Dictated by the weather; the last week of May

After such a great start to the month we had become a little complacent and simply assumed that the warm weather would continue, why wouldn’t it? This last week has given us a good shake and reminded us that you should never take anything for granted, that and to make sure we dig a drainage system to prevent the road from deteriorating anymore as it turns to a river every time we get heavy rain!

I must also apologise in advance for my mixing of tenses as I write this, some is written as it happens, to remind me it happened, and some is written from memory to fill in the gaps; I get confused easily and even though I try and correct things before they are published there are so many mistakes that’s it’s inevitable that some get through 🙂

Monday 27th: The rain almost convinced us to stay in Rzemien, but the prospect of lazing around all day, looking for things to do, was enough of an incentive to head off back to the ranch; not so bright, but early. A straw bale house will not build itself, so with a plan of attack agreed upon we set about trimming the walls with chainsaw and hedge cutters and then forming the window surrounds with chicken wire. I have heard chicken wire called blood wire, for good reason, as the cut ends can be vicious and gloves are a must.  Once a corner is formed and stuffed out with loose straw we covered the area with a thick coat of clay slip; at this stage it is an experiment to see how the corners form and how ridged they will be for the next coat of sand and clay.

Tools of the trade
Tools of the trade

Incidentally the mesh is pinned to the straw using homemade landscape pins; 3mm galvanised steel wire shaped into elongated staples about 10cm long.

Straw staples
Straw staples

Tuesday the 28th: The sun decided to make an appearance so we headed outside to pay some attention to the potatoes; they are coming on well and need to be weeded. We were still weeding at 5pm when we the rain decided to visit once again and we had only managed to clear half of the patch! One of the reasons it’s taking so long is that the ground is full of old sods (that must be the first time I have used that term in its correct context 🙂 ) so we are taking this opportunity to clear them; we have used the resulting piles of turf to help fill in the recently dug trenches that have sunk with all the rain. The weeding also provided a good chance to check the potatoes for Colorado Beetles, their eggs and larvae; three adults found and destroyed so potentially 1800 eggs less that could have been, I must make a mental note to check again soon.

A badly stitched photo of the top field, potatoes on the right
A badly stitched photo of the top field, potatoes on the right

We had a rare treat later in the day as Steve and Dorota invited us round to share the last leg of lamb from last year; very nice it was too 🙂

Wednesday the 29th: Back in the house and more of the same, once the walls are trimmed then any gaps need to be stuffed and there are more than you might think; attention to detail now will ensure that we reap the high insulation value of the straw in the future. I also tackled my first internal window sill, one of the two that will become window seats; it’s only the frame at this stage and I’m sure I will change the design as I move round the rest of the windows, but almost everything is an experiment and you have to have a starting point 🙂

Thursday the 30th: Today is a Polish national holiday based on a religious date in the calendar so any work we tackle has to be behind closed doors, as it was raining this wasn’t a problem. More trimming, stuffing, forming and experimenting! The heavens truly opened up at around lunch time and our hand built road became a river once again; Gosia insisted that it was our fault for working on a religious holiday 🙂 (not really) The storm continued for quite some time and the wind came in from every direction, throwing hailstones in for good measure; a good test for our house of straw. We later learned that several houses in the valley had flooded, so I didn’t complain as I bailed out the knee deep water of the trenches at the side of the house which I have yet to pour foundations in to support a couple of retaining walls. At about 6pm we received a call from our neighbours telling us that we had half an hour to report to a BBQ, the rain had stopped and we had had enough so a quick wash and we were there 🙂

Friday the 1st: Just say no! If only it were that easy, still the resulting hangover reminded me for the rest of the day what I should do next time.

So what do you do on a dry but cloudy day with a body and head that are still dazed and confused from a binge of alcohol? Cut the grass. Yes that’s the job for me, especially as I have the luxury of an Iseki 2160 with Kubota grass topper that I shipped over from Jersey after spotting it going cheap a couple of years ago. The tractor is so small it fits in the back of a Ford Transit, but it does a great job of cutting the grass and moving things around; it’s even been known to assist a few vehicles out of muddy predicaments.  But even with the extra horse power to hand the grass cutting it is still day long job to clear the orchard and bottom field; more than enough for me today. I still need that big tractor Pete, just as soon as you win the lottery 🙂 I dread to think how long it would take me if I used Terry’s method over at City and the mountains. I have to admire his determination and enthusiasm.

