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Time Flies in da Mountains

I stayed in Cluj for a couple of days chilling with a friend, that weekend we hitchhiked to Viscri. Viscri is a little village in Romania where things go back to basic. Really basic, as if you go back in time 100 years. But what makes this place even more “interesting” is that Prince Charles owns a Straw Bale house there and is promoting Sustainable living in the area. Ever since, the place got way more attractive to tourism. Yet the villagers remain to life in their traditional ways. Its a wonderful place to visit if you are ever nearby!

After the trip and a couple of days in the city I met up with Victor, it was time to head back to the Mountains and start preparations for the work to come. The drive was great as usual but the car had some funny stuff going on and we weren’t quite sure what exactly. By the time we arrived in the valley it seemed the gearbox broke, even though we were at the feet of the mountain, we still had to go up! that surely wasn’t going to happen with the car, walking was not exactly an option either for the car was loaded with stuff. From pipes, wood. food and our clothes, there was only one solution!

Hitching a Ride up the mountain to our HQ

Hitching a Ride up the mountain to our HQ

Being back in the mountains is just great, The silence, The fresh air, The view of the Valley and mountain tops, The cows, sheep and horses just walking all over the place. I slept so well that night! The next day preparations started. Basically we had many Chisels and Axes that needed sharpening and renovating, we got quite some fresh cut logs, ready to be split into firewood for next winter and we set the priority to making two goats to make woodwork much easier!

I found some birch logs from last year, With the help of some wigs and the Newly Restored Axe I split them in two. they are going to be the legs of the goats. with the help of the Axe and a hand plane I smoothed out the rough split surface. Made a notch in the correct angle and connected them to the beam with some screws. Now those are some damn Sturdy Goats!

An Axe can be useful in many ways!

An Axe can be useful in many ways!

Heavy duty Goats for Heavy duty work!

Heavy duty Goats for Heavy duty work!

While I was working mostly at our HQ, sharpening Chisels, chopping wood, making the goats. Victor was working with our neighbor on the Sauna next to the Eco Cabins. The Sauna interio is getting shape, but there is still some work to do on the Shower, Boiler and Benches. While they were up their getting things done, I was sanding, Cutting and preparing the wood they needed for the job. Like the floor, some beams for holding the glass but also the Door

In between all this I have been choppin wood every now and then and Re-organizing the place where we store said wood. But before i’m gonna brag about all the awesome woodchoppin. let me show you the Sauna door made from Solid Oak Boards. The idea is quite similar to the floor, First I sanded them, then I cut the Notches with the circular, Planed them by hand to smooth/fit them, repeat until the needed width was achieved. to Reinforce the door I made some Ledges and Braces. Very fun work indeed! (for the knowledgeable: The door still has Extra length, after fitting/cutting only 10cm should remain from Edge till Ledge!

But Sauna doors need protection, Protection from crazy Mountain weather and crazy naked people trying to sweat all over it! The solution was simple, Linseed and Beewax! On the stove I mixed some Beewax with Linseed which I then applied to the door, 3 layers on the outside and two on the inside. while giving it a slight rub with sanding paper in between. Its hard for me to explain why, but I really enjoy Oiling wood. Its so relaxing, the smell of linseed and beewax is just great, not to mention the Result.

Sneak Preview, It works just great!

Sneak Preview, It works just great!

So how do our days up here actually look like? Well let me tell you, Basically we go to bed between 23/00:00 and we wake up whenever we wake up, usually between 08/09:00. First one awake Starts the Fire! Then we chill out for a bit and have breakfast, This is either leftover from the day before or Porridge, sometimes Bread with Zacusca or veggies. Every Monday and Thursday I bake a bread in the morning which takes about an hour. Thats right! we don’t buy bread anymore! So when the morning ritual has been completed we start working. We work until late afternoon, then we have Dinner, I call it dinner because we cook a warm meal which we consume around 15:00 sometimes 16:00. After “Dinner” we work until the sunset basically. Or depending on the weather and work we have, just before. Then we chill for a bit, for supper we make a soup or a something simple which is usually ready only after 21:00. then the last few hours left before our systems shut down is either spend chilling or discussing tomorrows work and future projects. Living da good life!

But one of the greatest days is when you wake up, enjoy your Breakfast and then start choppin wood like a boss! I spend a few full days just choppin n choppin n movin and stacking dem wood! Great exercise, very enjoyable. Especially in a lovely sunny day with a newly fitted Axe! We also had a French and American Volunteer over for a short while, they also did quite some wood choppin for us!

There is no end to it!!! I love it!!

There is no end to it!!! I love it!!

With the door on its place, I spend some time sanding, cutting and oiling more boards for the Verge-board on the Eye cabin. And started working on the wooden grid for the shower, basically the part where you stand on but still allows for the water to go down to the drain. We also need to make stair on the entrance of the sauna, all of those wooden pieces needed sanding oiling and cutting. Lovely!

Verge-Board Applied to the Eye Cabin, Looking Amazing!

Verge-Board Applied to the Eye Cabin, Looking Amazing!

Meanwhile Birch are really hot in the Flower scene! Alina (Victor his lady), Is one of the most awesome Florists in Cluj-Napoca. She asked me if I could make a flower display for one of the flower shops in Cluj. She showed me what she wanted and I started tinkering. In the end I spend about 2 days searching for some nice birch branches, and tinkering them together to make a lovely flower display. Who knows, maybe they catch on. if so, Ill just stop building Natural homes and start building Flower display racks for all of Romania’s flower shops! hihi

I'm actually quite amazed with the results. Imagine it full of flowers!

I’m actually quite amazed with the results. Imagine it full of flowers!

With all that done, there was one more task to do before “vacation” starts. Something I haven’t done in a while but something definitely not forgotten! A little wooden frame with through Mortise and Tenon joints. A simple yet very nice task indeed. While working on the Joints I came to realize something: I really like doing this shizz. Besides, its like a Meditation you know? the only difference is that doing this shizz clears my mind like my intestines on diarrhea. Wooosh!, and its gone!

Just Flaweless

Just Flaweless

For the next two weeks Victor has some shizzle to do, which means we can’t work on the projects. Thus implying that I have two free weeks. Freedom though, can be quite overwhelming sometimes. I made certain decisions in my life, that allow me to be able to go anywhere I want, Whenever I want, I can do Anything I like, Any time of the Day, Week, Month or Year.

Yet with these two weeks of no responsibilities, I just get this overwhelming sensation of an indescribable feeling. I want to go to so many places, yet non of them is calling me in such a way that I know that’s where I should be going. All the options are so appealing to me. Yet I can’t seem to figure out which one appeals to me the most. For the past week I have been looking inside, and outside for a sign, without any luck. I gues i’ll just go with the flow and let the wind guide me. or maybe just chose two and flip a coin. we’ll see. I have no doubt i’ll end up exactly where i’m supposed to be!

To hike or not To hike?

To hike or not To hike?

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DIY: Renewing your Axe

Spring is almost here, this means that all tools which had a nice winter sleep will be used again excessively! Some of them in good state, but I bet you have some old rusted tools laying around somewhere. That for sure, was the case for us. Recently I came across This article posted by Natural Homes about Tool Restoration. It inspired me to give it a try.

That evening we threw all our rusted tools in a little tub, filled it up with White Vinegar until all tools were covered and enjoyed a lovely night full of dreams. The next morning it was time to put it to the test! I took out the first tool and started brushing it with a piece of steel wool. WOW that goes extremely well! The rust came off like a potato peeler on a potato skin!

Before and After brushing

Before and After brushing

So most of the Axe heads didn’t have a handle. One of them though still had the handle but it was broken where the Head used to be. I cut of the chipped parts as much as possible and drew the shape of the eye on the end grain, then I drew a line where the bottom of the Axe Head was supposed to end while allowing the handle to extend through about 1cm. With a chisel I slowly took away excess wood until it fitted just right but very tight.

