Home Improvements

Reading this week:

  • Gilgamesh, Stephen Mitchell version
  • Arabian Nights, Barnes and Noble Classics Edition

One of the big goals of the Community Entry period is to fix up your house so it is comfortable to live in. Making the place liveable has taken up a good chunk of my time, and I think things have turned out well.

The first things I did were a bunch of little things to help make the place functional. It’s best to keep things off the floor, so my first few days were spent putting in a whole bunch of nails to hang things off of. This was augmented by bending “soft wire” (think coat hanger wire but a little thicker) into various useful shapes. To hang pots and pans, I put two nails in the wall, strung some soft wire between them, and then bent up some hooks to string on the soft wire.

My kitchen area (though I cook outside). Usually that wire mesh isn’t there.

Soft wire is useful for a whole bevy of projects. My most ambitious soft wire project is a typing stand that I convinced myself I needed, which comes with a little bar that snaps down courtesy of a rubber band to hold up whatever it is you’re looking at. I also made hangers for my solar light that I put up in convenient spots. Another way to keep things off of the floor is to hang a soft wire hook from a piece of string suspended from a nail in the roof. That’s how I keep my eggs and potatoes off the floor.

I designed it to be converted into a guest bed. I subjected only one guest to this.

Bigger projects include a coffee table and a couch. The couch is made from brick as supports with planks on top. On top of these are cushions, the cases for which I sewed from chitenge. I had quite the cushion-sewing spree there and I could barely stop myself. The coffee table is banged together from some planks and logs I found in the forest. I try to avoid cutting down trees myself, but fortunately (or unfortunately) when they make charcoal they tend to leave a lot of sticks laying around, so I just head into the woods and pick those up.

Under-construction oven.

I also built an oven. This has dramatically increased my sugar consumption as I bake cookies, cupcakes, and banana bread (I also gave sweet potato bread a go; eh). The oven is made of brick. For both the oven and the couch, the mortar is just mud. That makes me feel better about building these things myself, because I have never been a bricklayer before and I figure, since it’s just made of mud, if it is terrible I can just take it apart and redo it. The oven works pretty well; you put fire in the bottom, and then there is a metal sheet separating the fire space from the baking space, and into the baking space you put whatever you are baking. The local kids seem to like my cookies.

The last important home improvement project I undertook was putting up some art. Fortunately, the Moto Moto Museum is nearby, and they have a gift shop with some artisan crafts. Otherwise I haven’t found much art. I got a picture of elephants, and another of giraffes, and hung those up. I have a carved wooden man and some small carved wooden animals that sit on my desk. From Chishimba falls I got a rather large fish so that’s sitting on top of one of my dividing walls. As an accent piece, I also hung up a fish-themed piece of chitenge on the wall. I’m an aquaculture volunteer, so I figured the house should look the part.

A selection of my art.