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Tiny Strawbale Project

In June we spent 2 weeks at a different project. A tiny strawbale house far away from the city, supermarkets, internet and crowded places. A little village somewhere in sălaj county Transylvania. A little village where the locals live like back in the days, where everybody grows their own food, has their own cow, chickens, pigs and sheep who roam freely mostly, where they distill their own alcohol and wine, make their own cheece, yogurts and juices. wake up at sunrise and sleep at sunset, roam the mountain and forest for mushrooms, berries and fruits. A place where if you want to make a phone call you have to climb the highest hill first for there is no reception otherwise.

It all started a few years ago when Victor had the possibility to get access to a small plot of land for free, under the condition that he would build a natural home on it. With the help of a Fundraiser and lots of interested volunteers they started building. Initially it was a place to practice different techniques like earthbag foundations, strawbale walls, cordwood walls, plastering with clay and lime etc. These days after lots of experiments the tiny strawbale house is almost finished and ready for use! Some videa have been made of the early process which you can find Here and Here!

We arrived on a Tuesday, basically that day we set up our tents and hammocks, checked out the status of the house and discussed what work had to be done in the next two weeks and organized a bit. Afterwards we visited our neighbor who gave Victor the plot. Because there are basically no facilities present our neighbor offered to cook lunch and dinner for us. We also had a Team Upgrade! Bahara from Canada and Stephen from da Zef side joined us for the duration of the strawbale project. The first few days we focused on plastering the inside and the back of the house, there were some cracks present which we had to fill, then we applied another layer as preparation for the final layer. The back of the house doesn’t have much roof extending over it, therefor we filled the bigger cracks and made preparations for applying shingles.

The days passed like crazy, We woke up at 08:30, this was the time your tent starts to feel like a greenhouse and we would head to the neighbors to enjoy breakfast. The neighbors have an Ox and we brought Serials (No not kellogs!!). Oh man!!! Ox milk!!!! that shit is so delicious, every morning we were able to enjoy fresh Ox milk, pour them over your Serials, add a spoon of Jam or some fresh honey. mix it up and awwwwyeah! Best Serials Evah! afterwards we would work on the strawbale house for a few hours and head back to our neighbors around 14:00 when the belly starts to rumble, to enjoy lunch. This is where shit got real. For lunch would be soup, occasionally one or two shots of țuică before consuming the soup. Because this is Romania, so you better take that țuică or you gonna get a hayfork up your ass. Especially in the country side where the traditions are still followed on a daily basis. Anyway the soups were awesome! I’m not even sure what kind of soups we ate, I remember there was a Potato soup that was so damn good! also some cabbage soup and vegetable soup. Next to the soup we would eat a green onion straight from the garden and a few slices of bread. sometimes we got some slănina which is basically salty pork fat from their own pigs. Sadly I don’t like that stuff to much so I tried to avoid it as much as possible. We worked for the rest of the day until 19:00. For dinner we ate Pastas, Rices, Polenta, weirs stuff made from eggs and lots of other amazing food, sometimes for desert Ox yogurt with cherries.

Besides all this greatness, what I really enjoyed and which is pretty common throughout Romanian villages is that everybody has their own cow. In the morning there is this one guy who takes all the cows and brings them out of the village to the pasture where he watches over them. There the cows can chill out and eat grass for the rest of the day in complete freedom. In the evening the guy would guide the cows back to the village. The cows know where there home is, so the owners open up the gate, cow walks in and goes back to her stall to get ready to be milked. Or sometimes your just walking the street, and then all of the sudden this little kid comes passing by, driving these horses pulling a wooden cart with hay or other random stuff.

That first Friday we went to the gypsy lake in the afternoon, well lake? It was more like a artificially dug hole in the ground with some water, next to it is a gypsy village, so basically they use the lake to wash their clothes and their self etc therefor the name. But it was nice considering the super hot temperatures! that night was a complete different story, the local distillery started making some țuică. Because we were foreign to the village we got invited to be honored guests and experience the process, have a taste etc. Oh man that night! not only was it very interesting to see with your own eyes how Vodka and țuică is made but having a taste of this stuff when its freshly made is quite amazing. We had a great sober instructive night! The next day some friends and family from Cluj joined us, we plastered like crazy but were also very lazy. Sunday as usual we were not allowed to work, so instead we took a hike through the woods and picked some mushrooms for dinner.

