It’s been a while since I posted anything here, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy! Chrisje has now moved her gear over from the King’s Mill and the sleeping space has been rearranged to accommodate her furniture. It looks splendid, and there’s even a little niche for me, now!
Ria and Chrisje have been turboing the garden – I won’t even begin to list the flowers and vegetables they have planted (I’ll write about the new beds in the next post).
We are already harvesting strawberries, that are netted to protect them from the birds. Even the strawberries planted in the dry clay down on the dike between us and the neighbours are bearing fruit.
The chickens, it would appear, have taken a break from laying eggs – we’re not quite sure what that’s about, but they still want to get out of their enclosure at all costs…
I have just returned from 10 days in Greece, on the beautiful land of our sister place, Axladitsa-Avatakia, where I participated in a 6-day programme called Apprenticing to the Earth. While I was there, I fell in love with an eco-loo, and was therefore utterly delighted to see such a construction rising at the bottom of the vegetable garden. Ria’s son Toon promised to build her one for her birthday, and began making good on the promise last week. With the help of a circular saw borrowed from the King’s Mill, we’ve been sawing planks recovered from the demolition of the outhouse, and the loo is progressing fast. Next challenge, fixing on the doors – both also rescued from the threat of retirement after doing duty elsewhere…
Yesterday we went on a jaunt to Pieraerts, purveyor of fine farm machinery in Kortenaken, just round the corner, to buy a girl-sized chainsaw and the requisite safety clothing. We are now the proud owners of a STIHL MS 211C 35cm baby that Chrisje can’t wait to get her hands on. We won’t have the protective gear until next week, though, so she’ll have to wait – but the days of the remaining jungle at the front of the house are NUMBERED!
We were assisted in our chainsaw quest by our friend Martin Jugmans, a man of many hats who has quite some experience in the building trade. After our excursion, we sat down with the architect’s plans and Martin, bless him, threw us straight into the groan zone by suggesting that we would be much better off if we just demolished the house and started afresh, building with timber frames and strawbales. That induced rather a long silence, during which I, for one, underwent a fundamental shift in my thinking about how to approach the renovation of the house.
We have been wondering, ever since we arrived here, why the pace of progress on the house has been so much slower than our progress in the garden. While in Greece, I drew a tarot card to gain some insight into this delay – the two of swords reversed. Suggesting I’d been using my intuition wrongly. I realise I’ve been rather afraid to think of making any radical changes to the place – lack of experience being a large part of my timidity. Yet here was Martin, urging free thinking with great confidence.
The secret lay in looking at the core challenges already identified with the architect, and then letting rip with our imagination in how to solve them. We eventually came up with the idea of simply demolishing all the outbuildings – including the barn/pigsty complex and the workshop/outhouses, and building in their place with straw bales. Having the living room where the workshop is now, and relegating the utilities into the dark core of the house gives us permanent relationship to the garden. Having the storage and toolshed area where the pigsty/cowshed is, and widening the access through to the back means we can also dig an underground rain water cystern large enough to meet our needs while we are at it. We can carry on living in the house while building the straw bale construction out back, and that could happen quite quickly, once the foundation is laid.
Martin, who was to be seen leaning in ever more as we three girls got more excited and engaged – has offered to help us draw up some plans for this new vision. We know that our architect, with his boundless goodwill, is rather stretched with his current workload after a bout of ill health earlier in the year, and would probably be delighted to step back and play a more supervisory role if we can manage more design work on our own. This feels very right to us – having friendly support from someone with both experience and connections in the area will make all the difference.
We’ll be meeting the architect on Wednesday evening – I’ll keep you posted about what happens!