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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Organising the Essentials


 Rain seemed to have been a feature of our recent travels.  We've traveled the length and breadth of Europe, mostly on family commitments, and every time we crossed a border it started raining soon after.  First eastbound from Italy into Slovenia, then Croatia.  The brief crossing through Serbia remained dry and most of our first stay in Bulgaria.  As we headed west again the rain followed us through Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and back into Italy.  In Switzerland it rained, and in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and in England.  When we returned to rainy Holland we were told there was a heatwave there, while we were in rainy England.  Now we are finally back in Bulgaria and... apparently it never happens here in July... but, rain.  Proper rain!  It absolutely bucketed it down on Sunday.  But luckily we had shelter in the shape of a garage.

On the latest leg of our travels we have been joined by Alex, who had helped look after our land back in Italy for the last couple of months.  Now we just left Maiemi in charge of our home affairs.

Before getting into proper permaculture design of the land, initial plans include a strawbale house amongst other things, we needed to make our stay a bit more comfortable for the more immediate future.  So first projects we tackled addressed our more basic needs: food storage, disposal of human excrements and hot showers to clean ourselves after a long days work in the sunshine.  Yes, after the big storm the sun came out again, baking us.

For food storage we made a very simple mini-fridge made from 2 terracotta pots half-buried in the ground with a layer of sand between them, which is kept moist.  The evaporation will cool the contents of the inner pot which is covered with a terracotta lid.  It's small but it keeps our fantastic Bulgarian yoghurt (the BEST in the world!) and feta cheese cool even on the hottest days.

 Then came the more urgent task of constructing a toilet.  We had plenty of material and our need was great.  So we decided to build a temporary mobile compost toilet, before making any final design decisions on a more permanent solution.  So first of all we dug a hole and stuffed some straw inside:

Then, to make it all a bit more comfortable, also in view of Vasko and his family joining us soon, we built quite an elaborate portable seat.  That way, once we have filled this particular hole, we can can dig another hole and carry the whole structure to the new location and plant a tree in the old crap hole.  Here is the process:

Material of a previous house was used to make a simple 4-legged structure.

We closed the top and attached a regular toilet seat for comfort.  ...and finally the test...

...after we covered the front side for aesthetic reasons and put crosses on the other side for added stability, and moved it to its position above the above mentioned hole.  All we need now is a privacy screen, which we will install before the family arrives.

To clean ourselves after a hard days work we rather wanted to have a hot shower.  Running cold and colder water was the only luxury we had so far.  So we were given a blue water barrel from Vasko's cousin, in fact two barrels.  First task was to paint one of them black to absorb the sun's heat and therefore heat any water inside rapidly.  After a few attempts to elevate the barrel and secure it at a height we finally decided to lower ourselves.  We have an old leaking concrete water storage container, so we simply decided to clean that out, put the barrel on some old concrete posts and descend into the pit to have a shower, like so:

The eventual plan with that daft concrete container is to construct a greywater cleansing area, but more of that once we get to that point at the moment we are just trying to make the camp comfortable.  Here is a view of the bathroom / toilet area, including full action pics of Susan trying out the shower!