Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Lammas: Nigel and Cassie's Roundhouse

I spent most of my three weeks at Lammas helping Nigel and Cassie Lishman building their roundhouse. They had the upright wooden framework or henge built (to left of picture above) and the start of the 18" low circular wall which will carry the straw bales forming the rest of the walls. Amazingly, they are living on site in a truck, a yurt and an army tent with their three children during their building work. It was tough going through the terrible November weather and they get huge respect from me! Nigel is managing to grin and wave in the photo in spite of the weather and all my terrible attempts at humour...

Everything takes much more effort than when you're living in a nice little suburban box. Water has to be carried in. Cooking, washing up and chopping wood are done partly by torch light and then there are the composting toilets.... you certainly don't hang around doing a crossword in these. Simon's is mostly open to the North and only partly covered by a tarpaulin to the South so it's quite an experience to use in wet and windy weather. The door blew off Nigel's and is just propped up as strength permits. You get used to them though, they are a great leveller and peel away yet another layer of suburban middle class attitude.

We just did as much as we could during the daylight, sheltering from the worst of the rain and gales. At nights we fired up the stoves and got warmed up again. I used to read stories to the younger two kids by wind-up torchlight which was good fun - the kids seem to be quite happy with their way of life, composting toilet and all. They squabble a bit like any kids but I don't remember them ever moaning about the cold, damp or mud - great kids!

Fellow volunteer Ailsa and I helped Cassie build up the stone wall. My only other experience of stone wall building was recently at Tombreck but I really got into it and we developed a way of making a strong wall with the rough stones laying around the site - "Use what you've got" - a good motto. The spikes set in the wall will help to keep the bales in place.

One morning the weather didn't look too bad so Simon and the volunteers helping him on his own house further up the hill all came down to help us to put up the timbers for the reciprocating roof. (Nice bit of cooperation and skill sharing on the go there.) These are really clever structures - each pole is resting on its neighbour, there is very little in the way of cutting or fitting to do and there is supposed to be very little outward horizontal force directed into the structure. Two hours had the first ten main beams up. They were big bits of wood to move around though and I was glad to see them all bolted together eventually.

That's me up on the roof fixing smaller branches from around the site on to the main roof poles which will take the bales, pond liner and turf forming the completed roof.

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