After the weekend we got back in rhythm and got the productivity to maximum.  We started debarking some logs to finish the cordwood wall and made the door frame. On the south side of the house we initially planned to make a wall of glass, due to the circumstances and no ability to make the whole wall of glass we decided to close up half of it. Besides that Victor didn’t try the Straw/Clay method yet, with my straw/clay experience from Lithuania I explained and showed them whats the deal! while at it we tried to make a “perfect” circle with bottles, something I need to practice more! afterwards a sudden urge to decorate the inside made us make the Seed of Life in the middle of it. “lovely man, oh so lovely Victor Quoted”
Meanwhile building the straw/clay wall with the help of Jon an Brahaha for the mixing, Victor and Zef side Steph worked on building the extension at the entrance, Basically they had to dig three holes in the ground for poles, add a at right angle rule, to eventually add three more rules in an angle for the rain. everything turned out to be fine! We made the straw/clay wall, Decorated it, Closed the other part of the wall with glass, Made the door frame and the extension and add the final layer of plaster almost everywhere!

We also got asked to help stack some hay. Hay is a valuable resource here for it is used to feed a lot of animals and considering cows and horses eat quite some hay throughout the year you need to have sufficient amounts of it. After they cut the hay with the scythe they let it dry in the sun for about a week. turning it around every day. Once it dried they stack it on one big pile. Traditionally the woman stays on top of the haystack, while the dudes gather and pass the hay to her. They add a layer of hay, the woman pushes it down, they you remove all access and loose hay from the sides and bring it up again. This pattern repeats until all the hay is properly stacked. Below you can see me professionally passing some hay to the woman on top of the stack. They use home made steam bent hayforks which are perfect for the job. In the end they twist some hay from the bottom of the pile in a rope, then they add this on top of the pole to lock the hay in place basically. its magic man. When everything is done, the woman on top of the 8 meter high haystack just jumps down without any problems and does a funny dance to complete the process.

Even though the project is close to finished, The cob floor still has to be made. There is still some work to be done on the outside and the Extension at the entrance, also the door before it is completely finished. But all in all, it were 2 great weeks! with lots of fun. lots of delicious food, and lots of țuică, but mostly lots of instructive experiences and another project almost finished! and all this made possible due to great teamwork and help from (almost) every corner of the world!

Strawbale Project Team!

Strawbale Project Team!

On the way back to Cluj we took a little hike and checked out a nearby Waterfall. the hike was very relaxing, with a trail next to a river. going all the way up until you reach the waterfall. there we chilled for a bit and just listened to the sounds of falling water. I cant remember I had ever seen a waterfall up close like this. it made quite the impression on me. Besides that, I love the sounds of flowing or falling water! its very relaxing!

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DIY: Barrel Oven

Cob ovens are great! they are easy to build and maintain. The thing is they take some time to heat up before you can use them, meaning that you can’t spontaneously bake a delicious cake. There is a solution to that! Its The barrel oven! The barrel oven is a very practical and wood efficient oven to bake your delicious cake in and doesn’t require much expensive materials either. It is mostly build of brick and clay, but you do in fact need a proper barrel and some steel parts. The barrel will act as a cooking chamber, the heat generated by the fire directly below the barrel will also be stored into the ovens mass slowly releasing it afterwards. Because the fire is directly below the barrel and the air circulates around it, the oven becomes very easy to heat up (in approximately 15 min) compared to the domed cob ovens, thus saving lots of wood and waiting time. For this reason the oven is great for spontaneous cake baking!

We build one of these oven for a soon opening hostel in Cluj Napoca, Let me show you how we done it, hopefully this will help you to build your own amazing Barrel oven!

First we started with digging a hole for the foundation one by one meter wide and approximately 60cm deep. In the hole we carefully placed stones to get it level with the ground, filling the gaps with smaller stones. The top layer of stones we filled with clay to stabilize them. Meanwhile one of us started mixing a clay mixture for building the base of the oven.

