Not always good results at the first attempt

Well, I am in the process of telling You how everything developed back in the summer of 2010 when we for the first time tried to build up the chapel. After the intensive course week when MANY persons were working to raise the walls up to the hight that You saw on the pictures on the last blogpost, one woman helped me several more days. We continued raising the walls, only the two of us, to the uniform hight of slightly more than 2 meters.

But it was obvious that there were severe problems. We stopped building. How come? Well…

We had got the advice to start the masonry work right on the foundation, since it was good drainage under the foundation and there was gravel under and around.  So we did.


So during the course we started the masonry work with the logs right on the concrete foundation.


And what happened?

Well, there is a saying, that when building with clay one should let the house have”high boots and a fishermans wide-brimmed rain hat”. Probably it  would have been better to make another “ring” on top of the foundation, for example out of capillary breaking natural stones before putting the logs there. Like “high boots”. But that was not done back in 2010. And even though the building got a “rain shelter” of plastic tarpaulins water was suck up through the clay mixture and the logs. After some weeks it was obvious that more and more the structure started to look like a big funnel. More open at the top than at the bottom. This was a funny symbolism since it was to become a CHAPEL in which You would want to “open up” towards heaven… : ) BUT it was not possible to put roof trusses on the tilting walls. The picture below is not at all showing the result after some time, this picture is taken already in july, but already then as You see the angle of the tilting wall on the right side.

inte vertikalt

For quite some weeks we investigated ways to “fix” it… For example, see the planks on the left of the building…  We also tried with strong straps to “pull” the upper parts together. We discussed the problem with several experienced builders. We thought of raising strong beams on the outside and the inside of the walls, and more idéas…

I have no pictures at all to show from that period because I did not take photos, it was such a sorrowful time… and an ugly sight to see the walls leaning more and more. There were als severe cracks here and there.

After quite some twisting and turning, we came to the conclusion that we would never be content with the building if we continued with THAT structure. In october 2010 we got help from a few youngsters to tear the walls down. We of course saved the clay mixture and now that is all recycled : )  And all the logs has helped us to keep warm many cold winter days. So the blessing of Saint Joseph came upon us already the first and parts of the second winter but not in the way that we had thought. : )

What is there to learn from this experience? Maybe that it does not always go well the very first time one does an attempt in a certain direction.


Back to history: the first time we started to build the chapel

A few weeks ago – before the celebration of the Nativity and the nameday of St. Joseph – I started to tell You the story of how we started to build this little chapel. Now I will continue to tell You what happened the summer of 2010. The foundation was layed (as I told and showed in a previous blogpost: january 2:nd). Since we wanted to venerate St. Joseph, who himself had been a carpenter, we wanted it to be a certain quantity of wood in “his” house.

I myself have a lack of confidence when it comes to carpenting. But from previous I had some experience of masonry and bricklaying. And since we had become fond of CLAY BUILDING, and we had found good clay on our piece of land, and we more and more had become interested in environmental friendly methods of building and had decided to inspire others by raising some houses built with few different techniques on this farm, we decided to try one method that is called cordwood architecture.



That method was invented a few hundred years ago here in Sweden and also Norway. A group that might have invented this building method were farm hands and laborers that if they were persistent and stayed long with their farmer were offered a small piece of land on which they could raise a small home of their own. They were allowed to get firewood from the farmers forest, but not to trap large trees that they could get thick timber of. So wat did they do? Of course they invented a method to use firewood as bricks!



During a 5 days course that we had arranged we started raising the walls.


We were many, and we worked long intensive days….


Everyone was inspired and interested in seing the result!  The last big house that was built in Sweden with this method was built 100 years ago, a big two storey villa built by a pharmacist who had the economic possibilities to choose another building method if he had wanted, but found this method good of many reasons.

lerkurs 2

After 5 intensive days, work accomplished by MANY helpers, all together several hundreds of hours, at the end of that intensive week we all admired the result:


Most of the pictures above are also taken by Andrew Hutchings, one of the participants of the course back in 2010.

Celebrating St. Joseph on his nameday

Today is the Sunday that in the Orthodox tradition is the day of commemoration of the righteous Joseph the betrothed of the most Holy Virgin Mary.

You can just imagine my joy over a gift that was sent to us a few days ago; texts to be read this day and sheet music and lyrics of songs to be sung. I have understood that several lovely, kind persons have collaborated and prepared this fantastic gift. THANK YOU ALL OF YOU!

