Cobbing my cottage

Friday, 26 August 2016

Summer Rain

Summer rain is falling on the Finnish woods, sometimes accompanied by sunshine, at other times a bit of thunder and lightning. I don't remember such a wet August for several years, although it pales in comparison to what I am used to in wetness, i.e. English Summers...

I made an extra trip to my native country and cottage in early June, eager to apply the linseed oil onto the top layer of my earthen floor, so that I could finally stay in my cottage in August. Linseed oil takes a good while to cure and since I applied four coats to the floor, I gathered it would be several weeks until it was dry and hard enough. I knew I would still have to apply wax coat on the floor if I wanted it properly durable and water repellent but that could wait, until August.


Now it's August and I have been here for 1.5weeks, working in a very lazy way on my cottage. One of the first things I did, was to make a linseed oil/beeswax mix, which I applied to the now hardened floor with a brush and then rubbing it in with a large rubber kidney (the types one uses with ceramic clay). Two days later the floor was done but remained pretty tacky, so I ended rubbing some of it off with rags. A week later it is still a bit sticky but I have been able to walk on it nevertheless.

And whilst I was doing this:


 some other members of my family were doing this:

Afterwards, I would let the floor dry, hoping the tackiness would disappear (which eventually did), although very impatiently and after only few days, I already started planning on when to move in, by buying two foldable mattresses, a tea light lantern and dragging in some sparse furniture...

 So eventually, the space would change from this - to this (you have to start somewhere):



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Few more weeks passed, ever so quickly, in and around my cottage. I am now back in UK writing this and my head is slowly adjusting to the wetness of Britain and the beautiful forests of Finland have changed to a wide landscape of Yorkshire hills and moors. Good time for recapping and reminiscing.....

Two days ago I left Finland with so many emotions. I had this amazing feeling of thrill, excitement, deep appreciation, but also the notion of fear and anxiety. So much has happened, I had finished my cottage interior, fixed parts of the outside, mainly the primitive 'guttering' on the roof but also mended a tiny hole in the initial waterproofing layer (luckily near the edge and easy fix). We had been working on an outhouse with my father, using leftover materials, like pallets, roundwood, planks, straw. I worked on the building in a very lazy fashion, mindful of my children, who are growing up quickly but who still appreciate my company (mostly). Yet I wanted to have this artistic outhouse, or at least the beginnings of it, to complement my cottage. As what is a summer-house without an outhouse?

Whilst I did the impromptu designing, my father did majority of the work, apart from roof covering, which I did myself. I give you a few pictures of our progress...my mum's duties mainly consisted of babysitting my daughter Pinja, but of course she couldn't help herself and had to come and check the progress at times.

My mother handing plank to my father as he is building the roof of the outhouse.

Pinja (3) herself constantly offered to help (Can I help mummy?) and even though I said it was safer for her to stay away, she insisted on climbing the ladder up to the roof of the outhouse, which I have christened 'Huojuva Huussi' due to the way the wooden structure swung underneath us (without the support of walls). That is loosely translated as a 'Swinging Loo'...



 
So eventually the wooden frame was done, the roof was felted (I am intending to make it into a green roof but we had to waterproof it in the mean time for the harsh Finnish Winter) and the rain was guided to flow through a small opening at the bottom corner and along a chain to the ground (which I was happy to notice was functioning nicely).
I am hoping to collect this rainwater into a large container, to use with a solar powered shower which will be positioned at the bottom end of the outhouse, under the long eaves on the left.

Getting ready to work on the walls with Pinja...she has already smeared herself with clay in preparation.
I had thought about making the outhouse walls with leftover strawbales, sat on their sides (as otherwise they would take a massive chunk out of the floor area) but reading on a natural building forum one morning, I came across mention of light clay straw. I had heard about this technique but never tried it myself. But suddenly I thought this might be a more suitable thing for my walls. Light clay straw basically means coating loose straw with runny and sticky clay slip and then packing the coated straw into a wall cavity, built with temporary wooden supports, whilst the straw dries inside.


