OBRUBOVANEC WORK PARTY
For our very first official project we wanted to repair the Obrubovanec hut. It is a unique style hut used by shepherds for sleeping among their flock that was also repurposed for smoking cheese and other agricultural events. This entirely wooden structure was built in the traditional way using logs from the nearby forests and a shingle roof, with planks for sleeping and a central fireplace. Nowadays it is no longer used for its original purpose but instead serves as a tourist shelter. It was neglected for many years and we found it in very bad condition, especially the shingle roof.
The repair of this hut went from dream to plan once we founded our group. The initial idea to get it fixed, including a completely new roof in one go, failed; instead, we had to fix it in two iterations with two separate work parties.
The first work party took place from 8 to 12 July 2020 after the collection we organized online exceeded the sum of 1,000 euros. The weather forecast was good, so we gave the whole event the green light. Eight people volunteered and turned up at various times from Wednesday to Sunday; a pleasant shock came from the fact that, in the end, sixteen people contributed to the work to a greater or lesser extent.
A very pleasant response awaited us from the municipal office Sihla, from where we received support not only in providing us with access to the forest and permission to procure material (logs), but also the Mayor brought us a fantastic goulash on Friday. The reason why the complete repair of the hut in one go failed was that our local shingles supplier failed to deliver all the shingles, so we eneded up only with 400 pieces. The other mistake we made, especially as it was our first work party in this style was to throw down the roof beforehand. At the end it turn out good as only with mistakes can one learn!
The first day of work began on Wednesday with us bringing in tools and a hauling few freshly cut logs to the hut. On Thursday, more people started to appear, with Jakub Huba joining the work party. Jakub was the most important guarantor for technological procedures as he has been repairing wooden houses for many years. We started with removing the old roof, cleaning the inner walls from all kinds of barriers and ad hoc insulation. We disassembled the floor fireplace in the middle of the hut and cleared the dirt from the interior, as it had accumulated above the foundation beams, causing them to rot. We stored the older shingles in the woodshed to be used as fire wood and dug a pit for a planned outhouse, then cleared the access road where the grass had grown to thigh height. Volunteers dug the dirt and soil down to the foundation stones, and with that we created drainage ditches which should significantly slow down the decay of the lowest beams. While digging Jakub noticed that the one beam under the northwest wall was already completely rotten and will have to be replaced. This caused the hut to twist to one corner and the door could not be opened properly. As usual many small jobs and tasks arose spontaneously as hidden problems were revealed.
Thursday and Friday brought hot weather, but that did not stop us. We prepared a log which acted as a replacement for the rotten beam. To expand the experience everything had to be debarked with a two-handed draw knife. We also built the outhouse using old methods. Our team upgraded the water source by adding a pipe and covering the spring with a small shingled roof. That task included adding stones beneath the pipe so it looks nice and makes getting to the water and filling up bottles easier. In addition to the hut, we also paid attention to the nearby tourist signpost, which has completely disappeared behind the branches of a large tree, so we moved it to the sidewalk. We also restored the bed above a small room in the back of the hut.
On Saturday, even though the work party was significantly reduced in numbers, we continued strong: we worked on the frame of the outhouse and Kubo was still putting up the remaining shingles so that we could try and hide from the oncoming rain. Later in the afternoon, the rain came with a thunder and it poured almost all night.
On Sunday, two more volunteers showed up to the rescue. The work continued by covering the roof with a large tarp until we got the remaining shingles. Although some jobs were finished, others could not be, like the roof of the outhouse and the door for which we did not have the right hinges. As we cleaned up the site, we found quite a lot of all sorts of trash, which we also dug out while uncovering the foundations.
The work party displayed an excellent, relaxed, and cheerful atmosphere, never slowing down, and there was no need to chide our well-motivated people into doing the necessary tasks. Either they found something to do themselves, or they came to ask for work. Everybody was able to manage things without grumbling. We laughed a lot and I am convinced that each participant had a nice time and the best experience.
