Tag Archives: fence

Earth Day Update

Apple blossomsIt’s a beautiful sunny day out here at Maya Creek and it seemed like a nice time to update everyone on the goings on with it being Earth Day and all.

The Garden

I’m a little surprised to report that it looks like we may have had our last spring frost on the average last frost date for the area(April 15).  Given the erratic start to the year I’m not making any assumptions, but the weather has turned into really nice typical spring weather, sun interspersed with rain storms.

Many of the plants that were bashed by the large hail have bounced back, though the fruit trees may still be susceptible to disease from their wounds.  Still, they’ve leafed out and are flowering beautifully.

asparagus

The asparagus, which got set back slightly by the frost, is now back at good harvesting size.  The spinach that miraculously over-wintered and then battered by hail is exploding and ready for copious salads which we’ve been gearing up for (we’ve been using mixing bowls for personal salad bowls).

Billy and I have spent a lot of time the last couple of weeks in the garden taking out the first wave of weeds and generally cleaning things up.  I’ve pushed a bunch of brush back from the garden fence to stop plants from growing on it and through it into the garden.  I also reinforced the fence with some more fence posts.

potted plantsI also potted up some of the gooseberries, comfrey, elderberry, and thyme that had begun propagating themselves as I had several people express interest at a recent potluck I held out here.

Anyway, they’re ready now, so come and get them!  I can maybe drop them in CoMo too.  If you’ve got more small pots laying around I’ll definitely take those.  I’ve got quite a few gallon sizes ones already though.

tomato soil block startsThe soil block experimentation continues.  It turns out that the trays I planned to use to soak the blocks with are just a tiny bit too small.  I’m now thinking that I’ll just build a large tray to hold a number of the smaller trays and line it with some old billboard vinyl to make it water proof.  That way instead of taking out each tray and soaking it every day I can just pour some water in the one big tray and be done.

That aside, a number of the soil blocks have sprouted and though they’re a little behind where they’d ideally be since I started them a little late and didn’t keep them inside very much for germination, but they look healthy and had a good germination rate despite that.

billy making absorption finsSolar Hot Water System

Yesterday was the first day we’ve really worked on the solar hot water system in the last few weeks.  Billy cut up the aluminum flashing and bashed the metal into a form to make the heat absorption fins.  He also cut a number of thinner strips that go behind the copper tubing to help transfer the heat to the pipes and then to the water.

I attached the insulation to the back of the panel and got the copper manifold installed into the frame.  I also soldered on a valve to empty the panel so I can drain it when frosts are eminent and it won’t burst the copper pipes.  I also built the legs and attached the front ones.  I left them loose so we can adjust them as we position it.  The next step is going to be attaching the fins and painting it black.  Then I’m going to stain the outside, attach the polycarbonate glazing, and we should be just about ready to roll it out!

Water System Taking Shape

Jason water system barrel bulkheadlsMy first volunteer of the season, Billy, arrived this past Thursday night from Louisiana.  I haven’t gotten the solar hot water collector or the rest of the basics of the common house water system up and running yet like I’d hoped.  I got a good a start on it, but I decided to do a bit of spring cleaning before people started arriving.  I also figured the volunteers would be interested in seeing the water system constructed, though perhaps not as interested in as I am.

Before I switched gears to cleaning, I procured and cut the lids off of what will be the gravity feed hot and cold water storage tanks.  With Jason’s help I got all of the bulkheads for the various inlets and outlets installed on them.  I built an overflow catchment tray above the shower where they’ll be housed in case of some kind of leak the water will now go down the shower drain and not into the battery/power room(yikes!).

solar-collector-copper-layoutI’ve gathered all of the parts and materials I need for the solar hot water collector and have gotten it configured how I want it.  Since this picture was taken I’ve also soldered the ends of the panel together(ie, the manafolds).  I also built and tested a form to mash aluminum flashing into “fins” which help redirect the heat into the copper tubing.

Next up is soldering the rest of the connections and testing to make sure it’s all water-tight. Then I’ll build the frame, stamp out the fins, install the insulation on the back and then build a stand for it in front of the common house.

