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 🙂

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  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 🙂

Any day (maybe even tomorrow)  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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

 

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) 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  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 … 🙂

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 🙂

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.

Woke up to a damp and un-cold morning. Hopped to the village to pick up something from the post-office and … waddaya know … the sun came out … so we got to work.

We took the finishing work out of the living room and to the sun where I went to work on another layer while Andreea began sanding more pieces. Then we worked together some more, me planing her sading … then we split up. Andreea went inside and I stayed to get some more woodworking done. I’ve gotten to used to seeing the sun in full light and yet knowing that the end of the day is near. I raced a bit to complete sanding and cutting 28 small pieces that will become our cabinet shelf supports.

By then it was getting to be very cold again … actually though the sun was out it was cool throughout the day. Then I carried in all (most – some, that are “finished” enough, went back to the workshop for drilling  pocket holes in preparation for assembly) the pieces that were drying outside. Inside I applied a second layer to some of the new pieces.

The Internet technician visited us today. They have setup a transmitting wireless hotspot in the town center. They tried to setup a second hotspot on an electricity pole on a road near us – but the signal was too weak and unstable. Big bummer. We insisted (gently)  that there must be something that can be done … maybe another routing point on the way. So they will be trying to create a roundabout solution. Their antennas need a clean line of sight – so they will be trying to transmit from another point near the end of the village … shooting past our location (which is not in a line of sight) to a village that is in a line of sight with us. Then from that village they will try to bounce the signal back to us. I have a feeling this will work out. I really want it to. We really need it.

Gata.

We’ve had a few odd days – weather-wise. At first there we signs that snow would come … then the temperatures went up … it’s now been cool for three days not cold … almost feels warm compared to the weeks of subzero temperatures. There has been no fog in the mornings though it has been very cloudy with the sun rarely appearing. There has been a little rain … enough to get the ground to look wet but not much more.

The day before yesterday was great fun as Andreea and I spent most of the day together in the improvised workshop (=moving the sawhorses into the barn and laying out a long power cable for the power tools). I was busy measuring and cutting and Andreea was on the sander. We got some finishing done on more of the bedroom cabinet and got most of the first of two couches cut.

Yesterday we pretty much took the day off as Nora and Valentin came for a spontaneous visit. Valentin spent some time with the ax and I collected the wood he cut … and that was pretty much it.

Today I got an earlier start because it was really not-cold. Not cold is becoming a precious temperature for us. Not cold weather is pleasant to go outside in. Not cold water (usually left in the boiler the day after we shower) is superb for washing up in the morning or doing dishes. I started out in the living finishing  room and applied a final (I hope) layer of oil to the cabinet pieces. I then went outside and spent the entire day sanding more pieces. That is UNTIL ….

Andreea came outside and noted that the chicken that was having breathing problems a few days ago wasn’t looking to good. He was closing his eyes and wasn’t moving around much. So we decided to bring his life to an end. Andreea prepared everything she needed, I brought out the camera … and … the knife wasn’t sharp enough so Andreea had a hard time cutting into his neck … so I quickly took over and did the slaughtering and Andreea continued the bucthering … one small step for mankind one giant leap for the both of us. More on that in a separate post (coming soon) with images … we seem to be going through a period of intense slaughtering 🙂

Andreea continued to finish taking care of the fresh chicken and to make dinner while I went back to my sanding. Just as light was coming to an end (there is electric light in the barn yet) I managed to finish sanding the parts that make up the frame of the cabinet. I carried them all inside and began applying oil finishing to them.

By the time I was finished I was starving we had dinner … and this day is pretty much over. Andreea just came out of the shower and I am waiting for more hot water 🙂