Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Chinking in the sunshine

Here's a short video -  it's not bad considering it was recorded on a phone in brilliant sunshine - showing Krystof making Polish log cabin chinking. He kindly slowed down the process for the video. Quite a meditative activity, like knitting. The cabin should soon be fully chinked at the rate they're going.

Then the only work left to do is to install the windows - ordered from France, but not in stock until the end of May, though we are still searching England for a manufacturer of inward opening windows.  We look forward to using the cabin as our base for forestry work.

Bluebells now in flower, earlier than last year - it's gratifying to see them in such abundance especially where the bracken has been bashed. Don't think there'll be time to do that along the OC1 Ride this Summer, too much work to do in OC2, and ongoing firewood processing. Five Canada Geese and one Grebe spotted on neighbouring Hammer Pond. Hope they'll decide to visit Hawkins Pond soon. 

Saturday, 19 April 2014


Krystof returned from Poland with cabin shopping. A beautiful log burning stove, a third of the price of a similar one if bought in England, also a number of large bales of what looked like finely shredded straw or paper packing material. I wondered what the material was protecting, to discover that there was nothing inside the bales - this was the chinking.
Stove with chinking material

I thought that somehow this material would just be stuffed into the gaps and crevices  between the logs. Chinking methods vary a lot.  For example, The Finns use moss, and North Americans use bits of wood held in and smoothed over with a mud and cement mixture. It is also possible in the U.S to buy ready-made plastic chinking that is squeezed into the gaps, a bit like Polyfilla. Polish chinking is made from the fine inner bark of a particular pine tree, and there is only one manufacturer of it in Poland.

Nothing as crude as stuffing handfuls of it into the gaps though. Krystof demonstrated the authentic technique. Take a small handful of material in the right hand, run the long strands  between two fingers to even it out, while in your left hand take a small amount and roll it on your thigh until it coheres into a small ball. Fold over the top part of the material in your right hand, place the ball on top of that, fold over the top part again, and then twist as hard as you can until it resembles a small hammer, or perhaps an onion. Oh, and don't forget to keep your chinking material slightly damp. Easy!  Then, when you have assembled a reasonable amount you push these little 'onions' into the gaps and use a tool to pack them in as tightly as possible, both outside and inside the cabin. We had a go at making some, nowhere as easy as it looks.

I wondered if these onions could be purchased ready- made.  I imagined be-scarfed Polish ladies in the mountains sitting round a stove chatting companionably in the long snowy evenings, their hands flying and  sacks rapidly filling to be sold to log cabin builders.  If so, then I think our Krystof made rather a big mistake in electing to make them himself. It seems a monumental task, Kris and his two helpers are pretty fast but the onions mount up slowly. Five days so far, and the chinking is only a third done. It does look lovely though, like nothing I've seen before. Reminds me of neatly piped cream between two layers of sponge cake.
Everyone is busy chinking

This takes a long time

Bales of chinking material

Little 'onions' packed in firmly

The window wall is chinked - looks great!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Roofing tales

The cabin roof is on. Dark green corrugated 'iron',  it looks good, and will look even better once it starts to weather. A decision on the cabin roof has been a difficult one to make.

Our first idea was to have a 'green'  roof which would eventually seed itself from the surrounding vegetation. Green roofs became popular in 1970's Germany as a way of greening up the urban, rather than the rural environment, which has plenty of stuff growing in it anyway. We thought that a self seeded roof among the Scots Pine would end up being seeded primarily by giant bracken, and we've got plenty of that elsewhere thank you very much.  Also, although a green roof might appear to be pretty basic, they are in fact carefully engineered to be watertight. If anything goes wrong they can be tricky to repair.

The second idea was to have wood shingles or shakes. We priced up a roof of shingles and decided that gold leaf might be cheaper.  Apart from the cost, we thought they might make the cabin -  a solid little structure, full of character - look twee.

Third idea was to attach thin birch poles from the wood, to the roof battens, under which is a breathable waterproof membrane. The birch would most likely look ok. The poles would of course rot down after a few years perhaps forming a green roof of sorts, but would have to be periodically replaced. Not a bad idea, but not sure how and if it would work.

Finally, we remembered our various travels,  and the ubiquity of the humble 'tin' roof, in Australia, Africa, South East Asia , South America, in fact all over the developing and developed world. A tin roof is the material of choice for the many log cabin builders of North America and Canada. Inexpensive and practical, a good looking architectural classic.  A prime consideration was that the cabin is to be a working forestry structure, and not a dwelling. It  is important to end up with something no-nonsense and fit for purpose, that blends in as well as possible with the environment.