Wednesday, 17 February 2010

In the Stone Room

Sometimes wonder what's the point of having a completely independent say-what-I-want site, then never actually use it but to post a few family snaps. Pathetic. So much going on, so many issues, ideas, great thoughts (or fools' illusions), crises local and global to discuss, to share, to link to. And what happens? Nothing.

Is this blog a diary of a few events that I have encountered - or a platform to issue forth my take on the world around us? Clearly the former so far, but I am tempted to paddle into those more hefty questions that surround us every day: new economic paradigms, imminent peak oil, climate chaos (and denial campaigning), bothched agriculture policies, misguided humanitarian aid and recovery programmes, the general head-in-the-sand mindset of our generation, the lack of fresh cream in town, the irrelevance of our kids´ school curricula and the lack of alternatives save us quitting everything we do so we can teach them from home and generally withdraw from the local community. Long breath. These and many more. (That was nice, making a huge long list, with total disregard to grammar, syntax and flow, just because I can). If you're still reading you are part of a tiny droplet of humanity that is, and for this, I salute you.

So I sucumb: The happenings of our life. Here's some stuff from November last year. Which reminds me of another thing (last distraction for this post, honest) :Why be compelled to sticking to the chronological order of things. This happened today, or this month. To hell with that! Loads of stuff happened to us like 8 years ago, or 3. Or last year. When I have an inspiration I'm going to get it out, like it or not.

So where were we? November, a few months back. Hywel visted from England to lend some wisdom on dry stane walling, working with lime and straw building. (Here seen playing with wood too, maybe just because he's not allowed to at home, or too busy on lime courses, but here with our elven friend (Paulo) building a wee woodshed on upper camp.

We went a bit mental with the front gate and, at João's insistence took it to pieces (with his new stone-block-moving toy), expanded the entire entrance way so we drive in and be nice lazy modern shoppers. Principally however I suspect was so João could drive in easier with his truck loads of rock or whatever and not carry it from the road. In any case, we took down the wall, shifted untold tonnes of earth into Vitor's tractor (to top of land, a future workload of Eygptian proportions) then rebuilt the wall under Hywel's all-knowing eye, all dry stane and solid.

Hywel and Paulo were keen to show off their lime skills. Little wonder, it's amazing stuff, which I'll blether about in another post. Our task at hand: pointing. Test the "cal viva" or active, living lime (what do you guys call it again?) which costs a paltry 6 euros for a 40 kg bag. We mixed it with sand: 5.5 sand to 1 of lime. And water. Let it fizzle and pop awhile and boom: we had our first pointing mix. Kira, seeing something new happening (finally!) insists on being in on the scene, grabs a pointing trowel, shoves us out of the way and takes centre stage in front of our new tutor.

The key, Hywel explains, is to maintain moisture for a couple of weeks after application. Not too hard in late autumn, though summertime we'll need a hesion sheet and regular spraying. João - local stonemason, cement disciple - monitored progress closely. He complained (of course) but mostly about our haphazard depths of pointing. He liked the material. I think. Time will tell. Anyway, we like it, so there.

Nikita picked it all up really quickly, as per usual (annoyingly quickly I have to add).

What else? Lots of stone washing. This is a whole new excuse to dress up as a Jedi and wield a purring staff, threatening to soak the enemy to death with a micro touch on the 180 bar trigger; Ungh - melted Jabba, you will make.

Our task: clean earth, lime and cement debris off the walls that have been buried below a concrete render for the past 50 years or so. First, chip the bloody cement off the damn wall (this is a nightmare not really worth telling).

Anyway, fun had by all till it gets really boring. Then you just keep going. Good machine though.

Downstairs sala (more like a dungeon) came up lovely. Actually all we had to do was to wash off centuries of pig shit and cow-hide, then a few more recent decades of more civilised workshop use (by former owner Senhor Felix Rodrigues and his watch-fixing obsession people keep telling me about). Directly upstairs, the main rooms, also stripped of internal plaster, ready for a good wash. Ceiling gone, almost ready for the roof to come off, new one on, and all that house building stuff that seems to be an impossible mirage (delays caused by local planning office taking forever to give permissions, and national roads authorities blah blah).

To end this stony post, some more glimpses of the new-old walls...

Enough of Kira posing. Here's two other fanatics - mushroom fans. Fungi Freaks. Nuts...

Have to admit these parasols tasted pretty good when cooked right. Though you'd need a couple of kilos to satisfy this pair first.


Rupert Wolfe Murray said...

Great post, as always. What I found most interesting was the first part where you express doubt about the point of this blog. Anyone writing their own experiences is always challenged by self doubt and that's why writing is so hard. But what you're doing with this blog is really great. We all know you are all doing a really interesting job there with this new approach to living; you are an example to us all (at least to me); and it is so good you are keeping a diary of it -- and that's what your blog is; in a diary you can jump between personal, political and work issues. It has a lot of value from the work perspective too as you describe the making of walls, ovens, earth and so on (I find the advice about stone particularly interesting), and its done in a way that is personal and not boring. You should write a post whenever something interesting happens or you learn something new. The other thing I would suggest is that you start a new WORD document and paste in the post each time you write one; in that way you will have all your musings in one place and who knows, one day someone might say "you should write a book about this" and you could say "I already have" and they might say "Oh, let's get it published then" and then fame and fortune will be yours. I remember when you were at CAT you used to send out these really long, personal, enthusiastic and fascinating emails about global warming, peak oil, energy efficiency, renewable energy etc. They were really inspiring as you got across an environmental message in a way that was personal (i.e. one could relate to it) urgent and exciting, and it turned me green. And when you set up RESET I used to say to you "why put so much energy into writing people such long and detailed emails" each one of which had the detail and authority of a really good proposal. I used to say "you should write these as blog posts and just send people the link" and this is, to an extent, what you've done now with this blog. But I feel you are holding back a bit, as if you've got loads more to say but don't want to bore us with too much detail. I say bollocks to that; give us all the detail you can; the more the merrier; I want to know about the planning permission problem; why are they taking so long? What's the system in Portugal like compared to UK? We know Portugal is hot on big renewable energy systems but you've said they're pretty lame on encouraging it at the local level, and that there is a big shortage of expertise. I wanna know more about all that, as I am sure you will end up addressing this issue (after all, what are you gonna do once your mansion is up and running? Sit on the terrace on your rocking chair and watch the world collapse around you?). I remember you apologising for the length of one of your posts but that really is bollocks and I'll tell you why: most people will not be interested in reading your posts and even if you just wrote a headline they would spurn it; you will never capture the interest of the mass market; but you don't want to. You are addressing a tiny number of people within the European population and if those interested are anything like me they're gonna want more, so I suggest you put all your creative energies into writing more posts, and longer ones, about any issue you want.

Elie Losleben said...

I agree with Rupert! Well done for writing about what you care about. And for updating us on your amazing progress. Those stone washing suits look pretty cool.

Fraser said...

Can we hear you ....... sing yes we hear you ....... sing. Fantastic post that had me LOL, sorry to do that abreviation thingy.
Well fools gold would like to thank you for your friendship and laughs and I look forward to more insaneness wherever we may meet.

Love and best wishes to you an yours
from the holographic illusion.


Cath said...

not just the european population - me too! :)

love from the gong,
where your musings help keep me sane as i confront and dance around the insanity in my industrial hometown and connect like mycelium with the positive transition of wholeness and love and respect...
and fail to use punctuation.