The day after my last post we planted potatoes. Last week we harvested those potatoes. That’s how erratic my blogging has become so I’m not going to go into detail about the almost 3 months in between, but I’ll try to summarize.
Not long after my last post I finished up the solar hot water collector and the associated insulated hot water barrel. I made sure to leave space next to the collector in case I needed to build another one. That turned out to be unnecessary as the collector easily heats the 55 gallons of water to scalding temperatures within a day, and then holds it there even on cloudy days.
It feels so much more civilized out here now. Sure, it’s still really dusty in most of the buildings, and there’s still plenty of work to do before we have real sinks or a washing machine, but at least now we’re just a bunch of mildly-dirty hippies instead of filthy ones!
So far I’ve held a shiitake mushroom log workshop, wild edible foray, and an earthen plaster workshop, all of which have gone well. There was plenty of good networking going on between people with mutual interests, knowledge was shared, skills were learned, and I got a nice pile of inoculated shiitake logs growing their way towards deliciousness.
One side note on the shiitake logs that I’m kind of excited about. I cut more mushroom logs than I had spore plugs for, and I decided to take some of the mushroom logs that already producing and stack them interspersed with the uninoculated extra logs. I have strong hope that the mycelium will grow into the other logs or that spores will fall on them and they’ll begin producing as well. I’ve had the mycelium grow between the logs and from the logs into the pallets I stack them on, and have had mushrooms pop out of the pallet itself so it’s not far fetched. If so, I may be able to seriously ratchet up my shiitake production for a fraction of the effort I put in now.
The garden has done really well this year. We’ve gotten an above average amount of rain and only had to water occasionally mainly to get seeds started and transplants settled. All of the extra rain made construction projects difficult, so the volunteers spent an above average amount of time in the garden; weeding, fighting bugs, harvesting, etc and we’re now reaping the benefits. The dehydrator is constantly full and anything we can’t dry we’ve been canning.
It now seems clear that I can grow almost all of my own food, and probably trade excess for the things I can’t grow. The volunteers have been a big help, but I could do it all on my own if I didn’t have construction projects to deal with too. Maybe in a couple years I’ll try a year of total food self-sufficiency and see how it goes.
I originally planned on working on getting the inside of the common house finished, but after more detailed planning I saw that I needed a lot of carpentry work first that wouldn’t be easy to use volunteer help on so instead we’ve been working on getting the 2nd, and most labor/material intensive, coat of plaster on the cabins. The small single cabin now has it’s 2nd coat completed and we’re well on our way to getting the duplex coat on.
We’ve also been digging a 100′ long 2′ deep trench to lay some PVC pipe in and use as a very simple geothermal cooling/heating system called an earth tube. I’m mostly concerned with the cooling side of it, though it should decrease the already small amount of firewood I need in the winter.
According to what I could find on the internet I believe the air coming into the duplex even at the hottest part of the summer should be 70F or less and be significantly less humid. A small CPU fan will pull the air and as it cools in the pipe the moisture should condense and drain out. Another CPU fan attached to a pipe going through the highest point of the roof will blow the hot air out. The fans may not be needed all of the time since natural convection should move the air, but they certainly won’t hurt.
The rainwater cistern is the next big project and we should be starting on that in August. The pit is still wet from all of the rain this year, but the storms seem to be dropping less and less water and I think it’ll dry out enough to work on within the next month or so.
Right now I’ve got a full house with 3 volunteers. Billy, my full-summer volunteer is turning into a real asset now that he’s gotten the feel for things. The other 2 volunteers are Emmanuel, from France, and Daniel, from Utah. Both of them have been hard workers with good senses of humor and pleasant dispositions. I’ve also had a couple of volunteers from Pennsylvania and London earlier in the Spring.
I’m going to have a vacancy for one volunteer from August 5th – September 9th if anyone knows anyone who might be interested please send them a link and have them fill out the volunteer questionnaire. They’ll be helping with earthen plaster/flooring, a rainwater cistern, and canning, pickling, dehydrating, and preserving produce from the garden.