I live at a farm in north-western Romania.
Moving here was a dive into the deep end of life. I’d been an urban creature most of my life and the transition to village life was intense and demanding. Living here has presented me with plenty of opportunities to learn and apply skills I never imagined I would need. Some of these skills were forced upon me by the demands of village life. In my mind they are grouped into four categories:
- Soil & Gardening – my interest is less in growing food and more healthy soils. A yearly allergy cycle has prevented me from engaging more with soil-related work. Allergy comes at the time where most attention seems to be needed.
- Food Preservation – food preservation is a regular part of the yearly rural cycle in our climate. I enjoy it if I can make space for it. It is a lot of work in a short period of time.
- Maintenance – With the exception of firewood, I am not fond of maintenance work. I have had to become an amateur plumber and electrician. Maintenance feels to me like putting out fires and I prefer to, where possible, create a reliable infrastructure that requires little maintenance.
- Creation & Construction – I have gravitated most towards these activities. I enjoy spending time in the woodworking shop (more in later years when it became better equipped and less tedious. I was surprised to find myself learning to design and build efficient wood stoves. I feel empowered having acquired knowledge and skills to build structures made of earth.
Some of the major projects I’ve undertaken:
- Designing and building numerous Rocket Mass Heaters and recently a Masonry Heater.
- Building a deck as an intermediate space between indoors and outdoors.
- Building an earthbag cellar
- Major renovation of an old earthen building including adding a 2nd level (ongoing).
The physical construction work led to a surprising twist in my relationship to making software. After experimenting with some of the technologies required for construction I found myself at a loss in making choices about how to shape spaces. I figured out how to make a space, but did not how to go about shaping it.
That inquiry led me to Christopher Alexander where I found architectural solutions that applied way beyond architecture. Alexander’s ideas around gradual unfolding wholeness informed by felt experience echoed strongly back into some of the challenges I dealt with when I was involved in shaping and making software. I’ve since been looking at designing and making software in a different way.
Physical work is embedded in felt experience. Packing an earthbag has a tangibility to it that writing code does not. Slight differences in soil moisture affect how the soil grips and releases a shovel and how it packs into the earthbag. If my physical core is not active and my mind is not present my muscles work harder. This imminent living feedback cycle when I work with my physical body is so informative, so dominant, so inevitable. In comparison, shaping ideas in my head feels so abstract, so free, so detached. I wonder would such a felt-experience feedback cycle affect how software can be made. What is the body in software? What is the earth? Where is the experience that says too moist, too heavy … or just right?