Yesterday we got back from a nice two rest in Targu Mures. The restfulness was replaced by restlessness from a long drive back home with a few stops in Cluj. But we made it back, made some mamaliga and slipped under the covers early.

Today was another typical un-cold day so we used it for work. We got all the cabinet shelves sanded and two layers of finish applied to them (thanks to a bit of un-cold fresh air with occasional sunlight). The living/finishing room floor is practically covered with shelves and shelf hangers. Tomorrow they all to through a little light sanding and then some polishing and then we can bring all home … and finally have cabinets (that one day will have doors too) to put all our stuff in.

 

Another fall-ish day. In the morning it looked like it rained in the night – everything was wet even somewhat muddy (a refreshing view since we didn’t get much rain this summer/fall).

Today was a shorter work day. We got floorboards fit into the cabinet. Andreea made some more progress sanding shelves and I finally got around to assembly of the first couch. One side of the couch is fully assembled (not without hitches … I though the quality drill-bits I had were all purpose, apparently they are good for brick and cement, not so good for wood, also I thought I was covered with all the possible screws I could need, apparently I was wrong).

Then some wood chopping (piles were diminishing) … now showered and a quiet evening indoors. Tomorrow we leave for a couple of days of vacation in Targu Mures ๐Ÿ™‚

Water – Cleaning & Testing

Cleaning

The first task was to get the water clean to the point that we could use it at all. The water was unclean because some years ago there was a one-time flooding – so we had to have the well cleaned. We didn’t know quite what that meant and were happy to find a local who knew what needed to be done and did the work for us:

  1. He pumped out the water from the well. The pump was able to pull water out faster then it could fill from the spring. We tried to save as much of it as we could though I think most of it evaporated (you can see in the image the hole I began to dig where eventually the pump would be installed … he lent a helping hand as he was waiting for the pump to finish emptying the well).
  2. He climbed into the well and roughly cleaned the well from weeds that had grown on the walls.
  3. He loaded buckets of mud that were at the bottom that his partner, ย a gypsy from the village he hired for the job, pulled up and dumped next to the well. They hauled out a lot of buckets … there was a huge pile of mud when they finished. He did this until (supposedly, since I wasn’t down there with him) the bottom of the well was once again tightly packed dirt.

  4. When the work was finished we had …. murky well water … We had to wait a few days until the well settled and the water became clear.
  5. The guy who cleaned the well instructed us, after the water settled, to throw in 10 tablets of chlorine. We purchased the tablets, then lost them and though have since found them, we have not (months later)ย yet (I wouldn’t hold my breath) thrown them into the water.

Overall I think they did an OK job. Since then we’ve hired help a few times and my overall impression with Romanian workers is that they work hard but they don’t strive (and don’t achieve) quality. They do an OK job. If you want quality you need to either do it yourself or be very demanding and very specific with what you want done. It can be hard to do without already having experience AND being a foreigner with a 4×4 parked near bye … but I have learned that common sense (especially my own after studying up) should not be ignored.

This is what it looked like mid-day – the workers, our neighbors and Andreea taking a break in the shade.

Testing

Officially we were supposed to do a lab test to the water, we intended to but we didn’t. To do the test you need to pick up a sterilized bottle, fill it (and another soft-drink plastic bottle) with water (after cleaning the well and after the water in the well has settled) and then bring it to the lab in the city within hours of filling. It costs around 200+ Lei to do the level of analysis we would need and the result should be specific instructions on what kind of filtering we would need for the water to be drinkable.

Getting all this done requires specific timing and though at first we tried to do it, it didn’t work out. By the time we had the well cleaned we decided to not do the testing (it was one of those things where obstacles kept getting in our way – and we are learning to read such obstacles as signs that maybe we shouldn’t go that way).

