Saturday, August 17, 2013

A few upcycling mini projects

Sunday, July 21, 2013
By Michael
            We’ve been working on cleaning and fixing up our place since we’ve moved in. When we first arrived, our first job was to clean up the house. There was a lot of Pan Oleh and his wife’s stuff here. We took most of it out to the garage, overstuffing that space. We’ll get to organizing that in the near future. If Yulia and I have learned anything from this experience, it is to try not to accumulate a lot of things over the course of our lifetime. We will not live forever and eventually somebody will have to go through our things and save them or throw them out. The packrat mentality of saving everything because one never knows when it will come in handy can be helpful, but most of the time that rainy day never comes. We’ve tried to be as resourceful as we can though. There were about four dozen pairs of shoes when we arrived, for example. Since we don’t have any string or rope yet, Yulia took the shoe laces from the footwear, tied them together, and propped up some beautiful flowering bushes that were falling over onto the footpath. We specifically asked Pan Oleh’s wife to not through away any clothing or fabric so we could use them for our future permaculture projects. We’ve already taken some old curtains and put them to use. We made a no-till garden bed by first cutting down the weeds on that particular spot, spreading out the fabric onto the ground, and laying compost on top. We plan to plant lettuce and kale there very soon.
            There’s also a huge pile of bricks out back. I’ve already put them to use in a sidewalk making mini project. 

We had to lay down the brick because we reclaimed a little corner of a flower bed, creating a shortcut across the lawn. As you can see, we are already wearing out a path in the grass. We may need to eventually lay down a walkway all the way to the path where our cat, Levko, is walking.
            We also made an outdoor bathing spot. We started it by digging a shallow foundation and placing four poles secured by stakes in each of the corners.

Digging the foundation
We then filled in the foundation with small stones and random pieces of rubble. Pan Oleh had a small pile of this on the other side of the linden tree in the background. Ideally, we would have preferred to use small, rounded pebbles. They do not interlock with each other (because they are round, obviously) and therefore keep a lot of airspace between themselves, which is ideal for good drainage. But it’s always good to use whatever’s lying around. This assorted rubble (pieces of brick, concrete, stone, and roof tile) seems to create the same conditions that pebbles do, but they do not create a level surface because of their chunky, odd shapes. You’ll see how we dealt with that issue soon.

The foundation
On top of the rubble we put down a wooden platform to stand on and covered the walls with some of that leftover fabric I was talking about earlier. We used half pieces of brick around the edges to create a level surface to place the platform on.  Here is the partially done project:

Here’s the finished product:

You can see a solar powered garden light on top of the front, right post. The tree stump in front might be a good place to attach a hook for hanging towels and clothes while bathing. The clothes line is not too far away. You can see the clothespins on the left side. There is a dead apple tree behind the shower. We may just chop that down eventually. And I should correct myself. There is not one, but there are two linden trees in the background. Yulia told me yesterday that it is considered good luck to plant linden trees in pairs [From Yulia: Please read my beloved author—self-dubbed regenerate biologist Diana Beresford –Kroeger’s book Arboretum America: A Philosophy of the Forest to get more info about why twin linden trees are considered to be lucky and other fascinating details in regards to trees. Her books are full of rare and interesting facts, I promise.]. Also, you may have noticed the dead weeds scattered about the ground. This spot, like most of the land on the property, was covered by six foot tall weeds when we arrived. We had to rip them out by hand. Not easy work. I tried using Pan Oleh’s scythe to take them out, but they were too big and strong. They broke the scythe twice already. I was able to fix it both times, but was still angry at myself and the weeds for breaking such a beautiful antique.

Our scythe
 If anyone is interested in why Yulia and I do not want to plough all our land and use no till methods instead, this is why. Ploughed land is damaged land, and invasive plants will insert themselves on sick soil. There are scientific reasons for this, but I won’t get into that now. The wild fields all around our village do not have such monstrous weeds like our own land does, by the way.
            Here is one more picture of our bathing spot.

Inside the washing area
To bathe, we fill up the tub with cold water from the well and then add a pot of boiling hot water that we heat on our stove. We then take the cup (left) and pour it over ourselves until we are all wet. Then we take the soap (right) and get ourselves soapy. Then we take the cup and rinse ourselves off. We bathe daily, so having a place to wash is important to us. The screen lets us wash when it is light out (Before this we were washing on our concrete patio after it got dark out so that the neighbors could not see us.). I am so descriptive about the washing process because a lot of people ask us what it is like to live without running water. In general, there seems to be a lot of trepidation over it. It does take some getting used to, but it is not as difficult as it may seem. Because there is so much to say about it, I want to address the “running water issue” sometime in the near future.

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