Monday - September 19, 2011

Went out early this morning to do the second layer of finishing on the kitchen sink cabinet.

Then most of the day went to more food preservations. More peppers were roasted (~3.5kg) and then cooking. Andreea’s intentions were to make our first Zakuska (a generic Romanian name for a diverse range of cooked vegetable mash like things … really tasty … and a substitute for vegetables during the cold winter months) – which we have are. A large pot is on the stove in its last cooking stage and the jars are outside in the rocket stove. Soon we will bring the jars in, sterilize them in the over, fill them and cook them some more … then the day will be over.

But I also suggested we start making apple compote … to which Andreea agreed … but later we realized we took on too much … didn’t have enough large pots … etc. But we did make two  jars which came out really tasty … the leftovers are awaiting us after dinner. The compote project will be resumed … hopefully tomorrow.

… and in the midst of it all I did some light sanding and polishing of the kitchen cabinet … the sink _and faucet are installed and the cabinet is now functional … looks great. It doesn’t have doors for now … we’ll see what to do about that later. It also doesn’t have a back … I’ll take care of that once we finish the plumbing.

Andreea is calling me … time to bring the jars in and bring this day one step closer to a close.

Sunday - September 18, 2011

Another long day gone bye … great stuff today too.

Our neighbors are separating (we think they were a great couple), she is staying here (which makes us happy) and he is going back to his home-village. We purchased from them one of their hay piles .. and this morning he brought it over to our place. We had a coffee together and said goodbye … we were sad to see him go.

I finished assembling and applying a first coat of finish to the kitchen sink cabinet. Tomorrow another coat pf finish then some fine sanding and polishing and another piece of furniture goes to work for us 🙂 I also assembled a tricky part of the base of the shower stall … a skeleton which creates the drainage for the stall … worked out great too.

Andreea was back at the rocket stove continuing our food preservation work … this time she roasted 10kg eggplant and 5kg peppers … both as a preparation for two different kinds of Zakuska.

At the end of the day we used the running rocket to heat bath water … I pushed lots of wood in to see how fast it can heat water and we had steam coming out of ~15 liters of water in 20 minutes. Hot water was great … though it is getting cool in the evenings (and it was freakin cold in the morning).

Food is warming … nice to be at the end of another fruitful day.

Roadtrip to Piatra Neamt & Bacau

On the day we moved out of the city we set out on a Roadtrip through Piatra Neamt (Andrreea’s home town) to Bacau where Andreea’s aunt prepared many village goods for us. I’ll get to the visit itself in a follow-up post, for now I’ll leave you to enjoy some of images of a beautiful green Romania:

Saturday - September 17, 2011

Super long and fruitful today for us … we are beat but extremely satisfied:

  • In the morning we drove to pick up fresh milk and carry over large quantities of freshly picked vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants and peppers) from our neighbors.
  • Then it was humanure-hacienda time for me … we had a full load (4 buckets) to unload 🙂
  • Andreea processed the 20kg of tomatoes into 10 liters of tomato sauce (some of which she also cooked into soup we really shout sit down and eat). The Squeezo was fantastic … we have pictures of the process and will publish it in detail soon. 1o sealed bottles are now wrapped in blankets next to the wall … slowly cooling. We plan to do ~60kg more of tomatoes … and to think that next year we will do this with self grown tomatoes.
  • I almost completed unloading the car from all the stuff we brought back from the city.
  • I decided to assemble first and then finish the kitchen sink cabinet. Went very well … great fun seeing the pieces (started from yucky junk wood) come together … and the sink fit like a charm! Tomorrow a bit more assembly and then finishing (which was the plan for today)

It now seems that Loui (the puppy) doesn’t like being left alone at all … and repeatedly takes a walk down the path to the neighbors’ gate (~200 meters) and whines until they let him in. He’s figured out it works and that he likes it … so there!

Friday - September 16, 2011

Hate the city … I feel like led weights are tied to my legs when I walk in the city … so much superficiality, so much lack of focus (people literally walk lousy), so crowded, so noisy… arghh …

… we did manage to make an efficient day of it – came back with a car loaded (again) with cardboard boxes (intended for sheet mulching), a second batch of jars for winter food preservations, went to apply for a car-tax refund in the county offices, purchased food supplies, finishing materials for additional kitchen furniture AND came home with our Squeezo which made it all the way from the USA … more on that story soon.

We got home and the cherry on top for the busy day was a missing puppy – no where to be seen. Apparently he didn’t like that we left for the day so he strolled over to our neighbors, whined until they opened the gate for him (he’s been there before numerous times with us) … and spent the afternoon there … which is where Andreea found him.

Need to recuperate … looking forward to a soft day tomorrow … easy work with finishing the kitchen sink cabinet … we purchased the water-based material I much prefer to work with … which means I may be able to get all the finishing done by Monday!