We also didn’t start drinking from the water for quite some time because it had (still has!) too much stone content in it – it is hard water. We now have a rock-salt kind of filter on the main line – it needs to be cleaned every few weeks for optimal performance. We also have a separate drinking water filter and we run the water that comes from it through another passive filter for any sedimentation that may be left in the water. We drink and cook with this water.

 

Woke up to an inviting day … but, though a little late, we out to work. I’ll keep it short and sweet – we have a shell of a cabinet standing in our bedroom. All it needs are the shelves already in the work and we’ll finally be able to unpack our things and stop worrying about freezing temperatures and mice destroying them.

Rice is cooked, lentils are almost there, pickles already in the plates. Dinner soon ๐Ÿ™‚

Monday morning we are going to Targu Mures for a night or two, then coming back via Cluj.

Today was another fake-sun-day … the sun comes out in the morning promising to be your friend for the day and then goes off to play behind the clouds. It wasn’t even un-cold … it was cold cold.

But we stuck it out and got loads of wood-working done. We are now staring at a frame of cabinet that tomorrow will transform into a shell of ย cabinet and a few day later will get shelves … and eventually (can’t say when, as we’ll be away for a few days and the rest of the time we are in the hands of mother nature who is going through drastic mood changes these days) doors ๐Ÿ™‚

Any day (maybe even tomorrow) ย now we are going to start with assembly the first of two couches. Most of the parts are cut, Andreea even got some of them sanded. Our objective is to have a super pleasant living room back before Christmas ๐Ÿ™‚

Gata.

So today started with a superficial white blanket of mixed hail and maybe some snow-ish like cover. The sun came out at first and it looked like a promising day of work … so we headed out to it.

We spent most of the day in the workshop working on the cabinet. Lots of cutting, planing and sanding. Made good progress but the promising qualities of the day diminished very fast … it became windy, cold and we even got some drizzle.

At the end of the day I wanted to start with assembly but didn’t get too far with it … there are some adjustments/corrections to make … hopefully tomorrow I can make them and we get on with assembly of the cabinet frame.

oh … and at the end of the day we went shopping … in our own winter storage … fantastic experience … picking out the foods we want to take indoors … a perfect little store containing everything we need and only things we like … and we don’t pay on the way out … superbulous ๐Ÿ™‚

I forgot to mention that yesterday we had a nice new occurrence … one of our cocks attempted to reply to another that was calling out … it came out funny … but it did come out … our cock has crowed ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Humaure Hacienda

The Humanure Hacienda is a term coined in The Humanure Handbook to describe the place where humanure and other organic waste is collected and left to compost. It is a 3 chamber structure. Two side chambers are for alternate composting – one is filled for a year and then left to sit for another year while the other is filled. The middle chamber is used to store hay which is used to cover the compost piles – it can be a roofed chamber to both keep the hay dry and to collect rainwater which is useful in washing the buckets that are emptied into the compost pile.

By the time we moved out I had the instructions for building a humanure hacienda memorized. When I sat out to actually build it I encountered a series of humbling and priceless lessons. When I finally got around to building it we had already accumulated some waste (in an old wooden box that we placed near where the hacienda would be built) from the compost toilet which we had already built so we really needed to get it done.

Size & Location

We have chambers that are approximately 1.5 meters square. It seemed like an overkill (I was rounding up the sizes in the book as I was converting them from feet to meters) but it isn’t. We have been using the chamber for just over half a year and it has filled very nice. The pile slowly sinks down as the lower levels are decomposed but is still a hefty pile. Since we eat lots of vegetables we add to the pile a lot of organic food waste.

Taking out buckets of waste is something I do once every week or week and a half. It is a task that takes about 20 minutes. I usually make two trips: (1) two buckets of humanure; (2) a bucket of organic waste and a bucket of water (we still don’t have a water collecting roof over our hacienda). The location we chose took into consideration both the existing house and the new house we plan to build. It is a bit far (and a bit uphill) from the existing house for my liking, but at an excellent location relative to where the new house may eventually be. I have yet to travel to the hacienda in the snow … so we’ll see how that goes.