With the foundation done we started going up one level with stones for about 10 cm. On this layer we used clay for every single stone to be stable and properly fitted. Once that was done we placed the ash-drawer in the middle and stacked stones around it to make it even with the drawer. Two metal strips were placed on the bottom for the drawer to slide on, while on the sides we used bricks to guide it. Once the stones were even with the drawer we leveled it with clay, making a straight and even foundation for the next layers of bricks. We placed the bricks for the grating to sit perfectly above the ash-drawer and laid the outer contour of the oven.

Up next we stacked the bricks on the outside as high as the door for the fire chamber. We carefully fitted the door and started preparing for placing the bricks on the inside of the fire chamber. The bricks on the inside are placed in a 45 degree angle to help guide the heat from the fire to flow around the barrel. We used stones to support them and added clay to make it air tight. meanwhile the ash-drawer worked perfectly as a clay catcher to catch access clay and reuse it. When we finished placing the bricks in a 45 degree angle we added two more layers of brick on the outside square before we started on the arch.

To support the barrel we added two L shaped metal strips from front to back, then we used six metal strips bent in half circles to support the bricks for the arch. We also added one layer of mesh between the metal supports for the arch and the bricks, to make things a bit easier and so the clay could not fall between the barrel and the bricks. The chimney rests on two of the metal arches with bricks and clay keeping it in place and air tight.

After finishing the arch we used the small pieces of brick the cavedude was chopping to fill up the access space between the barrel and the arch, making it air tight with clay. Then we made a sand/lime plaster to smooth out the outside of the oven, we added about 2 nice layers of lime plaster. Due to the fact that a roof will be build above the oven soon and the final color of the oven was supposed to be brown we mixed some clay with water and brushed in on the final layer to give it a nice brown finishing touche!

The final Result.

Now thats what I call a great looking oven!

Now that’s what I call a great looking oven!

Made possible by the best team in da world!

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 Curious how to make a domed cob oven? check out DIY: Rocket Cob oven!

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Recent Developments

Winter is coming, Slowly but surely, all of the sudden the 35 degrees was gone and we had a period of rain and winds. nights are getting colder and instead of a subtle light from the horizon its already dark at 9 these days. luckily for us there has been some nice sunny weather the past week and so we were able to finish some work we were not able to do in the rainz.

lets start with the most amazing project lately, Our pizza oven. We started on it a vew weeks back, but it had to go on hold for a while. its nearly finished now though. and although we still need to give it a test run. its pretty amazing, i will be making a How To: Pizza oven post sooner or later. for now you will have to do with this

Pizza oven Pan placement

As most of you know we cook on wood, to keep the pizza oven running and keep us warm all winter we have been chopping wood like crazy. well maybe not like crazy but whenever we feel like it. though we have lots of wood, and we want to get it all chopped and stacked before snow hits,

Meanwhile the road to our house was getting pretty bumpy, big holes and ditches everywhere. it was getting very hard to drive it normally, especially when the rain hit you couldn’t tell if it was a deep or undeep ditch. which made driving pretty exciting. but luckily our friend came to fix da sandyness and made all fancy new roads for us :) they usually fix the roads like 3 or 4 times a year. but this year they only came once… this was the second time and it was badly needed. he really saved the day eh!

due to all the rainzies recently we done some work on the inside of the house. one of which was a fireplace, not only is a fireplace very cozy and awesome. it will help us survive the winter for the fireplace gives of so much nice warmth when burning and easily heats up all the living room. Ever since we made the fireplace we light it up every night. gotta love da Fireplace!