Seeing so many enthusiastic people doing something useful for the benefit of a completely anonymous tourist public was sometimes touching. We will think more about this if someone wants to convince us that the world has become a selfish and cynical place. This work party proved that for a good cause we can unite and get to work.
Original post about the first work party including pictures can be found here
The second work party took place on the 21th, 22nd and 23rd of August. We completed the renovation of the hut this time and the work party numbered 15 people. All the essentials were done and we were left with only a few details that we will be able to finish as part of routine maintenance in the future. The hut already serves the tourist public and is a very pleasant stop while hiking the trail.
The work started with taking down the huge tarp and continued with nailing the shingles to the beams, creating a roof. Some trees had to be cut down and the trunks hauled to the hut to be used to make a long ladder to reach the whole roof from both sides of the hut. Gradually, familiar faces started to arrive and join the work party. Friday night passed in conversation by the campfire.
Saturday was designated for completion of the shingle roof, but we also faced a highly interesting professional woodworking task: the replacement of the foundation beam on the north wall of the hut. We had prepared the trunk previously so it would be ready to be replaced.
First it was necessary to raise the northwest corner of the hut, using a jack and straps. This was supervised by Jakub who had experience in such matters. When we lifted one corner, we put some stones underneath and released it. The same procedure addressed the other corner and only then could be the rotten beam pulled out. This was a complex operation especially as the new beam had to be carved on the end to fit exactly into the position of the old beam. The locking mechanism had to perfectly align to that we could lower the whole structure in place. Others made steps for the bunk beds, because the original ones were very flimsy and it would be only a matter of time before they broke under someone. We dug out more dirt and placed stones under the beams to stop them from rotting. Hauling rocks became an important part of our task as a result, and many helped with it. We removed everything else from inside the hut, especially the wall decor that acted as insulation or fireproofing.
In the meantime Nina created a small pool under the well so that the collected water can be either used for washing or to cool drinks. After a collective effort, and several attempts, we managed to put in the new beam and secure its bed with new stones. Later that day Milo brought the raw materials for a goulash soup and the girls made the soup while the work continued. We also finished the outhouse, which was missing the door. In the early evening it became clear that there would not be enough shingles, so we had to bring in some more. Flying ants took over the roof and stopped Jakub from work, even if he tried on all kinds of protection. They also invaded a nearby tarp that was used as a shelter against rain.
On Sunday, heavy rain came for a while, and while we hid inside, a few drops fell among us suddenly. As an old woodcutter, Jakub explained that it was common, and his words were confirmed that after a few minutes of rain, the shingles would swell and the cracks would close up. However, some shingles still had to be replaced. When it stopped raining, Jakub triumphantly hammered in the last shingles and the roof was complete. The rest of the task included: upgrading the interior, making a new bench by the entry door, deepening the drainage ditches, lining the drain with stones, improving the seating around the fireplace, and cleaning up the surroundings. In the afternoon we packed up, took the excess shingles back to Milo and went home with great feelings.
Many thanks to all those who contributed financially to the repair, as well as those who came to add a hand to the work: Jakub H, Braňo, Hela, Nina, Milo, Miloš, Jakub R., Lenka, Chodec, Martin, Matej, Marek and Kristína. Special thanks go to our new caretaker Brano, who regularly goes to check out the hut and is constantly improving things there.
This whole event at Obrubovanec proved special in that we found out that there are people out there even today who care and even came to join the work party. They chose something from a long list of tasks themselves, or did something at once when asked. No one complained, everyone contributed something; some even supported this project financially in addition to working on the spot for free. I must say for myself that all this was a strong and very encouraging experience. It was a joy to organize, from start to finish.
Watch our blog, as videos from the work parties will be published soon.
Text and translation by Pavol “Chodec” Horvath
Original post about the second work party including pictures can be found here
Complete photo gallery can be found here