November 30, 2009

2009 Roundup

It's been a month since our last construction date at Korinji. Though snow has yet to fall in any appreciable amount, the trees are now long bare and the evening temperatures are routinely dropping below freezing. Soon the ground will be frozen solid, and our concrete foundation piers will be locked in for their first winter.

We started the year with high hopes and very little money. We knew that our construction plan would take everything we could give - in terms of energy, time, and resources - to complete. Our original goal was to have the building enclosed before winter. Had we been working with a professional crew, this would have been easy.

We soon learned, however, the reality of depending upon our own volunteer, and usually amateur, labor: a slow pace results in good work, while a rushed pace produces errors. And another reality struck us quite early on: the difficulty of the building site we'd chosen. When a four-wheel drive vehicle was not available to navigate our slippery construction road, we carried building materials and gear in on our backs. Over 300 bags of concrete, hundreds of pieces of lumber, concrete mixers and generators, fasteners and tools, water, food and camping gear, all were carried down by hand. On weekends when we had thirty volunteers, this was arduous at best. When we had 10 or less, it was at times impossible.

And let's not forget the slope. Imagine this: the southwest corner of our building's floor level (the corner nearest you when looking at the photo in the previous post, below) is 18" above the ground. At the northeast corner, farthest from you in the photo, it's 14 feet. Some of our crew no doubt have nightmares of the long hours spent leveling and re-leveling; the land, it seemed, changed daily beneath our feet. Our laser level was the best purchase the Foundation made this year. Without it, the sharp and varied terrain would no doubt still be playing tricks on our eyes.

True, we accomplished somewhat less than what we'd hoped. But not too much less. We didn't enclose our building, but we got the hardest part done. Within a weekend or two this spring, the walls will be framed, and the roof not long after that. It will all take place on a foundation that we literally chopped, dug and scraped out of what was only months before a briar-choked, rocky hillside surrounded by forest.

Looking back on the immense amount of work our volunteer crews performed - camping out in storms and summer heat, working without reward other than the satisfaction of contributing to something worthwhile - it's hard to find words to express our feeling of gratitude. Similarly, the steady donations that have continued to come, of both funds and items, are times almost unbelievable to me.

Here is a brief summary of what happened at Korinji this year:

1. Building site located, cleared, surveyed and staked. Overall Korinji site plan determined.
2. Construction road, parking area and trails partially graveled or wood-chipped.
3. Foundation excavated.
4. Reinforced concrete foundation piers poured.
5. Structural support posts set on piers, leveled, cut and trimmed to accept beams.
6. Structural support beams affixed to posts and bolted.
7. Floor joists affixed to beams and cross-braced.
8. Support posts x-braced below floor structure.
9. Wood bench/lamp post constructed along foot trail.
10. Location of wood foot-bridge at ravine bottom determined and surveyed.

To accomplish all of this, we spent just under $12,800.00. An estimate we received from a contractor for the same: $56,000.00. We are determined that the donations we receive will be used in the most efficient and sensible manner possible; I'm pleased to report this result for our first year of work to found Korinji.

To close, I should mention a few of the memories that stand out most sharply in my mind. Despite the work and exhaustion, it truly was nothing less than the fulfillment of a dream watching our vision become physically manifest before our eyes. Many wonderful moments - and a few truly magical ones - served to remind me how fortunate I am to be a part of this undertaking, and to have so many truly good people along for the ride:

- The "battle with the briars" during our initial site clearing, and the determined, at times desperate chainsaw confrontation that Greg Dekker and I waged with the two-inch thorns that seemed to pierce us from all directions.

- Our wood-chipper and trail crews coming together spontaneously as teams: the moment when we knew for sure that it would all work.

- Surveying: Tom Teterycz laying out our exact building location, and the moment when we realized how big it would actually be. This was also the moment, looking down into the ravine, that we saw confirmed what a beautiful, appropriate location we'd chosen to be a place of Zen training.

- Groundbreaking weekend: the amazing pump arrangement that brought water for our concrete mixing hundreds of feet uphill from the valley stream.

- Violent rainstorms one evening, camping out under a thin tarp. Miraculously, this was the only time the entire summer that rain bothered us...and by next morning, it was gone in time for work.

- The boulders broken up, bit by bit, by our sledge-hammer wielding crews.

- Our concrete carriers, covered with white dust and exhausted, at the end of their work. Our concrete mixers and pourers, spattered and bleary-eyed, at the end of theirs.

- Sitting in moonlight at the construction site; the calls of owls back and forth across the valley.

- The slavic-speakers and their always well-supplied tent (also the place to be for strong, black tea in the morning).

- Campfire gatherings, good conversation and good cheer under the leaves in our beautiful forest...

Thank you again, to everyone. Stay tuned for more posts over the winter, keeping you updated on our ongoing planning.

And spring will be here soon, so keep your hammers and saws in good order!


November 4, 2009

Winter break

In a final flurry of work last week at Korinji, a few die-hard work crew members finished up our floor joists and bracing, as well as the x-bracing that ties together our 36-odd 6x6 posts. Though rain and a few flakes of snow served to remind us of season's end, we finished our final day with glorious fall sunshine. It helped to dry out the blisters on our hands.

Since it makes no sense to put flooring on our deck structure that will only hold snow, we're now done for the winter. The generator and tools are in storage, the site is battened down, and the treated timbers of our building are drying out, settling and knitting themselves together. Ahead are a few months of planning and fundraising to position us well for a spring start. Our next weekend of work will see the first walls framed.

But for now we're all ready for a much-needed rest. We'll have a full progress summary shortly. We learned a lot over this past year, and while we didn't get as far as we originally thought we could, we did pretty well for an all-volunteer crew. Within 18 months we've gone from an unmanifested dream to the purchase and clearing of land that now has a building beginning to take shape.

A few more images, and a final video for the year, are on the Korinji site's images page.