Cobbing my cottage

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Getting a morale boost

Last Saturday morning I wandered into the well hidden Meadow Orchard Project in North London and was greeted by a happy, smiling organiser Linda from Cob in the Community and a number of chirpy volunteers ready to take part in the eco-hut build. Chatting with people, many originally from other parts of the world, yet all excited about the same thing, the weather being so sunny and lovely, I couldn't help but smile most of the day while working on different things; mixing cob, making earth plaster and carrying straw bales.

Linda working with a volunteer.

I told Linda and the rest of the group about my own eco-build plans and she was really brilliant in answering all my questions about different issues and techniques I should be considering. That's all you sometimes need to get a real morale boost, a friendly face to talk to, whose heart is in the same place as yours! I will definitely be back in North London to watch the progress and take part in this wonderful project, as in my opinion learning is best by doing and even better when done with a lovely bunch of people all pulling together just for the love of it all! :)

Strangely enough the to-be Meadow Orchard meditation and community eco-hut is very similar in design to the one I am planning, so it will really help me to visualise my cottage and understand how to best tackle the building process. So excited about stumbling on this Meadow Orchard project - a truly lovely coincidence!

Working on the Meadow Orchard Eco-Hut

Adding Earth plaster/slip onto the strawbale wall

In about a week's time I am flying home to Finland and there is a lot of sketching, research and mental preparation to be done before then. I have bought and read few more books, including Tony Wrench's 'Building a Low Impact Roundhouse' and Nigel Dunnett's 'Small Green Roofs', as well as 'The Straw Bale House' by Athena Steen. All worth a read, but I would still say that there is one book above all others: 'The Hand-Sculpted House' by Ianto Evans, which I have found most useful and inspiring out of the many books I have bought on the subject. His is a truly wonderful book, which covers not only the technical aspects of cob building but also the spiritual side of it all, including how to best respect the land and environment as well as considering the natural cycles of the Earth, all things, which for me, as a learning, spiritual entity, are really important.

Sometimes the first snow falls quite early in Southern Finland, even as early as October, which for my inner child is lovely of course but for my soil testing purposes I am hoping for a mild, nice autumnal 'digging weather' for next week. I will report back here with photos and few video clips after I return on what my excavations into the land of my childhood reveal. Until then, sweet (day)dreams! :)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Recovering and making plans

I have been ill for over a week now with what started as a little cough and a sore throat and then developed into an acute bronchitis so irritating and painful that for a day or two I lost the will to live. While I was unable to do much else than think, all kinds of fears started to take over, like: 'Am I really crazy to believe I can build this cottage? On my own? How is it all going to happen, practically? Time-wise, money-wise, health-wise? I am just a silly dreamer with no building skills...' Listening to all this nonsense floating inside my head, I finally ended up sticking my head deep into some inspirational books; trying to flush out the negative thoughts, because that's all they are, thoughts.

Yesterday I got a course of antibiotics from my GP and am slowly starting to feel better. I only have about two and half weeks before I fly to Finland to stand on the land where I am intending to build next year. And by then I want to have some plans, some drawings, not just to show my parents but also myself. I want to be able to sit down on the ground, close my eyes, meditate on the smells, sounds and sights and see the cottage as it will be standing around me, in a year's time. So that whatever feels right, I will put in the plans and whatever doesn't feel right, I will take off. And then I will get the shovel and start digging....

Waiting for my own recovery and spending too much time in front of the computer, I discovered about The Meadow Orchard Project in Haringey, North London. They run all kinds of environmental courses for the community and are also building an eco-hut on their premises with cob and straw bales. As it happens, for the next two weekends they are running eco-build courses, so I am intending to volunteer this coming Saturday for their project, which will be a great opportunity for me to help a community as well as learn more cob-building skills and gain invaluable insight into my own project. I may even take my son along to do some mud dancing...

I will be adding sketches and blueprints for my cottage here soon, even though they are bound to change in the coming months. However, I still feel it's interesting for me and for others to see the entire process of the project, from some random thoughts to actually making something touchable. After a dark week, I am  starting to see light at the end of the tunnel - my spirit is hearing the beating of my heart more than the fearful mutterings of my mind. I just have to follow my heart and go with the gut feeling, because as always, it never lies.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Dreamer In The Woods

As the Autumn sun sets behind my urban London garden, I start writing this blog about dreams and about making those dreams into reality. I am hoping that my story will inspire someone to follow his/her dreams, heart and intuition - as in my own humble experience, it is the only real truth you have at any given time.

Depending on how one looks at it, this particular story starts about thirty-seven years, or alternatively, about six weeks ago, when I returned to London from a two week summer holiday in Finland, my mother country, where I lived for the first 23 years of my life, before moving to UK (where I still live).

Forest of my childhood

I originally come from a small village in Southern Finland, which, even though only half an hour drive from the capital city, Helsinki, is a rural area of sleepy countryside, filled with open fields, small lakes and deep forests. In that environment, I grew up as a care-free child, roaming freely with my older brother and our friends, crossing streams, climbing trees and stealing apples from abundant trees. My love for the nature was nurtured by trips to the forest with my parents, to forage bilberries, lingonberries and many delicious wild mushrooms.

From early age, I would find it very comforting to listen to the trees, the restless fluttering of their leaves, the creaking of their ancient bodies and feeling their breathing between my small, extended arms. I particularly liked one tree in the small plot of woods my parents have, an old aspen tree, which seemed too different and big for the forest in order not be special somehow. I named the tree my Wishing Tree and started using the tree as nature's confession box, circling it ritualistically three times, making it wishes, telling it secrets and asking it advice that only such a wise, old tree could have an answer for. This for a young child seemed completely natural thing to do and I can't remember minding about the fact that the answers never came out in the form of human language. I now think that guided by a child's intuition, I consulted this totem tree, which in turn let me silently meditate and listen for the answers within. And of course that is the best advice anyone can give you, whether a tree or a person.

Over twenty years and many many travels later, I sit in my crammed London bedroom, surrounded by my art, my ideas, my photos, my memories, my films, my crystals, my scribbles and all kinds of scattered parts of my life in random order - yet in my mind's eye I am back in that childhood forest, next to that beautifully stocky wishing tree, sitting on the mossy floor. I tell the tree that next summer I am going to make a full circle and come back home and once again, consult the magical aspen about the truths that lie within.

With a lot of courage and a bit of luck, this time next year, a cob-hut, built with the soil beneath my feet and the wood from the surrounding forest, will stand at a viewing distance from that wise, old aspen and when I look out of the window, I will be able to say hello and thank you to the tree that knew all my dreams.