• Maya Creek is currently not taking volunteers, giving tours, or accepting members.

Welcome

UPDATE 11/7/2017: I am currently not living at Maya Creek, and it has been put on a back-burner. I started a family and have moved into nearby Columbia, MO. I hope to return to continue work on the project once my son is a little older and I have the time and resources to put into it.


My name is Tao Weilundemo, and in 2009 I moved back to the 310 acres of wild forested mid-Missouri land where I’d been born. I’d grown increasingly disillusioned with mainstream culture and felt that by dedicating myself to a more self-sufficient lifestyle, in tune with the natural world, I could find the satisfaction and happiness that eluded me in the pervasive consumer culture.

The experience has been all that I had hoped for and more. It has been a lot of hard work and there have been plenty of struggles and setbacks, but they’ve allowed me to grow and become a wiser and more capable person. I’ve decided to turn Maya Creek into a sustainable bed and breakfast to share the experience with others.  I hope to give people a taste of what a sustainable life can be like and inspire them to take their lives into their own hands and make it what they want it to be.

AuxvasseThanks to the help of volunteers and friends I now have significant infrastructure in place, but I still have several years of construction before Maya Creek will be ready to open for paying guests.

I plan to host a variety of instructors and hold multi-day educational courses and retreats. Eventually, I will also build several more guest cabins using different natural and indigenous building styles other than the load-bearing and timber-frame straw bale styles I have now.

Below you’ll find my most recent blog posts.  The site is structured so that the folder tabs are the main categories and the colored tabs are the sub-pages.  To learn more about who I am and the vision for Maya Creek just click on the red tab above.

I post many pictures and small updates on the facebook group, Maya Creek Forum.



Right as Rain

Posted by Tao on January 26, 2014

Hawai'iLife at Maya Creek has developed a seasonal rhythm and each has its pros and cons.  Despite the cold weather, winter has its perks.  It’s my vacation time, and I was lucky enough to miss out on the polar vortex during a month long trip to Hawai’i.  Also, since I work from home I don’t have to leave the warmth of the cabin very often as I would if I had to make a treacherous drive to work on a daily basis.  Cabin fever can become an issue, but I have good company and make a point to venture out for socializing regularly.

When winter first arrives I’m excited to take a break from all of the projects, but after just a month or two I start itching to get my game plan together for the coming year.  When your projects directly improve your quality of life there’s a lot of incentive to figure out good solutions that will improve your life the most quickly.  It’s been at the top of my list for awhile, but this year I’m finally going to tackle the water system.  That’s right, after 5 years I will finally have indoor hot showers on demand that don’t involve pots of hot water and a cup!

I’ve had a general idea of how I was going to do the water system, but after a lot of research and brain-storming I think I have a pretty good idea of how I’m going to deal with several of the problems I’d been mulling over.  I’d like to share what I’ve got planned so far.

I’ll be catching rainwater instead of digging a well.  There are a couple reasons for this.  Wells are expensive to dig and can cost ~$8,000 in this area.  Because of over-pumping for agriculture water tables are dropping world wide, so deeper and deeper wells are required with more powerful pumps needed to pump the water.  An old woman who lived at Maya Creek as a child recalled a spring on the property, which no longer exists because of the lower water tables.  Another reason for not wanting to use well water as the main water source is that well water in this area contain high levels of sulphur which is difficult to remove, can gunk up plumbing, and generally just stinks.

rainwater system

I will be catching rainwater off the 1,300 square foot galvanized steel roof.  Some people worry about increased levels of zinc from galvanized roofs, but according to this testing report on different roofing materials for rainwater collection, the elevated levels of zinc only occur in the first water off the roof in a rain event.  Because there is also a large amount of dust, bird poop, etc in the first water off the roof I will be using a roof flusher to divert the first 15 gallons(10 gallons/1,000 sq. ft. of roof). The gutters will have screens over them to prevent leaves and other large debris from getting into the system.  The downspouts will also have screens to filter out debris before directing the water through the 500 micron gravity water filter and finally into the underground cistern.

The cistern has to be underground to prevent it from freezing.  It will hold ~3,500 gallons of water.  We get about 46″ of rain per year on average, but very rarely do we get less than 25″ which is what I’ll use to show how much water can be caught.  For every inch of rainfall on a square foot of roof you catch .6 gallons of water.  So 1,360 sq. ft. of roof times 30″ of rain times .6 gallons would give 20,400 gallons of water per year as a minimum.  If we got  46″ it would be 37,536 gallons.

