Monday 10th December 2018
The final project week for 2018 has begun! This week sees the continuation of daubing (what an epic task!) to see the building weather and wind proof. There is final dressing of the ridge to be done – making sure the butted reed is tight and dressed to the correct angle to shed the rain.
Carpentry continues internally with the shaping and installing of three thresholds for the main doors. These will be half split timbers that fit at ground level between the door posts. The thresholds will enable the doors to pivot in a solid base and provide a hard wearing surface for the main points of footfall.
This week also sees the attempted splitting of a large Sweet Chestnut log which was recently felled at La Hougue Bie. This log – large and knotty in places will be the final challenge for our skilled and experience volunteers. The aim is to split out some broad planks that will become the main doors of the house.
Tuesday 11th December 2018
The log splitting continues today. Unfortunately, after all our hard work, we have discovered substantial rot in the heart of the timber. This will inevitably change the way we use the timber, and is already modifying our original hope of three plank Zurich doors to two plank doors instead. This is another example of some of our contingent thinking and problem solving based on our lack of “Neolithic Forest”. If we had access to those climax woodlands of long ago, we would have chosen a tree for its straight grain and splitting qualities, and if we had discovered rot within, we would have wandered a relatively short distance from home to find and fell another suitable candidate. Some of our decisions on this project have been based on our limited and finite timber resources.
Today, another session of daubing took place. We are, slowly but surely, making our way towards the end of this epic phase. The building becomes darker inside day by day. We await the first lighting of a fire!
Wednesday 12th December 2018
Today saw a serious organisation of the longhouse and site. Daubing continued with good work and progress from several volunteers. The shutters are now becoming the only openings in finished walls!
We also organised the remaining thatch and stored it inside the house so it can dry off a bit over the wettest months. Tim has also been working on a special finale to the roof. Using his skills and imagination – he has created something on the gable end to give the building character! All will be revealed tomorrow at the topping out ceremony.
Derek has been slogging through the enormous log – cutting out the dead wood and starting to split the second half into quarters. We have decided there will only be enough good timber to create one of the large doors! A bit disappointing – but we can only work with what we have!
We have also been cutting out any straight lengths from our remaining willow. These will form the “Zales” of our hurdles in the New Year. We are hoping, with good stacking, to survive until fresh willow is harvested.
Thursday 13th December 2018
A bitterly cold continental wind is with us today. Volunteers are wearing multiple layers and working hard (as always) to keep warm. Today heralds the official finishing of the roof! Volunteers and Jersey heritage staff have come to daub for the morning and to celebrate the completion of the roof with a BBQ and drinks.
Tim’s finale was revealed at lunchtime – the head of a wild boar – with crest, tusks and personality – made with reed and wheat straw – what a great effort and fantastic way of finishing the roof!
I have to say, its reaching that very emotional part of the project where we look ahead to the next few years without my direct input. The volunteers are such a fantastic team of individuals with real skills and knowledge and motivation to carry on with tasks and experiments. It will be a real wrench to say goodbye.
Over lunch we made a toast to Sweat! This project has been born of research, material knowledge, practical skills, countless debates and theories – but all of those aspects would have amounted to nothing without the key ingredient of Sweat! This precious commodity, the sap of endurance and dogged determination, runs like a stream, through every aspect of this building. It is a physical glue that holds together the friendships, knowledge and skills that this project has required, and in the appropriate words of Hesiod,
“Before the gates of excellence, the High Gods have placed sweat!
Hard is the road thereto, and steep at first,
Though when the heights are reached, then there is ease,
Though grievously hard is the winning.”
Friday 14th December 2018
A clear day heralds the end of another year on the project! The site is looking tidier, the building is looking beautiful and we have consumed many mince pies and sausages!
Astra has finished shutter 4 in the main hall – and the final elements of daubing can now go ahead.
When I return in January for the last official visit, we will focus on building doors, laying floors and getting the building ready for the wonderful volunteers to take over and populate with the projects, experiments and artefacts they intend to make.
A momentous week indeed!
Well done All!