Day 62: Stop playing with the hens and get some work done

 

 

Day: Sixty-two

 

Date: July 12th, 2014

 

Mission: Stop playing with the hens and get some work done

 

Yep. You read the mission correctly. We finally are the proud owners of 10 beautiful hens. They are 5 months old (due to start laying the first week of August) and I am completely and utterly head over heels in love with them. I catch myself loosing track of time just staring at them. I am perpetually in search of grit and yummy weeds to feed them. I look forward to seeing them in the morning and tucking them in at night. Hehe. I am so very excited to be in the position where I can provide them the best living conditions possible and to be fully certain that the eggs that I consume are ethically sourced 🙂 They cost 6.5euros each, and the chicken wire cost 60euros and the rest of their house was made from reclaimed materials. Thus at a total cost of 125euros, it will be a while until we “make profit” or just even break even, but that is beside the point for me. Having livestock is an important part of completing the loop and taking a step in the direction of becoming more sustainable and self-sufficient. It feels so good to not just be throwing words around but to be taking action and to be living in a manner that makes myself proud 🙂

 

This past week we have had the wonderful opportunity of having two munchkins on site (both of four years of age). The place has been fully of silly giggles, many tears, scraped knees and long and luxurious afternoons at the lake. Summer weather is finally here!! But never you fear, work was still accomplished. Maarja and Shawn are planing and designing the area in front of the greenhouse. They have relocated many blueberry bushes and have a design for a couple of tables and benches (cafe style) in front of the greenhouse. While Jim and I have successfully built a reciprocal roof structure. Essentially a reciprocal roof is a bunch of logs (8in this case), all resting on each other and providing strength that way. It was surprisingly easy to construct the roof. We essentially found a Y stick (called a Charlie stick) and set the first log in the Y stick, following which, we offered up each of the remaining logs, one at a time in a clockwise manner, the log (aka. Primary rafter) rests on the one before it and the last rafter offered up rests on the one before it and under the first rafter. Once all in place, the Charlie stick was removed. Each rafter was placed 1/2 way between the rafter directly across from it and the rafter to the right. I know, kinda complicated to explain. My main source of information was Tony Wrench’s book about roundhouses. Very useful! For a roundhouse of 1.8m diameter and 1.4m high, we used a Charlie stick of 2.5m, the rafters were also 2.5m long with a diameter of approximately 10cm. This allowed for an eave of just under 1m. Unfortunately I learnt the hard way that a crossbeam is required for a reciprocal roof and so we had to add on a crossbeam. We used a 16mm drill bot (huge!) and drilled a hole through the cords below the beam and through the crossbeam itself. We hammered in pieces of rebar and left about 19cm sticking out. Once the roof was in place we them drilled a hole in the rafters and placed them onto the sticking out pieces of rebar. We also tied the logs at the top together with string. If we were building a larger structure I would have used fixing straps and old telephone wire (like Tony Wrench does) to ensure the logs don’t move. But our method is thus far proving very strong! Tomorrow I shall nail in the secondary rafters, followed by a tarp, straw bales (for insulation), a waterproof membrane(aka. Old billboards=cheap alternative), loads of newspaper and finally the turf! Pictures to come 🙂

 

Today is a day off! We slept in, ate French toast and are now sitting on a field in Loksa drinking wine and eating chocolates. For as of July 1st, it is now legal to drink in public in Estonia. My opinion is, “hurray!”.

 

Additional things we did: scrapped the mould off of the sauerkraut (apparently that is normal?! Huh,), made tinctures (nettles, chaga, and lemon balm…nettles are good for allergies, lemon balm for menstral cramps and stress, and chaga for brain power). Essentially we just fully submerged the herbs in vodka and there they shall rest for one month, following which we shall strain them and commence usage 🙂

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Work shed foundation

Work shed foundation

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Sandbags for work shed foundation

Sandbags for work shed foundation

Cordwood structure with "Charlie" stick standing vertically in the middle of the reciprocal roof

Cordwood structure with “Charlie” stick standing vertically in the middle of the reciprocal roof

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Cordwood structure with "Charlie" stick removed and reciprocal roof skeleton in place

Cordwood structure with “Charlie” stick removed and reciprocal roof skeleton in place

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Day 57: Survive the week without Shawn

Day: Fifty-seven

Date: July 7th, 2014

Mission: completed. Survived the week without Shawn

This past week, Shawn has been living the good life in Paris. Eating crepes, ogling the architecture, and attending the International Congress on Naturopathic Medicine. Aka. ICNM for those in the know :-p I was very jealous to say the least! Anyway, this week we trekked on with the cordwood power station. With help, the walls got finished and I even built the doorframe and we cordwooded (a new word perhaps?!) that in place as well. Next step is a reciprocal green roof. Coming soon! Furthermore we finally finished the chicken coop. We added the perches and three nest boxes and constructed an elaborate run for them. As per usual, everything took twice as long as one would expect. Hehe!

