Log building excercises in Ērgļi, new friends, spring 2012

After a month or a bit more of theoretical training, which was mostly reading and writing about wood properties, working tools and building basics, it was time for practical training.

Beside me there were three another students and I were lucky to meet them.

First came Guntis. He was the youngest of us, but the only one, who already was a professional builder, specialized in tile works. He had already built two houses before from base to the roof. He is also a farmer together with his father. They have cattle, bees, garden and crop fields. His skills in tile works are so, that he was even invited to Azerbaijan to make bathrooms for rich oil industry men. He was always glad to share his experience. He said, that there is a very good wheat bread in Azerbaijan and that farming there is very easy. Because of very little restrictions and obligations, like no taxes, no special permits to trade or licences to produce. So small farmers trading food and these breads could be found almost everywhere. He is also Sounding Cedar books reader. He told me a lot about his ecology plans and ideas, introduced me into logbuilding with axes and Gransfors Bruks tools, gave a lot of beekeeping advices, for example, I can get rid of hornets and other bee killers by putting a bottle with sugarwater nearby. Parasite creatures will crawl in and get stuck, whereas bees will never even try. One of his hobbies was fixing cars and he came to school by Audi he maintains himself.

Then Andris arrived. To my surprise he appeared to be into folkdance movement. He is the one who shows the traditional dances in Skutelnieki folk group in town Koknese. He also had building experience in renovating and upgrading his house. His last job was at intensive pig farm and he had to quit because of low wage of only 280 eur after taxes. He told many tricks of that job, for example, that washing the pighouse should not be done at once. First the manure has to be moistened a bit, then removed after waiting some time, then the dry rest has to be moistened and so on. He was receiving phone calls from his boss to come back to work, because without him too many pigs died, including pig mothers. The boss for some reason could afford dying animals more than paying his best worker a better wage. Andris also has a farm. He decided to study logbuilding because he wants a job where he could work with wood. During the courses he received a proposal from a building enterprise to be interior building worker, floors, ceilings. Now however he drives big machines that, for example, clean snow.

Normunds arrived in the beginning of the first lesson. He is the man, that everybody needs. A manager of 14 organisations, including taxi enterprise, business counselling, lacrosse club and his small farm. He was often on the phone. Once he went to Daugavpils which is more than a hundred kilometers away to do business, but on the halfway he managed to settle it down by phone, so he turned around and returned. His big idea about learning logbuilding is to teach it later to the others at his farm. He also has NGO that promotes traditional lifestyle and he would like to introduce this activity there. Long ago he left his job in Riga, which was a good position in some office, and spent two years in the country. He also told, that he once won a competition of barefeet run on gravel in Estonia.

Teacher Ivars was an old man, master of logbuilding with chainsaw. Back then in the past men did not use earphones when worked with chainsaw, so his hearing was damaged. Originally he was a sportsteacher, and one could feel it in his character. He did not tolerate slow or wrong work. He then used jokes he heard in his sportsman times in Russia, like:

Monkey came to a banana tree and started to shake it, then God said, think, think, monkey thought, took a stick, threw it and got bananas. Then a stubborn man came and also wanted to get some bananas, so he started to shake the tree. God said, think, think. But man replied, there is no time to think, I must shake.

We had to learn four types of notches: saddle, round, square and swallow. Beside notches we had to learn to install beams (for floors and ceilings) and spares (they hold the roof), to prolong the logs and to install one log vertically on another.

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About Pavels Melnis

Independent ecology activist, family farmer, gardener and forestkeeper. Musician: violin, guitar, singing. Hobbies: traveling by bicycle, learning to play different music instruments - accordion, piano, recorder flute, harmonica, drums; languages, theology, prehistory, logbuilding, repairing and recycling. Religious. Ecological. Love all things ethnic and traditional.
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