Rarely have I come across an academic research paper that is presented so concisely and nails a subject on the head as I did in this research by Dr Jenny Pickerill on Affordale Eco-Housing (maybe its because she it walking the walk and not just talking the talk?). If you have ever or are considering eco-building but feel that something is holding you back there is a good chance you will find that one or more of the finding of this research applies to you. Fortunately you will also find there a list of things you can do to get over your inhibitions.
The bottom line, for us at the present time, as we consider (self) building a new home is:
- Make time … loads more then you expect or even wish for … it will probably take years to accumulate the critical mass of experience, choices, tools and materials you will need to build your eco-house.
- Have a bigger picture … think “home” not “house” – a house is only one part of your life. Have an outlook for your life and build within and around that … otherwise you will trap your life in a house that may not fit it. If you want to grow food or chickens then where are those things relative to your house? How does it all work together? Hint: It’s not a question to answer but a process of discovery.
- Research through experience first – it is one thing to read about eco-construction and another to do it.
- Aim for less – don’t give up spaciousness (or anything else you may want) but do strive for less – you’d be surprised how much comfort and pleasure may find you when you give up things you mostly think you need.
- Aim for simple – a sibling of “aim for less” … arrange things in a simple way … is it so much easier to have one place in the house where you have running water (that is also close to where you want the water go go after you use it) then to have pipes (and future leaks) running throughout the house.
- Question professional advice … again and again and again. Most professionals cater to the typical average build … they have very little understanding and experience with eco-thinking. They can be useful when it comes to technical details (what kind of water pipe to use?) … but rarely more then that. You’re going to have to figure out a lot of things on your own … hence the first tip … experience on a small scale before actually building your home.
- Question eco-books … it’s never as simple as it looks … your clay will be different then the one you read about. Read, filter and digest on your own. This is especially true here in Romania where the availability of materials is very different then it is in the west (UK & USA) where most eco-books come from.
To me, the core quality of eco-building is that it is uniquely you and yours. It reflects so many aspects and layers of your life because the process of creating it is so personal (unlike a purchased or constructor built house). It is your efforts of discovery, creation and maintenance that make a home (or anything else for that matter) “eco“.
We ended up driving back home yesterday night (long story do be told another day).
Today was a freezing frosted morning … AND the day got shorter since the clocks were moved … one less hour of work. 6pm and its dark out … which means folding up the day begins at around 4pm or 5 pm latest.
For me it was a nice and pleasantly paced day. I put in the sun all the pieces of the shower stall … the lacquer was drying very slowly because it was too cold (at night and in the garage – where the “finishing” corner resides) … it was sitting there for two days and some parts were still a little sticky. It dried nicely in the sun and I left there for another layer of finishing. I also got the last piece (the most complicated one in the project) finished and into finishing. So now another day or two of finishing and then assembly … which will bring us to another historic event … the shower!
Andreea spent the day making our bedroom a livable place again. It turned our wonderful. It is clean and orderly and decorated … and smells great (essential oils!) … and the finished rocket stove is burning and the room is warm. Woohooo 🙂
Today is a special report … I am writing this from Targu Mures (my fathers home town – about 70km from where we live). At around midnight last night Andreea received an SMS message and 2 hours later we were on our way to her 2nd home birth here in Romania. I tagged along as driver, photographer and eventually a bit of Shakuhachi playing.
It was a first time for us working as a team …. that we were given an opportunity to give all that we have to give. Shortly after we arrived so did the signs of labor. This was my first time photographing such an intense and intimate event. It was also my first time witnessing a birth. It was also my first time witnessing Andreea in her element … she is superbly masterful at what she does. She was the only professional present at the birth since the couple decided not to have a midwife present.
We arrived close to 4am and just after 8am a healthy baby boy was born into the world.
I am tired, dislocated and vibrating inside … I am contained … but drained. We will be staying another night here and leaving to go back home some time tomorrow.
Boy oh boy 🙂
Today started out with a short visit to pick up milk from neighbors a bit further away (walkable distance, but we took the car). We got out late … the morning was freezing.
On the way back we stopped at our next-door neighbors where we were offered the horse and carriage to complete the hay-collection work. We gratefully accepted and I quickly gained my Romanian Hose & Carriage drivers license – it don’t get much more Romanian then that 🙂 It’s one of those things I would not have believed I would be doing (sitting high up on a horse carriage loaded with hay … really funny stuff 🙂 At first Andreea didn’t want to ride the carriage (lets just say it’s not nearly as smooth a ride as the Kia), but eventually she rode out with me and eventually even took the reigns from my hands and drove us out 🙂
This time it was Andreea and me doing all the work. We had quite a few more cart loads left (5 or 6?) and a new challenge appeared when the hay pile grew to tall to just throw the hay up. So one of us had to climb up onto the pile and move around the hay that was tossed up by the other. We ended up with quite a large pile … we are very happy with it.
We have some great images from today, I really should connect the camera but I really don’t feel like it. The pictures will come eventually 🙂
At the end of the day I wanted to do another round of finishing … and I was just about to start when I found that the previous layer had not yet dried … apparently the cold temperatures slow down the lacquer drying … so I continued to work on what is becoming the center-piece of the shower stall … I did quite a bit of sanding by hand and then some power-sanding and then more hand-work … and then it became too cold and dark to continue working. So I folded up and here I am inside … where its warm and dinner is cooking again … and I am looking forward to another day (hoping the lacquer will dry because I really really really want to move forward with the shower stall … maybe even begin the installation of the base tomorrow!?).
The rocket-stove plaster looks to be holding great and Andreea has finished decorating the windows (I think she still plans to paint the rocket stove too) … so assuming that nothing will (huge pile of hay?) distract us tomorrow … we will be moving back into a new, refreshed and cozy warm bedroom 🙂
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 🙂
Packages from our shopping spree have begun to move around the world … it will be great fun when they start arriving 🙂
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 🙂
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 🙂 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 🙂 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
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 🙂