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Today I spent the first few work hours doing another round of finishing on the last pieces of the shower stall (will we be showering at home in the coming week?. Looking good (though the working conditions are tough for achieving a quality finish). Then, after a short hop to the village, I got to work on the last piece – a vertical post that will house the faucet and shower head. This is the first time I went to work with a chisel and hammer … great stuff … slow work … but I don’t think I could have achieved a similar results with any of the power tools. I was just getting started with sanding … when I had to break away and join our neighbor’s son who kindly helped us with their horse and carriage (after the other neighbor decided he would help us but only for an exorbitant amount of money) to carry over most of the hay piles we collected a few days ago. So we have another huge pile of hay and two+ more piles left in the field.

Andreea again spent most of the day caressing the rocket stove and painting our windows with her creative energies. The bedroom still isn’t done so we still won’t sleep there tonight. But the rocket is in full burn, very warm (as is the room around it) and the earth-clay-plaster is holding together great ๐Ÿ™‚

Packages from our shopping spree have begun to move around the world … it will be great fun when they start arriving ๐Ÿ™‚

Very tired and hungry (dinner is cooking), my nose and eyes are runny protecting my delicate insides from all the dust I was exposed to today. Not a pleasant feeling … but a sign that protection is in place ๐Ÿ™‚

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Today’s report is brief. I made excellent progress with the shower stall. All, except one, of the pieces are cut, sanded and mostly in finishing = at least 1st layer of lacquer applied. Today I finally assembled the drain-plate (all wood structure to be covered inside with pond liner) … and that really came together nicely … it was great fun to see a design come to life and click together seamlessly.

Andreea spent all day in our bedroom ๐Ÿ™‚ She tended to the rocket stove finishing as it heated it up and it is looking good … though there are some cracks she has managed to smooth most of them out and will tend to the rest tomorrow … most importantly nothing has fallen off. She didn’t let it get to hot … we’ll turn up the volume gradually. She has also (finally!) opened the colorful paints we purchased and is beginning to decorate both the windows and the rocket stove … I am writing this and she is still completely immersed in her painting ๐Ÿ™‚ How wonderful.

Yesterday night we went on a planned online shopping spree. It is wonderful for me to look at everything we got as a reflection of where life is and where it is going: plant seeds, plant extracts, books on cob & forestry & birth & poultry, screws and wood sanding pads – ain’t that a s

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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 ย (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 marketย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ Abundance ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ See you on the other side ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Looks we will be taking time off from work this Saturday and visiting the city … we’ve been invited to an … inviting event ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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Today started as a feel good today but didn’t end up as one ๐Ÿ™ 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 ย 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 ย 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 ย 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.

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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 ๐Ÿ™ – I can’t wait to replace this stove with another rocket) and … well … we’ll see ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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,ย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚ ย food is ready … off to eat and unpack ๐Ÿ™‚

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today was a strange day … very shifty … sun, wind, warm, cold …

started the day with pear picking … great fun … got a nice load (and plenty more is still on the trees) … planning to make both compote and jam.

spent a few more hours figuring out final construction details for the stove … this time also taking into consideration some subtle aesthetic qualities. ย Everything except the 1st level of bricks is disassembled. I then carried the bricks over to the house porch (lots of work!) and sorted them into 3 piles depending on their condition (pristine, ok, dirty). I then played around with maxing a first mortar mix with sifted clay (available all around us) and sand (left over from the initial house renovations). It’s a strange mix … I think I’ll be adding a bit more clay to the mix when I actually build with it.

Our neighbor came by and gifted us with a huge (at least 20kg) sack of potatoes … just as we ran out and were contemplating getting a large sack to store as a winter supply ๐Ÿ™‚

Amidst all this I also shortened the chimney for our existing wood stove … hoping that would improve the smoke situation (the house getting all smoked up from the stove … terribly unpleasant and unhealthy) … doesn’t look like it helped much.

Then rounding up and feeding the animals (dogs tried to kill each other again) … and dinner is almost ready too ๐Ÿ™‚

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Rumors said today would be sunny and warm … the day didn’t start like that at all … frost was covering everything … outside had a unique (to me) pale look to it and it stayed that way until the sun found its way through the haze and revived everything.

I started out with the rocket again and after more modifications we have reached what looks like a final model. The only thing we can’t test is how all that thermal mass we added to the rocket itself will warm up. We are ready to bring it ย home.

We then went out to get more parts we knew we needed for the indoor water project. When we got back we were in for a surprise. We spoke to the guys who fixed our house initially and asked if they could help us with the holes in the walls (really thick walls) that we needed to bring water in and let greywater out. They sent us another professional plumber who was really nice and friendly (the first one was less so and very expensive which is why we decided to do it on our own). As he was drilling the holes we asked how much he would charge to complete the job and he quoted a decent price … plus he was a really nice and friendly guy.

So … we now have running water in the house … we can’t do anything with it yet because a few small pieces are still missing. We’ll get those tomorrow and then we should have a wood/electric boiler working, a sink and hopefully in a few days ย I’ll be able to complete the shower stall … and that will be a huge leap forward (though Andreea in her optimistic spirit and feminine excitement believes we have already made the leap).

Feels like everything is coming together ๐Ÿ™‚