Under construction close to finish but working!

our future kitchen and rocket mass heater bench have been getting some nice upgrades also, the first wall finishes in the future kitchen have been applied. we have been working on the World Tree Window, But most of all some amazing decorations on the rocket mass heater Bench! its really starting to show of how beautiful everything will look like once its done. cant say everybody hasz dem decorations on dem benches eh!

and ofcourse due to the better weather last week some work has been done on the outside of the house, we filled the front porch with straw/clay. which is now ready to get a clay/lime layer. when raymundas was still present @ Izreal ft Esci we worked on the walls in the pantry. but we didnt fill them all to the top. so we have been filling them up to the top so we can also add some Clay/lime layer when done. when this has been done we can start building our boiler for we would like to take a shower inside instead of oustide this winter. but for that to become reality we have to finish the pantry, build the boiler. and build the shower before winter/in winter. Gonna be exciting!!

Front porch Pantry Progression

Although nights are already starting to get very cold. I really love the sky here. there are no streetlights here, so when you go outside its pitchblack everywhere. this makes stargazing perfect. and Dang. you can see so much stars here, its crazy. falling stars are also pretty easy to spot here almost anytime with a bit of patience, and its even possible to see a part of the Milkyway if its a clear night. i was told that in winter it will be dark here around 4/5 o clock. i can hardly imagine this. but we will see, gonna be short days then. gues we should get some construction lamps gheghe.

This summer has gone by so fast, its already September, soon there will be snow, soon i will freeze to death, soon i will experience Lithuanian winter. Aww yeah!! (no srsly, im already cold now sometimes. how will manage -30 degrees) ah well, thats why i decided to stay for winter. to see whatsup! winter will probably rush by as fast as this summer did and then ill be on da road again, towards destination unknown.

Autumn Sunset

Autumn Sunset

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Assisting @ Šironija

This weekend (16/17th of August) We went to help an acquaintance of Basz with his Straw house, The Dude (Which is the son of the old mayor of Moletai) decided to build his own house on the land of their family for his wife and future kids most likely, to live there happily ever after. We visited a while ago, when he started on the frame of his house which was rather interesting. back then it looked like this.

I come from a rather complicated family situation, i gues the most simple way to describe it is something like, don’t expect both sides of my family on the same table for Christmas dinner, for this will be an awkward situation. For me seeing a family like this, as in: Parents, kids, Grand kids, Grand parents, Cousins, Uncles and Everybody living together in there own house on the same plot of land as one happy family is a somewhat new experience for me.

So you can probably imagine that when we went here, I was amazed by the fact that this dude just picks a hill somewhere in their garden, chops down some trees, makes some beams out of it and starts to build his house :)) Anywayz for we are also building a Straw/Clay house And he doesn’t have so much experience with it, We joined, Cuz Basz is the Straw/Clay Guru A La Lietuva and always ready to help! also this would be my first project working with Lithuanian locals and a nice way to learn more about Straw/Clay

When we arrived on Saturday I was amazed by the progression he made. the house was Certainly getting more shape and starting to show its future awesomeness.

First things first, we were with a pretty nice group op people. Around 8 to 10. To keep things going and let everything go smooth, we first got our selfs an old bathtub to mix the clay in, managed to let some people get sand, some others some clay and prepared the straw bales for claying. it was rather amusing to see how things went here, i’m used to organized work and when you stand still you get a “whip up your ass” you know. but here people were very relaxed just chilling, talking a bit, having long discussions who would get clay and sand and so on. I gues there was nothing wrong with it, I was rather amused. it was just different. Also the fact that some of them were walking bare feet and children playing around the work in progress was rather amusing for me. Anyways, after checking things out for a while we just started doing what has to be done.

When everybody got a little idea of what was going on. things started to go pretty well. clay was always ready, we were claying the walls, filling the gaps, we worked for a vew hours straight and progressed nicely until lunch.

Lunch was very nice. They baked fresh bread, which we ate with some Pea and Bean paste on it, and next to that some Sliced tomatoes freshly harvested from the garden. For drink we had home made Apple juice which was also made from the apples around their land.

