Cobbing my cottage

Friday, 22 August 2014

Dream a Little Dream

The rain has ceased for the moment, but it has been battering these grounds for days on end now. After weeks of intense heatwave, the Finnish skies are finally pouring down on these lands, properly, almost restlessly. What it means to me is that I have something to listen to when I press my head on my pillow, pillow which only yesterday found its way into my cottage. Two days ago I helped my father to build a sleeping platform inside my little house, so I could fulfil my wish, to spend a night in my heart space before I go.

The other night, I carried a mattress and a little blanket up the builder's ladders (the wooden one I am hoping to climb up with is still needing to be built...) and snuggled down, with some celtic music and flickering candlelight. While the rain drops were falling on the skylight above me, I lied down, cozy and warm against freshly sawn wood, looking and smelling and thinking and mainly wondering. How did I get to this amazing point of existence? To be lying here, surrounded by earth, trees, forest, sky, rain - and to know that where I lie has come from my heart; through the love I have for Mother Earth and this landscape I used to play in as a child. The love, which has been transformed, with the help of my family and friends, into this muddy cottage I so love.

The candles are lit for LuontoƤiti / Mother Nature

My view for the night.
I lied there, in the Earth's womb, feeling totally in awe of how all this came to be, feeling totally grateful for Mother Earth and Universe for letting me build this place; for the lessons, experiences, help, love, struggles, compassion, interest, hard work, motivation - and tears emerged for the sheer joy of being in this place in this moment. While the sound of rain drops mixed with the sound of some strangely random elven music, I looked to my left and saw a fox's eye looking at me. Fox is my totem animal and has had a strange way of appearing to me at times when I need wisdom, self-reliance and confidence. And there it was again, looking at me, slyly smiling. Never mind that the eye was a part of the wooden rail in front of me but the energy was very strongly there. I knew I was being watched over, and it made me feel safe and joyful.

When I returned to my parents house a few hours later for a night's sleep, I gave a hug and thank you to my father and in the morning, when my mother had woken up, to her also, thanking them for the possibility of being able to build my cottage on their land and for their help in building it. I know with great certainty that this is one of the biggest personal achievement in my life, and has a great symbolic meaning to me, in form of artistic identity, my roots, my relationship with my parents, my future, my beliefs, my loves, my children and the world I want to behold, appreciate and live in.

Before I got to this point however, I had been working on this cottage for weeks, on most days, apart from some family days off. I had been mixing, plastering, boiling, smearing, stamping, measuring, experimenting, pouring, plastering a bit more, painting, getting confused, wondering, realising, sawing, nailing, lifting, dragging, digging and yet again painting. Don't ask me how many hours, as I have no answer to your question. It is better not to know. And even if I knew, I would only know the answer to a question: how many hours have you loved?

Since some of you want some proof that I actually did do some or all of the beforementioned activities, I have added some photographs below. They may be in slight random order, because my head has been in random order and my days with the mud get very mixed up, as do the hours of the clock - usually my work is interrupted by baby duties (my daughter is 14mths) or my mother asking whether I still eat food these days.

Lime plastered (with pigment) cob dragon oven

My mother helping out

My father helping out

Making mix for the earthen floor (wet cob)

So, after all of this doing, I am left with a cottage which is not finished but it is not far off from that.
I need to patch up some walls, do more painting inside and out, add some details and finish to the earthen plaster - but the main thing missing is a proper floor. I have completed the first layer of earthen floor but there is still a lot to do. The drying process took much longer than I anticipated and very soon I realised that in rainy conditions, I could easily wait weeks for the floor to dry. I don't have weeks. But I do have a place, where I can sleep and be happy. Next Summer I know this place will have a floor and after that any remaining jobs will be mere details that I can attend to whenever.

This is how I am leaving the cottage for now.

With my heart filled with love, I know anything's possible when you have faith in your idea - and so much love to carry it through that nothing can stop you. The only thing that can make something happen is you. And the only thing that can stop you making something happen is you. Next time you tell yourself an excuse why something didn't happen, look deep inside yourself and ask some real questions.

And then - Dream a Little Dream. Just like children do. Until we meet again.