The hours of daylight here up north are not many this time of the year, and today during those hours of light I was delayed by several things, for example the nursing of an injured dog that we were entrusted with last night. So it was not until shortly after sunset that I got the chance to walk up to our lovely little chapel. Usually I try to have my prayers there in daylight, but today it was in the dark. Today we have had temperatures of minus 18-19 celsius, and tonight it is a beautiful clear starry, even colder, night. My husband was kind enough to lit a little kerosene heater.  The future wood stove can by no means be installed until the inner floor and some other things are built. You see the red flame of the kerosene heater at the bottom of this picture. It was nice to stay close to the heater : )


Under these Swedish winter circumstances I, overwhelmed with joy, read out loud, in the unfinished chapel, all the beautiful texts about the righteous St. Joseph. One of our dear friends, a nun with the capacity of reading music notation in a marvellous way and the gift of a beautiful voice had topped this gift by enclosing the songs recorded!  I have not had the time to learn the songs, but with her recordings as the background I tried to follow as best.



Also today I placed this little chandelier – a temporary installation – but at about the localisation where in the future the minimal choir stand will be situated. Then the illumination on the texts and notations again will probably come from this small  chandelier that I got as a gift from another friend some years ago.

Oh, how happy I am to have this possibility of erecting a building secluded for prayer in my immediate area! Today, in addition to sending thankful thoughts to all who has collaborated to equip me with the texts I also think, with thankfulness of all the many persons that has given of their time, skills and work with their hands on this building.

And Oh, how happy I am to have had the possibility to venerate St. Joseph today in a better way than I  could have hoped for when we started to build in June, 7 months ago  – thanks to thoughtful, helpful and friendly persons from several countries! May God bless You all!

The Feast of the Nativity

Today,  January 7 is in the “old calendar” the day of nativity, December 25.

There was a shift in calendars from the old Julian calendar to the new; Gregorian calendar. Different countries introduced the new calendar at different times. For example in Sweden it was introduced 1753, but in Greece 1925. We are many that like to celebrate certain events and feasts on the day when “it happened” – as for example with the Feast of the Nativity.

That is why in many Orthodox churches the night between yesterday and today is celebrated with a midnight Liturgy to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

And here, in the “wilderness” up north in Sweden, as You know we are building a tiny chapel to venerate St. Joseph who was the “foster-father” of Jesus Christ.

Here is a beautiful icon of the nativity:


The man sitting in the lower left corner of this icon is St. Joseph.


Merry Christmas to You, who is a reader of this blog!

May the Joy of this wondrous feast stay with you today and all through the year!

The foundation slab

Back in 2010, in June, we had prepared the place for the future chapel, as You might just have read about in the last blogpost. Then we made the foundation slab. It is wise to make a solid ground for a building. So we did, a platform. We blended rough gravel, sand, water and cement. As one does when using traditional “Portland” Cement.


Actually we are not fond of cement, but by then we did not know about more “ecological” cement  (that is now available). Why is is that we do not like to use cement? It is because it is not very environmental friendly. For each kg cement that is produced there is a release of 0,8 kg C02. Also it is not at all nice to handle… the mixture is caustic and burns the skin on the hands when coming in contact. But as mentioned, by then we did not know about alternatives. So we prepared the platform for the building in a more “traditional” or rather  “unreflected modern” way.


On top of the flattened drainage gravel we built an edge for the platform with LECA bricks. Of course we armed well with iron bars and metal reinforcement net. Then we poured all the liquid mixture into the mold. The result You see above.

In July that year we had arranged the first course on clay building here. We were up to 32 persons to lunch every day for that week. We had hired several teachers to come and give lectures about different aspects of clay building. Here is a view from one of the five lunch lectures held that week:


And in the evenings we had further lectures, then with slideshows in the dim light of the barn:


That summer, our first summer on this little farm, we had no kind helping WWOOF-ers or WORK-AWAY-ers around. But during this single 5 day course we had many persons from all over Sweden that came to learn about clay building and also the same persons under these circumstances gave us good helping hands to get started with a few different clay building projects that we started that summer. So during that week, under the instruction and guidance of experienced clay builders we got started….


Here is marked with a plastic circle where the future fireplace = the “worldly warmth” was planned to be situated, and on the other side, with a cross, where the “spiritual warmth” would be represented = the Bishops throne.

What happened?  What about the construction of the chapel already THAT year?


Soon I will tell You more!

The 4 last pictures on todays blogpost are not taken by me, but one of the participants of the course in july 2010; Andrew Hutchings.