Earthway Experience Permaculture – Șomartin – October 2019 Update

Soybean / Corn Straw Bales at 250kg ea

This year, 2019, Adina and I were able to spend the entire month of October working around the Earthway Experience Permaculture and Retreat Center in Șomartin.

Besides the projects listed below, Kevin is continuing on the path to earning his Ph.D. in Ecopsychology. Having this degree will allow us to offer something uniquely special at Earthway Experience – Șomartin.

Fixing the Barn

Early last spring work started on fixing the barn as, over time, the concrete that had been covering the bricks had fallen off. Having exposed bricks was allowing rain to wash out the mud/cob that was between them. We wanted our barn to stay standing, so this was a vital project. 🙂 After the entire process is finished (described below), we should not have to worry about this aspect of the barn walls for many decades.

Nicusor is demonstrating how he gets the mud/cob deep between the bricks on the end wall of the barn.

Using the process shown in the video above Nicusor first filled in the cracks, then covered the outside of the bricks with cob.Backside of Barn and Guest House covered by Cob

As I mentioned above, concrete had initially been covering the outside of the barn. We did not want to use that material as we would have the same problem again; it would eventually fall off. While in Sweden, Adina spent many weeks researching not only the correct type of material we would need but we also wanted a local supplier.

In the end, Adina found that Hydraulic Lime was the most suitable material for covering the brick walls. The lime will last for many many decades, if not over a hundred years. It is waterproof but allows the walls to breathe. If a crack develops, the lime will extract C02 from the atmosphere and self-heal.

We found a supplier that was in Transylvania and only about 100 km away from the house. Shortly after we arrived, we took a tour of their facilities and were shown the process of taking raw limestone and turning it into Hydraulic Lime (if you are interested in their contact info, please ask).

After Nicusor filled in the cracks between the bricks, he painted on a layer of hydraulic lime then covered the entire wall with a thin layer of cob. The next step was two coats of lime paint over the whole wall. In springtime, Nicusor will cover the wall with appx 5mm of hydraulic lime paste, making it waterproof yet breathable.

The slideshow below shows some of the processes of repairing the barn’s walls.

  • Nicusor Climbing up to Paint - 2
  • Nicusor Climbing up to Paint
  • Nicusor Lime Painting - 2
  • Nicusor Lime Painting
  • Backside of Barn - With Guest Room to Left
  • Backside of Barn - Partial Second Coat of Lime pained on
  • Adina and Nicusor at Backside of Barn
  • Looking up at backside Barn mostly lime painted

Replacing Windows

The house had plastic thermopane windows, and we wanted to replace them with a more traditional wooden window and shutters. After much research, Adina narrowed down our choices to a local manufacturer. The company had quite a resume where they have supplied windows for several castles in Transylvania. They look lovely and completely change the look of the house.

The company had let us know a few days in advance of their arrival, so we had several days to remove the old windows. We were happy when the new windows finally arrived. The pictures below show some of the processes of installing the new windows.

Finishing the inside of the windows

Through our stay, among other projects, Nicusor worked on finishing the windows.

A visit to Sighisoara and Malancrav

Early on during our stay, Adina and I took a weekend off of working and visited Sighisoara, a medieval town. The city is located about 2 hours north of Somartin. Besides visiting the lovely city, we went to an Apple Harvest Festival in Malancrav. They served a traditional Transylvanian meal, musicians entertained us, and local craftspeople showed their wares.

In the Garden

Of course, Permaculture is about growing food. There is an apple orchard with Saxon Apple trees (see last year’s update for more about the farm), and last year we planted a small garden. We want to expand the growing area significantly, so again Adina did lots of research on where to buy plants. We then ordered several fruit trees, as well as a variety of sea buckthorn, aronia bushes, blueberry bushes, raspberry vines, and more.

As we started planting we quickly found that the soil in the garden is full of clay and because we had no rain was very hard to dig in. I had to use a pick to dig and then had to break up the large clumps. And of course, this clay makes it hard for the roots to spread out and worms to live.

In the village of Bruiu, just a few miles away, a local farmer had straw bales for sale. One sunny morning the farmer delivered 10 – 250kg round straw bales to mulch the garden. Florin and I spend an hour or so spreading them out and the results were quite good!

Removing Doors

The doors in the house did not match the Saxon style of the area, so as a result, we removed them. Nicusor will refinish with cob where there are exposed bricks. We plan on purchasing doors for the same people who supplied the windows. This way we can match the color and the doors will have the same pattern as the shutters.

Finishing the Basement Floors

Last spring we had drainage installed in the basement, and the ground has had time to dry out. We purchased 8 pallets of brick that has been waiting to be put on the floors. The pictures below show someone helping us with measuring for paving the basement floors. Dry clay soil will be brought in and packed down. They will then use the hydraulic lime as a morter to set in the bricks.

Time Around the Fire with Friends

Several nights we had friends over to grill and enjoy the alpine air of Șomartin.
We look forward to returning and many more nights by the fire.

If you are interested in an Ecopsychology Certification, Bachelors, Masters or Ph.D., I highly recommend Project NatureConnect.

To find out more about our upcoming Green Nature Therapy Program please Contact Us.

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