Category Archives: Friends

Plaster party

2014 Call for Volunteers

Volunteers finish earthen floor base coatI am looking for volunteers to help on a number of different sustainability-related projects at Maya Creek for 2014.   I’d prefer volunteers to stay a minimum of 1 month, but I’ll consider volunteers for stays as short as 2 weeks. Volunteers staying longer will be given opportunities for more complicated work as well as preference on housing.

The work season starts at the beginning of April and runs through the end of October.  All volunteers will be provided room and board in exchange for 20 hours of work per week.

Canned garden produceGarden Help

I am looking for volunteers to help with the garden, food forest, medicinal and wild plant identification and harvesting, and food preservation.  This will involve weeding, watering, making compost, pest management, research, harvesting, canning, dehydrating, and fermentation. There may also be an opportunity to build an herb spiral for a volunteer staying a month or more.

Volunteers applying earthen plasterConstruction Help

The other main area of help will be on natural building projects, such as mixing and applying earthen plaster, helping construct the rainwater cistern, root cellar, and rocket stoves. Artistically minded volunteers may be encouraged to get creative with the finish coats of plaster, frescoes can be added with a little lime, and shelves and other sculptures can be incorporated as well.

Workload

You will be expected to put in 20 hours per week, weather permitting.  Cooking and doing dishes from communal meals count towards this.  There is a work log where everyone enters a general description of what we did each day and roughly how long we spent on it.   It will serve as a chronicle of Maya Creek and is useful for future planning, but it also lets you know if you need to find more to do or you can chill out and spend the day down at the lake or the river.

We will attempt to do most of our work during weekdays and keep the weekends free, but sometimes circumstances demand we work on the weekend, ie workshops,  weather, etc.

Strawbale duplexAccommodations

One side of the strawbale duplex with loft or a small 80 square foot strawbale cabin.  Both come furnished with full size beds, night stand, dresser, etc.  Each place is livable, but not totally complete.  If you would like to spend some of your work hours working on making your quarters nicer that would be more than acceptable.

The first construction project next Spring will be setting up the indoor solar shower system, but until it is working rainwater can be heated up on the stove and you simply pour it over yourself with a cup.  There is a composting sawdust toilet outhouse in the campground.

Meals

We will rotate through cooking duties.  After dinner each night we’ll discuss plans for the next day as well as who will be in charge of the various meals and dishes.  Often breakfast and sometimes lunch may be on your own, but there will be plenty of food to choose from.  Everyone is in charge of washing their own plate, glass, and utensils.  Pots, pans, utensils and other equipment used for preparing common meals will be done after dinner by whoever’s turn it is that day and put away by whoever has the first meal shift of the next day.  All reasonable grocery requests will be filled, don’t expect filet mignon or other junk food, at least on a regular basis.

Transportation

I would like to find volunteers who have their own vehicle.  There will certainly be local events and chores that we will carpool for, but you’ll inevitably want to take your own excursions, as will I.  This is in now way an absolute requirement.

How to Apply

To apply please fill out the Volunteer Questionnaire. If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me.

Unglamorous Accomplishments

It’s been almost 5 months since my last blog entry.  Summing up so many months to a length that won’t drown you is the challenge now.  The reoccurring themes of this past summer seem to have been maintenance, preserving gains, and most recently, new friendships.

Tarped shed

I suppose the lack of blog posts has something to do with the unglamorous nature of maintenance work.  For instance, I did quite a lot of work on my car this year, but it’s not something that particularly lends itself to Maya Creek’s mission or the audience.  Still, vehicle repair is an act of self-reliance and I learned a lot about car repair.

Other unphotogenic progress was made in the shed. I laid billboard tarps around the outside of the shed, which Sydney covered with gravel.  That, along with the french drain I installed on the uphill side have stopped all water from seeping into the root cellar.

I also tightly wrapped the shed in two layers of billboard tarp as a temporary moisture barrier for all of the tools and materials inside of it.  That allowed Sydney and myself to build shelving and I began the unenviable task of organizing the mountain of odds and ends that have accumulated, and which is still far from being sorted.

Duplex with half a 2nd coat of exterior plasterWith some help I also put a sturdy temporary cap over the cistern pit that was slowly collapsing in on itself thanks to several feet of water in it.  I’ve since pumped it out and after several months it is now relatively dry and I should be able to start work on it early next year.

A second coat of earthen plaster made its way onto the first floor of the side of the duplex that didn’t have it yet, as well as the exterior on most of the other half.  There will be a lot of plastering to do next year, but by the end of it the common house should be ready for the finishing touches: interior shelving, counters, sinks, etc.  I certainly won’t miss all of the dust on everything!

Mom, Gary, Me new gateSydney and I felled a couple of large cedar trees that blocked a significant amount of sunlight on the solar panels.  We trimmed them up and peeled them, then a group of visiting AmeriCorps volunteers helped me haul them down to the end of the driveway where I’d dug two large holes for them.  A couple weeks later my mom and stepdad helped me raise and set the posts and attach a gate.  Eventually I’ll put a wooden cross piece attaching the posts with “Maya Creek” on it.

