Monthly Archives: October 2011

Stick It Where The Sun Does Shine

It’s hard to believe another summer has come and gone, and as the colder weather has set in we get less and less things done.  We’ve wrapped up construction on the common house for this year and I’ve moved into the loft for the winter.  John has been taking refuge in the common house as well until we get the floor totally finished and the doors and windows installed on the cabin he’ll be in for the winter.  Jesse’s managing in his camper, but he’ll probably move into the common house when John moves into his cabin.  So, there’s lots of shuffling going on as we prepare for the winter.  I think we’re all looking forward to the nice long break.

Hot Showers

We’ve gotten our first hot indoor showers at Maya Creek now.  It’s still very primitive, we have to heat up the water via the cook stove or rocket stove and pour it in a feeder bucket above the shower.  One of next year’s major projects will be installing the water system including the cistern and solar hot water panel and tank, until then we’ll be just fine with what we’ve got.  It’s probably hard for an outside observer to understand how grateful we are for the low pressure showers that we take right now, but that goes for a lot of things out here.  It’s rare that people understand the amount of time, labor, and general effort that have gone into what we’ve got so far.

Mini-Cabin Progress

We’ve gotten a steel roof installed on the cabin, with an old billboard tarp as a second layer of protection taking the place of tar paper.  We extended one side and added a small covered porch area.  We’ll finish filling in the gaps on the roof gables and plastering the outside next year, but we did put all of the layers of plaster and floor in on the inside.  We haven’t worked with the finish coats of plaster or earthen floor to this point and we used the cabin as an experiment to get some experience before doing the common house.

We wanted to lighten the walls some so we incorporated some masonry lime into the mix, and a little really went a long way towards lightening up the color.   That’s good to know so that we can use it for the exterior finish coat on the house and make the burnt sienna coloring stand out more.  The lime is a little rough on the hands, so next time we do an interior finish plaster that we want to lighten we’ll try to find some white kaolin clay, but for an exterior plaster the lime adds extra protection.

The floor is currently drying out after applying a couple of coats of linseed oil cut to different strengths with mineral spirits.  Then we finished it off with a mixture of oil and beeswax to finish it all off and waterproof it.

John’s building an insulated door improving the design of the doors used in the common house.  They’re kind of a pain to build, and in the future we’ll probably just build the door and window bucks to fit whatever doors or we can salvage.  The benefit of building our own is that we can make them super-insulated, so there’s a trade-off.

Reflecting on Solar Power

When I first picked the unpainted galvanized steel roofing I was mainly thinking about our rainwater collection system and how I didn’t want any toxic paint residue in the water supply.  I was also thinking about reflecting some of the heat in the summer.  That reflected light goes all year really and is actually blinding when you hit at the right spot.  After putting on the porch on the back of the house this year at a lower angle than the roof the effect was even greater.  It occurred to us to harness all that extra light by mounting our panels behind the house on a raised rack to catch all of that extra light.

We’ve never seen something like this before, but now that we’ve done it we’ll pretend like we had it planned this way all along. Hehe.  The panels are all in one long row to catch to orient with the roof more closely and catch more reflection.  We’re still putting the finishing touches on everything, and we had to buy a few more pieces of hardware since we’re moving from a 12V system to 24V, but so far the panels appear to be putting out 25-50% more power!  As you can imagine we’re quite pleased and have doubled our battery bank to hold more of that goodness.

Granting Wishes

We’ve been looking into trying to get some funding help for our projects out here at MC.  Next year we’re planning on holding several free workshops on the things that we think we’re confident in teaching.  We’ll post a schedule some time over the winter about those.

Anyway, we feel that since we’re actively providing education opportunities by giving tours, work parties, setting booths at related events, and now with workshops that we should be able to receive grants to help us along.  We’ve been pouring our own money into everything so far, but it’s consistently a restrictive factor and one causes significant amounts of stress.

We’ve explored the option of becoming a tax-exempt non-profit, but the paperwork and legal rigmarole is disenchanting to say the least.  However, we’re in talks with Mid-Missouri Peaceworks to become a project of theirs and fall under their non-profit umbrella.  We’ll probably know if that’s going to work out by the end of November.

In the meantime, I went to a grant-writing workshop for SARE(Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grants last week.  It was moderately helpful, although I was told that many of things I’d hoped to get grants for such as permanent structures like greenhouse, root cellar, etc wouldn’t be allowed, I found examples of SARE grants funding those exact same things while researching it later.

We understand that grants are not meant to build private structures, but everything we’re building is meant to be both for our own use as well as to be a demonstration for tours and for use in workshops.   It seems like most grants do not want to pay for physical items, but if they want to pay us to do what we were already intending to do then we can use those wages to buy the physical items that we need.