and 23:00, but only after we have tidied up and cleaned the frequently used areas, collected tools, etc. and have done the dishes. This last list is a joint task that we all take care of after work.

    Here I emphasize again that the work is quite physical, so if you have an injury it is advisable not to get in touch so as not to waste your journey.

    No smokers, no drinkers, no noisemakers.
    This summer I have no place for families or couples in love.
    No dogs, because the cat Sjors walks on the property.

    What you need to bring is:
    Make sure you have good work shoes!
    Bring your own sleeping bag or blankets.
    Make sure you wear a hat against the sun.
    For men: in the swimming pools in the area you may only wear a spido, no Bermuda shorts.

    Visa and health insurance
    Upon arrival, I will ask you to show your passport/ID and provide contact details of your family or a close friend in order to reach someone for you in case of emergency.
    My car only has one extra seat (Berlingo), so that limits your freedom if you don't have your own transport. I can take you with me if I'm driving somewhere, but if no one else has a car you will only be able to ride every now and then.

    What do you get:
    Vegetarian dishes
    Good company
    Gloves and goggles are provided on site.
    A clean single bed, with mattress, bottom sheet, pillow and pillowcase and you get a set of towels. There is no sleeping bag or blanket!
    There's a cat in the house, Sjors. So if you are allergic you have a problem.

    There are two compost toilets, one outside and one inside.
    There is a shower cubicle for a quick cold shower after work, with a very limited number of liters of water.

    Transport: There is no public transport.
    There is a train that arrives in Jussey 12 km from the village, I can meet someone there.
    I can only take 1 other person in my car. So if no one else has their own transport, it is difficult. You cannot go wherever you want and your radius of action is then very small.

    Water use!
    One of the biggest challenges in this place is the amount of water.
    The well produces clear, cold rinse water. But the question is always how many liters especially in the summer months. The water has not been tested, so you can only wash with it.
    So you will have to be extremely economical with water by Western standards.
    10 liters per person per day.
    There is bottled drinking water in the kitchen and we get spring water for cooking and washing vegetables.
    Help keep the place tidy and clean during the day.
    Be careful with tools and other items.
    Be economical with water and other raw materials.
    Be kind to the neighbors and to each other.

    When you come you have to be strong and fit, use your common sense and be handy otherwise you won't last and accidents will happen. It is also important that you can communicate well and take initiative. It's nice if you don't get too petty when you get constructive criticism on how you did something, because what you do has to be done well. But you will get an explanation and I will cooperate. So if you are willing to step into this project openly, you are really welcome.

    The tasks are heavy, so if you have an injury or regular physical complaints, it makes no sense to email me. Although it is hard work, it is super fun and educational. You will end up in a caring, mindful environment with humor. The day structure is such that you stay fit and healthy and also have time to explore the area and do your own things.

    But if you can't get out of bed in the morning, suffer from mood swings, have trouble socializing, or have an aversion to hard, physical work, this isn't the place for you.

    To be sure you’ve read all text, use the next code to wright me: 52

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    I myself am Dutch, but speak English, French and German well enough to be able to talk and laugh together with you.

    The village has only 62 permanent inhabitants and is located on the border of the Haute Marne and the Haute Saône. Why I like being there so much is because there is still so much wildlife in that green, agricultural landscape, deer, foxes, owls, wild boars, lizards, everything comes to the edge of the village.
    The village is so small that there are no shops or cafes. The baker does come every morning. You can walk for hours in the woods around the village and there are cycling routes nearby.

    In the two towns, each 12 km from the village, you can get everything, there are large supermarkets, a DIY store, a post office, pharmacy and you can eat something. In Bourbonne les bains you can even go to the spa if you want. Swimming cap required.
    In Jussey you can swim in the river and there is a lively market every Tuesday morning with vegetables, fruit and clothing. In a village further on within walking distance, 2.5 km you can drink a Belgian beer and sometimes there is live music. There is a vegetable picking garden 3 km away, where I get the vegetables. And in the summer there are flea markets everywhere with absolutely anything and everything.
    Langres 40 km away is a beautiful walled, historic city with large lakes where you can swim.

    Those who love rural can indulge themselves.

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

    • Can host families

  • Space for parking camper vans

    Space for parking camper vans

    a not too large camper can be placed. During the night you have privacy, during day time we walk around.

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    Maximum 5 hours a day, 5 days a week

Host ref number: 342182517648