Screen doorEarly in the summer I took off the back door of the common house, added a dog/cat door, changed the side it opens on, and modified the door so I could put a regular door knob on it.  Now I can lock all of the buildings as well as lock the gate at the front.  So there were some major security improvements this year.

I built a custom screen door for the common house earlier in the summer which was great for opening up the place to cool it down at night without letting all of the bugs in.  Eventually the back porch will get screened in and we can leave the back door open too and get some cross ventilation.

paw-paw-harvest-taoIt was a good year for mushrooms.  We found several large patches of chanterelles, a number of oyster mushrooms, and few medicinal jelly ears late in the summer.  I’ve since found some lion’s mane, resinous polypore, and velvet foot mushrooms that have been quite tasty.  I also turned an excellent wild harvest of paws paws into some mead and wine, which is getting close to being ready now.

Sydney left at the end of September and a little while before she left I began to connect with more people in Columbia.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve met so many fun and interesting new people in such a short amount of time.  I hosted my first Taco Tuesday potluck-type event about a month ago, unfortunately by the time most people got here it was too late for a tour.  I’m excited and energized about becoming a part of the community and all the fun, collaboration, and mutual support it brings.

My Summer at Maya Creek

*Written by Sydney

My summer at Maya Creek is drawing to a close. The past three months have been an amazing opportunity to do things hands-on, experiment, and explore. I have had fun attempting a wide range of tasks at Maya Creek, and (of course) have had a similarly wide range of outcomes. Some projects have definitely turned out better than others.

Peeling a cedar trunk for a postOne of the more interesting projects I attempted was to tan a deer hide and then use the hide to make moccasins. I had this over-the-top vision of walking around in really cute moccasins, and when someone would ask me where I got them, I would casually say, “Oh, these? I just threw them together after curing and tanning the hide.” One of the early steps involved soaking the hide in a solution of wood ash to make the fur and outer layer of skin easier to scrape off. However, after soaking the hide for the allotted time, I found that not all of the hide was properly drenched and some of the fur wouldn’t come off. Even worse, some sections were overly-soaked, and those parts of the hide would basically disintegrate into a disgusting mush when touched. At this point, the hide was ruined. Tao had tried tanning a hide earlier, and had gotten similar results, making me think that the book that we both followed recommended using a solution that was much too strong. So, the super cute moccasins were not to be.

Another thing I have attempted, with much better results, was building a large shelf for the shed. Currently the shed is a huge jumble of different items, and as Tao isn’t sure where he wants to put everything, there is not a lot I can do to help. However, this shelf should help organize some of the smaller building supplies and tools. It was my first large construction project (its bigger than I am!) and I am pretty pleased with how it came out. It’s not perfect, but it should do the job.

Canned garden produceI have also been doing a tremendous amount of canning. Almost anything that the garden produces in a large enough quantity I have canned, and the canned produce should be a nice alternative to dried foods in the winter. So far, I’ve canned potatoes, tomatoes, tomato sauce, soy beans, green beans, and carrots. While I have been really careful to follow the directions exactly to avoid improper sealing or improper sterilization, the overall process is not too difficult.

The time I spend in the garden is particularly rewarding. While I arrived too late to do much of the early plantings, I have watered, weeded, and tended those plants throughout the summer. Each day brings subtle changes to the garden, and it is a really good feeling to be able to notice them. The constant rotation of what crop needs to be harvested, what bugs are currently doing damage and need to be killed, and what needs to be weeded keeps things interesting. Looking at the garden now, in the middle of September, is a very different sight from when I came here in the middle of June. Of all the things I have done at Maya Creek, I think it is the evenings spent listening to music and puttering around in the garden that I have enjoyed most.

Wild chanterelle and oyster mushroom harvestDuring my stay here, I also had the opportunity to visit two intentional communities, and soon I hope to visit a third. At the end of July, two friends and I went to the Possibility Alliance for an afternoon. We got to participate in a Sunday morning Quaker Meeting and took a wonderful tour of the place. A month later, I had the chance to stay at the East Winds community for three amazing days. Both of these communities are proof of what great things can be accomplished when people work together to meet their needs. While the two communities were very different, they were united in their general goals of living simply off the land, sharing and cooperating with others, being mindful, and empowering people to live outside of systems of violence.

Similarly, while Maya Creek is not a full-blown community like the Possibility Alliance or East Winds, it too shares these main goals. Visiting the intentional communities helped me see the bigger picture of what motivates Maya Creek. After coming back from those visits, particularly after coming back from East Winds (probably because I stayed there longer), I felt a renewed dedication towards Maya Creek’s goals and general inspiration towards living life in a positive way.

Overall, Maya Creek has been a really cool place to spend a summer. The lack of running water has been difficult at times, and the limited number of people around means it can get isolating (I just spent 10 days without seeing another human being!). However, I think these downsides have stretched my comfort zone in a way that makes me a stronger person. The idea behind Maya Creek is so powerful, and is physically realized in such a beautiful way, that I will leave this place in awe as to what people can do if they really put their minds to it.

Balancing Autonomy and Community

Brian, John, and Dan

Despite getting 9″ of snow yesterday we’re already plowed out here at Maya Creek.   Dan and Brian graciously liberated us today when they came over and cleared off our driveway.