This week was very busy, we pulled 10hour days for most of the week. And to be honest, I am uncertain as to where the week went. We did spend a couple days helping take down a house in Loksa in exchange for a metal bath (great for washing our clothes and building a hot tub out of it!), lots of wood and a workshed! On the weekend, Maarja and I hitched into Tallinn for the song festival. It happens once every four years in Estonia and it is a couple days of singing national songs. The choir was composed of 20thousand people! Eeeep! It was a wonderful break as we sat on a hill, drank wine, ate smoked cheese and felt proud of our country. Hehe. I even tried to sing along…quite a spectacle indeed.

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Day 47: New Chicken Coup (and No! the chickens have not revolted) and Bling party to celebrate the summer solstice and St. John’s Day

Day: 47

Date: June 27, 2014

Mission: New Chicken Coup (and No! the chickens have not revolted) and Bling party to celebrate the summer solstice and St. John’s Day

After a discussion about the location of the chicken coup, the chicken run, and the need for a solar panel “shed”, the previously proposed (and started!) chicken coup project has been diverted to what will now become the solar panel “shed”.  We needed a place to put all the batteries and electrical equipment for the solar panel stuffs, and the location that we were going to use for the chicken coup is ideal considering the amount of sunlight the area gets!  The nice thing is that the building we are building will work perfectly, and we still get to build the cool cordwood structure we wanted (see pictures from previous chicken coup post).

Jim has started, and nearly completed, a new, much simpler chicken coup structure made from an old table and reclaimed wood pieces (see the pictures below).  We don’t obviously have a picture of the completed structure yet but we shall post one when it is finished and set in place, with the new clucks-clucks and everything!!

On a personal note, we went to a 2-day electronic music party this last weekend to celebrate Jaanipäev (St. John’s Day and near the summer solstice) and it was a total blast!  We volunteered because we know the organizers and they needed help (plus free entry was a nice perk!) and we got to meet many great people as a result.  So we cooked food for sale both nights, made delicious chocolate chip/apricot cookies, and ran the bar/snack area.  It was located in Raudsilla, which is a ridiculously cute and beautiful little hobbit-esque centre!  Sadly, we have no pictures…IMGP0991 IMGP1001 IMGP0995 IMGP0990

Day 34: Catch up on ze blog and complete a million other small, but vastly time consuming tasks

Day: Thirty-four

Date: June 14th, 2014

Mission: Catch up on ze blog and complete a million other small, but vastly time consuming tasks

Well, well, slackers we have been. Aka. We have been insanely busy and alas our frequency of posting has faltered. But never fail, we are back on course and more is coming your way! So, quick catch up, the last week flew by as we fixed the solar dehydrator (within moments of finishing the solar dehydrator a kayak paddle fell on top of the glass and promptly shattered it. Thankfully we found another window of a similar size and did the ol’ switcheroo of the glass panes). We also finally finished the biofilter and constructed wetland, we put the roof on the greenhouse, built more garden beds, planted, and made further progress on the rocket stove mass heater. Aka we spent the week attempting to complete some of the million projects that we have on the go. We also looked into getting a couple of kittens (to deal with the mouse problem) and intend to pick them up from a rescue shelter in Tallinn this Friday. I can’t wait! Jim has made us promise that we are not allowed to love them (aka. make them dependant on humans). To that I say, fat chance :-p

 

If that is not enough, Shawn and I also (unfortunate for us), lost our caravan and have since relocated to the old abandoned farm house (the only building situated on the property when the land was bought. It was built in 1932 and has been sitting abandoned for 20 plus years). We spent a couple days ripping out the leftover wallpaper, taking a broom and vacuum to the ceilings and walls. We also covered the window holes and doors with mosquito netting (the glass windows have long since disappeared). And we proudly made drapes out of bits of carpet found in the local dump. We are sleeping on an old futon and are using pallets as bed slates. It really looks like an old heritage cabin and I keep expecting the person in charge at the museum to angrily pop their head in and tell us we can not touch the props :-p hehe! Truthfully it is slightly eerie and creepy and I reckon the number of spiders I eat in my sleep will increase at least ten-fold. Ahh I am certain it will grow on us as the other option is a very leaky tent…hhhhmmm tough choice :-p

Today we drove all the way to Tartu and back (3.5h one-way) as Maarja needed to give a workshop on the greenhouse and how to build with recoiled/re-used materials to a group of kids. Tartu is quite lovely and it was so nice to enjoy a beer outside in the old square. Ahhh relaxation! Well that is all. Ciao!

