Here I am with the next instalment about our stay at Stjärnsund, Sweden. You may be wondering what they do in this ecovillage that’s so different from the way things work in “standard” houses? Let’s take this one space by space :)
First, the kitchen, the “heart of the house”... except in this case, it’s outside in a rather public central space. This means there’s a constant stream of people popping in and out, which can be a source of tension. You can understand the hostess’s annoyance when certain people turn up, hang around, join in enthusiastically at coffee time and/or lunchtime, only to vanish when it’s time to wash up, and contributing next to nothing in return.
So, what’s in this outdoor kitchen? All the usual amenities... but in an unusual form! First, the heat sources for cooking; there’s no gas here, no hot plate, no electric convection hob or similar. Instead there’s a good old-fashioned rocket stove, so step 1 of cooking is to light a fire beneath the cooker! A tricky business on a windy, rainy morning when you’re hungry for porridge but the wood is wet and the rain is blowing in sideways... Once you’ve got your fire lit – starting off with papery bark kindling, and moving onto slightly larger wood pieces – you need to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t go out or go mad (!) during your cooking. And afterwards, the residual heat is enough to heat a pan of water for the inevitable washing-up...
- There’s one “standard” drinking-water tap on the Stjärnsund site, right in the middle of Eliza and David’s veg patches. Usually you need to unhook the garden hose first, before filling a jerry can to bring water for use in the kettle (a real electric one hooked up to a standard plug!), or to wash salad, cook food, make cold drinks and so on.
- However, for washing up, you use the kitchen sink tap which is hooked up to a huge rainwater collection tank – so you wash the dishes with rainwater! Of course it comes out cold, so beforehand you fill a big pan with rainwater and place it on the stove after cooking has finished, where it will be warmed by the heat from still-burning wood.
- When you pour the dirty, or “grey”, dish water away, it runs down into a bucket a couple of metres away, whose contents are regularly chucked over the veg patches – complete with tiny food scraps and coffee grounds! The bits must surely all aid the fertilisation process :) Oh, and you soon get into the habit of checking the bucket isn’t already full to the brim before pouring more greywater down the sink!
There’s another cupboard in the main kitchen for regular go-to items (bread, butter, coffee, staples, etc.), but you have to make sure you always close everything fully and lock the door tightly so the cupboard remains mouse-proof. Anything left lying around is fair game... you can imagine the state of the butter if it’s left out to be pecked by birds, licked by the cat and further dented by mice! And then there’s a sawdust layer covering the earth floor. It seems to be a magnet for just-washed teaspoons, but is brilliant when the time comes to “wipe the table” – just swish the crumbs onto the floor and you’re done!