Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Shape of Things to Come

I have decided to make the roof one big slant from North rising to South. I can use the poles I already have and put a big beam across the middle to hold them up. I am inspired by SunRay Kelly's roofs which are fun and fantastical. Once I have the main beam up I will start to experiment, meanwhile I have been building up the walls in a slanting way, going with just what I feel is right. I have to believe in my feelings!

I ordered a beam from Buhler and it came the very same day. All 8 meters of it. So impatient was I that I asked R to help me down the hill with it.... We draged and slid it all the way from the windmill to the site. Believe me, that is quite a distance for something so heavy.

Then I treated all the wood with some lovely stuff called 'Wood Bliss', a non-toxic treatment that creates a new surface (of cellulose) that bugs don't recognise as wood. Also fire, UV, mould proof. And nice to use.

I was plastering this afternoon and went arty. Believe me it's hard not to with this mud lark.

Our neighbour, Jacinto, comes by often to view the progress. Here he is sitting in my new studio! He told me his son had noticed the building from across the valley, so I went and had a look. Wow! It looks big and round, but blends in a treat. I love it.

And finally, R has made a beautiful trolley for Olivia, who is just learning to walk. The handle is made from an olive branch.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Poles Are Too Short!

Had a bit of a disaster day... We started to put up the reciprocal roof. I stood on some scaffolding (real, not straw bales) and put the posts in place as R passed them up to me. I was really nervous at first as I wasn't sure if the 'Charlie' Stick was strong enough....
Anyway, the stick was fine, but the poles are too short! Oh no... HUGE disappointment for me. The Charlie stick was too high, also, so the 'eye' of the roof was getting out of kilter. Still we now know a bit more. I am manically looking for new poles, possibly chestnut. They need to be at least four meters long.

It's quite high up here, and what if all the poles suddenly decide to fall? That was what kept going through my head. But after a while it felt ok. I guess the more times you do it, the better you get at it.

But al least all the wall is done, structurally, and now just the plastering, which I really enjoy. The plaster made with liquid cow manure and sieved earth goes on a treat and has a great finish. The smell soon dissipates and having been brought up on a farm I don't find it unpleasant.

This is a photo of the last 'burito' of the cob mix - a barrow load of earth mixed with straw and water on a sheet of plastic with my wellies.

We had our first sweetcorn this evening. Yum! The garden is doing fine with lots of mulch and lots of water. The fruit trees are really perking up with the bucket drip system in place.  So, pray for poles!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cob, cob and onions

I made a window sill using a very rich-straw mix and it is really fun. It is so sculptural to work with, and so sensual, stroking the surface.
The basket is hanging from an olive branch I put into the cob. Handy for bags and coats, near the door. Note the bottle-niche with a wee bit of light coming through!

Most of the final layer in place. I have been digging away at the entrance because it was too high and because I need the earth to build with.

I have put in deep jam jars with lids at table level where I can store pencils and note books, etc.

Here it a meter of onions, strung onto a stick, ready for the store room. Onions grow well here and don't need any watering. Well worth the initial effort.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Was Tired, Now I'm Inspired!

 So, I was cobbing away and feeling very hot when Laura suggested the beach. I dragged myself away and Oh, the bliss of coolness! And fun to hang out with the three lovely girls! I hope Isabella learns to swim this year. Next, Olivia.
The water was freezing, but I could relax and enjoy Olivia taking her first mouths full of sand and crawling. Isabella and I made sand cakes with dribble sand candles.  We all had an ice cream after.  Sometimes it's good to just stop and take a break.

While R is away doing a week of farm-sitting I've been left with the task of watering the fruit trees. I hate dragging a long heavy hose about the steep hill, and it is still not long enough to reach some trees, so I looked into getting a drip irrigation system. It would cost a bit and it is complicated as the hill is so steep and the trees quite far apart. I looked at the tubing and got an idea of the way it works but didn't buy anything. Then, I got an idea. Use contaiers with a small hole in them. I bought some 15 l rubber buckets and made a small hole in the side of them and put a biggish stone in the bottom so they don't blow away, then filled them with water and hey presto! a drip system that cost under 10€. Just have to move the buckets around or get more. It takes up to half an hour for the water to drip out, so none is wasted. I love it!

I've got loads of carrots and onions in a patch that was under plastic all last year and then I planted it in the early spring. I have not watered it but they have valiantly grown and are very tasty. Just have to be careful when pulling the carrots as the clay soil has gone like a solid rock. They taste so good.

I planted a lime tree rather late in the spring and was worried that it would die, but it is doing really well. It has lots of blossom and quite a few fruit, hiding in the glossy green leaves.

Can you see them?

And finally, back to the cob studio. Tomorrow night I must remember to go down there and see where the full moon shines in the windows as that will be where the sun will shine in six months time. Ain't that cool?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Nearly finished Cobbing!

Nearly done with the cobbing. Just as well as I am getting tired and the weather is getting HOT and I am running out of mud!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sit back and watch the sunset

R makes these chairs to order. We test run them. So comfy it's hard to get up once you've sat down.

Meanwhile, down at the site, things are looking up. The walls are high. I need two bales to stand on to reach the top. The windows are getting lintels and the lintel for the door is waiting to go up. It is from the pine tree R cut down in the winter. I have got quite good at making bottle niches. The last one I did I used an old white rum bottle with the image of a big sailing ship embossed in the glass and 'liberte' written along the bottom. Quite cool. And they give a nice bit of extra light.

Yesterday I felt rather furtive as I watched the neighbours cows go down the hill to eat the stubble on the fields. I walked to where they are kept at night and picked up their poo in a bucket. fresh but drying rapidly, if you want to know. I took it down to the site and put water over it and then mixed it with mud. Yes, it makes a fine paste which goes on the wall very nicely. I don't think it smells too bad and when it dries it has no smell.

Isabella came to stay and she did an afternoon's work with the mud. She was very good at it. Wellies on - jump! Splat! Mud is fun! In this photo she is standing on the remains of the big pile of earth I started with. I have a photo of her from January standing in this same place, but 2 meters up. Yup, the earth has nearly all been used up. So far the costs for building this round house has been 80 € for the digger to dig the clay soil and 200 € for the glass doors and windows that actually open. The rest of the windows were being thrown out and the roof poles were given.

I have now got to the point where I have to think about the roof.... R reminded me that I needed to put in 'dead men', anchors with wire, that get put into the mud walls and are for tying the roof poles down. So I have done five, today. Seven more to follow.

Meanwhile, in the garden, we are eating lots of carrots and I am harvesting the onions. They are huge. I think stuff grows better in the winter and spring. But actually, the cabbages are doing pretty well. The soil needs more compst and nutrients. It is a slow process, especially when I'm not giving it my full attention. The straw makes good mulch which means I don't have to water every day.

The chickens are completely free range. They have access to wheat if they want but they eat maybe half a litre a day. the rest is what they find. And the eggs keep on coming.

All in all, it's pretty good up here on the hill. :)