With a handsaw I made a cut in the end grain of the handle, until about 1.5cm above the Bottom of the Axe head. From a little piece of Oak I made a wig that was just a bit longer that the cut I made in the handle, but with the same width. Placing the Axe head on a log and hitting the handle downwards With a wooden mallet I hit the Handle inside the Axe head, when it couldn’t go further I flipped the Axe and hit the handle on the log a couple of times for the Head to go down just that last little centimeter. Then I applied a little bit of wood glue to the wig and hit it in as much as possible, afterwards I cut of whatever was still extending.

And there you have your brand new Axe, as if it was just bought! Because this was the first time re-handling  an Axe, I wasn’t too sure it would actually stay on there. So I gave it a test run right away! Amazingly, the head stayed on there for the duration of splitting the logs. And man! What a lovely Axe, it goes through the logs like a knife through butter, The handle holds great. Its maybe a bit short but alright. I can keep on splitting logs all day with this Axe!

Thank you Awesome Axe! you make life so much more easy!

Thank you Awesome Axe! you make life so much more easy!

After removing the rust and using the Axe, I noticed that after a few days the rust would come back, not to much but a slight brown layer returned. To protect the Axe head from getting rusty again you can make a mixture of Linseed an Beewax to apply to the Axe head. Just heat up  a ratio of about 1 beewax to 7 linseed in a little jar and stir until its equally mixed. then rub on the the Axe head with a piece of cloth. ever since I applied the substance, the Axe head is not only blinding me in the sunlight. itțs not getting rusty anymore!

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Inch Bofin Carriages

Rain, Wind and Rainbows, Wooosh, Woooosh. Rakatakataka. The sounds of the Rain falling on the roof of the workshop is wonderful. Rain never bothered me that much. Though I have to admit, after a month of mostly Rain and Wind it gets you somehow. Beautiful sunsets are rare, simply because most of the time its way to clouded and taking a hike when wind is blowing you out your shoes making the rain feel like stones being thrown at you has its charms, yet it makes staying next to the fire and spend the weekends inside much more charming. Anywayz. Besides the somewhat saddening weather, Working on the Carriages with Franky has been great!

The first week I had to get to know the Workshop a bit, but work was in abundance. He is currently working on a Handsome Cab. Its one of those old skool Carriages used as cabs, It gets drawn by one horse, with the maximum of two passengers. The driver sits high in the sky on the back of the thing. My first job was to add some Trim, Trim???? No were not a barber. With Trim we mean the profile on the edges and corners. I had to get used to this word too, for I would usually say Profile. yet here its called Trim. So trimming I did! Afterwards I had to join some mitred profiling on the inside of the doors, A bit of filling and sanding of gaps and joints etc. Nothing fancy.

Carriages are not all about wood, there is actually quite some metal involved, This particular project has a metal frame with mostly plywood attached to it, (which is not that common) yet there was a lot of metal work to be done, from Ornaments used for the ropes. to the rails on the edges, bends for the shafts etc. I don’t have that much experience with metal work, never could have imagined how Franky handles dem apples. Fire is what we needed, Metal should be glowing red for it to bend properly! we lit the fireplace in the workshop. Just a fire is not enough, it needs air. Franky grabbed a Hairdryer, a big brick and placed the hairdryer in front of the fireplace. That will do!
After some time he took out the metal, hold it here and hit it there he said. We were supposed to bend the thing in a spiral. A big metal beam in a block of concrete just outside the workshop. It had some bolts and shapes welded onto it, Holding it in one of the shapes and a couple of hits from Thor’s mighty hammer it became a spiral alright!

After some more heating and hitting we managed to get the Spirals somewhat similar! Meanwhile I worked some more on the carriage and trims. The next step was to make an U bend to connect the Shafts to. This would eventually become the thing that goes around the horse to pull the carriage. With some spare plywood I found I had to make a bending mold. Afterwards I worked some solid wood into laminates. We didn’t have proper space to do the bend though. “Go to the chicken coup, behind it is a door. just fixate the bending mold on the door, that will do” he said. It was a Magical day, for it wasnt raining. I placed the door on some iron supports and attached the mold to it.

It had been a couple of years since I bent wood. But the theory was still somewhere inside that grey mass above. The most important thing I remember was preparation!! I checked all the Laminates, the glue, the strap, clamps, holes. Everything seemed to be just fine except for the lack of clamps. With some improvisation to solve said clamp problem and managed to bend the thing. Not perfect, but acceptable! With the help of a Japanese draw saw, the chisel and the plane I made the halfwood joint to connect the shafts to the Ubent.

With that done it was time to get the thing connected to the carriage. We leveled it and placed it in the right position on some bricks. While Franky was busy bending and welding the three metal parts needed, I did some small work attaching the torch holders, whip holder etc. The windows at the front had to be attached to. The window consists of two parts, one with hinges connected to the roof that can flip up. the second part needed some custom made metal hinges that connect it to the side of the carriage. I calculated the angle, cut, drilled and bent the small metal parts and attached them. a little adjustments were made, it worked just fine!

looking good so far.

looking good so far.

The shafts need reinforcement, with the help of the mold we used for the bending the local blacksmith made us some metal reinforcements. all we had to do was to fit them properly and drill the holes. We added metal on the bottom, top and back of the shafts. then drilled them through and fixed the bolts.

To complete the thing we add some handles with some flexiply and the spiral thingies we made earlier. The spirals are for the ropes of the driver to steer the horse.

Bofincarriage3

Lovely

I cut off all the extending bolts, we sanded whatever needed sanding, Voila si Gata. There was only one problem, The carriage didn’t fit through the door…… At first I laughed, then I cried! We had to take off the shafts, the metal parts connecting shaft to carriage and also the back seat. That wasn’t as easy as expected for the springs the carriage was resting on were perfectly in the way. With some hitting and pulling we managed to get the seat of, meanwhile destroying half of the thing :)))). Anyway, with all the things removed we tilted the carriage on its back with the front pointing upwards. which made it fit through the roller shutter. Outside we reattached all things, restored the damage that was done removing them. Result:

Handsome Cab, de la Inch Bofin

Handsome Cab, de la Inch Bofin

Working on the the Carriages is nice, something different then usual even though the materials related to this particular carriage, (Plywood), is a bit boring. The place itself is alright Lots of space, lots of mud, lots of horses, In the garden we have quite some Potatoes, Carrots, Garlic, different herbs and Turnip TURN-UP TURN-UP! ready for consuming. Its a bit different though then the places I have been staying at for the past two years.

Franky, he doesn’t like silence that much, in the workshop its the radio brainwashing us with the same shit everyday: Justing Bieber and Adele songs 10x a day mostly, srsly, I go to sleep and wake up with those Damn Radio songs in my head HHNNNGGGG. Besides that whenever he enters the kitchen or living room the TV goes on, throwing all this Terrorism, death and destruction and Commercial bs at us. Luckily I have the power to shut down said TV or Radio whenever he is not around :D. We work 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, the weekends as you wish. Which is alright, Everybody has its own thing. For me though, I have been avoiding these things.  Its as if i’m walking this middle line with both side pushing and pulling me of sorts, On the right side things related to my old life which I’f been trying to avoid, Media, Structure, Repetitiveness. On the left side, Freedom to do as I wish, Woodworking, Organic home grown Vedgz, Home made stuff(Bread,cookehz,Peanut butter,chutney) Its hard to describe really, how this place makes me feel on occasion.

In any case, I’m learning new things about carriages and metalworking which is great! So ill make the best of the time I have here. Winter has not even started, yet the year is almost at an end. Spring is around the corner. Time flies! With the blink of an eye ill be thumbing again!

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PS : I bake cookies now. Behold a few of my Creations!

