It’s been a few months since I’ve updated this blog. We’ve been very busy and in an in-between existence. That’s slowly changing. This past week I started publishing some short daily updates and this post is the first full fledged post in a while. Though I wasn’t writing much the camera was with us at all times and most of the story of recent months is on it.
If I remember correctly we completed the official purchase of Bhudeva (our land and home) in mid May (I had just returned from a visit to the UK to meet with Ralph Carpenter to consult on hemp construction). This left us with about 2 weeks before our apartment contract expired to finally move out.
We started going out for single days visits to see what is there and start making the place livable. As we got accustomed to being there we began to stay over night. There was no livable place in doors so we added an extension to the house in the form of a tent. At first we camped at a distance from the house:
… and then gradually moved closer:
We had hoped that many things (beds, cabinets, etc.) left in the house would be useful but instead we found ourselves emptying most of the things in the house. When we began to move things around we also found that the walls were in bad shape. Whole panels of cob were coming of the wall and the rest was cracked – sometimes only the lime finishing layer sometimes deeper.
This image is after we already dragged out quite a few things and there was space to move in the room (the house was very densely packed):
Outside the grass was overgrown. Fortunately we found an old scythe in the barn (I say this as if it were obvious – but until then I did not know what a scythe was … and when I was first introduced do it, it was using its Romanian name – Coasa – only weeks later did I find it’s English name). Here is Andreea hacking away after some rough sharpening:
The barn (until recently) was filled with junk and two very large grain storage containers:
When most of the contents of the house were dumped outside we set to work on the walls. We collected some clay from a hill behind the house and created a first cob mix:
When that seemed to work out OK we began mixing larger quantities and applying them to the walls. The results were questionable.
Our neighbor, seeing our efforts, brought over a power-mixer which made cob mixing much faster and easier.
Then we hit our first great obstacle – our cob mix (a natural clay-sand mixture with water and cow-poop) didn’t work. When it dried it cracked and fell off the walls. Before and after:
After 2 or 3 different failed attempts we decided to hire help. We contracted a team of 3 builders (a father and two sons from the village) to fix the walls for us and to pour concrete on the floors (the existing floors were earth floors covered by sheets of a tar-like substance covered by strips of slightly overlapping linoleum).
Unfortunately we were not able to be there when they were working. I really wanted to see how they do the work. They sent us to bring clay from another source – it was a finer and more consistent clay then we had used (our neighbor helped us – he took us to the source in a horse and carriage … we brought back a fully loaded carriage of clay). What I can say is that their technique involved:
- Putting large nails into the walls.
- Weaving a kind of net using some kind of thick wiring.
- Creating a cob mix that included the finer clay, sand (of which we purchased a truck load), water and gypsum.
- A lime render was sprayed onto the walls (using a manually pressurized pump).
We were there when the sand was delivered but not much more.
During our last visit (before moving out) we took some time off from work to harvest some Tilia (but not just!) flowers for drying:
Every time we came out we packed the car with things and moved them out to the village. On the last day in the city I made one final journey with a full car (so full there was no room for Andreea). This is what the place looked like when I left it. All of our things were tucked into this storage space:
The refrigerator was delivered the previous day and the laundry was the last batch from the apartment which had not yet dried):
The house didn’t have a door – it was taken off when the concrete was poured … and when the workers had left had not yet set. So the entry to the house was blocked with … a broom:
The house was looking MUCH better inside:
Outside was a huge mess:
I came back to the city and we took off on a small road-trip … which I well get to in the next post
These first weeks were very difficult (I think for me more then Andreea) … they were emotionally draining. The task of clearing the house and making it livable looked impossible. It felt like we were doing much more then cleaning … we were resuscitating the place - it was dead and we were trying to breathe life into it. It took a lot of persistence and faith to pass through the heaviness and resistance that awaited us.