Another thing to keep in mind when choosing location is where you will be using the compost. We still do not have a clear view of what and where we will be growing things so we could not incorporate this into the location. It now looks like we will be hauling compost in a wheel-barrow. But, I am happy with the location because I didn’t want the hacienda in my face … it’s set aside in a functional location.

Excavating

The location for the hacienda is on a slight slope so some excavation was required to create a flat space. I began doing this by hand and that’s when the first lessons hit me in the face:

  1. I haven’t decided what is harder to dig out – impenetrable hard clay or wet, muddy and heavy clay. Both are very tough work.
  2. Digging is hard enough work, it is that much harder without good tools. At the time I didn’t know what good digging tools were and the ones I had were definitely not good. If you’ve never done this kind of work before you cannot begin to imagine what a difference good tools make. Also, at least here in Romania, good tools are hard to find … so that in itself is an undertaking.
  3. A tractor with a backhoe is a superior digging tool. It can do in an hour what would take two strong men (me does not feel into this category)ย a day to do.

Fortunately we had a tractor on site digging a trench for our water supply so we asked him to help out and indeed, in about 45 minutes, I had a level surface AND holes for the posts. These holes were another hugely humbling lesson. Reading the instructions was very easy … one of the steps was to dig 8 holes in the ground. In the spirit of reading (and maybe watching movies where other people dig) I was thinking “OK, no problem”. Then you take your lousy digging tools and poke them into the ground and the ground says “no thank you” … and you realize that one step “dig 8 holes” is about to become an unexpected project of unknown scope.

A large part of me – the part that spent a couple of hours of futile digging – felt like an idiot when the tractor came and leveled the ground ย in no time. But fortunately there is still a part of me, no matter how small, that is grateful for the lesson learned.

Cement

To this day I have avoided working with cement. We’ve had to use cement but hired help has done that work, not me. I am turned off by it and though will eventually get around to working with it I am happy to have stayed away from it so far.

In the hacienda this will probably turn out to be a mistake – how big a mistake only time will tell. The instructions call for a cement mix to set the posts. I didn’t to this – the posts are simply buried in the ground. The instructions also call for a rot-resistant wood – we didn’t have any on hand so we had to use pine (which is abundantly available and used for almost everything here) General wisdom is that these posts will rot in a few years. I guess I am OK with that because (a) I think that the structure itself may continue to hold up because it isn’t a load-bearing structure; (b) I am pretty sure this can, with some effort, be fixed; (c) I am OK with eventually having to (re) build a new hacienda. I have learned that I do pretty much everything better the 2nd time around so … ๐Ÿ™‚

Walls

We used almost all used wood that was either lying around or from demolition work we did around the place. We had only a little available at first so I put up just enough to give the structure support and to make it possible for us to start collecting waste.

I then added more as more wood became available.

Another precious lesson hit me when I got around to using some old beech (a hard and rot resistant wood) planks. I failed miserably at hammering nails into these planks. My first assumption (from above mentioned humbling lessons) was that I was doing something wrong … and I lived with that guilt for some time (because I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong) until a neighbor mentioned in passing that it is almost impossible go hammer nails into dry beech. Hah!

Roof

I was really looking forward to building the roof over the middle chamber. It is a small roof and therefore a good learning project. I only got as far as putting up two girders to support the roof. Another lesson here – such things are better cut to actual size then planned size. I tried to be efficient and cut them in advance (according to plans) but I cut them to short.

I didn’t get much further because we didn’t have more wood on hand and then I didn’t have time to get around to it. So the structure is now pretty much closed (sorry I don’t have a recent image) off and roofless. We have nice pile of rich compost building up … we started it in June, we will switch over to the second chamber this spring and we will harvest our first compost in Spring 2013 ๐Ÿ™‚

Together with our composting toilet it is a superbly simple,cheap, sustainable and hugely rewarding method of handling with organic waste and converting it into a precious resource.