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Turning the pages, România

It is as if I’m writing a book called “The Tales of my Journey” Yet at the same time I’m reading it, Excited and amazed of the story and where it is leading me. I bet that the great writers of our time have some kind of guideline or idea of where they want to go with their story, but while on it give the story a turn they didn’t intent to give it at first. I feel somewhat like this at the moment, For I intended to stay in Romania for a Year or so, Full circle you know. Yet my time here is coming to an end, I’ll be on my way again soon. But before I’ll start with reflecting Romanian happenings, First A nutshell of Valea Ierii Mountain shizz

The illucabin is basically almost done, There is still some minor detailing work to be done, some fine tuning of the stove and it could probably use some shelves or maybe a little cabinet. But besides that things are looking great. Not to much cracks in the plaster, a lovely view, a properly closing door, Mushrooms growing on the roof and an amazing linseeded oak terrace. Man, standing on that terrace looking into the valley, seeing the clouds scratching the mountain tops… There are no words to describe that feeling. All I can do is suggest you to Consider Visiting this amazing place and stay a few nights in the cabin once it’s done. but for now, Here is the Sneak-Preview.

I see, I see, What you don't see

I see, I see, What you don’t see

A lot has progressed in the Pyracabin too, Even though we really like how the Oak bed turned out to be, it took quite some time to make the joints. Besides we didn’t want to have two similar beds in both cabins, Thus we made a Roundwood bed instead. The mattress (even though not in the pictures) is the same as the Oak bed. Hemp fabric with Reeds on the inside. Who wants Nasa foam if you can have a Reed mattress? With the terrace in place, the door made and all windows installed the cabin is actually pretty comfy at night. It needs more detailed work though, the stove is not even close to ready yet and well, not to mention some cleaning. At the moment it is kind of being used as a tool shed/warehouse :))

Meanwhile working with the roundwood and after hearing quite the complains over the past summer from Victor his sister and girlfriend that there is not enough place for pans and plates in the kitchen:)). We made a little Cabin Kitchen Cabinet Upgrade, Not only to make the girls happy but also because it was a rainy day and we had the logs ready to use anyway. It was a simple but nice project. I have to admit, it did solve a lot of stacking problems and the occasional collapses of said stacks. Some extra space for dishes seems to be quite useful to.

As of my return from Roșia Montană we have been working on the Sauna. Well, maybe not exactly on the sauna. We started digging the water reservoir and the trench towards it. Oh man what a job. The main reason why I left Rosia the day I did was because Jon was visiting RO for a few days! If I knew we were digging I would have known better. Luckily Jon likes to dig, you could say he is quite the dirt digger. So with our Professional digger present in Valea Ierii we stared diggin. The reservoir being approximately 1.70mX1.50m and about 1.60 deep wasn’t that much of a problem. We had some reinforcements, with the four of us it took us about a day. Digging up Quartz, Iron, Copper and of course lots of Gold. We almost considered starting our own mining company. Gheghe, Just kiddin! The trench though, ioiii, Approximately 50 meters long, and it needed to be 1 meter deep.

It started of slow, we didn’t have the right technique yet really. The weather wasn’t in our favor either, You might think, Half way through September its getting colder. Well I don’t know if you have global warming in your area. but we’re at 1000m altitude and it was still 30 degrees and beyond. After a few days of digging we got about 15 meters done and the future water reservoir filled about half way with our ass sweat! We got the hang of it though and we progressed much faster, sadly the reinforcements left, so did Jon for he had to engage on a Scouting mission. It was just me and Victor for a while. Some more volunteer reinforcements arrived for about a week to aid us with the digging, but Eventually we asked some neighbors to help in return for Tuica. Long story short, We have been digging for almost 3 weeks but now we finally reached the Sauna. with about 1/3 of the trench filled back up again.

I am now relieved of my diggin duties, A few more days in Cluj and off I go. Onward to the United Kingdom this time. I’m looking quite forward to my Hitch, For it will be from the far East of Europe to the far West of Europe. I found a project there where I can stay for the winter months. Building Wooden Carriages for horses! But alright, Lets first finish the Romanian chapter eh?

Before I headed to Romania my brain was full of stereotypical fears. Fear for getting eaten by a bear camping outside, Fear of being robbed by Gypsies, Fear of getting bit by a Vampire, Fear of getting abducted while hitch-hiking. Romania is a Dangerous country they said. Well, if there is one thing I learned on my journey its this: Don’t listen to anybody nor Media and what they tell you about places. Only take advice from the people that actually been there recently. For Romania, or maybe I should rather say Transylvania? Touched my heart.

I never really been to much around mountains, my dad took me on winter sport when I was younger. But you can not compare that with the experience of hitch-hiking by yourself, all the way to these mountains far away from the cities. and live on top of them for an extended period of time. Normally when I would look at a mountain, I would think: Damn, this terrain is impossible! how can people live here? Now I realize: I, as a Consciousness in a Physical Humanoid Body that allows me to Interact and Perceive Reality as is, Am well capable of climbing said mountains, Or walk from one valley to another. Saywhat? 2 years ago if you would ask me, Wanna take a hike? we’ll cross about 3 mountain and it will take about 7 hours, I wouldn’t even move a finger. Probably look at you if you are some kind of Superman. Then move my head to the screen and continue wasting my time in the digital world.

Besides the landscape, The people here in general are so friendly and welcoming! The places I stayed at in Cluj, whether it were friends I made myself, or friends and family related to Victor always welcomed me with open arms. Don’t think you can just enter their houses like that, sit down and have a chat. Noooooo, You enter their house, then you get shit loads of food thrown in your face, depending on who your visiting you get either Tuica or some delicious home made cakes with that. Then when you have to leave again after a few days, you get a month supply of Home made Jams and Zacusca added to your bag. Even though you still have about 4 jars unopened from the last time. Did I already tell you the food here is amazing? I Probably did. Which is also this amazing thing about Eastern European Countries. If your pantry doesn’t look like this by now, You are either doing something wrong, or living in the wrong country! I can keep on brabbling about all the amazing stuff here, but that wont even get close to the real experience, Just get your ass of your chair, and volunteer in Romania for a summer. then you will understand!

Zacusca, Jams, Zacusca, Oils/Spices, Tomato Juice, Zacusca, Pickled Veggies,

Zacusca, Jams, Zacusca, Oils/Spices, Tomato Juice, Zacusca, Pickled Veggies,

So in the end, I did not get eaten by a bear. Even though I actively searched for one in Brasov and some bears were spotted in the area around the mountains where we took the hikes. I did not get robbed by Gypsies, instead I hitch-hiked one and went to his home for lunch. I did not get bit by a Vampire, I did develop great feelings for this Vampire Girl, though I was not able to convince her to Turn me and Roam the Planet together for eternity. I did not get abducted while hitch-hiking, I did hitch-hike this masonry dude, he was one of the people that laid the pavement in Dracula’s Castle. how fkn awesome is that. Besides all of the above, It seems that the most dangerous thing in Romania is probably the Tuica! and the dancing forest fairy’s

I met great people in the past months. Not only in Cluj, but also volunteers from all over the world at Valea Ierii and quite a bunch in Rosia. Some of them to become even closer friends in the years to come, some of them never to be seen again. Life can be perceived as somewhat unfair (which is certain cases is very true), but life is balanced, Where new great friendships are made, Old great friendships are broken. Possibly never to be restored again. Only time will tell which people are worthy or value to be part of your journey, Some just decide to leave it for whatever reasons they may have, Others just pass through for a short period of time, a few will stick with you till the very end. Another thing I have learned living this lifestyle: Everything happens the way it is suppose to happen, Whether you like it or not, you are to accept it as is. If you did not like the outcome your actions and decisions, don’t let your mind get stuck on it, Rather try a different approach on the next chance you get. Its difficult, I know. As long as you are aware of it and keep trying, you’ll get there sooner or later!

Multam România, Fie ca drumurile noastre sa se reintalneasca
Si multam Victor, pentru tot!

