Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Still more Navesti Flooding

It's been a rainy August.  After raining all day yesterday and apparently last night, we woke up to this.
 The Navesti has been higher, so I'm not too worried.  We think someone upstream manages the water levels and sends water down various streams, but that may just be wishful thinking.
The snails have more cause to worry.  They tend to make poor life choices like climbing up on a bench that's about to be washed downstream rather than heading for higher ground.  Fortunately for these snail refugees I needed to go out and rescue the bench before the beavers incorporated it into one of the dams downstream.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Navesti flooding

Between the beavers and lots of rain the river has been high all Summer.  We had some actual flooding yesterday after a thunderstorm.

The bridge over to the black alder patch washed out.  Fortunately Jüri was here to retrieve it and haul it up on the bank.

Temporality and the Estonian Ahi

The Paia house exemplifies wabi-sabi to me.   It's not perfect, it won't last forever, and it is never complete.  Every part of the house has temporality, timeiness, as part of its nature.

 A lot of renovation and restoration work is aimed at covering up temporality with plasterboard, paint and linoleum.  The central ahi in the Paia house is a good example of this approach.  It was built around 1937 (the date on the Swedish bricks in the old fire chamber) as one of a number of renovations of an older house.  It was a showcase for the owner's new-found prosperity in independent Estonia.  A few years later the man was dead and the Soviet Union had annexed Estonia. The house was one of many on the Ojala collective farm, sometimes housing as many as 17 people.  No one had the time or resources to focus on keeping up appearances.  The house and the ahi began to deteriorate.

But at times the inhabitants of Ojala were able to assemble the resources - mortar, replacement tiles, and paint to repair and refurbish the old ahi and keep things running.  It was probably the original owner who painted it a dark brown color to conceal the fact the that tiles were all unglazed and didn't quite match.  Subsequent renovators followed his lead, filling in gaps between tiles, patching spalls and painting over the whole thing to give it a smooth, uniform appearance, making it look more like the fancier tiled stoves made of glossy tiles found in Scandinavia.

By 2006 the glamour had broken down.  The cracks and mends in the tiles showed and the paint was flaking so much the radiators couldn't be cleaned properly.  If you hung wet laundry on one of them it would get dirty as well as dry.  After rebuilds on the fire chamber, cooking stove and chimney three years ago and the the roof replacement two years ago, we were were ready to refinish the exterior this year.  We only have about five weeks here.  Jüri and we have been stripping the accumulated 100 years or so of paint for the past month or so.  I'm currently preparing the separate "radiators" for varnishing.  This is the master bedroom radiator at the end of the day yesterday.
The exposed tiles are not perfect.  They've passed through time and lots of stuff has happened to them.  The uneven heat that reaches the outside of the stove has created spalls in the tile and the material has reacted with the different paints and which have been used on them.  Different mortars and caulks have been used between the tiles and sometimes damaged them as the house has heated and cooled.  We're going to leave them exposed with all their different colors, surface effects and bits of old layers of paint, then varnish them with a traditional varnish made of egg-whites and keefir (a milk drink soured with a bacterial culture).  As with many things in the houses, you can't make an 80-year old ahi look new, you have to accept it for what it is, an 80-year old ahi.

Daily status photos on the restoration project are posted here.  I'm updating these day to day.  If you're interested in the whole tedious process, there's an album of the whole project here.  I'll keep updating these as well.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Catching up

We've continued to work on the Paia property over the last four Summers and there have been some major changes:

1) Built a path/boardwalk between the houses - 2012
2) Levelled the former nasty garden - 2012
3) Furnished and finished up work in the Ojakalda house - 2012/2013
4) Rebuilt the chimneys and stoves in the main house 2013 - 2014
5) Replaced the roof, attic floor and ceilings on the main house - 2014
6) Installed a 4G wiress connection and shared network between the houses - 2014/2015
7) Got a new highway bridge - 2015

We've also continued to plant and manage the meadow.  All of these projects could use a post, which I'll try to do as I have time.  We're here now refinishing the wood stove in the Paia house, which I'm writing up separately.

Monday, August 20, 2012


We've been visiting Soomaa National Park the last couple weekends to do some hiking.  It's a large marshy area west of Viljandi.  These are photos we took of the Läti viewing tower area, the Visitors' Center, the Beaver trail and the Tõramaa wooded meadow area : Soomaa 2012.  We need to come back for the Spring floods (note the high water marks in some of the photos), or the wildflowers in June and July.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Our storks have left us for the year, but we have bees again this year and they're still at work.  I'm not sure when they appeared, but it was sometime after I left in late June.  Jüri thinks they're a late season swarm.  They were very interested in the thistles over by the Ojakalda gate.  I'm wondering if the reason we had no bees last year is because we wiped out the thistles on the Paia side of the property.

In any case they're interesting to watch.  There have been bees in this ash tree behind the sauna four out of the last five years.
When the house was being renovated, the crew told me that these were Estonian bees, as opposed to Italian honey bees, which are supposedly more yellow.  Jüri says they look just like the bees in Sweden.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Stork Update

So after a long month back in Sharjah, I'm in Estonia once more and seeing that the storks are having a very good year. All three of the chicks have survived. They were awkwardly flying around when I got here on Monday, some three weeks or more earlier than last year's brood.

The major problem now seems to be nest space. When all three are standing in it, there's not room for both the parents to land. At the moment the latter seem to spend most of their time away, leaving the teen agers in possession.

The chicks seem to be doing at least some of their own foraging. With continued warmer temperatures and plenty of things to eat, it will be interesting to see how long they all stick around. Last year they left almost as soon as the chicks learned to fly.

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Location:Taadikvere küla, Estonia