Saturday 8 September 2012

Lime Plastering

One of the things we were looking forward to on this last trip was lime plastering, but we didn't realise quite how enthusiastically we would get into it!

We'd booked ourselves on to a short lime plastering course about two hours north of OrchardyHaven, on the shores of Lake Hancza, famous for being the deepest lake in Poland.

Jezioro Hancza The straw bale house
Lime plastering on cob wall Clay plastering inside

We were interested in Lime Plastering for various reasons:
  1. Lime plaster is a traditional natural finish that breathes and has various other useful properties (see e.g. here);
  2. Our property was built using lime, so we want to keep the tradition and learn more about the material;
  3. We wanted to find out where we could obtain quicklime or natural hydraulic lime (NHL) in Poland;
  4. and we really wanted to meet Paulina Wojciechowska, the pioneer of straw bale building in North East Poland (she built the house we visited on our honeymoon).
It was really good to go for these two days in PrzeĊ‚omka. We did meet Paulina and her partner Jarema, we saw 15 people from all over the world happily camping and working together in difficult conditions, and we got some hands-on experience, although we didn't find out how to get hold of good lime.

This experience made us eager to get back to work on our own place, and thanks to Jarema's encouragement we fixed the roof on the goat shed and got on with plastering the inside walls. Andrew joined us at this time, and despite pushing him to work so hard he quickly started talking about forming the OrchardyHaven Lime Appreciation Society! While I was stuck on the roof a lot of the time, Andrew really knuckled down to the plastering job and we got two coats on each of the three outside walls - pretty good for people with such little plastering experience as us. 

Getting free sand from the quarry 500m away :-)
After a sweltering first week it started to rain - a lot! End wall plastered though...
Working on the roof
Testing lime plaster outside
The finished roof, just needs tiling next year 
Lots more notes could go in here: 
  1. The sand was sharp but really fine - probably too fine for mortar or render. We didn't clean the sand either - potentially more testing and experimenting to do;
  2. We used builder's (hydrated) lime, easily available from any of the local farmers/builders suppliers. We did find that Kerakoll has a Polish branch that appears to sell NHL, but we didn't manage to chase them up and find any local suppliers. We added our lime to water and left it for at least 24hrs as recommended. We mixed the resulting 'putty' with sand 1:3 and after a few minutes looking far to dry it suddenly transformed into a really sloppy mix, although usable. We found that we could still use it even three days after making it.
  3. I also made a lime wash on the last day, mainly to treat our apple trees where I had to do some emergency pruning in August (last October seemed to early for pruning and Easter seemed too late, but I don't know when I'll be there at the right time so I just went ahead and pruned three trees). This was quite strange - really watery as it was painted on, then turning bright white after a minute - I realised I had made whitewash... :-)
  4. Most of our plastering was on the inside of the goat shed, but at the end there was some left and I tried it outside - on concrete blocks a) in a sheltered south-facing spot under the overhang of the barn roof and b) in a more exposed east-facing spot on the gable end (where I also forgot to wet the wall before applying the render). These are experiments to see how the plaster holds up over the Polish winter.
  5. The roof: most of the timbers were damaged by woodworm but after we cleaned them up they still seemed to be strong enough - we pressure washed them and spent quite a while stripping the rest of the bark (under 80% of the bark there were woodworm, stripped wood was mainly untouched); we put a breathable waterproof membrane on top of the rafters and purlins, and then 3cm thick spruce planks from our neighbour's sawmill butted side-by-side over this; we searched for second-hand tiles, but they were too far away and we didn't have time - we'll find some next year to complete the roof but it's easily strong enough to last through this winter. 
  6. As you can see from the last photo I built some benches too, from off-cuts from the roof - finally somewhere to sit down (other than the toilet) - what a relief!

Thursday 6 September 2012

"The best toilet ever"

We've been back in Wakefield for a couple of weeks now and we're finally getting everything back under control in the garden and allotment here, and at home... So finally managing to do some updating on the website :-)

This is just a quickie - we have lots more to add soon. We have finally finished our tree bog! Yay!

Here's a photo collage of its construction: (L-R top) starting with stripping some roundwood poles for the legs; then finding a site; bringing in some old deski (waney-edged boards) Kasia's brother gave us; putting the frame together; the floor and the beginning of the walls; (bottom and middle) a closer view; Andrew helping out; as it was when we left at Easter, in bare space beside the barn; me putting the roof on; back and side walls and roof complete; me and Maia, but no steps yet; Maia happy with work so far; Kasia on steps of completed tree bog next to new flower bed :-)

We started this last October, did a couple of days at Easter, then finished in a couple of days this August. Probably 6-7 days work altogether, but as this kind of construction was all new to us and we made life harder by using curved roundwood poles I'm quite happy.

In the end it was a great sheltered cool place to sit - and very satisfying to use too... But don't just take our word for it - our volunteer/visitor Maggi from Venezuela said it was the best toilet she'd ever used!

Oh, I should add some technical information. It's called a tree bog because the trees around it accelerate the composting with their roots, so it should never need to be emptied. The exemplar tree bog has willow planted around it which is coppiced regularly and we did try to plant some willow but we came back to England and there was a long dry spell so the canes never took root. There are plum trees and sycamores and a large willow and a small oak around the back and sides that should do the job ok.

We got the inspiration from Permaculture Magazine and Living Woods Magazine.