On top of Danger Mountain with Victor. The day we fought Dragons, Elves and all forces of Nature

On top of Danger Mountain with Victor. The day we fought Dragons, Elves and all forces of Nature

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Roșia Montană Carpenter Tales

Many things have happened in the past 2 months, Sadly I don’t always feel like blogging, But when I do, Amazing stuff will be brought to you. So today I will tell you stuff about Roșia Montană, A quiet little town in the Alba region. The place where I have been Volunteering for the Adoptă o Casă project the past few weeks. I know, I know, well alright then. before all this I took a little road trip to Sighisoara and Brasov where I tried to find a bear without luck. I Hitchhiked a Gypsy with a mustache who was actually pretty damn cool, Traded 20Lei and my Road Atlas to get a 1000km Ride from Romanian border to Nurnberg and even convinced this awesome Dutch dude with a Porsche to take me from Nurnberg back home. Cluj to Amsterdam +/- 1800km in 36 hours. Thats how I Roll! But that’s all you’ll get. lets start with some Roșia Montană shizznit.

A little bit of Roșia Montană History

Roșia Montană once was a great and wealthy place, it is located within the Metaliferi mountains which are full of metals like Silver and Copper, but what made this place so attractive was its high concentrations of Gold present in these mountains. Before Roman times and throughout the Roman times it was a the place for mining,  when you take a hike through the area you can find many sorts of galleries and open mining pits. There are about 7 km of Roman galleries present, which were all cut by chisel and hammer. These galleries were very specific in height and width, shaped in a trapezium form and would follow the vines of Gold in the mountain. Within the galleries are different systems present to transport water up and out of the mine, galleries for circulating fresh air and galleries for transport. Quite a complex and complicated infrastructure really. In the middle ages when knowledge was lost, mining continued. Even though these galleries still follow the Golden vine, they were nothing like the Roman trapezium standards and quite random in shape. Exploitation continued, between WWI and WWII. In these times there were regulations but mining was done by government or privately, a whole society developed around the exploitation of gold. Where the men would be in the mines and the kids and woman would carry and process the rocks. The town was full of Stamping mills which made constant sounds unimaginable to us and the mountains were barren of vegetation. There were between 3- and 4000 people living in the area working the mines and mills. Throughout the history Guards were patrolling and entry to the mines without permission was prohibited. If you were caught mining someone else his mine at night, or having gold on you that you were not supposed to have it would imply big trouble for you! After WWII most of the land  became property of the state, they basically nationalized everything implying the end of private mining. The time mining slowly modernized

in 1970 they started an open pit mining project on the Cetati mountain, over the years they tore down the whole damn mountain top to take whatever was in it. This open pit mine lasted until 2006 when the state mine was closed. Around 1999 Roșia her gold became very interesting and the mining company arrived. They have a great vision for this place, they want to tear down 4 mountains sides and while doing so flood part of the nearby valley of Corna for the chemical wastewater related to the process. They started buying property around the area to relocate the people. At first a high percentage of the locals were against the company and there fatal plans for these wonderful mountains, they did not approve and did not want to sell their land. The Save Roșia Montană Campaign started to spread awareness of what was going on. Sadly by pressuring the people, threatening them to be evacuated and offering them big money the company managed to get ownership of about 78% of the land to this day. It seemed that Government supported the company through their actions and lobbying. They wanted to pass a law that would allow the mining company to ignore regulations concerning historical monumental and protected environmental areas and it would also allow them to expropriate. Basically giving them the right to send away anybody living in the area without any refusal possible if given an amount of money.  The company even manged to silence the media concerning stories about Roșia Montană for a long time. Meanwhile here were public discussions organized where the Government of Romania and surrounding countries but also the citizens could submit questions that the company then had to answer to verify the legality of their plan. But when push came to shove and the law was close to passing the people of Romania protested Massively throughout the country for an extended period  of time. With the result: No New Pro Mining Law! due to great co-operation of the Save Roșia Montană campaign and the local NGO’s who do not want to sell to the company. The mountains are still live and kicking today!

What once was a wealthy mining hub called Alburnus Maior, is now Roșia Montană a quite little town with not more then a few hundred inhabitants. Located in a beautiful environment great to take hikes, where you can find interesting Natural protected areas and historic monuments like the Roman galleries. A little town which is full of life in summer time due to Festivals organized like FânFest and Volunteers restoring houses to try and maintain its heritage through the Adoptă o Casă Project. A place where you can see what the history did to its environment, but also a place to become aware of what people can achieve if they work together. A place where you can really see the contrast between Beautiful nature and mountains, while if you cross the next mountain you can see a deserted open pit mining site. Its hard to imagine that if the people did not do what they did, this place could just as well be one flat Barren Wasteland.

A little bit of Adoptă o Casă Tales

I arrived in Roșia on the 14th of August, the weekend Fănfest was held. The festival was pretty cool. Basically at night there’s Music, campfires and jamsessions. At day there are activities like Workshops and Presentations about Activism, Environmental problems and Roșia related shizzle. There is also a Forum for discussions and activities for little kids so the parents can do their grown up stuff unbothered. At day its basically a big Social hub to raise awareness and discus on-goings in today’s society, at night the place to relax, listen to music and drink some. I kinda felt like working and being productive but due to the festival i was obliged to relax instead!

That Saturday we took a little hike, our destination was a cross on top of the hill Cirnic, with a detour through Cetati. (the open pit mine) The first part of the hike was somewhat different then usual. Instead of grass, trees and trails. we were walking rough rocky roads, roads where big trucks and machinery used to drive. We trespassed the Cetati mine to check it out and passed some Gallerie entrances. The higher we went, the more green it became but all along the road there were traces of heavy machinery driving there once. Eventually we went off-road and climbed the last bit to reach the top of Cirnic to check out the view over Roșia, the surroundings and the festival. On the way down we passed the Raven rock from which you can see the Valley of Corna.

After the festival we all had to come around, The cleaning and disassembling of the market and stages started and slowly the people started leaving until only the volunteers from the Adoptă o Casă were left. Then finally, it was time to do some work! The first project I got assigned to was the Țarina house (Traditional Farmhouse) which will become the Headquarters of the local NGO Alburnus Maior. Basically the facade of the porch was full of gaps. The windows were fixed with nails but around the windows was open space that had to be filled, I found myself a handsaw and a chisel and started to fill the gaps. As usual with hand tools I took me some time, but superman came to save the day! A local dude named Andrei, even though I didn’t know his name at that moment, I recognize him for I hitchhiked him a few times on his Quad/Trike and his car. When he saw me cutting the boards by handsaw he basically told me that he had a chainsaw I could use. Lovely! with the chainsaw things went so much faster and I managed to fill all the gaps in one day. Andrei also Nicknamed me Tâmplar, at first I thought he meant the Templars with swords and horses. But later I found out it basically translates into Carpenter.

Next step was to apply new wood to the facade to close up everything and make it look beautiful. I wasn’t sure how to do this without proper equipment so I talked to Stefan, he is one of the Founders of the Adoptă o Casă project and I shared my dilemma, luckily the problem was easily solved. The Adoptă o Casă people have quite the reputation around town for they are doing great work for the local community. Basically there is a carpenter in town with a workshop, but he doesn’t use it anymore because he has a different job now. He allowed me to use his workshop anytime I need it! WoopWoop! This gave me access to a Stationary Planer, Thicknessing machine, Stationary Router A Panel Saw, Some old skool hand tools and many Electric hand tools. I felt so at home in his workshop, its hard to describe really. It had been almost 2 years since I used any of these cool machines I used to work with daily back in the days. Anyway due to these developments, Lots of options opened up.

I was one of the few volunteers with some experience in woodworking, Basically they considered me a Master and Master Woodworkers need Apprentices! thus a lady named Andreea wearing awesome scarfs who does woodcarving (like statues and ornaments n stuff) became my apprentice, I had to tell her and teach her everything I was doing. Besides that a little help was very welcome! I started taking some measurements and made some drawings, afterwards we carried the rough wood from Țarina’s to the workshop. An amazing 10 to 15 minute walk through wonderful Roșia country roads.

