A very rewarding day today … even though it started late as it was very foggy in the morning and took time to clear up.

I started out with, thankfully, the last session of lifting lumber up to the barn attic … that’s finally done. From here on it will be about hauling stuff back down for building stuff. In an last second improvisation I left some of the last heavy 2×10’s and with a few bricks managed to turn them into temporary shelves – so (a) I didn’t have to lift them to the attic; (2) they will continue to dry; (3) I have shelves in the barn. Which opened the door to the next task…

Emptying all of my tools from the summer kitchen … I moved everything except the mitre saw and stand which I still need to figure out where would be best to place. It is nice, even though the barn is far from a pleasant work space, to finally have all of the tools arranged on impro-shelves. It makes getting to them and using them much easier … especially now that the barn is free and may become a limited workspace in the coming weeks as weather may limit my options outside.

Then, when the summer kitchen was empty of tools Andreea joined me and we continued to clear it out and to unload all of the jars that were on the temporary shelves (I hacked together in our first weeks here). We tore down the existing shelves – a simple yet symbolic task – we’ve already moved on past something we created ad-hoc that served us well but is no longer relevant … a definite and welcome sense of moving on πŸ™‚

Then, except for a few small glitches, the new shelve went up very quickly. They are solid and offer us plenty of space. We began to repopulate the shelves and abundance hit us smack in the face … this is what the shelves look like partly occupied with all of the food we have prepared for the winter … what a site πŸ™‚

Somewhere in the midst of it all I also managed to finish the finishing of the shower stall … there is one piece still drying … so hopefully tomorrow we can begin (and complete?) that assembly … and shower?

Yesterday was another pleasant day … what seems to make the days pleasant is the ability to focus on one thing or one kind of work without interruptions (be it people or forces of nature). In the morning, together with Andreea, I planned the large shelves to be built for the summer kitchen (where we will be storing all our food) and then I went out and with the mitre saw and circular saw cut all the pieces. It was quick work because we decided it would be a raw project … so no planing or sanding of finishing of any kind (which would have taken a lot of time and effort given the quantity of shelves involved). Quick-build shelves.

Today was also pleasant … but less so because I skipped around between many things:

  • First I placed in the sun the remaining shower stall pieces … did a bit of sanding and then some work lacquer finishing.
  • Then I did a pre-assembly of the kitchen shelves so everything is ready for very quick construction. We will need to clear out the kitchen (much work … all the tools are there and loads of food-jars) and then assembly will be really quick and fairly simple.
  • Then started pre-assembly of the shower stall … with the pieces that are ready to go. It was great to see it start to come together.
  • Then I dog-proofed our humanure hacienda by adding more boards … the dogs were having a party there and … well enough of that. Then I did a round of emptying our waste.
  • Then I (finally) cut the pond liner we purchased to: (1) fill out the two buried tires = soon to be small ponds; (2) for lining the drain-plate of the shower stall.

Andreea spent most of the day indoors continuing her preparation for the first Doula course in Romania.

Very productive day. Its getting dark very early … 17:30 and already dark outside. Our neighbor said that snows were expected within 3 or 4 weeks and would continue through to the beginning of January … so the clock is begin to wind down. I think we will be OK πŸ™‚

What’s Keeping you from Eco-Homing?

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 Β 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 pictureΒ … 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 πŸ™‚

 

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 laterΒ  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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

This time it was Andreea and me doing all the work. We had quite a few more cart loads left (5 or 6?) and Β 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 Β πŸ™‚

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 Β 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 πŸ™‚

 

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 πŸ™‚

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

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 πŸ™‚