Monthly Archives: April 2010

Earth Day Every Day

Happy Earth Day everyone.  It seems like an appropriate time for your bi-weekly Maya Creek update.  The last several weeks of sunny 70 degree weather have given me the chance to get a lot done.  I’ve built two new sheet mulched no-till garden beds, one of them being a 4th vegetable bed so that I can do a 4 year crop rotation, and the other is a 2nd perennial bed.  The new vegetable bed is already planted with 5 different kinds of potato, and the perennial bed is now home to asparagus and soon to have some jerusalem artichokes added.  I made a video while I was making the 4th garden bed, but I’m not particularly happy with it.  I’ll probably post it anyway after I take another look at it.

It seems that we’ve past the last frost in the area, and so my gamble on getting a few things in the ground early might well pay off.  I’ve already learned a couple new lessons in the garden.  I’m going to start planting trap crops of radishes for the flea beetles.  They attack the radishes and I yank them and burn them, seems to be the only method I’ve come across for handling them organically.  Otherwise they pretty quickly make my turnips and eggplants look like someone shot them with a really small shotgun.

I’ve done a lot of interplanting of flowers and things this year, and I’ve planted a number of perennial flowers in the perennial beds to draw in some beneficial insects.  I’m aiming to plant even more once I figure out where I’m planting the rest of the fruit trees and berry bushes that I’ve ordered.

Last year it got pretty tiring hauling the generator up to the garden to run the pump for the solar shower.  I considered setting up a small solar power rig, but it just seemed like way more time and money than it was worth.  So essentially I built a fancy solar bucket shower.  I still heat the water the same way with the black barrels under a clear plastic drop cloth, but now I just pour a couple buckets of the hot water into a small holding bucket with a faucet and shower head I stole off one of the solar shower bags, and whallah.  It doesn’t have much pressure and it comes out fairly slowly, but I can easily take a shower, wash my hair, and shave on around 2-3 gallons of water.  We were easily using 7-10 gallons with the pump system.

One of the two work exchangers I have coming this summer is heading over from Nebraska early next week.  He’s about my age and he’ll possibly be staying a couple months.  I’d been needing to get tarpopolis set up again and this was my excuse.  I’ve got all of the tarps hung again, which went significantly faster this time around now that I know what I’m doing and have all the pieces cut to the right size.  I’ve also set up the two guest tents and put mattresses and some shelving in them as well.  I’m still looking for more work exchangers, so if you’re interested shoot me an e-mail.

Apart from that I’ve set up the storage tarp area and have been moving all of the stuff from inside the straw bale place out to it and organizing it as I go.  It was kind of a disaster area in the place since I left in kind of a hurry last year when the temperatures plummeted last October, and now I’m paying for it.  It’s like coming home from a vacation and you’ve got dirty dishes in the sink, no clean clothes, etc.  I already feel a little more bounce in my step and I’m only about half way done with the clean-up.

Once the house is cleared out I can start on the roofing insulation again in earnest.  I’ve got a wonderful source of trash Alpaca wool.  Basically the wool from the legs is very coarse, and since it’s not good for clothing gets thrown out even though it still has excellent insulative properties.  I’m sure that process will go much faster with a second set of hands as well.

I’m also reading a natural plaster book and starting to refine my ideas and plans on how to plaster the building.  I’d been thinking about a lime or possibly paper-crete covering for the gravel bags to protect the areas most likely to get splashed, but I’m now thinking about covering everything in earthen clay plaster and then adding a mortared rock splash guard around the bottom.  I think it’ll look really nice and be more environmentally friendly to be sure. In the meantime, Pink has certainly been enjoying rolling around and sunning himself on the clay mound outside the house.

Getting Warmed Up

Yes, I know, I’m overdue for a blog entry. As soon as the weather warmed up it seemed that everyone decided it was time to get their web page revamped.  Every time I’d sit down at the computer I’d feel like I needed to be working on web work, and the blog could wait.  It can wait no longer!