We started with planing one side of the wood on the stationary planer and made a 90 degree angle to the boards. Then we used the thicknessing machine to make them on the proper thickness. Afterwards we used the panel saw to cut the boards on the right width. As for the length of the wood, We kept it with a few centimeters extra for I preferred to cut them on the right size at the house itself. Working in the workshop was just great! The smell of fresh cut wood, The noisy sounds of the machines, the wood fibers and sawdust flying all over the place getting stuck in your Beard, hair and clothes is just amazing. Doing this again after such a long time working more with Straw and Clay rather than in a wood-workshop I realized how much I like doing this shiz.

While talking to Stefan about making the Facade we decided it would be pretty cool to make a miter joint on the corner of the house. Sadly the panel saw was not able to change angle, instead I cut a 45 degree angle with the router and finished the miter joint with the electric planer. Indeed it wasn’t perfect but it was good enough for what we wanted. That day working on the miter joint Daniel joined us, hes the brother of Andreea and also a woodcarver. Why I share this is because he “photobombed” a picture that gave me quite a laugh when I saw the picture, I didn’t notice it at all at the moment. It was a great day, we managed to apply most of the wood to the facade and the Corner turned out to be almost perfect, Andreea was also of great help and very pro-active, while I was busy, thinking, calculating and doing stuff. She chiseled many little annoying parts of access wood in preparation for applying the wood to the facade. The next week when I was working on a different project, three other volunteers with experience in laying stone terraces made one for Țarina’s. The end result is quite amazing!

You might be thinking, Dude your shizz is not even close to perpendicular, True, the house is quite crooked. but don’t let him play Jedi mind tricks on you! everything is parallel to the windows and door!

Isn't this just the most beautiful Headquarters you can ever imagine!?

Isn’t this just the most beautiful Headquarters you can ever imagine!?

When you do work you like, dayZ pass by fast. Before I knew it it was already weekend. I kind of wanted to continue working like a mindless zombie due my my high level of enjoyment working da wood :))). But yeah, you are together with a group and I was kind of obliged to join on a hike and visit some Roman Galleries. Which in the end was pretty cool. The Roman Galleries were quite the adventure, I’m slightly claustrophobic, not in an elevator or anything. but when I have to crawl under a house for example, or in tiny spaces with a dead end where I cant easily maneuver. Chances are high ill shit my pants one way or another while doing it. The Galleries itself were quite oke actually, around 1.70m high (I am +/- 1.85) and about a meter wide. But we were with a big group, when at some point we stopped in this place to listen to a story of the guide I started feeling a bit funny, somewhat squeezed between all these people in this place I could just barely stand straight. In the end everything was fine and I did not shit my pants. Below some pictures of the different hikes we took and the Area surrounding Roșia Montană.

Even though the facade of Țarina’s still had to be sanded, after the weekend it was time to work on the next project. A Gutter had to be made! Actually Țarina’s needs gutters to but the priority was for Casa Parohială (Unitarian Parish House). Traditionally the gutter for these houses were made out of a split log, hollowed out to make one solid gutter. Due to the time consuming work it would take us to make these kind of gutters we started brainstorming on a different solution. Eventually we decided the best way to make some proper gutters is to make a V shape with a Tongue and Groove joint and cover it with lead. At first I wasn’t even sure if we had the proper router heads, but luck was on our side again! there were some usable router heads present! The total length of gutter needed for Casa Parohială was 9.7meter. The board we had were about 4meters implying it needed to be made out of 3 segments. Routing a 4meter board is not exactly the easiest thing to do by yourself if you want to minimize failure in the joint, Besides that Andreea had left the project that weekend. I had to find myself different help. Even though everybody had their work and there were not much people available, Ioana and Val managed to make some time for me!

The steps were quite similar to machining the wood for the facade, First we would plane the wood, give it a 90 degree angle and make it on the right thickness. Once this was done we could start with machining the Tongue and Groove joint. The workshop is quite small though and a 4 meter board would not fit in. I had to move the router/panel-saw/multipurpose awesomachine a bit diagonally to make it fit. Basically one would hold the board outside the workshop, while I would guide it through the router, after milling half of the board, the person outside had to come inside to support the board on the other side of the workshop. luckily there was a small storage room in the back of the workshop allowing us enough space to safely and properly machine the 4 meter boards.

After the Groove we could cut the Tongue, It took us a few tries to get it centered and fit properly but eventually we did it! Considering the router head for the groove had rounded corners and our tongue perpendicular corners I had to break the edges of the Tongue with a little old skool hand planer.  By hand I chiseled a half-lap joint to connect all 3 segments of the gutter into one big piece once we attach it to the roof. Afterwards I glued the Tongue and Groove joints to make the V complete.

Due to lack of ladders we were not able to attach the gutter to the roof after I finished constructing them, Project gutter was put on hold. To keep things organized ill add the pictures of the result anyway. Because Time travel. Meanwhile the next project was to Restore the gate for the porch of Casa Parohială. I planed two boards in the proper thickness and copied the shape of the fence ornament to it. With the help of a jigsaw I cut out the shape to make a template. I also needed a little piece to fix a tiny part which I kinda stole from the template :)) After gluing the tiny part and applying the newly made board to the gate it looked all cool again!

Again the week flew by as if it was nothing and the end of August was nearing, This meant the end of Adoptă o Casă 2015. Over the week volunteers slowly started leaving and going back home. By the end of the week it was just Me, Ioana and Sorana left. That weekend the locals from Roșia organized a “get together” in the mountains! We decided to take a hike and join them. It was located very close to Detunata, a nearby natural monument. Basically its a big as Basalt rock which looks pretty crazy due to all the obelisks reaching out. We left for the hike Saturday early afternoon. the hike was great! so many edibles along the way like Hazelnut, Blackberries, Raspberries, Plums, Cherries, Apples, Mushrooms and many nice little villages to walk through. The walk took us around 7 hours, we arrive perfectly at sunset.

The night was good, I like fire, Big or small, any campfire is a guaranteed good evening. In NL its prohibited to make open fire, obviously we would still do it. But these campfires are small and if you don’t know the right location police will definitely come ruin your night. Here we were somewhere in the mountains, unbothered. They found multiple fallen and dry trees that we burned over the night. The fire was huge! It for sure reached 2meters and more! I cant recall seeing a “campfire” that big before. At some point I had some mental clashes, Part of me didn’t approve of the fact that we would basically burn 4 whole trees in one night just for fun. Though after talking to the people and finding out they do this once every 2 years or so I could let it rest. Were only human, Even if you are the 100% Eco friendly Sustainable Hitman. There is nothing wrong with doing something completely contrary once in a long while in order to create a very nice moment. Moderation is key!

We chilled, drank Tuica, Talked, Drank more, some around the fire dances occurred, we made food in the fire, Gazed deeply into the fire and just had a great evening until the early morning. Together with three other people we slept in the grass next to the fire. It was the greatest sleep I ever had. When the heat radiating from the remains of the fire became low and the Sun slowly reached the crowns of the trees we moved into the sun to complete our lovely “nights” rest. After waking it was time to check out Detunata but first we cleaned up everything including every single cigarette bud! The view on top of Detunata was really nice, but we had to get going. Due to some shortcuts but also taking our time to gather some mushrooms for dinner, we managed to get back to  Roșia in 4 hours.

Even though Adoptă o Casă 2015 came to end that Sunday, Stefan asked me to extend my stay in Roșia Montană to continue with the carpentry. I Gladly accepted for I was really enjoying the projects and kind of felt the urge to finish as much as I could. Sorana also decided to stay for another week. The two weeks were nice. Even though i’m not really the big group kind of dude and generally prefer to be either by myself or in a smaller company, there were many interesting people I got to know via Adoptă o Casă and great times were had! Sadly this picture does not contain everybody. But anyway Thanks ya’ll for your company and laughter.

Adoptă o Casă  2015 After Fănfest Group!  Good luck on all ya Journeys!

Adoptă o Casă 2015 After Fănfest Group! Good luck on all ya Journeys!

