Monthly Archives: July 2012

June 2012 Newsletter

It was a very hot, dry, yet productive June.  Many people have asked about us during the recent heat wave and we appreciate your concern.  I can almost guarantee we fared far better than those who lost power and cooling by default.  We worked during the cool mornings and by around noon it was too hot for that, and we’d retreat to the common house or the lake or creek for a dip.

The temperatures in the common house hovered around 80, although if we hadn’t been leaving the doors open to dry the slip straw interior walls it may have been more comfortable.   John’s cabin topped out at 75, while our highs hit 107 on a couple of occasions. The fan seems to really be necessary to get the benefits of the coolness of the house, otherwise it can get quite muggy.  You heat up the air around you and sit in a hot pocket of air otherwise.

Framed Up

Many of you may have seen our progress through our posts in our facebook group, but we’ve made significant progress on the shed and duplex.  We rented an auger and drilled the holes for all of the cedar posts we harvested this spring.  Digging holes especially 2′ deep holes is really hard difficult work.  The auger knocked out probably a week or more of extremely hard labor in less than 24 hours.

We used a lot of the lumber we salvaged from the old neighbor’s house, but still ended up spending about $1k on lumber for both projects.  It’s amazing how quickly the structures went from nothing to a whole skeleton.  There’s still an enormous amount of work left on both structures, but it’s nice to be able to see the outline.

The next step on the shed is to finish putting in a few posts and then it’s on to the root cellar, which still has some digging left to do before plastering and putting in the roof and stairs.

We’re working on getting the foundation insulation/drainage trench dug and then putting in the gravel bag stem wall so that we can be putting in earthen floor for our natural building workshop on July 21.

We got the bales for the duplex delivered, but we won’t put them in until the base layer of earthen floor finishes drying.  It’s about $2/bale if you pick the bales out of the field, but we missed our window this year because of the early spring.  Last year we pulled bales on the weekend of July 4th, but when we started looking around all of the bales had already been pulled out of the fields.  We found a farmer willing to deliver for $3/bale so we went with that.  Next time we’ll keep an eye out earlier in the year, or find someone to let us know when they’re ready for us to pick them up.

 Workshops Rescheduled

The primitive skills workshop was a smashing success.  I wouldn’t have believed that someone could light a friction fire on their first attempt, but several people were able to do it.  The next time someone asks for a light I’ll make sure to have a couple of sticks handy.  Ok, maybe not, but it would certainly be impressive.

The flint knapping demonstration was well done and the wood-working section was interesting.  I was especially impressed with everyone’s proficiency with an at’latl after just a few tries.  It took me quite a few  attempts my first time to get it to even move in the right direction.

We had to reschedule/cancel a couple of workshops this month.  Our June 30 natural building workshop is now on July 21, we simply didn’t have the duplex to the right stage to do what he had planned for the earthen floor.  We cancelled the trail building workshop and will just have the trail building workshop we already had scheduled for October 13.

If you’re interested in attending any of our workshops please fill out the form on our website here, or if you’re in our facebook group you can just add yourself to the event.

Garden Struggles

It’s been a tough year for the garden weather-wise.  We started with too much rain, then late frosts, then 2 months of drought, extreme temperatures, and now plagues of insects.  We started getting quite a bit of summer squash and zucchini out of the garden around the first week of June, the heat seemed to take a toll on the flowers.  We got our first ripe tomato on June 28, but tomatoes need a certain temperature range to ripen and they’ve mostly been sitting green on the vine.  We’re getting some peppers now as well, and the melons are just about to ripen.

Squash bugs have continued to be a nuisance, my new strategy involves the soap spray, which I spray on the ground around the squash, which drives the adults up and can then easily be picked off.  The juveniles just need to be sprayed.  I know we’re not getting all of them because of the number of egg clusters we continue to find, but it seems to be keeping them mostly at bay as long as we’re persistent.

On a downside we got invaded by thousands of blister beetles a couple days ago and they’ve been moving around to different parts of the garden every day.  I’ve picked off 500 or more by hand and thrown them in a bucket of soapy water.  The soapy spray doesn’t kill them, but it seems to deter them from eating that particular plant.  They disappeared altogether this evening, but I’m not convinced they’re really gone.

Another nuisance are the cucumber beetles, whose population has recently exploded.  I’m going to try some simple organic controls like spreading wood ash around, spraying them with hot peppers, garlic, and maybe making some sticky traps.