Issue 7 Sneak Peek: Sauveterre Permaculture Profile

In this sneak peek at one of the articles in Pip issue 7, we look at the beautiful permaculture design for Sauveterre Permaculture, the homestead of Claude and Helene Marmoux in the far South Coast of NSW.

Sauveterre Permaculture Sauveterre Permaculture
Words by Ben Buggy, Photos by Robyn Rosenfeldt

Sauveterre Permaculture is the home and design project of Claude and Helene Marmoux. In 1993 they left Sydney in search of a new home in the country, and their search lead them to this property, sitting atop a ridge in Brogo on the Far South Coast of NSW. Sauveterre, or Save The Earth, has been their ongoing inspiration in building this small working farm. The overall result is a small parcel of land being managed well to provide for the needs of the couple. The project, now in its maturity after twenty-three years of development, is now a valuable demonstration of the principles of permaculture and a cornucopia of design features and innovations. After leaving their homeland in France, Claude and Helene travelled to Australia where they settled in Sydney. After buying a house there and running their own business for many years, they left to travel the country where they discovered permaculture through Robyn Francis. “Studying the PDC with Robyn Francis in the nineties was exactly what we were looking for and gave us a new direction in life,” Claude remembers. They knew that a simpler life, where they provided for themselves, was the best step they could take towards saving the earth. As humans living on a planet with finite resources, our first step is to reduce our impact, which begins with building smaller houses.

THE HOUSE When they moved onto their block in 1993, Claude and Helene had little experience in building, least of all with mud brick. While living in their shed accommodation, they helped their neighbours build houses through the local LETS program (Local Exchange Trading System). By the time they were starting their own build they had both the know-how and a group of people ready to help them. We needed 2400 mud bricks for the house, and with a few people and a hydraulic press we could make 200-300 bricks in a day.The house was built to include many great features to reduce the need for energy. Smart use of thermal flow can be seen in the design of both the north facing glasshouse, as well as the cool cupboard and the centrally located combustion stove. The house faces north and its eaves are calculated to block out the hot summer sun and allow winter sun onto a slate tiled floor to absorb heat. A grape pergola along the north facing windows also provides shade in summer.

NORTH FACING GLASSHOUSE The glasshouse shares a mud brick wall with the living room, sitting on the northeast corner of the house and acts as a passive heater in winter. Sun energy trapped by
the glass frontage can be directed into the house using vents. The low vents bring the cool air in from the living room floor, pushing hot air up and through the vents at the top of the wall, into the house. In summer, when the heat isn’t needed the vents are closed and the windows on each end of the glasshouse can be opened, along with the louvers on the front. The glasshouse has been set up as a garden space and nursery, making it multifunctional.

COOL AIR CUPBOARD Cool air is gathered into a pipe from a shaded fernery to the south of the house and then travels underneath the concrete slab to the cool cupboard in the kitchen. The cool air is drawn up past the food kept in wire baskets within and exits through the fan in the roof. Here the produce is ventilated keeping the pantry a few degrees cooler all the time, so only a small refrigerator is needed.

DUCTED HEATING The heat from the centrally located combustion stove in the living room is ducted through pipes that run through the roof cavity to the bedrooms pushing the heat to the other end of the house. The house is a series of clever design features that save energy, water and reduce waste.

CLIVUS MULTRUM COMPOSTING TOILET Built into a cavity under the house is the original Clivus Multrum that they installed 20 years ago. The system works so well, in its warm position to the north, that it is emptied just once a year. The decomposed manure is used around their fruit trees.

GREY WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM The water from the kitchen, laundry and bathroom are directed firstly into a grease trap before flowing into three large tubs of reeds. The role of the reeds is to keep the water oxygenated, so that the aerobic bacteria can do their work of cleaning the water. The reed beds have been made in concrete with baffles, to direct the water through them more slowly. After about twelve days in this reed system the water then flows down to the duck pond where it also acts as a fox moat around the duck house. The pond is then drained to irrigate and fertilise the hazelnuts, or can be pumped up to a holding tank and drip-fed through the food forest.

COVERED FOOD FOREST GARDEN In 2012 Claude and Helene decided to turn part of the orchard into a food forest area. We decided to reduce the annual work of slashing and netting the fruit trees to protect the fruit from the birds, and to maximise the production in a protected area.”

To read the full article, and see Claude and Helene’s beautiful house and garden design for Sauveterre Permaculture, subscribe to Pip Magazine and get issue 7!

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