Today was a neat day … we did nothing of the things we planned to do (me: woodworking – for which it was an excellent day of sun and little wind, her: taking another turn at plastering our rocket stove … hopefully with something that will stick this time).
In the morning we went to the market and had a terrific visit – though we didn’t get much food! We found a nice guy who sells corn and oats … we purchased a few sacks (sack = more or less 50kg!) and he will deliver to us a few more. We also purchased a locally made (neighboring village) sheep-wool vest (sheep skin on the outside, wool on the outside) for Andreea and ordered one for me (tailored to my size – will be ready in 2 weeks – winter is coming and the guy was taking orders faster then he could write!). On the way out Andreea spotted in one of the horse-carriages parked near the market a steel barrel … my jaw dropped (we’ve been looking for one for many weeks … and it WAS for sale … a really nice, new, shiny orange barrel … and we purchased it (for half the asking price in the city for a used barrel) and spoke to the guy about purchasing another two barrels … which we’ll pick up from his place (same neighboring village where the vests are made) in one of the coming evenings. Very cool market visit!
We then stopped by the village hardware store and purchased a few small things we needed (PVC pipe to distance gray water from the house foundations – until we can do something better with it; a few more plumbing pieces to setup a winter-ready outside faucet). We got home and thats when the plans took off and life took over 🙂
We started by dividing the huge and heavy sacks into smaller more manageable sacks. Then we went to finding them safe (=not accessible to mice) and comfortable storage (= animal feed easy to get to and close to where we need it). We stored some of the sacks in some barrels in the barn (where the chickens and ducks currently live) and other sacks we hung, using thick wire, from ceiling joists in the garage and summer kitchen. We will be checking about another storage option for wheat-flower and corn-flour (mamaliga) – maybe large glass jars – though we need to ask if flour will keep well in sealed jars. Mice are an issue that needs to be dealt with … we set a lot of traps and catch a lot of mice … but they keep coming! We wouldn’t mind sharing with them … but they leave their deposits in return and that can lead to worm problems … so … no sharing with the mice!
Then, as we were hanging a sack in the kitchen I saw that the pears were beginning to spoil … so we decided to get to work on making pear compote and jam. The compote jars are now in the last phase – jars cooking in water to pressurize and seal them. The pears for the jam are cut and covered in sugar. Tomorrow we will cook them and preserve them in jars.
In the midst of it all Andreea gets a phone call from a woman who is the second woman to sign up to the second Doula course Andreea will be teaching. This second course was born when an interested woman contacted Andreea and asked her is she would travel to Brasov to teach – Andreea agreed (given a minimum number of participants). A date was set, information was published … that was the day before yesterday … and today a second woman signed up! Boy does it feel good to be in tune with life’s vibe 🙂
Oh … and Andreea just ordered for us 18kg of organic honey from a farm in Sibiu … that should get us through the winter and then some 🙂 Abundance 🙂
I hope tomorrow will be another sunny day … I really want to make progress with the bedroom cabinets and shower stall. Those two projects will have a great and welcome impact on our lives – as will the vests, barrel and compote 🙂
The last two days have been really fall-ish = late light, early dark, much gray, occasional sun, windy … it takes some getting used to on my part, it also takes some discipline to get out and work.
Yesterday we rested for the first part of the day (continuing our day off in Cluj on Saturday) … during the second half of the day I managed to complete a wood-working experiment which resulted in a dry-assembled side panel of our future bedroom cabinet. It confirmed my construction strategy works … so I am can now proceed with the work on the cabinet … hopefully fairly rapidly.
Today Andreea tried again to plaster our rocket stove with cob – to both make it nice looking and sealed so that no poisonous gases escape from it. Yesterday we spotted a dumped pile of cob and we had hoped that it would work when remixed. It went on just fine, but then when we fired up the rocket the plaster dried and fell off (just like what happened when we tried to fix the walls of our house). I still think the cob mix was good … but maybe not as a plaster … anyways … still looking for a plastering solution. The rocket works really great … the room got really warm really fast … we left some laundry in it to dry.
I continued to move the leftover lumber up into the barn attic – very slow and physical work (now only heavy 2×8 and 2×10 pieces are left). I made really good progress, another session or two of lifting … and that will be done … freeing the barn space and enabling me to setup a basic shop in it (so I can continue to work when the weather outside gets difficult). In the middle of all this I took some time to sand and finish (yacht lacquer) a few more pieces of our shower stall (that were cut and waiting around) … so hopefully the day after tomorrow I can start to assemble the stall (I hope tomorrow to be able to cut and finish the last remaining pieces).
