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Workshop foundation: Landscaping

October 23, 2016

With the foundation of the workshop being ready, the last thing is to do the landscaping of the inner courtyard. The landscaping was held up by another massive rock which had to be blown up (see previous blog post) but with that one out of the way, the last task before the winter could be done. The photo below illustrates how things looked before the landscaping. The road about between workshop and villa didn’t exist. The road through the workshop building wasn’t done yet and various piles of gravel and soil blocked the path to the villa.


The target state of the inner courtyard is shown below (at least roughly):


The excavator had plenty to do to clean up the sides around the foundation, level the area for the roundabout, and shift 5 truck loads of gravel. Unfortunately, an excavator is not the perfect tool to actually distribute and level gravel for the roundabout and the road. The shovel of the excavator is simply not wide enough. The whole thing didn’t turn out as even and flat as I had hoped for. I spent hours to work with a rake to smoothen the excavators work but I believe I still need a tractor with a wide shovel to make the road and roundabout even. Doing this manually is like prisoner’s work. Burns calories, but not very meaningful.


The slopes around the workshop are now cleaned up as well and nature can take over again (or will I be able actually to plant something controlled there?).


A truck load of load-bearing gravel was dumped in front of what will the garage for the garden tractor and then levelled again. Now, it is theoretically possible to drive into the workshop. But that’s pretty much it for now. I still need that tractor for the finishing touches before the snow comes, but that has to wait until later. Anyway, the vision of approaching the villa on a straight road through the workshop with the roundabout as turning place is slowly taking shape…


Rocks and Dynamite

October 16, 2016

The master plan for the new building layout around Villa Linnea is to have a roundabout between the villa and the workshop. Unfortunately, we discovered yet another massive rock that is poking out inside of the circle of the roundabout (in the photo below in the lower right corner). Only when doing the final levelling for the roundabout we found that fellow which is only 15 cm too high, but 15 cm is 15 cm too much. Not even the strong excavator was able to dig deep enough to make that rock move even an inch. And therefore, there was only one solution: Explosives!


The guy that blows rocks into small pieces in our neck of woods is a cool guy (maybe you need to be with this job). He showed up pretty much at 07.00 the following day before even there was any daylight. He started immediately to drill four holes into that rock in the dark.


20 minutes after drilling the holes he dropped the explosives (that he transports in a blue plastic bucket) into the holes. The excavator then loaded a 20cm layer of soil on top of the rock to prevent shrapnel to fly about.


And few moments later, I barely managed to get into what I considered a save distance, the rock was split into nice junks, which the digger could then remove. Problem solved. Only 90 minutes after arrival the dynamite man was already gone again.


Spray paint – a little can go a long way

September 29, 2016

If you read our blog semi-regularly you’ve probably already established the division of work between me and the Other Half: he builds and does the things requiring ”heavy lifting”, where as I focus on gardening (not landscaping!), decorating and smaller things like that. I’m not much of a DIY person in terms of bigger building; I can hold a paintbrush and do things that I’m told or instructed to do, but bigger things are outside of my comfort zone. But once in a while I’ll do something small – like what I’m sharing with you today.

We very often on weekend mornings eat breakfast buns – for the lack of a local bakery where I could pick up some fresh ones we buy the vacuum packed semi-ready kind and bake them in the morning. That gives the illusion of fresh buns, which they’re really not. Anyways, in order to bring them to the table we have a basket – a small, red basket to be more precise.


We’ve been using this basked for a couple of years already. During the same time I’ve noticed a spot on the kitchen counter as well as a spot on the dining table (in the middle of it, of course) with a slight red discoloration. I’ve been wondering where these spots came from, as they’re impossible to remove; I actually thought some summer I might have stained the spots with some strawberries. Well, that was not the case – it was the basket! If the bottom became wet or even damp it would discharge color and obviously, as I had not noticed it immediately, the color did not come off from where ever it had rubbed off.

Quite annoying and obviously something had to be done! I like the basket, it is a convenient size for this particular purpose (we actually have the same kind in another, neutral color at home). The Other Half had some spray paint cans laying around, so I thought I could paint it. So from thought to implementation!


I did this already in the late summer, so it was the easiest option to make use of one of the stumps at the edge of the forest as a location, so I didn’t need to protect any walls or anything else for the matter. I decided that I liked the touch of red on the basket, so I only spray painted the outside.

And honestly the can was a bit on the low side already, so I wasn’t sure if there’d be enough to spray it all around. I wanted to play it safe, as what’s worse than running out of supplies in the middle of the project?


I sprayed around three light coats of paint, allowing for about 15 minutes between the layers for drying. In the end I let be basket dry about an hour. And voila! A slightly enhanced basket that will no longer stain my kitchen table nor counters!


This has now been in use for some time already and the spray job seems to be holding up nicely; it’s not chipping or rubbing off. Not that I would have expected it to do this either, as the basket is in quite light use only with the important task of holding the breakfast buns on the weekends.

I must say this was a nice little project, so based on this you might see me spray painting a bit more things in the future🙂

Workshop: Foundation filling

September 25, 2016

Once the mortar of the concrete blocks has dried, we could fill up the foundation with sand and gravel. Roughly 5 truck loads of some kind of sand and gravel mix were required to fill the 60 cm. Every 15 cm or so we compressed the material to get a solid base for the floor plate. Also the land around the foundation was raised again to roughly 30 cm below the foundation height.