The next question is how much water is needed.  Based on my best estimates we’ve only been using a little over 3,000 gallons per year, of course I expect that to go up with longer showers and laundry(praise be!), so let’s say we end up using 10,000 gallons.  Given that an average 4-person American home with consumes 150,000 gallons per year.  One of the major reasons we use so much less water is because we have composting toilets instead of flush toilets.

Luckily our rainfall is pretty evenly distributed throughout the year, but given the 3,500 gallon storage space of the cistern we should be able to handle an inconceivably long 4-month drought at average consumption levels, but I’m sure we would adjust consumption accordingly in such a situation.

4bricks_fullThe hole for the cistern is already dug, though it needs to be significantly cleaned up.  Once it’s cleaned out, I’ll our a concrete floor, build the walls out of cinder blocks filled with rebar and concrete, and then build a wooden frame for the rebar reinforced concrete roof cap.  There will also be a 2′ wide x 2′ deep urbanite(reclaimed concrete chunk) wall mortared around the top of the cistern to protect it from cracking due to frost heave.  The frost depth in the area is about 20″.  The interior of the cistern will be coated with cement meant for holding potable water and will prevent the cistern from leaking.  I was lucky enough to find someone who had built a similar cistern though his is mostly above ground, and I will be pouring a concrete roof cap to avoid issues with the wood rotting.

From there a sump pump will pump the water into two 55 gallon barrels in the loft area of the common house, one for cold water and an insulated one for the hot water.  The water pressure in the house will come simply from gravity, which means it will have only a few PSI of pressure.  I have a shower head designed for the very low PSI, but the low PSI will help reduce water usage in general.

floatswitchBecause I won’t want to pump cold water from the cistern into the hot water tank in the middle of the day which would cool it down before it gets used I will put the sump pump on a timer and turn it on late at night.  The pump will pump water into the bottom of the cold water tank and an overflow from the cold water tank will take the warmest water from that tank and put it into the bottom of the hot water tank to preserve as much of the heat as possible.

In order to turn the pump off when the indoor tanks are full there will be a float switch at the top of the hot water tank which will control the electrical outlet that the pump is plugged into and turn it off once the hot water tank is full.  There will also be an overflow redirected to a drain in case the switch fails for some reason.

two_solar_hot-water_systems-1The hot water will be heated by a simple home-built hot water collector using the thermosiphon phenomenon to circulate the water rather than using a pump.  The idea is that hot water rises, so by placing the collector beneath the storage tank cold water is drawn into the panel from the bottom of the tank and the heated water from the panel rises up from the panel and into the top of the tank.

The collector will be set up so that if another panel is needed they can be easily set up next to each other.  It’s important that pipes are always sloping at least slightly upwards to prevent bubbles from forming and messing up the thermosiphon effect.

I will also be wrapping copper tubing around the rocket stove to heat water in the winter since I will likely have to stop using the solar collector in the winter to prevent water from freezing in it.  However, I’m planning on putting the collector inside of the greenhouse that will be attached to the front of the house to help prevent that and extend its usable season.

I’d been operating under the idea that I needed to finish the rainwater collection system and cistern before getting the solar hot water system working, but it occurred to me that I could actually set up the interior water tanks and hot water system first and simply pump the water in from the barrels of city water I’ve been trucking in.  That way we can go ahead and have hot showers and running sink water months sooner than I’d been planning.

 

 

 


2012 Recap Part 1: Spring

Posted by Tao on December 5, 2013

2014 Call for Volunteers

Posted by Tao on November 20, 2013

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

Posted by Tao on November 13, 2013

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

Posted by Tao on September 19, 2013

*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.


Adventures in Homesteading

Posted by Tao on June 16, 2013

Cattle panel tomato supports with Sydney and KitaMy summer-long volunteer, Syndey, arrived last week.  She’s a Wisconsin native who has just finished an engineering degree in California.  She’ll mainly be focusing on the food situation, maintaining the garden, harvesting and preserving food, etc.  We’ve already spent a good amount of time familiarizing her with the garden, the plants, the pests, and the tasks to keep it on track.

Garden Observations

We just put up a few cattle panels with t-stakes to act as tomato supports.  So far I’ve tried tomato cages and last year I used t-stakes with rope tied between them as supports, but I can already tell that the cattle panels are going to be my favorite so far.  They are far more stable than the other two styles, and I think the clean up at the end of the year should be fairly minimal.

