I Want to be a Roundwood Timber Framer When I Grow Up
I’ve been back in Portugal since July 15th but I’ve been having so much fun catching up with friends and doing non-computer-y things that sitting down to write has been a huge struggle. I’ve basically been spending time with some of my favourite people doing some of my favourite things and I haven’t managed to plop myself down in front of my computer for about a month. The horror! My Kigali website has basically been neglected, my Nairobi map is stalled, somewhat important emails have been ignored, and I’ve been a bit crap at staying in touch with family and friends. But how can computer life compete with sawing and chiseling? It can’t! At least not at the moment.
I arrived back at Keela Yoga Farm a couple of weeks ago with a good friend in tow. I convinced her that this is where she needs to be, and here she is – Portugal for six months in search of natural building projects. I’ll be around until late October and our plan was to do a natural building internship at Keela and then roam around to other projects in search of building opportunities until I have to leave for Nairobi. The reality is probably that we’ll stay at Keela for as long as we can build cool things (and for as long as they’ll keep us) because it’s the perfect situation for us – good friends, beautiful place, amazing food, interesting building projects, and a bit of freedom to experiment.
My friend and I have known each other for ten years and have built a lot of things together while working with All Hands Volunteers (now called All Hands and Hearts). We did a short roundwood timber framing course in April and we’re both interested in building naturally with clay, straw, timber, rocks… whatever it takes. It’s great to have somehow managed to rope her into this world and I’m excited to be able to build together for the next three-ish months.
Keela Yoga Farm has been a great experience so far because we’ve been allowed to work as a team and figure things out along the way. Project number two was a structure that would become the pantry in Keela’s new community building. We used eucalyptus logs and we attempted to employ some of our mad new timber framing skillz along the way. The frame ended up taking us about five long days of work and included ridiculous jigs (as in woodworking jigs, not dances… though I’m sure the dancing will happen at some point), unnecessary mathematical formulas, using tools in strange ways, and basically being amazed at our own work once we got it all standing upright and seeing that it stayed in place. It was one of the more hilarious five days of my life and the thought that I get to do this until the end of October is glorious.
Building this little pantry, though, sort of solidified how much I love working with roundwood timber. In the end, our joins were pretty shit and the structure itself not exactly sexy but the process was really fun and I think this is the type of building work I could eventually be good at if I put in some time and dedication and all that jazz. I’m the type to slightly obsess over chiseling a joint to perfection, taking my time with everything I want to do. I love the idea of designing structures and even furniture using timber framing techniques. It’s really cool how all those round logs can fit all snugly together. The coolest, in fact.
While I’m at Keela, I’d love to get a hold of some more woodworking hand tools and small pieces of wood to practice some joints and to see if I can make some little projects in my spare time. I’d also love to see if I can whip up some little building models using small bits of scrap roundwood. Basically I’d love to experiment a bit and see what sorts of ideas I come up with for my first future building – an over engineered compost toilet. The reality is that my spare time will probably be spent drinking wine… but it’s good to be ambitious about these things, you know?
I’ve found myself kind of daydreaming a bit about my future land and house and workshop. It’s inspiring to be here and to see how far they’ve come in just two years and to meet others in the area who have done the same. I’ll write a post soon gushing about how much I love it here and how much fun I’m having… but in the meantime I’m daydreaming about having an awesome workshop on my future piece of land with a timber framing bed and a sweet set of chisels.