Old House New Deck

I’m still not really up to blogging extensively … but I’ve been asked about this numerous times. So here goes … a short review in pictures of last years construction project … a new deck, attached to the old house, which serves as an intermediate space between inside and outside and as a summer kitchen … a place to be,

It started by clearing out the space from the old and rotting benches and table which sat there and served us well for the first few years. It required quite a bit of touch manual excavation littered with stubborn tree roots:
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some measuring and layout, responding to the natural shape of the place and characteristics of construction materials:

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Leveling and placement of of forms for concrete pads (most of the concrete was underground):

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Construction materials arrive:

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A structure starts to appear:

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… a framed roof:

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… roof tiles going on:

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a space starts to become a place

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… framing a floor:

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… putting in the floor itself:

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… and a place is born:

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some “utilities” are gradually added … cooking rocket stoves:

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… and a grill:

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… including an experiment cob counter-top   (made of the same soil dug out from under the deck:

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Update: a view from the plan … what was built was fairly true to what I planned:

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Japanology – Persimmons

I found many interesting details (some very small) in this video … not just about Persimmons but also about nature, humans, evolution, Japanese culture …

The Rocket Mass Heater Builder’s Guide

This kickstarter was originally planned for last year … its finally arrived. Until now there has really only been one book on Rocket Mass Heaters by Ianto Evans, but having read it and built rocket stoves guided by it, I feel it is out of date (though I haven’t seen the latest edition). There has been much evolution since this book was written and I am confident this new book by Erica (and Ernie) Wisner is a much needed replacement for it.

If you are new to rocket mass heaters and you get to the kickstarter in time (there are a limited number of places available) I recommend the $75 bundle which includes the Village Video DVD – which is the best I’ve seen so far and I have a feeling will compliment the book very well (since it also follows a build by Erica and Ernie). That bundle should give you a very good start towards building your own rocket mass heater.

We have not started building yet

Once in a while I get a question about the house that was to be built at Bhudeva … and also about what happened to updates on the blog … I thought to answer in a short post.

Construction of a new house hasn’t started at Bhudeva.

Me & We

One reason is that the “we” that we were is not the “we” that we are. There have been major life changes and transformations in and around Bhudeva. I don’t want to get into that yet because it touches intimately not just on my life but also on the lives of others. Personally it has been a surprising, sometimes pleasant, sometimes demanding journey … and it is ongoing. To meet that journey in a good way I have made it a priority to care for myself and my well-being (physicall, emotionally, energetically and spiritually).

I have turned most of my attention inward, where I have been able to find and sustain (sometimes with a lot of effort) a sense of center and stability. This affected many things, including my writing. I have written very little both on my personal site and here at Bhudeva. I am now starting to feel a desire to write again … but that has not translated yet into actual writing (this post being an exception). I am treating this desire with delicate care, allowing it to become and mature … not pushing it, not making any demands of myself, not setting any expectations.

Money

Another reason is money … this is another expansive subject of reflection for me … but for now I can say that when it comes to money I would like two conditions to exist for a house build to begin:

  1. The first is an initial sum of money that can be comfortably dedicated to construction.
  2. The second is a steady flow of money which can be directed towards the building project.

However, I believe that even if the money was available right now, construction still wouldn’t start because in my mind and heart creating a house is intimately related to me and “we” … and it will take more time for there to be “clarity” about who “we” are and what that says about a house and living at Bhudeva.

Design

Technically speaking I feel that I have found most of the information needed to build a suitable and efficient house for the climate conditions here at Bhudeva. However, until recently I have not found a good way to design a house – to give it good shape. This is something that has been on my mind for 4 or 5 years now … and I felt that any choices I made when thinking about the shape of a house were arbitrary … intellectual exercises. Some configurations felt like reasonable solutions to getting all the desired functions of a house in place. But how can I tell that a design is Good … that it will create a pleasant house to live in?

I have been living with this particular question for 2 or 3 years now. I have been looking for some knowledge that could guide me. During the summer of 2015 I discovered a fascinating work titled “The Nature of Order” by an architect named Christopher Alexander. It is a 4 volume work spanning ~2000 pages. It is touching me deeply, nourishing me spiritually and answering a lot of questions I had about designing a house. Reading it has been a regular part of my mornings for the past half year. I am in the 3rd book and I have been publishing some quotes that have inspired me as I am going through the book. I have been tempted to start thinking about the new house numerous times during my reading, but I have decided to wait until I finish all 4 books.

3rd House

Another piece of wisdom I’ve encountered for self-builders is that you will get things right on the 3rd house. It takes at least two construction projects to make some necessary learning mistakes, so that when you get to the 3rd house you can do it right. This has been my experience with rocket stoves and I have been trying to apply this wisdom to construction:

  • Two years ago I built a wood-shed.
  • Last year I built a sheltered terrace (wooden deck, an overhead roof, an outdoor kitchen ..) attached to the house (maybe I will publish post with a bit of information about this build).
  • This year there are plans to build a cellar with some of the building technologies that will be used in the future house.
  • There are also plans to renovate and transform the old summer kitchen into a living space .. this will be an opportunity to play with and apply some of the ideas I’ve learned from “The Nature or Order”.

How To Build

I have a lot to say about how to approach construction projects (maybe any project) based on my experiences in recent years at Bhudeva and amplified by what I have been reading in the “The Nature of Order”. I don’t know when and how I will be able to express what is moving inside me. For now I will say this. If you want to create a house that is vibrating with life then the process of creating that house needs to also vibrate with life. What kind of house will be created by a construction process that is painful, stressful, insecure, difficult …? My personal efforts are therefore directed at how to create conditions for a construction process that will be spacious, pleasant, inspiring, loving … I believe these conditions needs to be established before a single earthbag is filled with earth.

For me this is not about building walls … it is about creating a home.