The squash bugs made their first appearance several days ago and we’ve been religiously checking for eggs and adults.  I think we caught it early and it seems to be under control.  I pulled off the straw mulch on the squash beds, so they’ll need to be watered more, but taking away the squash bug shelter is more important.  I’ve laid down some boards and pieces of granite in between the plants so we can flip them over in the morning and kill the adults that shelter there.  Another trick we’ve started doing is using duct tape to pull the eggs off rather than just pulling the section of the leaf off altogether.  It works reasonably well.Peaches ripening

A lot of things in the garden are doing well.  There’re loads of peaches on the trees, and there’s even  a handful of pears and apples ripening.  The blueberries are growing ever so slowly, but the gooseberries are loaded down and the thornless blackberries are finding their stride as well.  The potatoes are looking phenomenal, and most of the other annual vegetables seem to be kicking into high gear.

The goumi berry harvest has been completed.  This morning Sydney, Molly, and I got almost a gallon of berries off one bush.  I’d already picked the small goumi plant clean for fresh eating over the last couple weeks since it ripened first.  We made juice and fruit leather out of it.  I’ll be posting a step-by-step guide on how we did it since there wasn’t a whole lot of useful information, especially on how to separate the seed from the pulp.

I’m noticing that the birds are leaving the berries in the garden alone this year. I’m not sure if that’s because the glut of rain has made earthworms and other sources of food more accessible or if the looping mp3 of predator sounds is discouraging them from staying out in the open. There certainly seems to be fewer birds hanging around the garden. It’s probably some mix of the two.  I’ll post the MP3 of sounds I’ve made in the future when I’ve perfected it.

Rain Diversions

We had a week of very heavy rain since I last reported on the root cellar in the shed leaking and alas, significant amounts of water seeped in again.  I’ve finished half of a french drain on the uphill side of the shed, and I should finish the other half later this week.  I also put a rain diversion swale in the driveway to redirect water away from the shed as well as laying down some more tarps around the shed. We got .75″ of rain last night and so far nothing in the root cellar.

Eastern Hog Nose

Eastern hog nose snake,  aka "Puff Adder"

John came across a previously unseen species of snake out here recently.  It was right outside his cabin and scared him pretty good as it was an eastern hog nose snake, aka “spreading adder” or “puff adder” as it puffs out it’s neck like a cobra and hisses loudly. It’s not poisonous and will even play dead to avoid predators, but it’s certainly nothing I’d like to mess around with.

Carpenter Bees

I’ve also had the first serious run-in with carpenter bees. They started digging holes in the earthen plaster near the top of the gable wall on the common house. They’re typically good pollinators to have around, but I don’t want them digging holes in the walls so I’ve sprayed them with a pesticide which I loath using but don’t have a suitable recourse at this time.

I’m hopeful that once the finish coat of plaster goes on it will discourage them because it should be significantly smoother and harder. I’ve got my fingers crossed otherwise I’ll have to figure something else out.

Feist perched on the lip of a rain barrel

Balancing Act

I was on the phone making plans to visit my friend Daniel in Hawaii over the winter.  He just surfaced from a 7 month tour on a submarine, and we’re planning on doing some sailing around the islands there when I come for a month in December.  Anyway, I looked up and I saw Feist perched on the side of a rain barrel having a drink.  The lip has to be half an inch wide at most.  She sat there for a good 15-20 seconds after I noticed.

Pretty impressive.

 

 


Addressing Problems

Posted by Tao on May 22, 2013

I haven’t started on any major construction projects this year, but I have been spending a lot of time in the garden, doing some Spring cleaning, and addressing some other issues.  I’ll start of with the thing that spurred this post.  Today is the first day for pre-ordering internet service on the new fiber optic grid that’s been laid down in the area.  It was absurd watching them run fiber optic cable down the gravel road in front of Maya Creek.  City water doesn’t even come down this far, yet we’ll now have ridiculously fast internet.

New mailbox

Many of you know the issues I ran into when I tried to get an address for Maya Creek.  I’d essentially given up and settled into the PO box routine.  However, the fiber optic people saw fit to install a connection box at the end of the drive way and when I called them a couple months ago they said that they could still hook me up even without an address.  When I called today I got a different story and was momentarily crushed.  Then I was able to get in touch with the guy who told me he could still hook me up.  He looked up the house on Google Earth and then went and looked at their contract with the city.  Apparently, the city gave me an address and didn’t bother telling me about it.

So, I went from no address and crappy internet service to 30 Mbps(when the grid goes live in mid-July) and an address.  I dusted off the old mailbox I bought back when I’d been told I was getting an address and went ahead and set it up out front using a leftover cedar post.  I feel like a bonified neighbor now.

