Monthly Archives: April 2012

April 2012 Newsletter

It’s been months since our last general newsletter update. I’ll try to hit a few of the big older things we may not have talked about in other posts and try to sum up our last month here at Maya Creek.


We’ve got a small family of wwoofers who have been helping us out since mid-March. They’ll be here for most of the summer as our extended-stay volunteers. It’s amazing how quickly things can get done with more hands, but it also means we run into planning, materials, and organizational barriers quickly.  We’re going to start holding weekly meetings to help plan out the coming week, discuss projects, and just generally check in with everyone.

It looks as though we ‘re almost fully booked for the rest of this visitor session ending May 26.  We still have space the last half of June and the last week and a half of our 3rd visitor session from September 4-15.  The 4th visitor session from September 29-November 10 is still wide open.  Find out more about visiting here.

Fundraiser Progress

So far we’ve raised $1,400 of the $8,000 we need to complete this year’s infrastructure projects. We’ll be throwing more of our own money into the pot as we earn it. We’ve also managed to decrease our costs by salvaging the majority of lumber we needed this year and we’ll add that as a donation when we figure out how much it saved us. We also found a cheaper backhoe to rent and operator willing to barter for some of our labor. All in all, we’re probably closer to 40% of the way to our goal. If you’re interested in helping us out check out our fundraising page, it’s got more information as well as a list of gifts we’re offering for funding us.

Frost Setbacks

After such an incredibly warm March and the early forecast for April looked good I took a gamble and transplanted and seeded a number of plants.  Unfortunately, we got 2 nights of hard frost in mid-April and then another light frost a week later.  We managed to save many of the plants by covering them with mulch the first night, but the 2nd night wiped out many of them.

It appears that the garden can get significantly lower(8 degrees) than the forecasted low in Fulton, above and beyond any minor heat island effect Fulton would have over us.  We’re not sure why that is, but if you have an idea let us know.  Topographically the garden is at a high point on the property so it shouldn’t be a frost pocket, although it is surrounded by trees which we thought would help give it protection from the wind but seen from canopy level the garden would be a low spot.  We’ve replanted everything and there is more than enough growing season left for everything to mature just fine.

It appeared we were going to get a large amount of fruit this year, but the frosts seemed to have knocked much of the developing fruits down and bugs have done some damage as well.  The main paw paw patch down along the creek looked like it was set for a massive fruiting year as well, but all of the blossoms were wiped out and much of the leaves burned during the hard frosts.  A couple years ago I girdled some trees in the paw paw patch to let in more light, but by doing so I also gave them less frost protection.  Now the situation seems to be one of feast or famine.  A lot of the gooseberries were likewise developing loads of berries, but 90% or so of them have since fallen off unripe.

Shiitake Cultivation Workshop

We held our very first official workshop on April 21.  Since we’re all new to much of this including teaching workshops it was a little rough around the edges, but everyone seemed to walk away from it satisfied.  I suppose it didn’t hurt that they were all carrying away a freshly made shiitake log of their own  The event was sponsored by Kittie Kong for donating $250 to our fundraiser, and we intend for all of our workshops to be free to the public. If you’re interested in learning about the other workshops we have schedule please visit our workshop page and remember to register for those that you would like to attend. We’ve compiled a video of the workshop below.


Earth Day

We had a wonderful time at Earth Day in Columbia last Sunday.  We took in our solar dehydrator and oven loaded with goodies despite the fact that the sun was mostly a no-show.  We met a lot of great people and were told by many of them to keep it up, and we certainly will!  Earth Day is a great time to network and introduce people to a lot of different ways that are available to live a more healthy, connected, and sustainable life.  Each time I heard, “Oh, that’s a cool idea.” was like another tiny step towards moving us all in a better direction.

Project Progress

We’ve gathered a lot of the materials that we’ll need for our projects this year.  We’ve cut and peeled almost 40 cedar posts, salvaged lumber, and gathered scrap granite.  The construction areas are all cleared out, and all of the trees we had to take out have been processed for firewood, mushroom logs, or are awaiting a turn at the chainsaw mill to be turned into beautiful boards.  We now have enough firewood set aside for 3 or 4 full winters here thanks to our efficient rocket stove and super-insulated straw bale housing.  As if that weren’t enough, we also cleverly stacked it

Our main hold up at the moment is getting a backhoe out here and digging the cistern, root cellar, greywater pond, and duplex foundation.  We now know where we’re renting the equipment from and have an operator who can do it starting next week, we just need it to quit raining.  Over the last 48 hours here we’ve gotten 4.25″ of rain, more than 1/10 of our average annual rainfall.  We even got some nice sized hail that luckily didn’t do much damage in the garden or anywhere else.