With everybody gone the quiet returned to Roșia Montană. Because me and Sorana were the only ones left, We moved from the Volunteer camping which was close to Țarina’s to Casa Parohială which became our new home for the time being. My next project was renovating the gate for Locuinţă minerească (Miners House), Tică his gate to be exact, I think Tică is a pretty cool guy, eh makes syrups n woolysocks and runs for Roșia Mayor. Anywayz his gate had some ornaments broken or missing and it was not very stable. Long story short, I machined some wood and copied the arches of the ornaments on the new pieces, which I then re-applied to the door, I also restored some broken and devoured wooden parts.

On Fănfest they applied new shingles to the gate in a workshop and they restored the bottom of the supports because they were all rotten. The hinges for the gate though were not yet put back in place. I was in need of help though, so I asked the locals Andy and Andrei to assist with hanging the doors back in place. It was fun working with them. Andrei basically only speaks Romanian with me and refuses to speak English (which is a great thing really) communicating with him goes pretty well actually. Andy though speaks English so in case technical terms had to be communicated concerning the work we were doing he could help with translation. We managed to get the hinges back in place and hang the doors. To celebrate we did some Donuts with the Quad, No people got hurt.

With the gate finished I could continue with the porch of Casa Parohială, There was another gate completely missing that had to be made and the corner of the porch was missing some boards too. I started with adding some pieces of wood to the frame of the porch to make it even with the beam of the floor. Afterwards I machined some wood as usual and with the help of the Template from earlier I cut the nice shapes in the boards. I also had to replace the sill on top of the fence which needed to be fit due to funny things going on in that corner. Everything went better then expected.

The original fence has a rail on the top and bottom, It has a nice profiles too, which I wasn’t sure if I could recreate. I copied the profile on a piece of wood and started checking all the router heads in the workshop. After some thinking I figured out a way to recreate the profile that was not exactly but very similar to the original. This was great news, for I didn’t expect to be able to recreate the profile implying I would not be able to complete the porch.

The first step was to mill the corner with the profile. Once that was done I changed router head to a small half circle and milled the distance of the profile from the edge. Once those two proceedings had been done I just had to use a simple cylinder router head to take away the access wood in between. and voila! EzPz. The sill also needed a profile, basically just some rounded corners and a little profile to connect the sill to the rail. quite the piece of cake really, I just love the way profiles make simple wooden things so much more Awesome!

While working on the Porch, Suddenly visitors! They came out of nowhere. Considering we don't have a gardener I figured ill let them cut the grass

While working on the Porch, Suddenly visitors! They came out of nowhere. Considering we don’t have a gardener I figured ill let them cut the grass

With the Fence practically finished I could start on the gate. I made some more boards with the nice shape on it and two wooden pieces at the width of the gate, In the workshop I nailed all boards to one of the rails and checked the diagonals to be sure its perpendicular. Then I brought it to Casa Parohială to check how high I had to place the bottom rail, not to obstruct any ornaments, but also not to hit the floor. While working on the gate I got more sudden visitors! The cows they came from the woods quite randomly and just stormed in the garden. I could hear them coming actually, the goats though. I don’t know exactly where they came from. I remember I heard a loud noise, my reaction to that noise was. Huuu? Goats?? then all of the sudden there were goats. No green things were harmed that day if you don’t count all the beheaded grass.

It was to bad we didn’t have the hinges for the gate, I was not able to hang it in place. At least I did manage to finish the gate and the porch corner. Sooner or later all the sills and the rails of the porch need to be replaced, for they are all either devoured by woodworm, broken or warped. This will be a project for next year though. For my days in Roșia Montană have come to an end for now.

Its 13th of September now. That Sunday morning when I was enjoying my last breakfast at Casa Parohială with the company of Rufus, (he is a local stray dog who became my friend) the priest came to visit. At first I didn’t realize he was the priest owning Casa Parohială and the church up the hill. but after a little chat I found out. He was the coolest priest I ever met, If i would meet him in a western capital city I would probably presume he was a Gangster, for he was wearing this cool suite with a fedora and had a goaty. He left quite soon for he had to ring the church bell. But afterwards we met at the local shop. There he was just chilling, poppin jokes being a really damn cool priest.

I decided to take the bus back to Cluj instead of hitch hiking, I just felt like staring out the window towards the mountains that were next to the road. allowing me to process everything that happened in the past month. To nutshell it: My time in Roșia Montană was great, Mainly because of the work I could do there that relates so much to my profession, but also due to the amazing people that either live there or came to visit. Its hard to leave a place when everybody is telling you to stay.

Special thanks goes to:
Adoptă o Casă founders: For giving Architects students and Volunteers a chance to Experience, Learn and Develop.
Claudiu: For allowing me to use his workshop, It was of great help!
Andrei & Andy: For being awesome Dudes and assisting me with work.
Gaby: For cooking the greatest of foodz for the volunteers
Ioana: For introducing me to Roșia and suggesting me to visit.
Rufus: Because Rufus that’s why!

 

May the Wind Guide me to far beyond, Over mountains, through sea. To the places I am meant to be.

May the Wind Guide me to far beyond, Over mountains, through sea. To the places I am meant to be.

The other side of the coin,

Arriving back in Cluj that evening was quite something, All these people and cars again. pffff. I met with Victor&gang and we had a beer with some friends. One of Victor his friends is a Geologist who has worked for the same company the Roșia people are fighting against. Talking with him was very interesting, I really value both sides of the coin. After hearing Anti Company stories for a month. I opened up my mind for the other side.

When you think of the fact that Roșia Montană has been a mining town throughout the history, and basically only exists because of the mining. You might get the question what changed? From what I understood the main thing the people are against the company is because they tend to destroy 4 whole mountains, and with that many Historical monuments and Protected areas. Threatening the Environment due to the Cyanide used for exploiting the gold and other heavy metals waste threatening the water supply. At first it wasn’t such a big deal. But after realizing that the mines in Roșia could supply around 214 tons of metals, it became a big deal. Its hard to grasp how much they could gain out of this, but to summarize it in understandable terms. If they would start the mining in Roșia Montană they will basically get enough gold to make New Iphones for the whole planet for the next 10 years. Damn you Apple!

Talking to him and checking out the site of the company. I came to realize they don’t completely want to destroy the whole mountains. They want to continue Cetate until a certain depth indeed, when it come to Cirnic they only want to take out one side of it containing high quantity of metals, Preserving the other side which has lots of galleries and some protected areas. And they want to start 2 smaller pits only on the places where the quantity of metals is very high. After exploiting the metals, they want to refill the pits with the waste rock and re-vegetate it as once was. for all this, they do indeed have to flood part of the valley of Corna to store the Cyanide waste.

Also not all of the people are necessarily 100% against the mining. They would approve if it can be done in a more sustainable way without harming the landscape. For they don’t want their home and surroundings destroyed. Some of the NGOs and locals currently fighting against the company Actually used to be miners them self. Some of them had parents and grandparents in ownership of private mines. They tried to get the privileges back to open up there families mines again. But Government disagreed and instead gave all the rights to the company and thus they started fighting against it. Its a very sensitive topic and there is really lots of stuff going on I can not even grasp. But if you look at it with open eyes and think about it with an open mind you can easily become aware of the Pro’s and Con’s of both side of the story.

The Save Roșia Montană campaign did a great job when it comes to spreading awareness and mobilizing people to fight for Roșia. But Roșia is not the only place with valuable metals. The mountains around Roșia also contain metals. In recent times there have been new mines started and approved in the neighboring valleys to Roșia without any problems. How does this work? Are the people not Aware, do they simply not care or do they not have the power to stop them all? I have many questions. But basically I Know Nothing, Nor do I want to pick a side or point fingers.

Conclusion: Roșia Montană is a wonderful place, with a big history and a high emotional story. I met and spoke to people from both side of the coin. But the Truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I came to Roșia not to fight for or against a mining company, I came to Roșia as a Volunteer carpenter because the Adoptă o Casă project interested me. I enjoyed the month I stayed in Roșia greatly! Simply because I met wonderful people, I could practice my profession and while doing so really feel and see how much my work was appreciated. When I return, it will be for these reasons.