Garden Trials

The garden has been doing wonderfully.  The fruit trees are covered in baby fruit, the asparagus had a good run, and everything is planted except for the future succession plantings of various veggies.

Slug trap works on pill bugs tooOne issue I’ve run into is that I didn’t start my peppers or tomatoes early enough and the seed starting mix I used was out of a bag that got donated to me and it was total crap.  When the plants started showing serious nitrogen deficiency I went ahead and stuck them in the ground, but being as small as they are I’ve already lost quite a few.

Something was eating the leaves off my peppers and I finally caught the culprits one night, sow bugs, hundreds and hundreds of sow bugs.   A couple of nights before I’d set out a beer trap because I thought slugs might be the culprit, but wow, that trap filled up with maybe 50-100 of the buggers.  So, I’d luckily stumbled upon a control.  It still didn’t seem to be totally stopping them though, so I’ve also been spraying with a soap/cayenne pepper/garlic spray to make the leaves taste bad to them which doesn’t seem to be effective so I’m going to stop that.

Aluminum can plant collarAnother technique I’m trying out because a couple of my tomato plants were getting chopped down right at the base of their stem is making little metal collars out of aluminum cans.  I didn’t think it was sow bugs doing that, but I’ve read accounts online that they do.  There are definitely less sow bugs on the plants with collars, but I’ve still lost a couple more tomato plants.

Every year is a battle with pests in an organic garden.  It does seem to come into balance more and more as time goes on, the pest population explodes and eventually the things that eat those pests have a population explosion of their own.

I believe I brought the sow bugs in with a bunch of manure, and now that they’ve finished eating the decaying material in the manure they’re turning their sights on the next closest source of nutrition.  I have no doubt that they’ll eventually become less of a problem.

Shedding Stuff

My next project is going to be going through and organizing the shed and putting up the permanent 2-ply tarp walls.  Going through all of the stuff is going to be quite the nightmare. I’ll have giant piles of stuff to donate, stuff to sell, stuff to trash/recycle, and then stuff to keep and organize.  Not fun.

The temporary tarps that got hung up have been ripped to shreds.  The new ones will be attached more securely.  I’m also going to bury some tarps around the outside of the structure because I was getting water seeping into the root cellar.  After hooking up the downspouts and redirecting the roof water away and then laying down some tarps on top of the ground around the shed the problem has stopped.

 

 


Catching up with myself

Posted by Tao on April 23, 2013

It was four years ago on April 15th that I landed at Maya Creek.  I was asked recently about my personal state of being now after this much time pouring my everything into my work here.  So this post will be a little different from my normal updates on projects, observations, and whatnot. I’ll post about more external affairs soon, but this is a personal audit of sorts.

I’ll start with the easiest aspect to describe, that of my physical condition.  I lost 15-20 pounds that first summer on the land, but gained back about 10 over the winter.  Since then the pattern has somewhat equalized so I gain 10-15 over winter and lose 10-15 over summer.  I spend about 2-3 weeks every spring being pretty sore as my body gets back into shape.

I haven’t noticed any permanent wear and tear on my body apart from the injury I got in October of 2011 when I cut my wrist badly.  My flexibility and strength has returned in the hand, but the nerve sensation is only slowly returning as is expected with that kind of injury.  I’ll probably never recover the sensation fully, but it should continue to return indefinitely.  It doesn’t hamper me for the vast majority of tasks.

All in all though, I eat better than I did, feel better, and at any given time I’m in some of the best shape of my life.  As a side note, I’ve noticed that I have a much broader comfort range than I had before when it comes to things like temperature, pain, cleanliness, bug bites, etc.

The first couple of years on the land I only had a couple people helping me, if any at all. I was so eager to see my dreams come to fruition that I worked hard day in and day out.  I started to wear down and so took in some friends and more volunteers to help out, but instead of keeping my goals small I expanded them and ultimately made more work for myself and felt less able to regulate my work schedule around my own personal energy levels.  On top of the larger project scope there was significant amounts of energy going into managing volunteers and even just maintaining relationships of all kinds to the point that I began to seriously burn out.

This year I’m scaling my volunteer help back to what it was the first couple of years and am taking my time; working on things when I feel like it, and taking time to relax and recharge when I need it.  As the zen story goes, “When hungry, eat.  When tired, sleep.”  I already feel like I have significantly more control over my life and I’m finding a pace that I can keep for the long haul.

