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Workshop: Foundation

September 20, 2016
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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.

FoundationConcreteBase

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.

LakeMorning

Eat your vegetables!

September 15, 2016
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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!

vegetables-1

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

vegetables-2

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.

mushroom-1

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

mushroom-2

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.

carrot-pants

Eating our own

September 8, 2016
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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:

carrots

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.

rhubarb

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!

Pumpkin anyone?

August 31, 2016
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It’s already very much fall, even though it’s only the end of August. The mornings are crisp and in the evenings temperatures fall quickly. But as long as the sun shines it’s only a matter of dressing right!

We’ve been enjoying the produce from our vegetable patch all summer long. The biggest success, very much like last few years, has been the salad. I think this year we’ve been eating more salad than any other summer earlier – during our vacation at the Villa I think not a day went by without having salad from our own patch in one form or another. The salad has fared well at home as well, as we’ve several times brought a bag with us on Sunday to enjoy during the week. Now we need to adjust to eating store bought salad – the taste is just not the same.

But the major surprise on the vegetable patch has been the pumpkin I planted, for the first time, this spring. I planted four seeds in two different places, and one set started growing. I should have really taken progress pictures during the summer, but never go from thought to actually doing it. Maybe next year…

Anyways pictures tell more than a thousand worlds, have a look!

I have absolutely no experience in growing pumpkins, so I don’t know how they’re supposed to grow and how you’re supposed to take care of them. I’ve just been watering the plan along with the rest of the vegetables in the spring. It just kept growing and growing and growing. There’s four flowers/pumpkin starts at the moment, but time will tell whether anything actually comes out of them. I don’t think we’ll be getting any big lanterns, but it would be quite cool if they would “grow up” to be recognizable pumpkins. Let’s see what happens in the next month!

On other “growing” news our black raspberries are growing fruit as well! In July I was able to find only one berry start, but now there are several. I don’t know why it bloomed so late, but luckily there were plenty of bees, but considering how low the temperatures are already I’m not too optimistic these would actually be ripe enough for us to eat during the fall. But I will keep looking, maybe I will have a positive surprise!

There are some other crops still coming this year, so I’ll keep you posted in the coming weeks.

Workshop: Ground Zero

August 28, 2016
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Ground Zero, The Bottom, Foundation Pit. I don’t really know how to call it, but every building starts growing upwards from some zero line. After one day of excavation and blowing up two large rocks, the lowest level of the workshop has been flattened.

Ground Zero 1

The next thing to do was to place the drainage pipes that carry the water away from the foundation (especially during the spring when snow melts). That task was relatively easy to complete in 2 hours: just 6 pipes of 6 meters length that have little holes in them, then 4 inspection pipes and 2 pipes on the lower side of the slope that carry the water away from the building.

Ground Zero 2

Then we placed a sheet of fabric under on the bottom which shall prevent from moisture to permeate upwards. The drainage pipes are covered with special (kind of clean) round pebble stones which are supposed to let the water through to the pipes.

Ground Zero 3

Next comes 20cm of crushed rock which when compressed is the load-bearing level for the concrete (And no, I’m not the dude on the photos. I do have professional help.)

Ground Zero 4Getting this part right is among the most important ones for having a solid foundation. Nothing is more annoying than the foundation sinking into the ground after some years or too much water standing around the foundation and then vapouring into the building, especially when you build on a slope. But let’s see, the next steps of the foundation phase should give us an idea how high the building will ultimately stand.

Caught in the act!

August 25, 2016
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Nature is unpredictable, even though something appears to be growing along nicely just in a short span of time something can happen, or something can come along, and change everything. We saw that, again, this year.

You may recall last year worms came and ate our red currant bushes almost bare. Well, this year nature repeated itself again, unfortunately. We were at the Villa every weekend but in a short span of just 5 days the nasty little buggers can do a lot of damage! It’s interesting that this year the worms chose to snack on the other berry bush (compared to last year). I don’t know what they base their choice on, maybe the amount of berries on the bush?

Well, as soon as I discovered the worms I started fighting back! I looked through the leaves and picked out all the worms I could see, as well as pulled out any leaves that looked to have eggs on them. In addition I sprayed all the bushes with a mixture of dishwasher liquid and water. I also couldn’t help myself and had to take a few pictures of these bad guys in action:

My actions seemed to help for a few days (and I repeated them regularly), but in the end it seemed like a loosing battle. Even though I thought I had the situation under control the worms managed to eat pretty much all the leaves on the other bush.

Luckily this did not impact the berries! This year we managed to get slightly more red currants than last year – I would say about 0.75L. I like to eat them as is, but I also like them as jam, so it was a 50/50 split this time. I’m looking forward to enjoying that jam during  the winter (if it makes it that long).

Bucket

On a final note I walked down to the beach one evening to take some sunset pictures (I’ll spare you from them this time…) and when I turned back to walk up to the Villa I saw a rainbow over the Villa. Quite a sight, even though it was already quite faint by the time I saw it. Had to take a picture, of course🙂

Rainbow

Workshop: Roadworks

August 20, 2016
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Whenever this machine shows up (see photo below), men turn into boys, engineers consider switching their office jobs, and a load of earth-shattering change is about to happen:

Digger making an appearance

The works for the workshop have finally begun!

It all starts with re-routing the last 50 meters of the forest road to the Villa. Because the main road will run through the workshop building, we will need to route the main road differently and also create an auxiliary road for large trucks which don’t pass through the 3×3 meter opening in the workshop. Clearing tree trunks, removing rocks, and flattening the earth for these roads is the first physical act of this project.

Start of road diggingThe road works proceeded at a rapid pace until…, yes, what a surprise in a building project, we hit some rocks that not even the biggest excavator of our earth moving contractor can deal with. That Komatsu PC210 excavator, some 22 tons heavy itself, seems to lift rocks that weigh 11 tons and rolls rocks on the ground probably twice that weight. But some of them are just too big. Like the ones we encountered in the middle of the new road.

Hitting_some_rocks

That meant that we had to call in the “dynamite dude” who will break these rocks into smaller parts that can be lifted by the excavator. Until then the road works had to be rescheduled. Which meant that we started digging for other things: we dug out the electricity cables that have been hidden in the way for the new road and the foundation. Archaeological excavations for cables are not fun. While the heavy duty excavator can dug out the majority of the soil on top of the cables until it hits the yellow marker tape, the rest is manual labour with the shovel (to which I volunteered; there wasn’t anybody else on site anyway).

Digging out cables

Lifting the cables out of the trench filled with fine sand is not that difficult. The cables to the guest cottage and the sauna cabin have been placed in that recommended way. However, Vattenfall (the former network provider) had chosen not waste money on a handful sand but rather throw rocks and clay on top of the precious main power supply cable which made the manual digging pure hell. But at the end of the day we had all three cables (main supply, guest cottage, and sauna cabin) out and none cut off (yet).

Road works after day 1

The roadwork will continue once the “dynamite dude” has done his magic. The excavator will continue with digging out the foundation hole meanwhile. But that’s for another blog post…