While we wait for the excavation to begin we’re working on gathering more materials like sand and billboard tarps.  We’re also going to start on the interior straw slip walls in the common house as early as tomorrow and begin plastering again on John’s small straw bale cabin.


If you’d like to get updates whenever we post a blog, pictures, videos, or when we just have something small and quick to announce or discuss please join our facebook group.


Black Rat Snake… under my covers

I found this guy under some blankets on my bed while I was cleaning up the tipi this evening. For a few seconds I was terrified until I recognized that it wasn’t something poisonous. It’s one of the black rat snakes that we see relatively often around here. They’re great for keeping the mouse population down, but less great to sleep with.

Every night I check under my covers, mainly just looking for spiders and ticks, but snakes have made it up onto the list now too. I’m hoping I won’t have bad dreams tonight…

Lumber Salvation

We found out about an old house only 1/2 mile from Maya Creek that was going to be bulldozed and burned. We introduced ourselves to the owners and they were happy to have someone to salvage some lumber out of it.  Another neighbor down the road that we buy eggs from came by and rescued some of the old plants around the yard too.

Jesse and Tony took an afternoon a few days ago and got a nice load of 2x4s, and today we took the whole crew over to see what we could get out. We took a few of the heavy-duty hardwood oak 2×6 joists and some more 2x4s, but most of the work we did today was taking the roof off the back porch to get the 1×12 boards off. The back porch is a somewhat newer addition and the wood seems to be in pretty good condition there.

We stripped off the shingles and tar paper, and then denailed and pried up the boards. It looks like we should have just enough to do the loft floor in the duplex.

We’re going back again tomorrow to get more 2x6s on that back porch and see what else we can save. When we’re done we’ll figure out how much that lumber would have cost us to buy and add it to the fundraiser count since some of that money was slated for that wood.  It’s also less trees that need to be cut down and less carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere.  Reusing materials is a win/win.

You can see more pictures of the salvage job here.

Chicken of the Woods

We found this nice sized Chicken of the Woods mushroom(Laetiporus sulphureus) on a walk through the woods today. Supposedly they have a texture like chicken, we’ll cook it up tomorrow and see.

This is the first chicken we’ve found out here. We inoculated several logs with this fungus, but it hasn’t produced so far. One of our newly buried mushroom logs just started producing oyster mushrooms, which is interesting since we inoculated it with shiitake fungus. We’ll get it worked out one of these days.

Eastern Tent Catepillars

We’ve pulled a dozen or more of these eastern tent caterpillars off our fruit trees.  They’re around every year  mainly in the spring and they’re easy to spot once you know the kind of damage they do to the leaves.  They seem to prefer the apple trees, but I did find a few on peaches and plums as well.

I’m hoping they won’t be too big of an issue once the trees get larger and we plant more of them, for now hand-picking them is no problem.  We’re just squishing them and leaving them for the birds, but when we get poultry again we’ll turn them into eggs.


It’s not fun to cut down trees, for the trees or for us.  No one likes using a tool as noisy, smelly, and dangerous as a chainsaw, but this last month has been packed with tree felling and processing. We’re clearing out our construction sites for this year, and turning the trees into firewood, mushroom logs, and we’ll be milling some of the trunks into lumber.

We’re also culling some cedars, trimming them up, and peeling them for use as posts in the shed and strawbale duplex.  They’re rot resistant, beautiful, and plentiful here.

In exchange for harvesting some trees we’re taking on the responsibility of protecting the other trees on the property and providing for their survival.


Fundraiser Launched!

We’ve tapped out our savings and we still have a ways to go before we can make Maya Creek financially sustainable. We contemplated starting a Kickstarter campaign, but we wanted to avoid as many fees as possible. So like the resourceful people we are we’ve set up our own DIY kickstarter-style fundraising page.

There you can learn more about what we need the money for, and what’s in it for you, apart from the sense of well-being you’ll feel from helping a worthy project. We’ve also put together a short video as well.