|My work in progress cottage covered by a tarp, ready for my next working trip to the forest.|
|The site in the Spring time, after the foundation hole has been dug and some large tree stumps removed from the area.|
The foundation trench, or rather a big gaping hole, had already been dug when I got to the site. It was about 70cm deep and I could see that the bottom of the foundation was partly on hard clay, partly on sand. It wasn't sloping quite enough downhill to my liking, considering that I wanted it to be able to drain well in case of a heavy rain.
The first few days in Finland I spent ordering and buying tools and supplies, opening builder's accounts at local hardware stores and thinking things through. The gravel ended up costing much more than I expected but I did order about 18tonnes of it, because most of the soil in the foundation was replaced by it (and sand). Maybe I'm daft but it somehow made sense, to improve drainage, stop moisture from getting to the walls, roundwood poles or the floor.
In regards to the other main building materials, I was lucky that just around the corner from my parents house, there is a disused sand-pit, where we used to play as kids - I got permission from the elderly owner to take some sand for my building needs from there. My parents' friendly neighbour was kind enough to help us out with his pick-up/trailer combination to get the sand from the pit to the site. Even the heavy rain showers and us workers getting completely soaked, didn't stop us from shoveling the sand, tired, on a Friday evening. Just a small problem, which sauna will ultimately cure... which seems to be the thinking with most Finnish ailments. :)
I have added a compilation of photos here, to show you the progress so far. I have tried to write captions for the photos instead of writing the entire story, because it would take me the other two weeks I have in London and not get anything else done! I still have a life you know... ;)
Regardless of the first setback of the poor bales, I set to work and started working on improving the drainage of the site. Here I am, shoveling away, with my son showing me his Lego creation in the latter photo. :)
|I dug a drainage channel from the foundation trench downhill, for the rain water to run away from underneath the house. 8cm perforated drainage pipe was installed at the bottom of it.|
|Round and round we go :)|
|A digger came for the 2nd time to dig a clay pit in the woods. After excavation, this pit was covered with tarp until later use and will become a natural swimming pool in the future (well, I would like to think so at least).|
|Here I am fetching one piece of wood to be used in the wooden frame structure. These logs my father had cut down from the surrounding woods a few months earlier and peeled and stacked them up to dry.|
|Measuring the wood poles to correct size.|
|My father cutting the poles with a chainsaw.|
|Here I am tarring the logs that were used in the wooden frame. We attached the ends of the poles onto watertreated wood panels along with some tarred roofing paper and then the 'legs' were set onto compacted gravel base and more gravel was spread over them and compacted well (the ends of the logs are therefore not in direct contact with soil and hopefully never too much water either, to prevent them from rotting). The tar smells wonderful, although I must admit, whilst applying it, the smell was slightly OVERWHELMING! ;) I could have used concrete and steel posts with the wooden poles to avoid all this hassle, but I don't want to pour concrete into my sacred space (which this for me is, as a place where I grew up as a child)|
|Preparing to get the tarpaulin on the structure.|
|Here I am on the top of the ladder, trying to maneuver the massive blanket of plastic on this thing (with my brother and father)!|
|The work in progress as seen under the tarp. My son has just stuck his curious fingers in pine sap, which is still leaking from some of the logs :)|
|I started filling the first rows of earthbags with gravel (the same that was used for the floor).There will be in total of four rows of bags in the stemwall, on top of which the cob, cordwood cob and strawbale walls will be built.|
So, here we are. There is so much else to say and write but I am still quite exhausted from the first episode of build and want to focus on the next time I get to go there. I have done some video filming also and my friend and regular cameraman Mikael will come and visit me in the next few months to do some dedicated filming of the progress (with me included in the footage, which doesn't hugely appeal to me as a director...)
I am so very grateful to my family in Finland, who have worked so hard on this with me, particularly my father, without whom getting to this point in the build would have been incredibly slow, difficult, maybe even impossible. But, I still believe, as I have done before, that nothing is impossible where dreams and heart are involved. Not with me, not with anyone. Even though this cottage is far from finished, it is incredibly satisfying to be able to work with one's hands - and see, touch and smell the results.I kid you not, it may be one of the best experiences in the world!!! So, please try it, if you haven't... :)
A few days ago, on the last evening of my first two weeks in Finland, I poured a glass of red wine for myself and went out to the cottage, sat in front of it and watched the forest in the evening sun, with my giant wishing tree and its leaves fluttering in the gentle breeze. I was so loving the look and the sound of it. It brought a tear to my eye to think that I am allowed to be here, to dig up this earth, to use this wood, to work with people I love, to listen to these birds, to participate in nature, to feel gratefulness, to witness beauty, to feel with all my heart, to learn, to appreciate, to be grateful, to be human. To be part of it all. Part of nature.
That is all I ever could have wished for. Thank you tree - for listening to me.
|My giant wishing tree (aspen) in the background, as seen through two conjoined birch trees.|