It’s 5:30am and sleep has left me … actually it left quite a while ago … it’s just that now I have surrendered to it being gone 🙂

Day before yesterday:

  •  Started off as a great router-work day. I managed to do some half-decent routing work on the posts of our soon-t0-be kitchen sink cabinet. I was very happy with the results.
  • We then went out for a quick visit to the village, when we got back it was really hot out … so that pretty much ended our work day.
  • The gypsy didn’t arrive for work … apparently it was a(nother) holiday. However half way into the day he did arrive with a friend in a car with a small trailer to pick up the junk metal parts he had collected on our property … which he sells to a junk-metal recycler/dealer dude. My first thought was to send him away until he finishes his work … but then realized that we were getting free garbage cleanup so we let him load most of the stuff and carry it away for us.
  • Had a mushy rest of the day … developed a slight headache.


  • Gypsy did not come to work today. Seems like the metals were his primary agenda … anyways …
  • Went out earlier then usual to start working – taking advantage of the cool morning hours. Did some jigsaw cutting and then lots of sanding on all the parts of the kitchen sink cabinet. Then did a quick dry assembly … made some more cuts to the side panels (too wide) … and it’s looking really good. Just when it was assembled on the lawn … it started to rain so that halted the work again.
  • We planned our visit to the city today and went over some more food preservation plans … we need to get both jars and vegetables and get started with that project.
  • In the evening I cut and sanded and finished a few more parts of the shower stall … hopefully I will be able to make some progress with the drain-plate (surface that should drain all the water out of the shower stall) over the weekend.

Andreea and Nora have put together plans for the first Doula course in Romania – they’ve even scheduled the first one for November. Also Andreea’s home-made ointment is continuing to sell from word-t-o-mouth… great stuff 🙂

Today … heading out to Cluj to suckle a bit on the tit of industrialization 🙂

Tuesday - September 13, 2011

Good progress today. All the pieces for the sink cabinet have been planed and cut to size. Amazing to see the transformation of junk wood into something functional and nice 🙂 The pieces of the base of the shower stall are in finishing … initial layer is drying and looks nice.

Gypsy performance was way down today. It was hot today so he was impatient and looking for excuses to get out of the sun. He tried to convince us that cigarettes and alcohol (in addition to food) are part of a workers benefits package. He also wants to bring his wife along with him to work so that can be twice as inefficient. When he was working he did a good job. A few hours before the end of the day he “remembered he had to be somewhere” and left. We paid him for only part of the day. Hope for better communication and more efficient work tomorrow.

9 more bags of corn and 1 additional bag of green peas are in the  freezer. We are all set with corn – hoping for another round of peas. In the coming days will be adding to the freezer some broccoli and cauliflower (some of which will also be pickled together with some peppers and carrots!).

Monday - September 12, 2011

Today I put the shower-stall project on hold since I couldn’t go much further without doing some finishing and assembling (which I couldn’t do because I didn’t have the finishing materials) so I dove into another woodworking project – also water related – a cabinet which will support our sink. Yes water related projects are a theme since we have running water outside and we want to get it in. So we are collecting all the pieces that are involved in having water indoors (sink, shower, water heater and washing machine) so that we can call in a local professional do to the water installation for us.

I fumbled about a lot as the salvaged wood pile is getting slimmer and good findings are harder to come by. I finally managed to get the first pieces cut and planed and assembled – this is the top frame into which the sink will fit. It was a tricky frame to do since it had to accommodate the size and fittings of the sink. The simple way to do it is to make a counter-top surface and cut out a hole for the sink – but that strikes me as wasteful. In our case the cabinet is the exact width of the sink with a small extension counter to occupy the space we have for it. Designing and building the frame was tedious … but it worked.

I then cut to length all the remaining pieces (it was the end of the day and I was tired) – I now have a ton of planing and sanding to do but we will soon have a sink cabinet … and soon after that running water! so many details in something that was so obvious to me all of my life.

I also drove to the village center to pick up a few things – including some finishing materials for the shower stall … oh and also harvested another batch of corn with our neighbor. Tomorrow we will cook it (rocket stove!!) and freeze it.

Also, working around me was a local villager who we hired to continue the cleaning up of the yard around the house. He made good progress. But, most interesting was learning about him. He is of the gypsy community of the village, around 30 years old, married with three kids – they all live in an improvised house of one 5 by 6 meter room with no running water. They have one electricity outlet that they run from a neighbor (they can’t afford to hook up their impromptu house to electricity) and they use it to operate one light-bulb for the kids to study with. The neighbors rip them off and charge them  half of their electricity bill. Their (heating and cooking) stove broke when their improvised cardboard roof caved in and broke it (we invited him to join us when we build our rocket stove – but he declined saying everybody would laugh at him when they saw the barrel). He seems content with his life. He is consistently (and unimaginatively) to convince up to let him bring his wife to work with him. The gap between our lives and mentality is a huge reflection for me.

