Kovkar’s kajža (“kajža” is a small Slovenian farmer’s cottage) is a fine example of old architecture in the vicinity of Škofja Loka from a historical, architectural as well as ethnological point of view. Since 1897 the kajža was owned by Jože “Kovkar” Okorn (1867-1942), who was born on a remote farm between the settlements Sv. Tomaž and Breznica in the Seliška dolina valley. Now the kajža is owned by his nephew, Branko Omahn.
Today the kajža is interesting for its ground plan mapping, which shows the gradual process from turning the original forester’s hut into a kajža. People say that the kajža has been erected more than 200 years for the needs of the local forester. Subsequent owners have gradually expanded the cottage and also built a barn. Deforestation around the settlement created the perfect conditions for small farming (which is called “kajžarstvo” in Slovene).
The ground floor shows the typical spatial distribution of the former kajža. The most beautiful part of the kajža is the wooden house on the southwest side that has a living room with a wood stove, which is through a corridor connected to a traditional “black” kitchen that faces east and west. On each side of the traditional kitchen is a door. The kajža doesn’t have a chimney, so the smoke leaves the room only through the aforementioned doors. In the south-eastern part is a built chamber that today serves as the kitchen. Stairs from the corridor or the black kitchen lead up to the attic. Located in the northwest side of the attic is a “čumnata” – a traditional sleeping chamber. Right above the black kitchen in the north-western part of the kajža is a room that still houses old working tools.
The most eye-catching part of the Kajža is its extensive velvety thatched roof that covers an area of 212 m2 and represents the ingenuity of traditional and economic roof building. Nothing was ever thrown away on the farm. Cereal grains were stored in granaries and used as food source for the families. Broken straw was used to feed the livestock. The longer undamaged straw pieces were bound together into 18-20 kg bundles of straw with a circumference of around 50 cm and used for roof covering.
The roofing of the kajža has been covered with boards and fastened to facilitate the covering with straw. The inclination of the roofing is 45 degrees, which allows for a swift removal of rainwater and snow from the roof. Due to the light straw roofing, which has only around 20-25 kg load capacity per m2, the rafters have a 10 cm wider spacing than in heavier roof coverings. The diameter is only 10 × 14 cm, with a scissor-shaped tie-up at the upper end. At the top is a straw bed that carries the straw roofing or – as roofers call it– the straw ceiling. The roofing battens are cca. 6-8 cm thick and made of young breech wood that were fixed to the roof when they were fresh, so they can be adjusted if necessary. The battens are fastened to the roof with ash treenails that are placed 25 cm apart. The entire roof was fastened and secured without any nails or metal pins.