Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Bathroom Roof Goes On

What a week this was! For two and a half months River and I have been removing an enormous quantity of stuff from the 3 houses at Moses. Walls, stones, wood, windows, lintels, tiles. It’s been quite a destructive phase where everything feels a little chaotic, with piles of the stuff taken out of the houses neatly laid around clearly demarking the place as a building site. But before this week we hadn’t really done any building, any construction. Last week we began with learning to mix mud and setting slates with it on top of the bathroom walls. This week however, was a very different story. Proper construction. Just River and I. And I tell you, it feels fantastic to have finally finished the roof, our first task on the 14 week plan to restore Moses before Christmas.

We had a few hurdles to overcome. First was finding a good supplier of wood and fixing it to the eucalyptus beams. Second, finding roof felt and fixing it to the wooden ceiling. And third buying all the tools we need to do so now and for the next few months ahead. At the weekend we found a great lumber yard on the road to Serta who delivered some tongue and groove pine, which we lumbered all the way to the bottom of the land in readiness to put on on Monday. However it was the wrong type, too slim, and wouldn’t have been strong enough for the tiles on top. So we lumbered it all back up the hill and returned to the sawmill to ensure they delivered the right type, which they did, the same day. Of course we then had to carry the new, heavier wood, on our shoulders, down the hill one more time. This work is definitely growing muscles we didn’t know we had.

What a pair of roofers we are....

Michelle told us about a local place in Estreito that sold a type of roofing felt called Underline. A bit more pricey than the ordinary stuff but the ease of using it with its ‘simple to lay tiles on top’ ridges is definitely worth it. Reusing the original old tiles that Von had carefully removed while my parents were here at the beginning of September, was a most satisfying job. They now no longer make tiles the way they used to. These old clay ones, are all unique. Each one has a slightly different pattern of moss grown over the years but more interestingly has a different curve and shape too. This is cos they were formed around people’s thighs before being kilned. Some are wide and short (made by the thighs of smaller fatter Portuguese) and some are narrow and long (taller skinnier ones). Quite incredible really and it kind of connects you, handling and laying each tile, to another time, another way of living, another world. As a result, the finished roof has so much more innate character than one we could have built with sparkly new uniform tiles. It’s old, it’s gorgeous and we absolutely love it.

Yesterday, we started rendering the bathroom walls too. We tried a mix suggested in the Building Green book, which is 3 parts sand, to one part hydraulic lime, to half part straw. The straw is shredded by sucking it back through an ordinary garden leaf blower and is soaked in water before adding to the mix, so that the lime can extract the water from the straw helping to prevent cracking when it sets on the wall. We’ll see how it turns out but it was a lot of fun plastering our first wall together beneath the beautiful pine boarded, eucalyptus beamed roof we’d just put on.

So today, with a new roof and 2 walls half rendered with just one coat of natural plaster, I feel that everything is possible. To be honest at the beginning of the week I was emotionally fluctuating between a deep contentment in what is already here now and a blind overwhelming panic at the immensity of all the work in front of us. Yeah the journey is more important than the destination and all that, but sometimes the distance to the destination can affect the way you feel about the journey. But you can only do what is in front of you to do. One step at a time. Yes we have many steps to take, but it is still possible to see each one, individually, as splendid in its own right. That’s how it is today with our first roof built with mud, slate, trees, straw and tiles from the land and a little sand, lime, felt and wood bought from round the corner.

On the road to Oleiros last night for a celebratory meal, we stopped the car, got out and took a moment to enjoy this exquisite sunset over the surrounding mountains and valleys. What a life this is. We only get one shot at it, and we’re making the very most of it. Yeah baby.

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