Since my walls didn't need to be very thick yet I had loads of clay available (in our clay pit) and loads of loosely baled strawbales left, I thought this technique would work well for my small outhouse space. I explained to my father that I needed a supporting structure to make the wall cavity, in which I would then add and compact the clay covered straw. Past fully revisited, I dipped into an icy clay pond (a perfect beginning for a natural pool) and started digging my gray gold aka clay. My brother came to help for few hours, although for some reason he left the muddy clay pond well alone...


Sister, brother and little critter
My brother compacting the light clay straw into the wall cavity.
Pinja came along and saw me with a wheelbarrow full of clay. She immediately took off her shoes and stepped inside a bucket full of clay. There is a real joy about getting muddy, at any age, at least for people who haven't lost touch with their inner child. Whilst I was mixing up the straw and clay and getting muddier and muddier, so did Pinja, smearing herself with the runny clay slip until her whole body was gray. Then she would happily potter about the 'building site' helping me to 'squish squish squish' the straw with her feet.

'I'm getting in mummy.'
Happy feet :)
I am working, whilst someone is watching..
Happy as a pig... in a bucket.

In the end I was so covered in mud, I couldn't operate the camera any longer (without having to constantly wash my hands), so I ended up working the next day too, trying to fill up the rest of the remaining cavity space. This time I worked by myself without my little assistant.

Busy at work.

My cottage with the outhouse framework at the background.
Alas, I ran out of time and the next thing I know is it is Sunday and I am having an Open Day. An article came out in a local paper, inviting people to come and see this wonderful weirdness that my cottage is and without expecting many people, I nevertheless started preparing for it. Since I am an artist, and my art is as much influenced by this landscape as is my actual cottage, I had brought a selection of my forest inspired art to Finland, to sell it in my cottage during the Open Day. Just a perfect setting for my soul art in my soul landscape!

Welcome, Open House - Eco cottage
After so much rain over the past weeks, on my Open House morning, the sun came out and cherished us with her presence almost all day long. So so many people came out to see my cottage, big guys, small guys, women in heels, women in bike suits, children, babies, elderly, friends, lost friends, artists, builders, regular folk. All of them said wonderful things and felt inspired. Some of them bought my art (thank you!) and many tasted my mother's wonderful baking on offer. After running an hour overtime, we finally closed our doors and said thank you - it was fantastic to witness the genuine interest towards natural building - and the way these materials can lend to one's unique ideas and imagination.

With few people I discussed my plans to run short, natural building workshops at my cottage in the future, during Summer-time when I visit. I already have a few people interested and on my mailing list. This is definitely something I will seriously consider doing, because inspiring people to learn new things and to make with their OWN hands is very rewarding, for them and for me as a creative individual.

On that Sunday night I felt tired but very happy. I fell asleep inside my cottage, hugged by Mother Nature, with weary eyes but warm heart....

In only few days I was to return to UK, and yet again, I realised that three weeks had passed so very quickly. I am already looking forward to next Summer, when I can finish the outhouse and start planning new things....hopefully weird and wonderful things.

Because one must always keep on planning, dreaming, wondering. Whether everything happens or comes to fruition is another matter. But that is part of the adventure.... the journey from dreaming to living. The reason to get out of bed, to see what/if/when happens. And life always does... :)

I leave you with few more happy photos. Until next time.... x

Talking to Mother Nature
With my daughter
Exploring the Happy House




4 comments:

  1. Absolutely marvelous. Thank you for your work and vision.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your work and progress. It looks so beautiful and magical and seeing the different stages you have been through makes one appreciate it all the more. Wonderful 😆 Kim X

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  3. Thank you for sharing your work and progress. It looks so beautiful and magical and seeing the different stages you have been through makes one appreciate it all the more. Wonderful 😆 Kim X

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  4. Beautiful work on your cottage. How inspiring!

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