Just back from two days away with a car-load of friends, living with a couple who "walk lightly on the earth". They live in a very peaceful part of the country, and from their gate they can see Mt Ngauruhoe, and on a clear day (with which we were blessed) also Mt Taranaki, looking like a pyramid in the distance. We were shown our tea cooking in a "hot box" - it had been started on the stove for 5 minutes in a pressure cooker, and then the whole cooker placed in a beautifully made wooden box, lined with polystyrene and insulated around and over the top with a thick wad of wool insulation, finished off with a sheepskin on top. The meat cooks with only that first bit of power, and after a day in the box came out very tender and well cooked. We did use the hob for the vegetables, and a wonderful log fire heated the house as the sun went down. There is a pine forest around the house which is providing firewood and being replaced with native trees. The sight of Ernst's logs piled so beautifully between the trees made me regret - and not for the last time - that I didn't take my camera.
The house is constructed in such a way that it will take advantage of "passive heating" - the beautiful pebbled-concrete floor absorbs heat during the day from the floor to ceiling double-glazed windows, and gradually gives it off in the cooler hours. Water is collected from the rain, and heated by solar panels. With power bills of $20-30 a month, and a lovely warm feeling in the house, it obviously works! I think I would miss the microwave and tv, and the odd roast in the oven, but the next night the outdoor pizza oven was fired up, and after the wood burnt down to charcoal, that was removed (to go in the compost) and we made our own pizzas on Ernst's handmade dough bases. After they were cooked, his five loaves of handmade bread went in for an hour, and then four date and walnut loaves. A casserole could easily have gone in overnight to take advantage of the remaining heat, and often they do that.
Companion planting and copious composting helps Ann's vegetables grow well without pesticides, and the use of comfrey and other herbs keeps everything healthy. Two chooks provide eggs and early morning wake up calls!
It was a wonderful weekend, so peaceful away from traffic and other noise, and we were welcomed warmly and made very much at home. I hope they were serious about their "please do come again!"