There’s so much to do and just not enough time to do it all.  I’ve significantly cleared out the garden area along the edge and put up a 5′ tall fence.  I’ve taken to throwing all of the brush on the outside of the fence to further deter deer from jumping it and hopefully it’ll be good wildlife habitat for less garden-aggressive creatures.

I decided to cut things back when I started planning out the exact fruit tree locations and realized that they’d be getting quite a bit of shade, and if I didn’t cut those trees back now it’d be a lot harder when the fruit trees are planted because the trees and branches could very easily fall on the fruit trees.  It’s been sweaty work, but it’s finally done.  I don’t enjoy cutting trees down, both on principal and my general dislike for running the chainsaw.  It just makes me nervous handling something so dangerous.

Incidentally, a couple weeks ago I accidentally cut a tree down and had it fall on the straw bale place.  It did some damage, but not nearly as bad as it could have.  I’d actually taken extra precautions because it was near the house.  I had a wench set up and had it under a lot of tension pulling it away from the house and cut an extra large wedge, but somehow the laws of physics decided to throw me a curve ball.  I’ve since chopped the tree up, along with some others and will be inoculating them with shiitake and chicken of woods mushroom spore plugs in the next week.

I’ve successfully been driving the truck around without being hassled.  So far I’ve picked up all the supplies I’ll need to raise the wind generator, supplies for the plaster that’ll cover the gravel bag foundation wall, a load of horse manure, and a heaping load of compost.  The compost came at a price though.  I didn’t realize that the new trailer that I’d been given couldn’t handle the weight I put in it.  The person who gave it to me told me that he’d used it to haul compost and so I just filled it up.  I didn’t realize anything was amiss until I pulled into the driveway and was clearly dragging something… it turned out to be the whole trailer. The neck part basically just bent, and I’m not sure what I can do to fix it.  The guy who gave it to me does welding, but I’d feel bad asking him to fix this.  I’ve considered just flipping it over and using a sledgehammer to bash it straight, but even if it’s effective it’ll still be weak.

Despite the tree falling on the roof and trailer breaking things have been generally good.  I put up the gutters on the front part of the house and have been harvesting rainwater.  All of my seedlings seem to be doing well.  I was worried for awhile that some of the older seeds weren’t good any more, but they just took a little longer.  I’ve got one of the garden beds planted with cool weather crops. I’ve added nesting boxes and a run to the old guinea coop in preparation for the chickens.

I’ve met some interesting people in the last few weeks as well, and everyone always seems to bring me things.  A couple people from Columbia came out and brought me 3 loaves of freshly baked homemade bread which was absolutely delicious.  I’ve even been invited to come out to the next bake so I can see how it’s done.

Yesterday, a guy that lives a little over an hour from here came up for a visit.  He’s building a geodesic dome, and it turned out we had quite a lot in common.  He brought me some great stuff that he’d got dumpster diving behind a Trader Joe’s.  I’m quickly getting on board with the dumpster diving idea.  It’s not exactly sustainable, but it’s certainly making good use of things that would otherwise just go to waste.  You wouldn’t believe the perfectly good stuff that people throw out.  He’d even found working power tools in hardware store dumpsters!

As with every post, I’ve got to talk about the weather.  It’s been unseasonably warm here, it got up to 82 today and right now there isn’t anything close to freezing temperatures in the forecast.  I’ve been sleeping with the door and windows open, and I installed a cat door on the screen door so Pink wouldn’t just tear a hole through it.  He didn’t like it at first, but he’s getting used to it.  The nice weather has made it all the harder to spend time inside working on the computer.

My next projects are getting the fruit trees in the ground, getting more manure, and raising the wind generator.  I’ve had a lot of offers for help getting the wind generator up, but there’s quite a bit of prep work I need to do, and even then I need to think about exactly how it’s going to work and what people will need to be doing.  I’m trying something a little… unconventional, but I’ll save that for my next video post.