Today was a rich day … it started off by dropping Andreea off at the village center (after using her Romanian skills to purchase a few plumbing pieces at the hardware store) to get on a bus to Cluj where she will be spending the weekend teaching her first Doula course! With us was our neighbor with whom I continued to another neighboring village (~15km) to a local sunflower seed oil press where two sacks of about 65kg of seeds where transformed into ~27 liters of oil + two half filled sacks of the stuff that oozes out of the oil press which apparently is good feed for chickens.
Two things amazed me about the oil press (I didn’t have a camera with me, so we’ll probably get to visit there again in the future and next time I will have a camera). One is that it is a 4 stage process: (1) initial filtering of the seeds to separate them from large debris; (2) pressing oil; (3) passing the oil through a centrifuge filter; (4) passing the oil through another mechanical filter. That’s quite a lot of work … we were there for almost two hours. Which brings me to the second thing that amazes me … the price … it costs 10 bani (~2.5 eurocents) per kg … which means that for two hours translates to ~6 lei (~1.5 euro dollars) – though the prices was higher because the oozy stuff that comes out of the press also has a price per kilo (though I don’t know how much). Two hours of supervised work by the family that owns the press & electricity (8 oils pressed worked simultaneously on the batch we brough with us). Crazy!!!
Weather sidenot: when we left the house in the morning it was -8.5 degress (celsius) – freakin’ cold and a heavy fog cover. There is a well known (to me anyways 🙂 verse in buddhism on what is real and what is unreal – that a cloud doesn’t really disappear or cease to exist – rather it changes form. It was fascinating to observer my emotions responding to the fog – a heavy uninviting feeling … and then to see that emotion change is we headed out of the village (on the way to the oil press) … once we gained a little altitude the sun broke through the fog … and as the fog lifted so did my emotions – spectactular! When we got back to our village there was still a heavy fog and I got heavier again … I really wanted to go out and do some work … but not possible in this kind of weather. When I got home (~11:30) it was -4.5 degrees outside. I went in, relit the fire and had some breakfast. By around 13:00 the fog lifted and the sun came through … it was almost 10 degrees … unbelievable change in under 2 hours. So with a delay it seems that mother nature did eventually answer my wish from yesterday 🙂
I quickly brought out the pieces of wood that needed finshing applied … and got them done. Then I went out to the humanure hacienda and closed it off some more (higher then it was before) in my ongoing effort to prevent the dogs from feasting on our feces. I think it worked … I dumped a couple of buckets and at the end of the day the pile was untouched (the hay cover was still in place rather then scratched aside).
By the time I finished that project the finishing had dried (the wonder of water-based finishes sitting in the sun) so I brought out the sander with a very fine grit sand paper and a polishing pad and finished the pieces. I then assembled the last unit and moved it indoors together with all the tools I would need to complete assembly inside … I did so just in time as the sun was setting and it was getting very cold. I collected the chickens and ducks, fed and watered them, locked up, fed the dogs and moved inside. The assembly didn’t go smoothly because there was a problem in the base unit itself (the assembly didn’t go great because it was a very deep cabinet (80 cm) … anyways I managed to get through it and will need to do some patching tomorrow to get it done properly.
Dinner is warm, as is the room I am in … so calling it another day 🙂
Today was a cloudy and cold day and so I couldn’t move on with the little bit of finishing remaining for me to complete the kitchen cabinet. So I did all sorts of things started with the chainsaw on more firewood … a bit of woodworking on what I hope will turn out to be neat towel hangers (integrated into the cabinet) … I learned today that delicate things are better done by hand then by power tools … small tasks here and there … then the axe went down on the wood cut by the chainsaw in the morning (at least part of it).
Andreea completed (I think) preparations for the course this weekend … tomorrow morning she leaves to the city again for the weekend.
