Category Archives: Waste

May 2012 Newsletter

This past month we transitioned from clearing out and processing trees to actually breaking ground on our major projects.  Just today we finished up grading the foundation for the straw bale duplex.  Yesterday, we had the excavator dig out as much of the root cellar as he was able to and then graded the shed/workshop site.  That’s been the major hold up on our projects, and with that completed we’ll be splitting up somewhat and focusing on specific projects.

John and Tony are working on the shed/workshop/root cellar, and recently refined their roof plans.  They’ve already built a few roof trusses and we received the lumber to do the rest of them yesterday.  The root cellar is going to need quite a bit more digging, but they may wait until they get the shed roof up to do that.

Jesse is tasked with the duplex, although I’ll be helping him with the planning.  Now that the foundation is graded we’ll start in on building the timberframe.  Once it’s protected with the basic frame and roof we’ll start on the rubble trench, stem wall, and then the earthen floor.

I’ll be heading up the work on the common house and the rainwater catchment system and cistern.  Over the last several weeks we’ve put in a little less than half of the interior walls using rammed straw lightly coated with clay.  Because the forms won’t fit over things like light switches, outlets, and plumbing that sticks out of the wall we’re using cob to fill in around those spots.  We’re also using cob at the top of the walls since there’s no space to ram the straw down if you put the forms all the way to the top.  So far it seems to be working well.

We’re reclaiming some broken chunks of concrete (AKA urbanite) from an old patio that was being ripped out.  We’ll use that for the retaining wall on the cistern and whatever is left over we’ll use in the stem wall in the duplex.

We’ve also done some work on John’s cabin.  We’ve cobbed in the open areas in the roof except for a spot in the back where he’s putting in a flue for a small rocket stove.  We’ve also put the first coat of earthen plaster on the roof bales and started on the second coat of plaster, or infill coat, on the lower part of the cabin.

Clay is a hugely fundamental part of our building methods here, and so any innovation in our sifting technique that speeds it up or makes it easier help greatly.  We’ve begun layering the different sifting screens and placing wheelbarrows underneath them.  This means less bending and shoveling, and has increased our sifting rate by probably 33% or so.


I applaud the people who bravely attended the humanure workshop.  It went well and we’ll post the video from the workshop when we have time to edit it together.  The next workshop will be the Primitive Skills Primer on June 16 taught by Justin McClain.


So far all we’ve harvested from the garden has been lettuce and peas, although that should be changing in the near future.  Our squash plants have taken off and the tomatoes and potatoes are not far behind.  With the help of  Bobbie and Janis we’ve managed to stay on top of the weeds this year.  Also, we’ve discovered that s spray of just water and a small amount of Dr. Bronner’s soap will kill squash bugs.  It looks to be an epic year for squash, and with the dehydrator cooking away we should be able to preserve huge amounts of it when the time comes.

Unfortunately for the garden we haven’t gotten much rain in the last month, although that has certainly helped with our construction plans.  We’ve been watering sporadically the few plants that need it from our rainwater barrels by the solar shower, but unless the drought breaks soon we may be forced to truck in some city water.


We’ve raised $4,700 towards our fundraising goal of $8,000!  Thank you to everyone who has contributed!


We’ve got more pictures posted in our photo gallery for those who are interested.



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.

Workshops Posted

Update: The date for the Primitive Skills Primer is actually June 16, NOT June 19.

We’ve finally settled on the workshops and the dates that we’ll be holding them this year.  We chose these based on how much experience and success we’d had with each of these topics.

All of the workshops are free, but we do ask that you register ahead of time so we know how many people are coming.  We doubt that we will have too many, but you never know.

We’ll be hanging flyers around the area, specifically in Columbia.  Although if anyone wants to print some out and hang them around their areas we can either give you some or you can print your own from this pdf.

Looking forward to seeing some of you there!


Rainwater Hand Washing Station

I finished up the rainwater hand washing station that’s attached to the composting toilet.  I put up a gutter covered with windows screen to keep debris out a several weeks ago, and John built the bucket/soap platform.

Today I added the downspout and secured a piece of window screen over the top of the bucket as a secondary filter and to keep mosquitoes out.  I drilled a bunch of tiny holes in the back side of the bucket near the top in order to keep the max level of the water lower than the window screen, otherwise mosquitoes could still lay eggs in the water.

I also added a little carabiner to hold a hand towel that Jesse put down there.   That water can be pretty cold, so drying your hands helps a lot.  There’s nothing but a couple inches of mulch catching the water.  If it becomes an issue we may dig a small french drain.