It’s been VERY easy to bite of more than I can chew and then spend large amounts of time stressing about getting everything I’ve started to  a satisfactory conclusion.  It’s also been VERY easy to get overwhelmed when I start to break down the bigger picture into all of the steps.  My vision for the future has changed so drastically that having more than a rough outline for the future is almost waste of time in it’s own right.  Setting realistic goals in a general direction and focusing on taking things a step at a time is certainly the path to maintain sanity.  It may sound obvious, but it’s been easier said than done thus far though I’m certainly taking it to heart now.

I’ve become better at recognizing when an emotion has arisen in me and examining it for what it is rather than letting it control my thoughts and actions.  I still have a long way to go in this regard, and regularly say things or behave in ways that don’t reflect the person I want to be and who I know is still buried within me.  Yet, that person comes closer to the surface as time goes on and any progress in that direction is welcome.

The word “spirituality” brings to mind new age ideas, which don’t appeal to me.  Still, the more intimately I entwine my life with the natural world the closer I feel to something sacred.  I often feel like a child while closely examining insects, reptiles, birds, mushrooms, plants, or watching the interactions between any number of participants in this natural web of life.  It’s awe-inspiring and a large reason for slowing my construction pace down is so that I can spend more time connecting with it.  It makes me feel more alive.

Altogether, I’m happy and optimistic.  The enjoyment and satisfaction I get from completing even small tasks and projects keep me motivated and excited to continue my journey.  There are certainly pitfalls to this lifestyle, and I’ve skirted dangerously close to their edges at times.  I now have the sense that I’ve found stable footing and though there’s still some rough patches ahead I feel well-equipped to handle them while still appreciating the view.


Help Wanted

Posted by Tao on March 25, 2013

UPDATE: I’ve found someone for this position.  Thank you for those who applied, inquired, or spread the word!


I’m taking it slow this year, but it’s still much easier and more fun to get things done with at least one other pair of hands.  I can offer room, board, a small stipend, hands-on experience with organic gardening, permaculture, and construction, a beautiful piece of woodland to explore, a pond to swim in, a relaxed atmosphere, and some good company in exchange for your assistance on different projects and chores around Maya Creek.

Description

The work includes help with planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, and preserving the 3,000 sq. ft. organic no-till garden.  The critical project that needs to get done this year is to finish the 3,500 gallon concrete rainwater cistern.  The hole has been dug, though it will need some more shaping. There may also be some work done on the shed and various other projects.

Other tasks will include things like helping to load/unload manure to build compost piles,  general clean up, watering/harvesting shiitake mushroom logs, and taking care of the dog and cat if I’m away.  We will either share or take turns cooking and doing dishes.

Having cooking experience is a plus, though I don’t mind teaching what I know.  You will need to be in moderately good physical shape, ie able to lift 50lbs.  Based on my goals for the year I expect we’ll have a leisurely work pace, but if you find yourself tired or feel overworked I expect you to tell me and we’ll slow things down.  I prefer a non-smoker and that you not be in the habit of abusing other substances.

Workload

I’m looking for someone who can start in May and who can stay for at least 4 months, although you’re welcome to stay on up through October. I expect that we’ll be putting in around 30 hours of work most weeks, though I’m including things like cooking, dishes, laundry in that estimate as well as the gardening/construction work.

I’ll be gone for a week here and there during your stay, in which case I only ask that while I’m gone you do general maintenance ie, take care of the dog and cat, take out the garbage, clean up after yourself, etc.  I’m also flexible if you would like to take some time off for trips during your time here though I ask you that give me as much notice as you can.

Room

You will be given the other side of the straw bale duplex, which is roughly 180 sq. ft. including the loft area.  There is no finish plaster on the walls or floor, but it will keep you dry and cool in the hot summer.  There will be a full-size mattress and some basic shelving provided for you.

Board

I typically make mostly vegetarian meals, though I am flexible to your dietary needs or wants.  Once the garden produce starts coming in we’ll likely be eating a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables from there.  All reasonable food requests will be provided, unreasonable requests would be things like filet mignon, caviar, microwave dinners, etc.  Also, candy and beer are not included, though there will likely be some just don’t count on it.  I have a large collection of homemade wine that I’ll gladly share.

To Apply

If you’re interested in the position, please send me an e-mail about yourself and why you’re interested in it.  Please let me know about any skills or knowledge you have that may apply to working and/or living out here.  Also, I ask that you include 2 people as references as well as any questions or concerns you may have.


Balancing Autonomy and Community

Posted by Tao on February 23, 2013

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.