Mother nature … I know you’ve been patient and kind with me … but can we compromise on cold but sunny tomorrow? Snow is also OK … then sun … I need sunshine to work a bit more (I’ll be really fast and efficient about it … I promise) … then it’s all yours 🙂
nothing much to tell … woodworking yesterday … great progress.
Then Andreea came home and we had to go back to Cluj (arghhh!) because we got word from the bus-service that our packages from the UK were arriving around 11pm … so a long day turned into a long night … we made it back around 00:30 … I couldn’t find sleep. Woke up at 5am … drew a design of our house that occupied me as I lay in bed … cold morning … smoke coming from the stove (fixed it today) … more woodworking today … shelves on top of kitchen cabinet are assembled … again assembly didn’t go to smooth … but worked out OK.
Tired … hope to get sleep tonight.
Yesterday was all finishing day. Some parts were getting finish applied, others were in sanding. I was working both tasks trying to make the best of the day … especially the sun which taunted and tricked me. When it was very cloudy I started applying finish in the barn, when it got sunny I brought all the parts out … then it got really cloudy again … I was sure rain was coming … so I carried all the parts back in (carefully – one by one because by now they were coated with finish that was drying) … then of course the sun came out and stayed out most of the day. But I was very content because I managed to finish all the parts of the lower kitchen cabinet.
Today started off with self inflicted suffering. I woke up to clear sky and the sun came out. I wanted to make the most of the day so I headed out earlier then usual when everything was still frosted. I dressed up really well (full set of fleece undergarments + thick socks + two layers of gloves) … and I started working … and my hands started to get cold … I continued assuming they would get warm … then my hands started hurting … I insisted some more … until I couldn’t anymore … I ran inside practically in tears with pain and did everything I could to get my hands warm. It took a few minutes and the pain subsided … it’s too cold to work outside too early in the morning … a warm-able workshop would have been so useful … but alas.
So I waited indoors. I made another cup of tea and began to clear the space where later in the day I would assemble the cabinet. Then I headed out and began to work in two stations again. One station was the final sanding and then applying finish to the shelves above the cabinet. The other was final finishing in preparation for assembly of the lower cabinet. Finishing, even the mediocre quality I strive for, takes up much time and space! In the 1st station I had to sand with fine grit, then clean with a damp cloth to raise the grain, then sand again and only then to apply finish. In the 2nd station I was sanding with extra-fine grit and then to run a polisher-pad with the power sander (at least) over the exposed surfaces.
Anyways … I finally reached the point where the remaining pieces were drying and the ready pieces were indoor in their cleared space ready for assembly. My assembly plans didn’t work out very well so assembly was more difficult then I had expected. But I got through it and there is a large 130x80cm counter-top with plenty of cabinet space beneath it and even more shelf coming hopefully tomorrow. It’s very rewarding to see a project come together. Also, with every project I tend to dry something new … either a different structural approach or better finishing … and with every project I make new mistakes which I try to improve on in the next project. Great stuff 🙂
Two packages filled with goods … one from the UK (should arrive in a day or two) and another from the USA (should arrive in a week) are headed our way … which means we’ll have two more frequent trips to the city … but with wonderful goods … including much awaited books (more construction and gardening and the like) which will keep us busy and thinking throughout the winter 🙂
So today was a city (Cluj) day … mostly shopping, mostly for things we still need for winter.
We got everything from boiled linseed oil (rapidly becoming our favorite wood-working finishing), rice, cereals (an occasional snack-meal which we hope to gradually replace with home made alternatives … though that may take a few years), tea-bags (to be replaced with home-grown and dried plants), oil pressed from fresh sunflower seeds (we picked up 15 liters in a village on the way to the city – directly from the room in which the pressing machine is operated) which together with a few liters of olive oil (which we are used to) will hold us through winter, a few red-meat servings for Andreea’s once a month craving and bodily demand (it will complimented by fresh pork meet round-about Christmas when pigs are butchered all over Romania), chocolate wafers (I’ve been eating too much of them … they are a fall-back when my days are hectic and I just want something sweet Now), frozen pasta (for those days when we just don’t feel like cooking), dog-food (though we hope to move to alternatives that are cheaper for us and healthier for the dogs, a sewing machine (finally a tool Andreea will have all to herself), a radiator (to keep our above-ground pantry from freezing), a small heater for our new shower-room (to keep our asses from freezing), sheets of sandpaper (to be complimented by a batch of pads for the power sander – on its way in a package from the UK), some hinges for the new kitchen cabinets, warm boots for Andreea … and so on.
