Now back in London again, for a short, 8 day respite, I realise that while in Finland I am so consumed by the act of working with my hands, that it is difficult to use that side of my brain, which forms coherent meaningful sentences about what's happened... i.e. the reason for not updating this blog for a month! It seems I always need to come back to my little London nest to regurgitate what's going on inside of my head, yet by the time that happens, my head is usually overflowing and the thoughts are often an abstract trickle down the stream of subconscious alleyways... :)
The main thing to say is: I am happy. I am happy how it has gone, how it is looking, how much I have been blessed by the help of others and especially my father, whose input in the cottage has become immeasurably important. Even though he never had much faith in himself to be building something so unusual like my cottage, and felt really out of depth to start with; together we have pondered on my design, the choices and funds I have available, the materials we use - with that, he has managed to build a wonderful wooden structure for me, tirelessly working, even in his retirement age, on the top of my roof, while the rain showers in the last few days soaked him through. It brings a tear to my eye, honestly, even though as a typical, modest Finnish man, he is the last to take much credit on his work. Or speak about it. It has also been lovely to hang out as father and daughter, something I don't normally get much chance to do, and maybe, to be honest, never really have. Men are often doers, not talkers, so it's been nice to have a point of interest, which is doing, but doing with a meaning that doesn't require too many words.
|My father working on the roof yesterday.|
It hasn't been plain sailing of course, sometimes I have even been sad and distressed, wondering whether I really have it in me to finish this little place and whether I am able to find a balance between 'getting on with it' and mindful creating and decision making. Plans change, because things don't work out, volunteers are suddenly unable to come, pains take over the body, strange chemistry between people makes atmosphere tense, materials cost more than expected or are not available etc etc - the list goes on and on. But for some reason, when I look out of the kitchen window at my parents house, I see this little unfinished house under the tarp, standing in the sun, wind and rain, born from my dream, on my childhood land. How could I not love it? How could I not build it? Never thought I could love a pile of wood, mud and sand so much! :)
I am adding photos from the last 2.5 weeks here, with some captions to detail the process that the cottage has gone through since the last time you read this blog. Apart from the last day, I took no days off, and even though I worked on the cottage constantly, at times, it was hard to see any progress. Yet, when I myself look back at the photos I have taken, it is very plain to see that a lot has happened in quite a short time (four weeks). A piece by piece this little earth tree house is coming along. I have no idea whether it will end up looking like the one in my sketches or dreams, but that is the beauty of creating: the neverending wonderment of life unfolding and changing the outcome of every moment, every day. It's an organic process - so I will see when I get there. :)
|This is what I went back to in the end of July. My father is peeling logs from the forest for my cordwood cob wall.|
|A view from inside the cottage, while I was filling the earthbags, with earth, sand and clay. I love this view, looking out to the sunny green. This will also be the view from the two windows, which will sit on the wall in front.|
|Where I got to by Sunday, before my German volunteers arrived.|
|Nora and Mathias working on the earthbag mix.|
|A small reciprocal roof test model we made with branches in the woods. Just to see if/how it works, before attempting to move the 4 metre long roundwood poles on the roof... it was lovely to discover it does work :)|
|Twin birch trees that my father checked to have some internal rot and promised for firewood for Jani, his neighbour, as long as Jani would take them down and that I could take the bark off them for my use.|
|Our friendly neighbour, Jani, sawing the trunk into manageable pieces for me to remove the bark from.|
Building the roof was one of the bigger decisions I took but I figured it would make life so much easier later on. It is nice to be non-dependent on the weather when building, to have some shade from the sun (the site is very sunny) and also, to properly 'feel' that one is actually building a dwelling, rather than some elaborate wall structure. It is so very true that the minute the reciprocal basic structure was completed, the cottage was officially feeling like a cottage, finished or not. It had dimensions!
|Well, we managed to build the structure in the end. To the primary eight poles, another 16 secondary roof rafters were added. An interesting choice, to provisionally tie the poles together that would have some give, as well as grip on the slippery wood poles, was to use strips of real leather from my mother's abundant fabric stash. But hey, it worked! :)|
|This is how the cottage looked after a hard working Friday. What a beautiful weather too. A glass of wine and I felt very happily tearful looking at this sweet little fairie house. :)|
My volunteers left on Saturday, but of course for me the work continued. I continued building the cob wall, which Nora and Mathias has started and tried out where the windows would be and how they would be set into the wall. Even though covered under the tarp, the earthbags were drying fast, and I hammered metal rods through the five completed rows of bags, to increase their overall, uniform stability (as I decided not to use barbed wire, which is normally used for this purpose). I had decided to make 5 rows of bags instead of the original four, because I thought they will raise the wall further off the ground for the strawbales particularly. In the end, we ran out of bags at the end of the wall. I counted how many we needed. 10. I knew how many I had left in London (which I didn't take as I didn't think we would need them): 10.
Nothing like a meticulous guesswork at planning stage.... :)
Because I was now working on the cobwalls on my own, my mother felt sorry for me and came to help. She found it hard to form cob loaves crouching down on the ground but wanted to help to make and mix the cob for me. It's not rocket science exactly (after all, my mother just said the other day while mixing: good god, one could be pretty much braindead and still be able to do this job) - but I must say that after few days of mixing, my mother managed to make better and stronger mixes than me - so I generally just concentrated on building the walls and thanking the universe for my mother! This also includes the heavenly blueberry pies that she kept making, while disappearing into the kitchen from time to time. :)
|My mother sorting bilberries she picked in the woods around the cottage. The bushes are brimming with blue - and you can see the thrushes and other birds like them too - judging by their deep blue poo...|
|A Forest Mandala I made from the wild flowers and moss from the woods.|
|Some beautiful, young oak leaves in a tree (or rather a bush) next to the cottage.|
|My feet in the mud, on a cloudy day under the tarp.|
So, a lot of mixing, stomping, forming, patting, poking later, I was still working on getting few centrimetres added to the cob walls....in other words, slow going. While my parents enjoyed their 42nd wedding anniversary and took a break from helping me, I decided to try my hands on mortaring the base of a cob/pizza oven with natural stones I had picked up from the close-by sand pit. Not really knowing what I was doing, I started piling stones on one another and slapping some sand/lime putty mortar in between them. After two half days, the result wasn't pretty but was still standing, so who knows, it may end up being an oven one of these days... :) I am still yet to find a good place for rocks and stones, without having to buy them, as I am intending to cover the whole external earthbagwall with natural stone (for visuals and rain protection). Well, things seem to have a way of sorting themselves out, so maybe my stone pile treasure is also waiting for me at the end of a rainbow somewhere...
Here are some photos of the last week's slow cobbing progress:
|Beginnings of the entrance and cob walls, the other wallspace will be for strawbale (North and NE walls)|
My father is sawing the planks for the roof, which all need to be individually measured to match the 'organic' design, shape and pitch of the roof. Thank you dad for your love, endurance and patience. :)
And below is the progress of the beautiful reciprocal wooden roof being built. I have so far bought 200metres of lumber to cover the area and I will need to buy some 70 metres more to fully cover it. I had seen some photos of people only loosely covering the spaces in between the roof poles but thought that despite of the added cost and time factor, the roof will be stronger to take on the heavy snowloads in the winter if it's tightly planked together. One of these, MuTu- moments, which in Finnish means roughly 'I feel it through', rather than actually knowing it. :)
|The roof being decked out, I very much like the look of it.|
|Detail of the roof.|
|Me thinks it's pretty - and the fresh wood smells delicious!|
|My father in the process of nailing planks in.|