After our delicious PeaBeanPaste bread with tomatoes and some Obuolių sultys, we chilled for a bit and had a chat about the progression of the house. To put it in a Nutshell, The way things were going now were not that well. The base clay layer we were putting on the Straw bales wasn’t sticking well enough and the bales were rather loose, Basically if the base layer isn’t perfect and you will put more layers on it N eventually the lime layer. There will be a high chance of them letting go or cracking, meaning moist inside your straw bale. Where moist goes Fungus goes and a composting straw bale wall is not something you want when you are living inside it. We came to the conclusion to remove the Straw bales, And make Straw Clay walls instead of Straw Bale walls (you feel me?) Of course at first this was a mayor setback, For almost all the Straw bales were already in place and about 1/4th of the bales were already covered in the first clay layer (which wasn’t properly done)

Luckily our lunch wasn’t done yet, and after realizing we had to do thing completely differently for the house to be able to survive at least a vew generations instead of just 5 years. There was freshly made Šaltibarščiai with Boiled Zucchini with some more Obuolių sultys (dang I love Lithuanians and their food man, its so delicious and you know, almost all the Lithuanians I met use there own grown foodzies instead of buying everything, Make their own juice, Jams, Everything!!! Man Patinka!)

And so with our Full stomachs and a new plan we changed our setup for mass producing Straw/Clay Mix and learned them how to make Straw/Clay walls like a boss! We spend the rest of the day doing so, We returned the next day. (Indeed, usually Sunday is our free day but we are such good people you know, we sacrifice our free Sunday to help a Brolis in need) to give them a bit of a Kick-Start. It was also nice to see that The Dude got more confidence after a night of sleep, now he saw how easy it is to make Straw/Clay walls and how fast it can go if you have good preparations.

It was a good weekend, It was good for me to see a different Straw/Clay house for i was able to see a different technique, but also because now i learned allot of things about how you should. and how you should not build your Straw/Clay house, and what you should think about building your Straw/Clay house. It was very amusing to see how a group of Lithuanians organize and work together, for this is completely different them what i am used to, And of course my favorite part of the day was lunch for every time i have lunch with a Lithuanian they surprise me again with the amazingness of there food creating skillz! Very inspirational!

 

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Just another Crazy DayZ

Before I start with all da madness, lets just go back a little and let me show you what we haz been doin eh!

Although most of the straw/clay walls have been made and the house is closed, there are still a vew to be done at the Front and Back Entrance. Before the weekend me n Crayray started doing some Straw/Clay wall building, to explain the process a little: You dig up some clay and add lots of water to make it Smearablez, Then you mix it with the Straw, Once that is done you push it in between 2 wooden plates and the wall beams until its full. Wait just 15 min for it to dry a bit. then you can go up and up and up. Its not hard at all!

Meanwhile working on da house, Jamesz has been protecting us from all the Intruders, This Terminator killer cat has been catching Mouse, Birds N Mole Rat daily lately and protecting us from harm.

So today Basz hasz been doing some professional shizznit on da  Western part of the house, almost finished Osnap! Just not yet!, Meanwhile i have been doing some preparations and Windowork on the South side of da house, in preparation for Basz so he can continue with his Lime layer.

Meanwhile doing all this work, Basz his Father came with some heavy machinery from Obuolių Sala to dig some holes for sand and bring it from the back of the property to the front. to spare us some time. Things were all going well. Lots of sun and lovely weather, Then around dinnertime when He wanted to leave and bring dem Machinery back to Obuolių Sala some crazy shizzle ma nizzle happend.

Gravitiez be a biotch

Gravitiez be a biotch

Tun Tun Tunnnn.

Me n Crayray were working on da house, we saw him drive through the holes and stuff. and at first we were laughing cuz the Tractor and things were Bouncing like crazy. Then suddenly it started tilting……

We managed to get the cart on its wheels again. but for the excavator we needed another tractor to do the job. so while they went to Obuolių sala to pick it up(Tractors don’t drive so fast) we bought some beers to sooth the pain. With the other Tractor the job was done easily and we managed to get the Excavator on its feet again. after checking all dem stuff and fixing a few thangs everything worked fine again. no people were hurt. no machinery got broken (except for some dents)

To celebrate this, we tried to some Acrobatics, N I made some Šaltibarščiai. Also I would like to Introduce you to a new member of the IzReal Family, MR Rocketstove.

Feed me Wood N Ill Heat Yo Foodz

Feed me Wood N Ill Heat Yo Foodz

So yeah, Just another DayZ @ IzReal