We also had to dig in the foundation drainage pipes which lead the water away whenever there is a heavy rainfall or when the snow melts in the spring. Because the lowest layer of the foundation is significantly lower than most of the land around it (even that the building is sitting on a natural slope) we had to dig a 20 meters long trench to come out on the surface level.


Two layers of 5 cm Styrofoam are placed on top of the gravel which insulate the floor. The iron roster is there only temporarily to stop the Styrofoam from flying away in the next autumn storm.


The only outstanding challenge is the placement of the electricity cabinet. The master plan in my mind was to move it on the short side of the workshop building. However, that plan failed miserably with the power supply cable to the villa being 50 cm too short. Now the electrician and I have to figure out how to solve that issue in style. Well, another time…


Workshop: Foundation

September 20, 2016

Making the foundation is ultimately a two-phase project: first you work yourself up out of the foundation pit and then you fill up the land around foundation pit to the final height.

The first step was to pour a ring of concrete (some 20 cm high and 60cm wide) into a simple wooden frame. That concrete ring will distribute the load evenly onto the ground below.


Once the concrete ring is hardened enough, you lay at least three rows of bricks to the final height of the foundation. You can add more layers of brick on top of it depending on the final target height of the building but three rows is the minimum. You need 30 cm between the lowest log and the land around the foundation so that the rainwater doesn’t splash onto the logs. Then you need another 30 cm to place the 5 cm styrofoam insulation around the foundation to protect the concrete ring from the frost in the winter plus some earth on top of the styrofoam.

foundation-bricksAlso the inside of the foundation is insulated before it is being filled up with gravel to carry the concrete slab which will be the floor.

After this was done, the project took a three week break while we had to wait for the excavator to return. Meanwhile we enjoyed a great autumn with some picture-postcard mornings at the lake.


Eat your vegetables!

September 15, 2016

Isn’t that what parents always tell their children? At some point in your life you no longer have to be reminded of that and you actually gladly eat your vegetables, especially if they are self-grown and fully organic.

I think this will be my last post about vegetables this year (at least I think so, but let’s see…), but I had completely forgotten that there was still one new crop this year: beetroot. I planted two rows of beetroot seeds in  the spring and they started growing nicely, though a bit slowly, in my opinion.

Someone said that the leaves, when they are really small, would be a nice addition to salads. As we had more than enough salad I decided to let the leaves be and see what comes out of them. Well, beetroot, of course. In the end this first crop was not that successful: there were probably a good dozed plants based on the leaves, but we only ate four beetroots.

Just as with the carrots I was quite fierce in weeding out the plants in the beginning, to ensure there is space to grow, but that didn’t help. I don’t know was it too dry or too wet, or perhaps not enough nutrition in the soil, but there were leaves and everything looked quite ok on top of the soil but digging under only produced four proper beetroot. That’s better than nothing, so I’m not complaining!

This allowed me to make one of my favorite, super-simple vegetable dishes: oven vegetables, fully from my own vegetables.

Cooking doesn’t get any simpler than this. For this I took beetroot, carrots and potatoes:

Washed the veggies, and as I knew where and how this had been grown, I didn’t even peel them. Chop everything up and put in an oven dish, top with some olive oil, salt, pepper and honey, and you’re all set!


Approximately 2 hours later, after baking them at 175C, this is what you will get:


Go very nicely with a good grilled steak! As a side there were also a few prizes in the forest still, which I turned into a sauce. I think that was probably the last batch of chanterelles for this year, already waiting for next year and a new batch.


These ones you’re not supposed to eat, as they are poisonous, but it did make a really nice picture.


But now it’s time to run, so I’ll leave you with these funny carrot pants! It’s a wonder how things grow to the shapes they do under ground.


Eating our own

September 8, 2016

The vegetable patch is an annual project, which reminds me of Tom Hanks in the movie Forrest Gump and the famous quote “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”. Well, in this case, when you plant seeds at in the spring, you never know what all will the vegetable patch give you during the season.

Again we have been very lucky! Like I’ve mentioned in earlier posts during the season, we’ve been eating so much salad it’s surprise we didn’t turn into rabbits. I actually didn’t take any pictures of the salad this year. How is that possible? Oh well, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Growing your own potatoes still continues to be something that amazes me, even after already several years of successful experience. This year we ate the first potatoes already around the middle of August and there’s still some left in  the ground; I expect we’ll eat the last ones around the beginning of October.

This year, for the first time as I recall, we actually did not take all of the potatoes out of the ground in one go, but we’ve left them in and take only as much, or little, as we need at a time. This has proved to be a good solution, as the remaining potatoes are naturally much bigger as they have more time to grow in the ground.

Also I took a slightly different approach with the carrots. Earlier years I haven’t been so good about weeding out the little plants that spring up from all those tiny carrot seeds. Well this year I was quite strict and showed no mercy in the weeding, leaving a good 7-10cm between the remaining plants. This showed again clearly in the results:


The carrots are much bigger and thus also have much more taste. Almost wish we had more than we do as they are so good. Maybe next year… With carrots the approach is the same as with the potatoes, we only take as much out of the ground as we need at a time. We had so much less carrots, that I expect the carrots will all be eaten up in the next couple of weeks.

Rhubarb surprised us with a small crop still – this went into a apple-rhubarb crumble.


Also we grew herbs: parsley and thyme. These I’ve cleaned and frozen – planning to use them in cooking and baking during the winter. Just need to remember to dig them out from the freezer, otherwise I’ll still find them there when I’m growing the next patch during next winter!

But that rounds up the vegetable patch for this year. The wait is still on to see what happens to the pumpkins!