Yesterday started with some wood chopping. First time using the new ax … good tools make a big difference. We then spent the rest of the day together with our neighbor collecting hay into 6 very large piles from 3+ acres. We purchased the cut hay from her x-partner (they separstarted with some wood chopping. First time using the new ax … good tools make a big difference. We then spent the rest of the day together with our neighbor collecting hay into 6 very large piles from 3+ acres. We purchased the cut hay from her x-partner (they separated recently) but had not been able to get it collected (we knew we might not be able to get around to it). But, she needed the field cleared (they rented it and it needed to be cleared before winter) and the hay was really good … so we went at it. It took a long time (the rest of the day) but we have very nice piles. Another neighbor promised to help us with his horse-carriage to carry it over to our place. We were then invited to dinner together with our neighbors … rabbit stew for them and spinach and mamaliga for me 🙂
Oh … and our neighbor gifted us with three female chickens … approximately the same age as our flock … though much smaller. Our chickens range free (for now) and hers are fenced in and fed. Ironically we need to feed our chickens much less and they are much bigger!
Today rain (not heavy but pretty consistent) arrived mid-day … which thankfully meant that temperatures weren’t freezing anymore. We had frosted mornings for almost two weeks straight.
Anyways … we took our time in doors this morning. Eventually we got started with some work. We fired up the wood-boiler again so that we would have hot water throughout the day. Andreea also used the washing machine for the first time. It turned out to be another excellent buy – very quiet and excellent spinning which meant that the laundry came out practically dry (we paid a bit more for the fast spinning capability). At one point the washing machine was running, we had hot water and music was playing … its starting to feel like a home 🙂
I finished insulating the summer kitchen windows so that it would not freeze. We have and will continue to store all our winter food there … and though cold is good for preservation, freezing will kill the food. We will probably put in there a small radiator set on a low temperature to protect the place from freezing. That was another important step in our winter readiness … glad to have that done.
Then I re-opened and resealed the steel top of our rocket stove … this time using the refractory cement instead of the clay/cob mixed we tried. Well the cement has cracked too … but now I know why. It seems that when the steel plate is heated it warps a bit and the corners (and probably sides) bend upwards … as if pulling out of the cement. So this time we’ll let it do it’s thing and then reseal it again with another layer of cement. Hopefully that will get it sealed properly … otherwise poisonous gas is leaking out and we can’t stay in the room (otherwise the rocket is working fine).
I then cooked us a soup. I started cooking on the rocket to see if it works. It does, it is slower then the direct fire wood-stove but it does work … especially at the sweet spot right above the heat riser. Also if the rocket is fed smaller and really dry sticks the heat turns up very fast. That was an important experiment … as it opens the way for our second rocket to replace the existing wood-stove … which we want to get done before winter … but that may not work out …. sooo many other more important things still to do.
Andreea spent the day restoring some cleanliness and order to the house. She made a lot of stuff disappear – so there is a renewed sense of order. She also cleaned up quite a bit … everything is still in temporary arrangement … so things can get quite messy. Finally she helped me cut my hair and shave … both very long over due. Very refreshing and welcoming. Tomorrow we have a day off at the city … including a hot shower 🙂 See you on the other side 🙂
Yesterday started out as a sunny day and I decided to make it one both inside and out (following the frustrations from the day before). So I did nothing at all with the smoking rocket 🙂
I did however manage to solve the smoking stove problem by removing some of the firebricks we put in to increase the heat-efficiency of the oven. Andreea suggested that as we tried everything else and nothing seemed to help. So today, before lighting the stove in the morning … I pulled out the oven … and smoke no more.
Instead I set up the saw horses and continued work on our bedroom cabinet. I continued the cutting (the circular saw did a wonderful job of converting thick 2 by 10’s into cabinet posts. I also did a lot of planing … though it didn’t go very smoothly because the wood is very green, probably greener then the first batch I used … so in many places the grain either got torn out completely or did not catch on the knife at all.
I folded up in the later afternoon and set out to pick up Andreea from the village center. She finally got back from a magical home-birth … we had a lot of talking to do that night. Andreea arranged a pile of mattresses and blankets into a bed and we slept in the living room where the wood stove is working.
Today we started the day by helping our neighbor bring over a few large sacks of animal feed from a neighboring village. It was from a large pig farm … another example of an old-school farming business (done the hard way) having a hard time surviving in current market conditions (low prices, low quality). Anyways …
We got back and got to work on the rocket once again. Long story short we have a working almost-rocket-stove. The feeding chamber is the part that failed us so it is currently a manual feed rocket. The day included much more frustration … but once Andreea convinced me to give up on the feed as it is by the book … we arrived at a working rocket. It’s gotten very warm very fast on very little wood. It came to life just in time … because as it got warm we realized the room was very humid (it was very cold for many days) … so it is now drying up and hopefully regaining a healthy balance. Though it is already warm … we’ll probably sleep the night in the living room again … and tomorrow we’ll resume sleeping in our pleasantly warm bedroom.
I am very curious to see which room will be warmer in the morning, the rocket with all its thermal mass or the room we will sleep in with the traditional metal box 🙂
Looks we will be taking time off from work this Saturday and visiting the city … we’ve been invited to an … inviting event 🙂 and will probably take an easy day of rest (though I am sure by then something will come up that we need from the city 🙂
Today started as a feel good today but didn’t end up as one 🙁 I am bummed.