 

Day 27: Cob-oven and solar dehydrator

Day: Twenty-seven
Date: June 7th, 2014
Mission: Cob-oven and solar dehydrator
Okey dokey, today was one of the soon to be many cooking in the sun workshops. Cooking the sun is a grant Maarja and James obtained from the EU to make different cooking appliances that utilize solar energy or manual power to run. Once these appliances are made, we shall be creating and publishing a cookbook filled with recipes you can make using these devices and also a how-to manual to build these appliances. Today we built a cob oven and a solar dehydrator. We have plans to also build a bike blender and a rocket stove to heat water/fry with.
As usual, it might be easier to just see the pictures and read the captions to fully understand how to build both. But to give credit where it is due, our idea for the solar dehydrator was borrowed from this website http://www.geopathfinder.com/9473.html. But we adjusted the plans by using an old window instead of plastic glazing, and instead of building a food tray box, we just used an old window frame. We painted the aluminum metal sheet black with a mixture of graphite and linseed oil. Unfortunately we could not find a shop that sold the stainless steel mesh and so we have ordered it online and it should, fingers crossed, be making an appearance sometime this week!
Additional things we did today: Ate bloody fantastic food. A couple of the volunteers were really into foraging and raw food and so we had some very interesting meals. A salad where all the greens came from our wild backyard, and fried nettle burger things, and a scrumptious date/banana raw and gooey dessert. Enough said. YUM.

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Completed cob oven

Steps 1 and 2: We found two reclaimed windows of the same size for the window section and food screen section.  We removed the glass from the food screen section window. We scraped of the paint from both and applied linseed to protect the wood and add some colour. The window section has a piece of metal, that we painted black, screwed to it (Step 3).  With the glass and black metal, the window section will be the heating element for the food underneath We attached stainless steel mesh to the food section, on which the food will be placed

Steps 1 and 2: We found two reclaimed windows of the same size for the window section and food screen section. We removed the glass from the food screen section window.
We scraped of the paint from both and applied linseed to protect the wood and add some colour.
The window section has a piece of metal, that we painted black, screwed to it (Step 3). With the glass and black metal, the window section will be the heating element for the food underneath.
We attached stainless steel mesh to the food section, on which the food will be placed

Step 3: Paint the reclaimed metal black and screw to window section

Step 3: Paint the reclaimed metal black and screw to window section

Step 4: Prepare base that food screen section and window section will rest on

Step 4: Prepare base that food screen section and window section will rest on

Completed base

Completed base

Step 5: Prepare slatted metal, which will be secured to base

Step 5: Cut slatted metal, which will be secured to base

Preparing slatted metal

Cutting slatted metal

Step 6: Add legs to base to achieve ~15 degree angle (though ours ended up being slightly larger...)

Step 6: Add legs to base to achieve ~15 degree angle (though ours ended up being slightly larger…)

Step 7: Secure slatted metal to base

Step 7: Secure slatted metal to base

Attach all 3 sections (window, food screen, and base) together with brackets and hinges to complete dehydrator

Attach all 3 sections (window, food screen, and base) together with brackets and hinges to complete dehydrator

Completed dehydrator

Completed dehydrator

Day 25: Solar shower

Day: Twenty-five

Date: June 5th, 2014
Mission: Solar shower
For the last three days both Shawn and I have been out sick with nasty colds. I guess that is what you get from sharing wine from the bottle with someone who is sick. What a surprise! hehe! But yeah, the Monday through to Wednesday we have just been sleeping and drinking loads of chaga tea with ginger. Today, Thursday, I am finally feeling semi- “normal” again. Sheesh! Being sick in the bush really sucks, all I have wanted to do was curl up and watch crap tv and order take-away. Alas I had to settle for a crap book and  canned baked beans :-p
Anyway, moving on to a topic of likely more interest than what two people do in the bush when they have colds :-p, today we finished building the solar shower. As you may recall, last week the box containing the radiator was built. Today we insulated the box, lined it with reflective sheeting, put the radiator in and screwed the window onto the top of the box! Following which we screwed three holes into a 200L plastic barrel. The barrel was obtained from the dump for free, it was used to transport pickles to Estonia. Which means soon we shall be clean and smelling of pickles :-p hehe! The hole at the bottom of the barrel was connected to the top of the radiator, while the hole at the top of the barrel was connected to the bottom of the radiator. A hole slightly above the bottom hole was connected to the shower head. The barrel was placed on scaffolding about 4 meters high. The idea is that the water in the radiator will heat up and the temperature difference between the cold water in the barrel and the hot water in the radiator will cause the water to circulate and actually push the hot water on the ground in the radiator pack up a pipe into the barrel and the cold water will rush down the pipe into the radiator. The water will continue to circulate until all of the water is very hot. Hmmm, I am sceptical that it will work, but James has apparently seen it function. Once again, only time will tell. I shall keep you posted on the results. Aka. I shall let you know if I start smelling like a pickle factory. hehe!
Well, that adventure took the whole day. Twas quite fun indeed, but shesh, today I learnt that plumbing is very challenging. Soooo many connection bits! My poor head hurts.
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