June 17, 2013

Action on the Farm

The last few weeks of preparation finally resulted in an intense five days of early starts, endless work and long, jolly evenings: a group of nine students and their two tutors from Belgium arrived on Sunday evening, ready to crack on with transforming our stable.

They needed a project to consolidate the skills they have been gathering during their years at Duurzaam Wonen...

and we have projects galore. There are so many things that need our attention, but our stable was the most urgent - with no proper roof to protect the existing walls, the building has been rapidly deteriorating as the seasons have passed.

We spent the week before their arrival – as soon as the rains abated – salvaging bricks from a heap down the road and building two walls on the rooftop to create a solid base for the new roof.

With most of the materials on site and our carpenter friend on hand to explain his designs, Sunday evening was a lively affair - eating and drinking around the fire whilst shaping up plans for the week ahead.

Bogumila and I spent most of the week in the kitchen (sadly still our tiny temporary hovel) cooking up mostly vegetarian food from scratch with as much as possible from our store and garden. Needless to say, the food was eaten with relish with rarely anything left over.

The lads worked tirelessly constructing a timber frame roof to match the angle and style of the roofs on the other buildings; cleaning and plastering the outside walls of the stable; and hauling in old roof tiles from a building site near Görlitz. The tiles have been traditionally hand crafted and double fired with a black protective layer of fired clay. They have weathered well but required a good deal of chipping free of old plaster. Due to their irregular shape, they had to be individually plastered onto the roof.

The yard took on the air of a Moroccan souk - the sounds of chipping stone, clanging metal, sawing wood, shouts and laughter echoing between the buildings...

It was a mammoth task. At one point it looked as if not enough tiles had survived the transportation and clean-up, but in the end, the roof is complete with just thirty tiles to spare!

The building looks fantastic. It feels as though it has always been that way, the old roof tiles lending an air of age-old tradition and stability.

It has taken a while to recover from the constant action and we are slowly regaining more sleep. It was very sad to see them all go and the place is now once again very quiet.

However, there is no real rest in sight: the weather has been almost constantly sunny and relatively dry for over a week now with the temperatures set to rise into the thirties. So the scythes are out and hay making begins in earnest.

It has been hard to anticipate anything stable in the weather after weeks of flood warnings and horror stories of burst damns across the country. Yet thankfully, our little corner of the Oberlausitz has remained safe. Our landscaping efforts following last years floods have proved very successful and we have continued as normal, almost oblivious to the havoc being wrought elsewhere.

On the other hand, the land work has been severely held back due to the long winter and the rains. There is now a real urgency to get as much ground prepared for planting as we can. The big field has been sown with green manure (at a precarious time I might add, as the rains came just after. It is hard to estimate how well the seed has survived) and we have reserved a long strip along the fence for planting up our field crops.

Other news: our family has now expanded to include two little goats barely three months old! They are so friendly and desperately keen on human attention - such a pleasant change from our wild and fearful sheep. We tether them for a few hours each day in the long grass before returning them to their makeshift pen on the north-west corner of the building (an existing ramshackle sheep shed that will eventually be pulled down to create a terrace).

We look forward to introducing them to their new home (when time allows for the finishing touches) beside the chickens in the Belgian House.