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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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Să creşti mare!

Riding the bicycle, something I love to do and something that has been quite common for me throughout my life, almost daily even. ever since I started traveling, riding the bicycle has not been that common sadly. While staying in Lithuania I bought a bicycle in Vilnius and whenever I went to Vilnius I would enjoy riding the bicycle. As for Romania these days i’m borrowing a bicycle and use it all the time when i’m in Cluj! what I like about riding the bicycle in Easter European countries compared to back in The Netherlands, is that there are basically no rules here (except for in LT you had to wear a reflective fest “officially” and in RO if you cross a zebra you should step of your bike and walk it). besides that you can ride you bike wherever you want, basically you just act like a car when your driving on the road or act like a pedestrian when you decided to ride the sidewalks. The thing is though, that in most East European countries there is not much respect for the bicycles in general and there are hardly any bicycle lanes. Implying that either you get stuck in a pothole and make  front flip, or a car tries to drive you off the road to gain an extra 100 points.

For this reason Critical mass got invented. Critical mass is a gathering of bicycle every last Friday of the month, the big group rides their bicycles on the main roads to show their right in traffic and let people know that they are fucking awesome! To show cars they should accept and respect their presence in traffic. It originates from San Francisco and the first ever Critical mass was held in 1992. the great thing about these gatherings are that there is not really any leadership. The one that’s in front of the group can basically decide where there going and its not seen as an official protest or demonstration due to the no leadership. There just happens the be a huge group of bicycles riding together as a group every last Friday of the month ;) Due to my love for bicycle, Ioana notified me on this awesome gathering, we joined the ride and got a pretty cool tour of Cluj Napoca!

Up in the mountains things are doing great, a few weeks ago we started on the garden. The garden Victor used last year had to be moved so we had to make some new raised beds on a better suited location. Basically we took out patches of grass, then dug out a few squares approximately 20 cm deep, afterwards we threw in some manure, put back the grass but upside down! add another layer of manure and throw back all the soil we dug out. This gives you a very fertile nice raised bed to grow some veggies, we planted some veggies and these days there growing amazingly! without any watering of weeding to be done, its just plant and wait until you can harvest. maybe an occasional re-adding of some hay so the moist stays inside of the soil!

Meanwhile I finished one of the beds in the Illumicabin. We don’t have any power up there where we are building the cabins, so I had to make everything by hand which was a very good opportunity to practice some lost arts. Before making the bed we had a good chat what it should look like and we decided it should look rough with cracks and gaps, not everything has to be even and 100%. so I just started choppin some mortises and tenons, and just went with the flow. The bed turned out to be very sturdy and Awesome! The mattress is made out of hempfabric with straw on the inside. the bed is made out of oak logs and boards from locally chopped oaks.

Apart from that we have started working on the sauna, with the Illumicabin basically done and Jon just working the cracks and the final plaster layers in the Piracabin while helping with other tasks, We had lots of time to do this, First of we had to cut some trees and peel them to make the support of the sauna, afterwards we ordered some more wooden boards that had to be cleared of bark. then we just started building. The crazy thing was, the wood provider was not able to bring the wood that day when we needed it. this meant we had to bring them up manual. So yeah I have carried 6 meter long boards on my shoulder for short distances before. But I never expected I was capable of doing this, while climbing a very steep mountain with the end part of this climb being forest! maneuvering myself with the crazy heavy and long board through all the trees. It was crazy and quite intense at some point. But very mind expanding. A detailed post about the construction of the sauna will be written once we finished it.

Besides the sauna we have been going to Cluj for the past 2 weekends, we got an offer to build a cob oven for a future hostel in Cluj. Of course we took it! we initially planned to finish it in one weekend, but we had to use some metal parts for the dome and were using the fancy doors. sadly the guy welding the things was not capable of welding it on time so we had to spread the project over a few weekends. We are close to finishing it, but its not quite there yet! You can read all about it Here!

Because we have been going to Cluj more often lately I have been staying with Ioana quite a lot. The thing is she’s working on her Thesis and Project for she graduated Architecture, but to get this fancy word in front of your name some things have to be done. This girl though, is fkn mad! she works like 18 hours a day straight, trying to avoid going to the bathroom for she doesn’t want to waste her time on this. Luckily for her, i’m a pretty cool guy and have been trying to “take care” of her as much as I can. (Actually its slavery, for she just demands this, otherwise she’ll drain my blood and turn me into a vampire) She’s a Vegetarian though like most people around me all of the sudden. Implying that all the food I want to make for her has to be without da meats and although I love to sarcastically complain about this and make jokes, it has been a good thing! I have been learning how to cook proper Vegetarian food, like a Vegetarian Lasagna some pasta etc, got some crazy Salads going on with some inspiration of Victor. I even learned how to make an Apple pie and home made Chocolate! The most wonderful thing about Romania (or any other Easter European country for that matter) is the fact that people still grow their own food and make their own things. Seriously! The fruits and veggies here are so damn delicious! Recently Ioana’s parents came to visit, they just brought a box full of cherries picked that morning from there 100% organic backyard garden, some strawberries and home made jams and Zacusca. all this wonderful eatables! And even though she is very busy, She made me home made peanut butter when I started to get Withdrawal symptoms for not consuming peanut butter for a while. Looks like she made it up to me for microwaving my food!

As of tomorrow we are changing location, Victor is building a Strawbale house for his NGO in a little village some 150km from Cluj, some new volunteers will be arriving tomorrow and with them we will head to the Strawbale house to do some plastering, build some more facilities and finish as much as we can! Due to this place being in a smaller village and still under construction, there is no power or running water present. Were gonna stay there sleeping in our tents and hammocks. cooking on a small rocket stove, using the neighbors water hose to take a shower etc. going back to basic. heall yeahhh!

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Mâine du Pâine la Câine

On Wednesday evening I arrived at the project, approximately a 1 hour drive from Cluj deep into the mountains! My arrival was great, Walking to the bus in Cluj I saw this backpacker dude. When I got into the bus he also entered a few minutes later. We didn’t really speak but I figured he would probably go where I was going. Which was the case. We both got out on the same station where Victor was waiting to pick us up! The dude was from USA, named Jon and doing as I am, traveling and volunteering at natural building places. At the time a German couple was also Volunteering (but only until the next Tuesday) that evening we all got to know each other and got a little tour of the area.

Basically we are living on the mountain slope, below in the valley is a village called Valea Ierii. the village and people living around here are Orthodox, this means we are not allowed to work on Sundays or Religious holidays for if we do so the people come running at us with their Scythes and Hayforks, The Thursday and Friday were Religious holidays. So we decided to take a approximately 8 hour hike on Thursday to get to know the mountains around here. Pictures of this hike can be found Here! On the way home that evening we picked nettles and Victor made us a delicious nettle soup with an baked egg and Polenta.

 

So what have we actually been doing here in the past 2 weeks?

Well we started with working on the cabins, there was a lot of plastering to be done both inside and outside. There are two cabins, The Illuminati cabin and the Pyramid cabin. The Illucabin structure is made of wood, on the outside are shingles, to isolate the walls are filled with birch bark, on the inside is clay plaster, the roof is a green roof. The Pyramid cabin is made out of logs, the gaps of the logs are filled with clay/lime plaster and the roof made out of shingles isolated with Straw and plastered inside. We will build a small rocket stove in both cabins and of course some beds when we finish outside and inside!

The first weekend after our arrival Victor invited some friends to hang out. Basically we were working, and the visitors were just chilling at our cabins, having fun, and making us delicious food. For hard working people will work harder with their belly full of  the most delicious of delicious foods! like seriously! the food here is delicious, mainly because most if it is home made or grown, and when I say home made I really mean home made, the Țuică, Wine, Beer, Sugar, Syrup, Vegetables, Milk, the Jams, Zacuscă. everything is either from a parents garden, local farmer or market and we try to avoid supermarket as much as we can! In the two weeks I have been in Romania, I have eaten more Mushrooms and Cheese and vegetables then I ever did in my life! also I have not been eating meat except for the first of may!

