May 22, 2012

Neverending Floorboards

This whole week has been dominated by floorboards. What appeared to be a day's work ended up being many days, residues of dark paint only disappearing with the help of patient and meticulous attention from the angle grinder, followed by the band-sander and then some really uneven parts by hand.

Now that every board has been rubbed with linseed oil, the effect is stunning. The honey coloured boards bring a golden sheen to the yellow walls bathing the whole room in a peaceful glow. Only the skirting boards still need to be fitted and then at last we have one room ready to fully inhabit.

Saskia (our big girl)’s room now has a smooth layer of lime plaster. We have been using lime from three sacks found on site. Rather old and clumpy it looked only fit for the dump. However, once sieved, it has proven to be perfectly suitable for the job. Using two parts lime with seven parts sand from the heap left by the track (mixed with just enough water to make it into a cake-like mixture) it is a pleasure to work with. It takes a lot longer to set than normal plaster, making timing less crucial and the job altogether less pressured.

The most challenging thing right now is the lack of water upstairs. We keep a demijohn filled by the fruit basket, but it hardly lasts half a day. Every time we want to boil a kettle or cook some grain on the electric hob, we have to trudge downstairs to fill the vessels and then of course there’s the washing up! This we do outside by the well (a crude pit where the spring overflow is captured at present) and our motley crew of crockery decorates the rusty iron cover of the pit on a daily basis.

The summer house has had a makeover, with new roofing felt and salvaged windows (found in a dusty corner of the hall) fitted on the south side. The west wall and part of the south wall had been taken out by the previous owner to create a semi open shelter, but the bottom rim was beginning to rot and the whole thing felt frustratingly devoid of a clear function.

The western side now has a third of the slats back in (with a space for the entrance left open) and two more windows acquired from a friend fit the remaining gaps almost precisely. The side facing the yard once had a door. Taking about a metre of slats off the top now makes for a neat little hatch. It is far too tempting to use this space as a burger shack or ice cream bar! At this stage it is ear marked to be a sorting shed for produce from the fields, but there’s no reason not to use it for both, if the occasion should arise!

Potato planting continues in the top field, still hardly denting the two donated sacks of seed potatoes surplus to requirements at the Demeter farm. (We’ve been eating lots of them too! Once the old skin is peeled off they’re still very tasty and really hold their shape for salads and roasts).

It is an endless task preparing the ground as couch grass is rife and we fill three or four buckets with roots clearing just one row. On a trip back to the house to make a round of tea I notice a figure beneath the three linden trees.

She is bent over a pile of rocks at the foot of the trees, her bleach blond hair hiding her face. She looks up and greets me as if I’ve strayed into her garden! I can see she’s hardly more than 15 and guess immediately that she must be the daughter of the previous owner. She explains that her cat lies buried there, along with another, a chicken or two and who knows what else, she says. She has a small wooden cross in her hand and a bunch of wild flowers. I assure her we won’t dig up her spot, and leave her to it.

We have been agonising over a name for this place. Those three linden trees have always felt important, with their single crown and thick canopy, well aged and very healthy. But there is already a Lindenhof here. Then there’s the hill behind the farm – the Rotstein – Saxony’s oldest nature reserve.

Or do we think of the people, those that began this place? It used to be known as the Hallische Hof, after the Halle family who lived here in the twenties and most likely built the small house and perhaps even the extension of the main house. (We found a box of rotting books belonging to Mr Halle in one of the buildings. Amongst them were a couple of small passbooks filled with solidarity stamps from Chile, Russia and the German Democratic Republic, along with volumes on communist Russia and the history of the GDR.)

Should we choose a name to honour the idealism of that time? Or create one to capture a sense of the future we believe in? Or find words to exemplify the values embedded in what we are doing here, right now?

Maybe you have an idea?

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