Monday, September 29, 2014

So Far

Soon I will be able to light the fire! This fireplace has taken up a lot of my time, not so much in work but in waiting and watching and undoing and being a bit humble... Learning to listen to others and myself.

I made a bench next to the stove and put lots of squishy cob on the side of the stove and leaned into it to make the perfect back rest. I can imagine sitting with my feet up and looking out the window, cup of tea on the mantlepiece, heat seeping through the cob.... Maybe a couple of dogs basking in the heat.

We had a lot of rain. Huge thunder storms and heavy showers which filled up the swales. The building is as dry as a bone! I have been digging a trench around the outside of the studio to take away the water.

The nights are drawing in. It's still not cold. The guitar has come out of hiding and I've been practising, entertaining the dogs.

A few vegetable beds have been dug over and sown with carrots and onions. Soon the olives will be ready... but we still have jars of them from last year. Unfortunately they have gone a bit soggy. Laura reminded me that her father-in-law uses a couple of acorns in the brine which is supposed to help them keep firm. I wonder if that is the tannin in them.
 The fig trees are losing their leaves and figs drop onto the dry litter.

The neglected garden...

The back of the house and the view

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The roof is blooming!

 I got the urge to make a fireplace. I used a drawing from 'The Hand Sculpted House' book and thought like a 3D printer, starting at the bottom and working my way up. I used some fire bricks for the base and the first bit, the rest is mud mixed with sand. It seems to be behaving very well. No serious cracks.
 I used rabbit wire to form the curved throat, and rebar to keep it straight-ish. I can only do a bit at a time or else it all collapses. A good exercise in patience. I sit on a chair and just look... then go and pull a few weeds out of the garden. There are plenty.
 My drawing. I felt very professional having a diagram to work from. (Heh heh)
 It's an ugly looking thing at the moment. I hope I can embellish it and turn it into a thing of beauty. I will put on another layer of cob with straw in the mix, on top of the sand/clay mix.
I decided to use tins from cooked beans and pineapple slices. They are a good size and they slot together, and they are made from steel. They will be covered in mud. I will get tubing for the outside bit.
 I burned some paper in it and watched the smoke curl up the chimney and into the smoke chamber. Exciting! There is a tube in the wall beside it for draught. I could get it to be right in front of the fire...
There were huge navy blue clouds hanging about bumping and bullying, rumbling and threatening on the hills nearby. I noticed a section of rainbow tucked in there... strange. Must have been a spot of sun (shining on Tamera!)
The garden is appreciating this rain, except for the figs which are soggy and fit for wasps and flies only.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

 The roof is beginning to take shape. The old roof tiles accommodate the irregular curves very kindly. I have put two layers of plastic and then some shade netting to stop it being so slippery up there. The plastic is nailed down at the ends with small lath along the posts and then trimmed. I managed to get the plastic on while a storm was brewing. Got it secure before a huge rainstorm came and filled the swales. So the house was dry and I had done the thing that felt hardest to do.

 I went for an early morning stroll (to let out a mouse in the mouse trap) and watched the huge harvest moon setting in the morning mist.  The air smells lovely now that there is a bit of humidity in the air. Cobwebs in the corn stubble glitter with dew.

The view in the morning as the sun rises
is always worth a photo. I tried to get the
rays that shine through the trees on the
 And here is how the roof looks at the moment. Half the straw is up and spread about and some fine bean netting lain over it to stop it blowing away. I can't wait to plant the seedlings I have prepared. Mostly rubbery creeping plants of the ice plant variety, and things that need little attention and have shallow roots that spread.

Isabella said that the way the roof beams are looked like a leaf. I love that.

In the garden the huge black figs are dropping to the ground and the golden orioles are feasting on the green figs. The rain has stymied my attempts  at drying them, but I have made some fig and ginger jam. The okra plants are doing well and keep producing one or two a day. Just enough for me since I am home alone now as R has gone to do his apple picking.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


It is still really hot and energy sapping.

And so I've put on the insulation. It was about 60 sacks, in the end. On top of that I put on big pieces of cardboard from fridges and deep freezers, which I have tied down using long bits of string going across the roof. It's just to secure it until the next layer goes on top. The cardboard and the sacks have made it feel more safe for walking on, but not dancing! Unfortunately, I had left the wool on the ground with a tarp over the huge sacks, so although most of it was fine, the bottom had got damp and rotted a bit. Yeuk! That is not a nice smell. Still, it goes to make compost along with all the dag ends of which there were plenty. Not the cleanest fleeces I've come across. I'm glad they were not for spinning and felt making.

I have to finish the edges before I can put the plastic and straw up on the roof. I wasn't sure how I was going to do this, but after using rabbit wire and mud on the ceiling gap, I had a brainwave and have nailed it to the edges and put mud there. I think it looks really cute. Also it is strong enough to hold the old roof tiles which I will put up along the edge to finish it all off. ( Oh, I wish that were NOW...). I have started to saw off the poles to the same measurement as the cob/wire.

Not so much a Hobbit as a 'Cobbit'

The vine that I planted a year and a half ago has produced beautiful tasty black grapes and it beginning to make shade up by the house. The chickens could reach the lower ones, but we got some too.