On the first of May is da labor day, In Romania it is tradition to have a BBQ and eat mici (which is basically a sausage of mixed meats with some spices). Our neighbors are quite poor people if you judge them by the amount of money they posses, if you judge them by their experience on how to live without money and friendly/openness they are richer then the 1%. So we brought some mici, some beer. and celebrated first of may together!

Mici with Mustard, Bread and Salad. + best people in the world = A good time!

Mici with Mustard, Bread and Salad. + best people in the world = A good time!

Our neighbors Ferarri!

Healll yeahh!

Healll yeahh!

We have been chopping and stacking  firewood and taking hikes once a week. But to continue our work we had to get some more locally chopped Oak wood. the local lumber/sawmill dude lives down the slope of the mountain, but was friendly enough to come all the way up where our Cabins were to bring the wood by horse and carriage!

The progression of the terraces we made of the Oak will be shared soon! but! you can enjoy this little sneak preview if you like!

The cabins were actually living in are lower on the mountain slope, Basically its a wooden house with a living room, small kitchen, and on the second floor 3 bedrooms. we cook on fire! but we do have a boiler for the shower (what a luxury!) Every morning we climb the mountain up and up to the Cabins were working on. This is one part of the road were walking! Its the best walk to work ever!

Walking Towards da Cabins

Walking Towards da Cabins

So yeah, to put everything in a nutshell. This place is amazing! The food is the best I ever ate! the work is very cool and enjoyable! Working on the cabins every day you look over the mountain tops and down into the village. The horses, cows and dogs of the neighbors are walking everywhere for they are not in cages or stuck on chains. it is silent, except for a bird or the cows and pigs from the village who’s roar is heard on top of the mountain even. the air is pure and smells good! the apple and cherry trees are blooming! Dandelions growing!

for your amusement some more pictures!

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Identifying Oak

Identifying oaks, or trees in general can be quite a challenge. there so many different species spread out across the globe, you can easily get confused especially in winter. to be able to identify the exact species you need quite some knowledge and experience, but with a few little steps you can get close enough and distinguish common tree species like oak, maple, beech, birch etc. in this post we will focus on identifying Oak trees and how to distinguish Red from White oak species.

Leaves

The best time of year to identify an oak in my opinion would be summer, when the leaves are green and the fruits are growing. leaves and fruits are also one of the easiest ways to get a general idea of what species tree you are looking at. The first thing you do is take a good look at the Lobes and Sinus of the leaf, white oak have round Lobes and often a few deep and shallow Sinuses, it has a deep but brighter green color in summer and is somewhat shiney. Red oak have pointy Lobes and mostly deep Sinuses with a darker green color.

oak-leaf-drawing oaksummer2oaksummer

In late summer/autumn the color of the leaves slowly turn yellow and red, before they eventually turn brown. Red oak species usually have far brighter colors when autumn nears while white oak species turn dull brown faster

oakleafcolorFruit

The oak tree bears fruits, which are called Acorns. if you don’t know what an acorn looks like, imagine a squirrel. whats it holding and hiding in the woods? yes that thing is a acorn, for squirrels love acorns. Acorns start as a small buts on the branches, but eventually grow bigger and usually contain only 1 seed, Acorns vary in size and color depending on the specie of oak, initially there green and turn darker brown when getting ripe. in autumn Oak lose their acorn, so either look on the branches or search the ground for acorn to confirm you are standing next to an oak. The cap of the acorn can be pulled off, if you hold it with the hollow part towards you between your thumbs and index finger, pointing your thumbs outwards (basically creating a V shape with your thumbs on the edge of the acorn cap) and then blow on the edge, you can easily use it as a whistle.

acornacorn2

Bark

The bark of Oak trees is Very rough and tough, with vertical ridges and usually a greyish or dark brownish color, with some species the bark on higher parts of the trunk peel of as paper. but lower to the ground the ridges turn wide and deep, the bark is very hard.

oakbark

though surely not the biggest of trees, the Oak tree grows fairly large and wide, with an average between 15 and 20 meters high when mature and a average span of 15 meters from branch to branch. one of the tallest white oaks known today is about 30 meters high and with a span of almost 24 meters

Grain

When Oak is cut into boards and you are looking at the plain sawn hardwood part, you can recognize it by the light to medium brown color or if its from Red oak, a slightly red tinted color. The grain is a bit darker and the flame pattern is rough and wild. if the board is Quarter sawn Oak is easily identified by the flecks that become visible which are usually much brighter then the grain or wood itself.

WhiteOak medullary ray 2 oak end grain

Quercus robur

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Plywood

Plywood is a flat panel built up of sheets of veneer called plies, put together under high pressure with glue to create a panel with an strong bond between the plies. Building the panel the plies are glued together in alternating directions, depending on the required thickens the panel usually consists of 3, 5, 7 or 9 layers. The inner plies are called centers or cores, the plies with the grain perpendicular or a right angle to that of the core or faces are called crossbands. Crossbands gives the panel strength and keep the grain of the panels from running all in the same direction. The outside plies are are called faces and back plies. The faces of the panel are usually of higher grade veneer, while the core and back consists of lower grade plies. this makes a plywood panel affordable but also interesting to use because of the beautiful veneer layer on top. Due to the perpendicular buildup of the panel it becomes super strong and very resistant to expansion and shrinkage. therefor plywood panels are popular for construction and industrial purposes, but also often used in the cabinet and furniture industries.

Plywood may be made from hardwoods, softwoods, or a combination of the two. Some common hardwoods include ash, maple, mahogany, oak, and teak. The most common softwood used to make plywood is Douglas fir and several varieties of pine, cedar, spruce and redwood.

Softwood ply tends to be used in the construction industry for walls, roofs and floors.
Hardwood ply tends to be used quality laminate flooring, kitchen units and furniture.

Plywood Grades

Grades Description
A Face and back veneers practically free from all defects.
A/B(B) Face veneers practically free from all defects. Back veneers with only a few small knots or discolorations.
B Both side veneers with only a few small knots or discolorations.
B/BB Face veneers with only a few small knots or discolorations. Back side permitting jointed veneers, large knots, plugs, etc.
BB Both sides permitting jointed veneers, large knots, plugs, etc.
C & D Knots and minimum splits permitted unless exceeding a certain limit
WG well glued only. All broken knots plugged permitted.
X Knots, knotholes, cracks, and all other defects permitted.

The process

The trees used to make plywood are usually smaller in diameter than those used to make lumber. In most cases, they have been sustainably planted and grown in areas owned by the plywood company. These areas are carefully managed to maximize tree growth and minimize damage from insects or fire. once the tree has grown enough the process is a following.

    • Cutting and felling the trees
      After the trees are cut and the branches removed they are ready for debarking
    • Debarking
      With the help of Machines the bark will be removed from the logs
    • Cutting
      The logs are cut in the appropriate length usually around 2.5meters
    • Soaking the logs
      Depending on the process and wood specie the logs are soaked or steamed for 12 to 20 hours
    • Peeling the logs
      With the use of a lathe the complete log will be transformed into a thin sheet of veneer
    • Cutting and Grading the veneer
      The veneer is then cut into the appropriate size for glueing and sorted on its Grade
    • Drying the veneer
      The sheets of veneer will then be Kiln dried
    • Assembly
      The core, crossbands and face layers are then glued and assembled ready for pressing
    • Hydraulic hot press
      The assembled panels are then pressed in a hydraulic hot press (7.6-13.8 bar|109.9-157.2° C) for 2 to 7 minutes
    • Trimming
      The panels are then trimmed to the factory size. Most common Plywood dimension is 1,220 × 2,440 millimetres
    • Sanding
      The panels are sanded and inspected for inconsistencies, then stored for distribution

Below some amazing examples of what you can do with Plywood