Newsletter - October 2011

This year's strawbale course project was to build a two-bay cartlodge, re-using an old concrete base to a barn that once stood near the mill pond, We asked John Bradshaw from Assington to construct a double-thickness concrete block foundation to raise the building at least 18" off the ground, the width of a strawbale.  The bales came from the Johnson brothers at Yorley farm just over the hill, and had been baled extra dense.  As soon as the students left, John added a pantiled roof (County pantiles from Sandtoft) on factory-made trusses with black painted capping boards at each end.  The gable ends were filled in with cedar weatherboarding we had left over from the re-cladding of the watermill.

Under the direction of Barbara Jones of Strawworks, twelve students began work on the last day of August, and stayed for another five days.  The two last days were voluntary, and we were very glad to have so much help with applying the lime plaster.   About half of them camped here so there were tents dotted around the pond adding to the holiday atmosphere.  We almost always have good weather for the strawbale courses, and 2011 was no exception.

As usual, we started sitting in a circle on strawbales, with introductions and then the choosing of an angel card, which suggested a theme for the day.  The strawbale circle became our base for coffee and tea breaks, and for a round up at the beginning and end of the day.  Barbara is very good at getting groups to gell, once the men have got used to holding hands! 

Although it is tempting to rush at the work and throw the strawbales up, Barbara takes everyone through the processes carefully and gives separate lectures on foundations, roofing methods and lime plasters etc.  Early in the process, we all went off into the woods to cut hazel pins, about 38mm in diameter and 4' (450mm) long.  These were hammered into the bales, two per bale, once the structure was four bales high, then again when we reached another two bale lift, and again on the final two bales, which were topped with a wall plate in the form of a box made of 6x2s and OS boarding.

So now it is nearly the end of October and the imperative to finish the lime plaster before the first frosts has meant that we have spent all our free time plastering and there is only a small amount lof this expensive stuff left in the bags, which we dragged inside the cartlodge for added protection.  The outside is limewashed the colour of the clay round here, a deep terracotta.  When I find out how to do it from George Hazlewood, the website designer, I will add some photos to this blog!

Next year the project will be a 50m cartlodge over at Bulmer Brick & Tile nearby, led by Barbara again.  Should be interesting ...

Many thanks to all our students, especially for staying on afterwards.