Monthly Archives: July 2011

Riding the Heat Wave

As I stepped out of the St. Louis airport and the wall of thick steamy air hit me I began to realize that Egypt isn’t all that bad this time of year.  At least the oppressive heat there is dry.

I had a good 12-day trip with my family.  We saw all the major tourist attractions, rode camels, sailed up the Nile, and saw enough hieroglyphics, temples, and tombs to last me a lifetime.  Summer isn’t the ideal time to visit Egypt, nor is it an ideal time for me to take a vacation, but when given the chance to go I had to take it.

John and Tom kept working away while I was gone.  They got most of the first coat of earthen plaster on the outside, harvested the potato crop, and picked up a truck load of waste alpaca fiber.  Tom headed back to Canada a few days before I got back.  He was the voice of reason, hard working and wise for his age.  I have no doubt he’ll be back someday.

The severe heat forced our work patterns to change.  We’re now getting up around 6-7am and working until about noon and then depending on how we feel we’ll work a few hours in the evenings as well.  For the hot part of the day we sit in the common house and read, watch movies, nap, etc.  The hottest it gets in the house is about 80 degrees, the only problem is that the floor is not completely dry and won’t be until we leave the doors open.  That also means it’s very humid in the house and doesn’t feel as cool as it should, but with a fan going it’s more than tolerable.

Straw  Bale Cabin Progress

Despite the heat we’ve still managed to finish the interior and exterior plaster coats on the straw bale cabin, as well as fixing and reinforcing the roof.  While we wait for that to finish drying to add the next layer to the floor and walls we’re going to work on the granite footing.

We’re going to dig a trench about a foot deep and fill it with used styrofoam packing peanuts and then place the waste alpaca fiber in old polypropylene feed sacks before we enclose it in granite pieces like we did on the common house.  Insulating the floor helps to isolate the earthen floor from the outside and acts as a thermal mass keeping it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.


Before I left for Egypt we finished getting the roof on the porch.  It’s dramatically increased the storage area, but it won’t get screened in or have the floor finished until next year at least.  The common house actually looks like a homestead now.

Compost Piles

John and I made a large compost pile from horse bedding, garden weeds, and humanure earlier this week.  We get the horse manure free from the stables at a local university, they even load it up for us.   By building the pile all at once it gets incredibly hot, so we put all of the humanure in the middle of the pile and use the heat to sterilize it.

Every time we fill up all dozen or so humanure buckets we’ll make a new compost pile.  The piles take about a year to break down completely.  It could be sped up significantly if you turned it, but since we’re not in a hurry and turning it would take a lot of energy and time, we’ll wait.