There is a very strong (and probably not completely unwarranted) prejudice against gypsies in Romania. Romanian look down at that and are careful around them. Our dogs (I haven’t gotten around to telling about them – there are three!) were very aggressive towards him – more then usual. We had to tie Indy (the pack leader) to let him work. Andreea explained to him that she is a very aggressive and dangerous dog – that he shouldn’t come around without letting us know. She is being protective of our home. It’s a very strong prejudice!



Moving Out

It’s been a few months since I’ve updated this blog. We’ve been very busy and in an in-between existence. That’s slowly changing. This past week I started publishing some short daily updates and this post is the first full fledged post in a while. Though I wasn’t writing much the camera was with us at all times and most of the story of recent months is on it.

If I remember correctly we completed the official purchase of Bhudeva (our land and home)  in mid May (I had just returned from a visit to the UK to meet with Ralph Carpenter to consult on hemp construction). This left us with about 2 weeks before our apartment contract expired to finally move out.

We started going out for single days visits to see what is there and start making the place livable. As we got accustomed to being there we began to stay over night. There was no livable place in doors so we added an extension to the house in the form of a tent. At first we camped at a distance from the house:

 … and then gradually moved closer:

We had hoped that many things (beds, cabinets, etc.) left in the house would be useful but instead we found ourselves emptying most of the things in the house. When we began to move things around we also found that the walls were in bad shape. Whole panels of cob were coming of the wall and the rest was cracked – sometimes only the lime finishing layer sometimes deeper.

This image is after we already dragged out quite a few things and there was space to move in the room (the house was very densely packed):

 Outside the grass was overgrown. Fortunately we found an old scythe in the barn (I say this as if it were obvious – but until then I did not know what a scythe was … and when I was first introduced do it, it was using its Romanian name – Coasa – only weeks later did I find it’s English name). Here is Andreea hacking away after some rough sharpening:

 The barn (until recently) was filled with junk and two very large grain storage containers:

When most of the contents of the house were dumped outside we set to work on the walls. We collected some clay from a hill behind the house and created a first cob mix:

When that seemed to work out OK we began mixing larger quantities and applying them to the walls. The results were questionable.

Our neighbor, seeing our efforts, brought over a power-mixer which made cob mixing much faster and easier.

Then we hit our first great obstacle – our cob mix (a natural clay-sand mixture with water and cow-poop) didn’t work. When it dried it cracked and fell off the walls. Before and after:

After 2 or 3 different failed attempts we decided to hire help. We contracted a team of 3 builders (a father and two sons from the village) to fix the walls for us and to pour concrete on the floors (the existing floors were earth floors covered by sheets of a tar-like substance covered by strips of slightly overlapping linoleum).

Unfortunately we were not able to be there when they were working. I really wanted to see how they do the work. They sent us to bring clay from another source – it was a finer and more consistent clay then we had used (our neighbor helped us – he took us to the source in a horse and carriage … we brought back a fully loaded carriage of clay). What I can say is that their technique involved:

  1. Putting large nails into the walls.
  2. Weaving a kind of net using some kind of thick wiring.
  3.  Creating a cob mix that included the finer clay, sand (of which we purchased a truck load), water and gypsum.
  4. A lime render was sprayed onto the walls (using a manually pressurized pump).

We were there when the sand was delivered but not much more.

During our last visit (before moving out) we took some time off from work to harvest some Tilia (but not just!) flowers for drying:

Every time we came out we packed the car with things and moved them out to the village. On the last day in the city I made one final journey with a full car (so full there was no room for Andreea). This is what the place looked like when I left it. All of our things were tucked into this storage space:

The refrigerator was delivered the previous day and the laundry was the last batch from the apartment which had not yet dried):

The house didn’t have a door – it was taken off when the concrete was poured … and when the workers had left had not yet set. So the entry to the house was blocked with … a broom:

The house was looking MUCH better inside:

Outside was a huge mess:

I came back to the city and we took off on a small road-trip  … which I well get to in the next post 🙂

These first weeks were very difficult (I think for me more then Andreea) … they were emotionally draining. The task of clearing the house and making it livable looked impossible. It felt like we were doing much more then cleaning … we were resuscitating the place  – it was dead and we were trying to breathe life into it. It took a lot of persistence and faith to pass through the heaviness and resistance that awaited us.



Sunday - September 11, 2011

Yesterday I started more woodworking … but got tired after a couple of hours. So the rest of the day yesterday and today have been days of rest (as much as possible … since even cooking and washing dishes are still not obvious tasks).

I know my life life has changed when I find myself sitting in a small plastic bathtub, bathing at the end of the day while chicks and ducks are walking by, some stopping for a drink of soapy water and a dog is insisting on gaining your attention behind you.

Now sitting down to write the first full post I’ve written in months.