The other new house and its predecessor

(Re: My nephew's cross-barrel vaulted ceiling, Czechia)

The other new house of the rooftop panorama (the red-roofed one) filled almost exactly the space occupied by my parent's old house in which I spent my childhood — it's just somewhat wider, shorter and higher than the old house. My parents bought it in 1950 when I was two years old, and for the next 20 years or so, they went on to completely rebuild it inside, piece by piece, whenever there was some money available, while we were continually living in it. It must have been a small or medium size farmhouse when it got its final outer shape probably some 100 years ago. The first picture below shows how it looked when we moved in:

Early 1950s

This is actually a (photo of a) hand-tinted black and white photo. The original photo must have been taken only a year or two after we moved in. The house still seems to be unchanged, but there is already a new fence around the front vegetable garden put in by my father, and some newly planted fruit trees are visible behind it. The now huge cherry tree from which I made the panorama was also planted at that time. It is one of the very few surviving trees from the batch my father planted in 1950. The big tree seen behind the old house was in a different spot than the present cherry tree – it was a huge pear tree near the end of its life that was cut down some 10 years later.

The old house in this picture still had only small living quarters in its right end, including two rooms already converted by previous owners from what originally had been a horse stable; with a simple three-nave vaulted ceiling, the brick arches of which rested on the walls and on two or three horizontal steel girders spanning the room. (Previous owners were said to bring the bricks and other building supplies in small batches on bicycles, which might be the reason why they did not get too far with the renovations.) Just left of the centre of the house there was a large barn with big wooden gates in both walls of the house so that horse-drawn wagons could drive through the barn and unload their loads of grain sheaves or hay into the attic space on both sides of the barn. It was also in such barns where, before the age of the threshing machines, the grain used to be threshed with flails in the fall and winter months. That must had been quite some time before we took the possession of this house, because there were, already inoperational, remnants of a horse mill behind our barn. A horizontal shaft transmitting rotational motion was leading into the barn. Such mills were used to grind grain or to power simple threshing or other machines. It was not clear what machine this horse mill used to power inside the barn. If my memory is correct, there were also a few old flails left in the barn. When we moved in, the barn was only used to store an antiquated horse-drawn fire engine of the local volunteer firefighters. Unfortunately, it was disposed off as garbage soon after that (it could have been a prized museum piece nowadays). The barn was otherwise a great place to play for the little kids. One can discern the front barn gate in the above picture (behind the lady in the checkered dress) when it is magnified in your browser. The left end of the house to the left of the barn contained in the front a pig and goat sty with overhead hen enclosure, and wood and coal storage in the back. There was an outhouse in front of the pigsty. The man with the scythe is my father talking to some acquaintances passing by, and somebody from their party probably also took the original b&w photo.

The old house was sitting in a corner of a 0.8 ha (2 acres) unfenced field. My father gradually fenced it all around, and converted into an orchard with lots of fruit trees and shrubs. But we had still grown for many years our own potatoes, wheat, and sometime also other grains, and lots of vegetables in between the tree rows.

Over the years, the whole house was converted to sufficiently nice living quarters, with indoor plumbing and a bath (situated where the pigsty used to be!). The new kitchen and dining room took most of the former barn (here my father also experimented with a kind of flat vault, partly out of lack of money - the new ceilings in the barn area consisted of a flat layer of old bricks spanning the space of a little bit more than one metre between parallel horizontal steel girders, cast in cement grout and then covered/reinforced by a layer of concrete; and they lasted without any problems till the end of the house's life). A long glassed-in veranda was added in front of a half of the house. The whole house got a new plaster coat and paint, and so it looked quite nice for a long time – at least until the complete lack of moisture insulation in its original stone-and-brick walls showed up again in patches of falling off wet plaster, as can be seen in the next picture. Anyway, in 2005 the old house was not up to the current standards at all, and its days were numbered when my older nephew who inherited it, wanted to build something better in its place. It was decided to tear it down. Only its root cellar was left to be incorporated into the new house to be built.

The dismantling of the old house started with taking down the roof tiles:

May 14, 2005

May 14, 2005

And I happened to be around to help to take apart its last remaining wall fragments and a staircase a few months later:

September 23, 2005

The construction of the replacement house started in 2006, and my older nephew moved into it with his young family in June 2009. As all these houses are being built by the do-it-yourself-whenever-you-know-how-to method after the regular job hours, and with minimal loans, neither this new house is completely finished yet (in 2013). E.g., one outer wall still waits for the external insulation layer. And only after that's finished will the house exterior be painted. Or an intricate waffle wooden ceiling is being planned for the dining room.

This house also has some interesting features, such as a 5 kW solar power plant on its roof (making a little bit of money by supplying electricity back to the grid), nice wood panelling of some inside walls, or beautifully painted children's room:

5 kW of solar panels, July 22, 2010

Children's room:

In closing, I am observing all this building activity with slightly mixed feelings. On one hand, they are definitely creating new beautiful things here. But isn't it somewhat excessive? Wouldn't one multifamily house sharing one heating system and one waste-water system be better (more economical, consuming less resources). The truth is that there is still more fruit being grown in the remaining spaces between all the structures that filled over the years our 2 acres of land, than their inhabitants can usually consume. But the view from that cherry tree is somewhat symptomatic of the world trend of building over often unnecessarily too much agricultural land.

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