With all these things it’s becoming kind of urgent that I build our planned “fenced box” – a simple wooden frame wrapped in dense hardware cloth (a fence with really small holes) where we will keep all the things we want to keep away from the mice (eg rice, cereals, sacks of flour, etc.).
I dropped Andreea off at Nora’s place at the end of the day – they will be working through the weekend preparing for the coming Doula course they will be teaching together – and I continued to make my way home (including a stop to pick up the sunflower seed oil). The car is packed full and will stay that way until tomorrow morning. I got back home at around 9pm and already the ambient temperature (according to the car’s thermometer) was below zero – so the car will be a fine fridge until tomorrow morning and I can unpack it in daylight.
I am running the rocket stove at full capacity – feeding it only thin and dry sticks … so I can get it’s mass thoroughly warm before I fall asleep – then that heat will continue to spread into the room and keep it nice and warm into the early morning hours. It’s been only 30 minutes and already the top of the stove is warming up nicely. A cup of tea awaits me … and then maybe a movie to switch my mind off from the day.
Today looked really wintery at first … and though some more light and eventually some sun came through it stayed wintery throughout.
I spent the first part of the day with a second-sanding , then raising the grain (since I am using a water based finish) and then another quick sanding. All in all this sanding took longer then I expected (and I am not working to rigorous standards). But eventually I got it done and finally moved into applying finishing. Got all of the bottom cabinet pieces with one layer on one side and the side panels with a second layer. All in all very good progress. I just remembers that I forgot to check in on the counter-top finishing progress (stored elsewhere) … oh well.
And this time I showered … again … well actually for the first time since the other day Andreea used up most of the water and I had just a minute or two of hot water. This time I was in first and WOW … huge pleasure both from showering and from doing so in a shower stall I designed and built from the ground up. Though I do not claim objectivity – this is one of the nicest shower stalls I’ve showered in 🙂
Tomorrow we go to the city (haven’t been in 2 or 3 weeks … hurray) with a hopefully final shopping list of winter stuff we still need. Andreea will be staying at Nora’s over the weekend to complete preparations for the doula course (next weekend) so I will be returning home on my own. Word is really spreading about the course and in addition to the 2nd course in Brasov there is now a 3rd course planned in Bucharest for early February 🙂
Today I spent almost the entire day with a breathing mask on my face and an orbital sander on my hand. Sanding was more difficult then it can/should be because I am using green (undried) wood … all we could get our hands on. Green wood does not respond well to planing – some of the wood fibers escape the cutter while others get torn out (more then necessary) … which ultimately leaves more sanding work. This will improve with time as the wood continues to dry naturally. I’ve completed the first sanding (the roughest sanding) of the bottom cabinet parts … which means that tomorrow I’ll be able to put the front facing parts through a second (more delicate sanding) and then into at least one layer of finishing (maybe even two if the sun is out and the water-based finishing dries fast enough).
I took a small break to help Andreea and our neighbor in preparing a huge load of cabbages for pickling … we now have a 120 liter plastic barrel filled with cabbages going through their first phase of pickling. They will require some attention over the next 10 days … and after that we will have loads of cabbage for winter.
Andreea is continuing preparations for the course and the birth of what promises to be a unique book for Romanian women.
Dinner (mamaliga) is cooking … I’m tired and hungry … signs of a day well spent 🙂