Andreea is still away doing helping the new parents into their new parenthood. She should be back tomorrow. I am very happy she is there … but facing the hardships here on my own not fun.
I managed to get a few hours sleep in the late morning hours. I awoke to a clear sky and frosted world. This time buckets of water outside were frozen solid. Though it was a very inviting day for woodworking … I decided to continue with the rocket stove because I really want to sleep in a warm room.
But … shortly after getting started I realized that there was no running water. The outside faucet was frozen solid and the inside faucet could move but a drizzle came out at first … then nothing. Oh boy … I knew I would have to add that to my list.
I started work with the rocket and it went great … I installed the insulation tube and then the insulation (ashes) then went on to build the “brick barrel” with the refractory cement I got yesterday. I was glad for the cement as the brick structure went higher it needed the stronger binding. I finished the brick work, placed the top metal plate and impro-cobbed it in place. That’s when friction started.
I couldn’t get the flexible stainless steel chimney pipe to fit either onto the stove exit pipe or into the chimney hole in the wall. I tinkered around with it, got frustrated but eventually got it to hold onto the stove exit pipe … the other end I let lay in the floor facing the exit of the house. Then I lit the stove … and what a mess of smoke. I was so disappointed. There was a good draft but apparently not good enough … smoke backed into the room and flames shot up the sticks in the feed chamber. Total failure (though the model worked really well!). I set that aside and will see what to do about it … maybe tomorrow, maybe not.
I did however light the wood burning water and it works … we have hot water. I did it to help the pipes defrost a bit … but doing the dishes with warm water was a delight. I though to wash up a bit but I’m too tired and don’t feel like it (there’s no shower yet … so it’s still somewhat of a production).
After ditching the rocket I went to insulate the main water supply pipe. I did a quickie on it … OK but not great … I’m curious to see what will happen tomorrow. I then stuck around the water supply pipe ditch and shoveled dirt back into it (we left it open thinking to take advantage of it being there to put in electric grounding rods). It was both difficult and meditative.
I then did the closing day ritual … collected the ducks and chickens into the barn, fed the dogs, locked everything up … and too tired and lazy to cook decent food so I’ve pulled out a backup frozen pasta … cooking now (in the smoking and wood guzzling old stove I so want to replace with another rocket … arghhh) … will grate cheese on it … and hope for a restful night and fresh new day tomorrow.
It’s 2:30 in the morning … and though there are frequently nights where I am at this time (recently) this time I think I am spiked by a coffee I had as I drove home late at night.
Started the day at the computer revisiting plans for our future bedroom cabinet. It has moved up on the priority list because mice are on the rise and we would like to get our things out of boxes and storage boxes in the mice-inviting storage space and into the house. I played around with the plans a bit … kind of developing my own approach to cabinet making as I move from one project to another. I finally settled on a design that has some elegance, that I can probably manufacture with reasonable effort and that should be comfortable to assemble when it all come together. I then got out the mitre saw (it was a mostly-sunny though still cold day) and worked at it for a few hours cutting everything to length. Next is some (a lot of) planing and some more cutting to width … and well .. on and on.
Packed up early, headed out to Cluj to get some refractory cement (for the top part of the rocket stove which in our case is a brick box … where I am not confident the sand-clay mortar is structurally strong enough), also picked up some more boiled linseed oil for finishing and then continued to a dinner with a dear friend from Israel who is passing through on an organized trip. It was odd being amongst an entire group of Israelis. I got home late when it was dark and very cold … crept into bed and just now crept back out of it. The stove is eating through wood, the room is warming up (and smoking up too 🙁 – I can’t wait to replace this stove with another rocket) and … well … we’ll see 🙂
Today started off as an unknown .. and now that is is over it is much clearer.
While the day was still trying to figure itself out in the morning I managed to place (no mortar) yet the first layer of bricks for the rocket stove in its designated location in our bedroom. Great stuff 🙂
Then they day decided where its going … mostly that Andreea needed to get to Oradea to support (as a Doula) her first home-birth here in Romania. Very exciting for her … as I am sure it is for the couple (our friends Ina & Sabin). So we decided to make a few arrangements in the city that would include dropping Andreea off at the train station.
Just before we left a small red car appeared in front of our house and honked … a rare and amusing appearance in our parts. It turned out to be a courier (working for a local subcontractor who delivers for UPS in our area) who had a package for us – a pair of quality axes we ordered from Germany (sadly we gave up trying to find them in Romania) – great surprise – super fast (and amusing) delivery.
We picked up a package (I will unpack soon after this short update is published) from my parents containing all sorts of practical goodies … most notably Tehina … which we can’t fin here in Romania. Also, we found a flexible steel chimney pipe that is needed for the rocket stove. The rest is uninteresting.
I left Andreea at the train station, made another stop on the way home and now I am home alone in Romania 🙂 food is ready … off to eat and unpack 🙂