Megan Williams and her partner Charlie Hague built the famous ‘Hobbit House’ by the Lammas eco-village in Pembrokeshire, Wales, almost entirely out of natural, locally sourced and recycled materials. Here she describes the joys of living off the land.
As I write, I am gazing out of the window at soft Welsh rain and at the least cultivated but most picturesque part of our plot. The area is perfectly framed by mature trees and there are lots of fruit bushes and a pond with ducks waddling around, and chickens.
One of the rules of building an eco-home in the area was the stipulation that 65 per cent of basic food needs must be met by the land. You can split this by taking 30 per cent of your food from the land, with the remaining 35 per cent purchased using income generated from the land.
I am in the process of setting up a dessert fruit business. We have apple and pear trees and soft-fruit bushes – raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries and jostaberries... And Charlie has a wood business, making chainsaw carvings of animal, such as owls and hares.
It’s great to be next door to the Lammas eco-community because we can share skills and barter – exchanging, for instance, physical time working the land for someone else’s goods or expertise. One of our neighbours keeps bees and is very well informed about apiculture. In exchange for her knowledge I worked on her comfrey patch for a few hours. Food is a big focus of the barter economy. If you have extra eggs or honey, or you’ve had a bumper pumpkin harvest, that can be used as currency.
Living here is a blessing. It’s wonderful for our son, Eli, because he’s got tons of energy and he can run around a lot outside. It’s a very relaxed and supportive environment and we don’t feel we have to wrap him up in cotton wool.
It’s also wonderful to be in a house we built ourselves with the help of friends and neighbours. It was a very open and organic process. We just went with whatever materials we had access to at the time. We used wood from our own land and sourced other materials locally – straw from farms in the neighbourhood, glass off-cuts and materials from orders that had gone wrong from the glazier five minutes up the road. And loads of recycled stuff that people didn’t need. When it was time for the roof to go on, more than 30 people came to help.
So much love and energy went into the building of our home. It feels like it is crafted from so many people’s different creative sides. I constantly find myself looking at different features – a part of the wall or a stairway – and thinking, I know who made that. Every corner of the house has a story to tell, which is really rather lovely.
Of course, it’s practical and sustainable too. We have a wood burner that is used for hot water and cooking. And because of the materials we used to build the house, we really don’t have to heat the place up that much. It holds its heat in the winter and stays comfortably cool in the summer.
It’s been a labour of love and I hope it can serve as an inspiration to others.