Not me but my nephew; helping out last year
Not me but my nephew; helping out last year

Saturday the 2nd: Back in the house with the straw as the rain comes down yet again; I did manage to dig a few trenches across our road to redirect some of the water as it runs of the surrounding fields but I must work on a more permanent solution. The French drain around the house seems to be performing well, some good came of our recent efforts.

Two and a half walls trimmed and stuffed with the majority of window surrounds and two window sill frames completed by the end of play; it’s slow, but it’s progress. I can feel some clay slinging coming on next week, always good fun, especially if the sun is shining.

One advantage of working in the house is that the range gets fired up and a pot of something is always on the go; even if it’s just food for the dogs. We have made Pizza and our own bread this week, recipes to follow; one day:)

Always something cooking if we are in the house.
Always something cooking if we are in the house.

Author: Eddy Winko

Left the rat race to live a less hectic and harmful life. From the building of a straw bale house to the composting toilet diaries; read my blog https://winkos.wordpress.com/

20 thoughts on “Dictated by the weather; the last week of May”

    1. Cheers Pete, still here,still alive, Sunday will be here soon; hope to catch up then. All systems go at the moment, but that’s a good thing…I think 🙂

  1. Question on Potato beetles. We found some Colorado beetles on our potatoes, I had no idea about these, but they seem to be quite a thing in Poland. My wife’s Mum picked a load off today. Is there much you can do to prevent them or is it just a matter of inspecting everyday and picking off what you find?

    1. We have picked off about 500 in the last few days and don’t forget to check under the leaves for orange lave. Ladybirds and beetles are natural predators and I read last night that mulching with straw can cut down the numbers that make it to the plant; I’m still learning about this one 🙂 Definitely no spray here!

    1. Thank you! I’m guessing you are Polish and moved to Yorkshire? I was wondering who I had swapped with:) I just read more of your blog, roll on the weekend, or make that Sunday; rosol and rest 🙂

      1. Silly me, scrap the comment about you coming from Poland, reading a few more of your words I would say not, but if you ever visit again then please pop in for a brew or two, there is bound to be some cake! 🙂

      2. Not Polish sadly, Bradford through and through, but my better half is Polish and his family over there are so welcoming I feel truly adopted! Also the food was so familiar. Pork in jelly and bread bread bread! 🙂 The summer has finally arrived!

  2. I got a kick out of you using a chainsaw INSIDE your house. I’ve done a lot of chainsaw work but NEVER inside. Looks like you’ll be doing more inside work this week. Your weather forecast is fluctuating between 80% and 70% chance of rain for 7 days. Ugh!…but your crops are getting watered!
    I was just wondering if you took some workshops or classes on how to build a strawbale house. It just seems like you know what to do next. I’d hazard a guess that not too many of your readers (especially me) would have the foggiest idea of how to build things like what you are doing.

    1. You’re not wrong about the weather, this is the first day of sun for a while with a lot more rain on the cards; central Europe is on flood warning!
      I have to admit to having read four books about straw bale building, visited one completed house and using the internet to work it all out; as Gosia says ‘you just need common sense’ although I would like to add patience and optimism to that list 🙂 So far so good, but lots more mistakes to be made and solutions to be found:)

  3. I think mixing of tenses on a blog is an excellent thing – I like the mixture of telling it as it happens and as it happened, and even as it may happen (or not). A little alcohol always helps of course! We’ve just been up the Washburn Valley – one of the wonders of Yorkshire not so well known – so Petronela will no doubt be posting some of the dozens (hundreds?) of pix she took. Our weather been amazingly good, so Cow and Calf Friday, a 2hr walk round the village yesterday, and Washburn today.

  4. My husband bought a small chain saw the other day to cut some small branches that were blown down. I said “You take that thing right back. You have no business using one.” Our hands shake as we sip soup with a soup spoon. I can just imagine what a chain saw would do. It went back to the store unopened.

    Just say No. lol

    1. They can be lethal in the wrong hands, but mine never comes out in anger or when I’ve had a vodka! Very handy for notching bales and cutting down the occasional big tree for firewood 🙂

  5. Eddy, I thought you had that Russian tractor last week, when I got an e mail from national lottery! But it was only a tenner!
    The straw cutting with chainsaws reminds me of the time that Kevin featured one on ‘Grand designs’. Looks like fun, if you like that sort of thing.
    As for the weather, I’ve said it before, but here it is again; ‘Ne’er cast a clout, til May be out’. Old, but true. Still, all that pissing it up in Poland sounds like my kind of holiday. And that baby tractor with grass cutter looks like an improvement on my Flymo 330 that will be out later today!
    Looks like a good week in the Polish motherland anyway. Cheers mate, Pete.

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