I have a fascination with being snowed in out here in the woods with plenty of food, water, and warmth.  I like the idea of putting this self-sufficient setup to the test.  Not to mention just being snug and nestled away in my den peacefully waiting for Spring.  Without the ability to leave, my world suddenly becomes much smaller and in some ways that simplification is comforting, assuming I don’t really want to leave in the first place.

However, the world seems to reach out and pull me back even faster than if I lived in the city.  Instead of days or even weeks spent alone in the woods, neighbors I haven’t seen in months stop by to make sure I’m keeping warm and offer to plow the driveway.  I gratefully accept their offer and I’m reminded of how important it is to be a part of a community at large.

The toughest part of living in a community is balancing the needs of independence with the need to feel connected to each other and share in something larger than ourselves.  The balance that’s right for one person is often not the same for another, and so the boundaries become compromises.  The larger the difference in preferred balances, the harder the compromises are to make.  The compromises can certainly be made more likely to succeed with increased mindfulness, openness, and skill.

Anyone can attest to these challenges that has ever moved in with a friend only to find that even though you love them, that living so closely with them is not the best way for your friendship to work.  So it’s with a heavy heart that I tell you that I’ve disbanded our burgeoning community of permanent residents here at Maya Creek.  Jesse will be moving out within a few weeks, and John will follow suit later this year.  We are not parting on bad terms, and our friendships I hope will be better for it in the long run.

As for the future of Maya Creek, I intend to continue pursuing a healthy, self-sufficient, and sustainably-minded lifestyle here, but rather than building a permanent community on the immediate property I would like to see it become a temporary retreat for those needing to take a break from mainstream society’s onslaught of consumer-driven wage slavery and gain some perspective by connecting more directly with their real needs and the natural world.  I would very much like to see this place become a venue for workshops, skillshares,  potlucks, meditation and organizational retreats, and other events that are in-line with the goals of improving ourselves, connecting with each other, and integrating with the natural world.

Common house after thunder snow storm.

The main difference now is that I’ve recognized my need to have a certain level of control over my home, as I’m sure both Jesse and John can relate to.  Visitors are still invited to come stay and participate in life and projects here at Maya Creek, but any visit will have a beginning and an end.

I still want to be a part of a community, but I’ve recognized that I need a level of separation between myself and the community that’s physically impossible here right now.  I believe my ideal community is relatively autonomous with people sharing meals a couple times a week, coordinating on issues that affect everyone involved, lifting each other up in times of need, and sharing certain tools and resources that make sense for large groups of people but not individuals.

In some ways the local community that already exists here in the surrounding area could meet many of those needs for me and I hope to connect more deeply with it in the future.  The influx of visitors and helpers drawn to Maya Creek will certainly have its own transient communal culture and will help connect me as well as the local community to the larger global community.  I also hope that Maya Creek can act as a beacon for people seeking a similar situation and perhaps draws in some new like-minded neighbors as well.

So that’s the latest update.  There’s been some hard lessons and big changes here, but I’m optimistic about the future and in many ways relieved at how events have unfolded.

Counter-Camping Frisbee Fun

The Yard

What a wonderful Memorial weekend it was.  While the typical American was camping, boating, floating, and/or backyard BBQing, We decided to sneak into the mainstream for a day of icy cold drinks, running water, air conditioning and  television.  A friend of ours was out of town for the weekend, so we “camped” at his place for Memorial Day.

The weatherman said it would rain that day, but the clouds parted especially for our retreat.  The sun shined so bright that I’m still feeling it!  The day began early in the morning setting up the outdoor kitchen, Frisbee golf baskets, and determining the Ultimate Frisbee zones and hazards.  There were random games of  Frisbee Golf and Ultimate separated by good food and meditation.  Some went inside the to absorb the air conditioning and Lord Of the Rings, some sat to relax by the lake.

Memorial Day 2012 Tony and the bounty.

Janice, Tony, and I went fishing.   It started a little slow at first, until Tony brought out some magical plastic worms that the fish seemed to crave.  We only kept a fraction of the fish we caught, but it was just enough for dinner.   Janice caught the  biggest bass of the day and Bobbie cooked them all to perfection.   The mood was playful and relaxed.  Our bellies were full.  Some of us were even napping.    What a great day.

Zones and Hazards...not the best place for Ultimate

Paul suggested we have another Ultimate Frisbee game.  The competitive spirit began flowing again…I could feel it.  The sun was down, everyone cooled off and rested. This was going to be an epic game, I imagined.  The game was indeed epic, a shutout even.  The rematch was turning out to be more of the same merciless torture.  Suddenly I smashed my thigh into a tree stump hazard.  I wanted to ugly cry, it hurt so bad.  I was out for the game and the rest of the week as it turned out.   Our team was now outnumbered, and minutes later we had another injury.   Tao twisted his knee keeping him out for the game as well.  We were riddled with bad karma.  It wasn’t looking good for Paul either.  He was our last man standing facing a determined team of three.  Luckily, Janice mercifully volunteered to change teams.  She certainly picked up the slack from Tao and I.   It was another epic win!

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.