With Love,

the Forest Dreamer

Monday, 28 July 2014

Icing on the Cake

I landed in Finland on Tuesday night, during a heat-wave. This beautiful Northern landscape which enjoys long daylight hours in any case, is now a hot, sunny haven. Well, not a haven for everyone (are we ever totally happy about the weather?) but I personally would choose hot sun over cold rain any day. And apart from a pretty dry and barren green roof, my little cottage seemed to enjoy the sun as much as I do.

My cottage hadn't been touched for almost a year. I did what I could in the three weeks I was there a year before, with a newborn in tow, but had to admit my defeat when it came to dreams about finishing the cottage.

This year I am truly and finally hoping to make my dream come true. I have about six weeks. Yes, I also have surplus dreams about building other natural dwellings, including composting toilet, sauna, large cob oven/bench and natural swimming pool but I think it's safe to say this time around my biggest dream is to be able to spend even just one night inside my cottage, before I have to leave Finland again in the end of August.

Not a lot to ask, one may say and it is definitely doable but I have a lot to do. I am obviously prioritising the internal work and leaving the external work for a later time. My baby daughter is now just over 1 year old and she toddles about, fairly content in the company of my parents, although often wants my cuddles, even when my clothes are covered in clay. But, in many ways it is a good introduction to her about what mummy does and loves doing, with her Hands and Heart in mud.

I bought English fine china clay i.e. kaolin from a ceramic store here in Finland. 50 kilos of it. It is just a number as I have no idea how much clay I will need. I have all the walls to plaster and a floor to pour. I am using plaster made with kaolin as it's very smooth, plastic and white. I mean there is nothing wrong with its Finnish common cousin, the grey lumpy stuff I have dug from the backyard and used for everything in the building so far - but to be honest, even a simple forest girl like me, does appreciate some finesse in things at times....

I also ordered fine sand, 3m3 of it. Again, it is just an abstract number, as I have no idea of the amount needed. Plus the truck that delivered it, could only hold three cubic metres. And then I boiled some wheat paste, some random amount, to add into the mix. So there, I have my ingredients for the perfect coat of plaster. Just in time to remind myself there is no perfection. Only perception (as one of my friends puts it).

Every day I have plastered a bit of the walls, occasionally with the help of my son. Once even my brother showed up for an hour. Mostly I am on my own though, mixing the plaster putty with my fingers, in my own little elven hut. I can only say that it is one of the most pleasurable things, mixing that putty. Feeling the lumps of sand dissolve into the clay slurry, the creaminess of the mix coating my fingers, getting slightly stuck on my palms. Then taking a lump and smearing it onto the rough wall. I could keep on doing this forever I think, if only my skin didn't fall off at the contact of numerous little stones in the wall. My palms are somewhat sore to touch after five days of barehand plastering but my heart is full and I love the work. I LOVE it.

I feel totally connected to my humanness while working on this cottage, with these basic materials, in this natural way - it is my own personal meditation. I find it amusing that I am smearing very fine English clay over the very rough Finnish one. It almost feels like I am making a full circle with this cottage, including the materials I am using, about who I am, my identity as a Finnish person, who is no longer just Finnish but has some English layers. I am icing the Finnish forest cake with English cream. Maybe these are all layers of myself emerging inside and outside this cottage.

I bought three different kinds of trowels for this job, but I do not want to use them, even if I could (the walls are way too uneven and sculptural, ha!), because I would miss out on the feeling and touching and smearing and smelling and pulling and pushing - and loving. I suppose I am a bit nuts about the white stuff but it will definitely help me to finish this job.

After five days I have done most of it. I will have to keep re-misting the plastered walls so I can eventually burnish them smoother when I am ready. My plan is to make a coloured kaolin paint and paint the walls in more natural tone after the burnishing. And then I am hoping to apply linseed oil to the finished surface. And only then I can start thinking about the the moment my head is definitely in the walls, most certainly also the clouds :)

I leave you with few progress photos and hope to write again soon. It is hard to find the time and concentration to do this but I know it's good for me to try to share the journey in smaller bits.

Oh, in the mean time, please remember to dream - because dreams do have the tendency to come true.