Spring Cleaning

firepitI cleaned up a bunch of stuff at the small strawbale cabin I’m calling the “Pillbox”.  I finished constructing a closet rack with shelves in it, and generally cleaned up a bunch of down trees around it.  

I also jazzed up the main fire pit behind the common house and have been grudgingly pushing back all of the brush I’d piled up directly on the other side of the garden fence(mistake!) so that I can get at plants that are growing through the fence and shading out plants I actually want to grow.

cut-cedar-garden-tarpToday, with Billy’s help, we cut the tops off a couple of the cedar trees in the garden that support the rainwater catching garden tarp, but were block a lot of light.  We got the garden tarp hung and position to catch some of the forecasted rain, and we also finished pushing back the brush from the fence.  A lot of dirty sweaty work, but at least it was a beautiful day.

There’s still plenty to do in the garden, but I’ll start delegating some of that to the volunteers and get back to the solar hot water projects because there’s going to be plenty of dirty stinky volunteers wanting a hot shower soon enough.

 

Growing Possibilities

Visualizing the future of Maya Creek can be double-edged sword.  The possibilities for this place are incredible and less and less difficult to see even to outside observers.  On the other hand, the amount of energy needed to realize those possibilities can be stifling and disheartening.

Still, over time I get used to the pace of growth and accept that it may be many years before it even approaches what it could be.  Every year and every day is different and fulfilling, and there’s really not much more you can ask for out of life.  The work here will never be done, or at least I should hope it never ends.  As the saying goes, the day you stop learning, is the day you begin to die.

Guest Cabin Progress

We’ve finished applying the last thick coats of earthen plaster and floor to the cabin.  It’s a very labor intensive process since the infill coat of plaster can be a couple inches thick.  It’s worth it though, because it really smooths out the walls, and is going to provide lots of thermal mass to moderate the temperature.

We also installed the foundation insulation, and mortared in the scrap granite chunks around the base to protect the bottoms of the walls from rain.  We stuffed the area behind the granite with misprinted polypropylene feedsacks filled with scrap alpaca wool, which we affectionately named, “fur turds”.

Yesterday, we went looking for a screen door and found one at the Habitat Restore for $20.  It was the only one they had and it was heavy duty and just barely the right height.  We took it back and it fit perfectly.  Dumb, but very awesome luck.

John should be able to move into the place after the walls and floor finish drying in several weeks.  We’ve still got to put the metal roof on, install the doors and windows, and put the finish exterior plaster on, but we’re getting close.

Garden Raids

The garden has been under siege ever since the sweet corn started coming in.  We’ve trapped ~7 raccoons and 2 opossums, and we probably would’ve gotten more if they hadn’t finished off the 400 sq. ft. of corn completely.  The fence we’ve set up works well on deer and rabbits, but climbing critters don’t mind it at all.

We’ve got a new solution though that I think will work.  We’re going to set up a stereo hooked up to a small solar power system.   We tried it out for about 5 days and the garden was left alone all that time.

Playing conservative talk radio seemed like the best bet, because it has the most yelling and angry sounding voices… and it’s just scary in general.  However, I had the idea of making a long MP3 recording of the sounds of common predators in the area and having it loop.  I’ll probably throw in some weird tiger roars and other foreign animal sounds too just to keep ’em freaked out.

The tomatoes are still coming in pretty heavily, and so are the squash and cucumbers.  I’ve been dehydrating a lot of the squash and tomatoes for winter soups.  They should go well with the ~50 lbs of potatoes we’ve got left from out harvest earlier this year.

The Possibility Alliance

Last Saturday Jesse, Jessica, John, Nic, and I went up to the Possibility Alliance in northern Missouri to take a short class on sustainable forestry.  It was actually more about just seeing the place and meeting the people.  It was a short, but sweet visit and I was really excited to see a project working that’s so similar to what I currently hope Maya Creek will turn into.

They’re creating a sustainable community, teaching workshops, and permaculture certification.  All just for donations!  I’d noticed that all the places that teach these types of skills and certifications were really pricey, and it seemed to defeat the point.  Most people interested in learning these skills don’t have a lot of money, and if you think the skills are that important then I would think you’d want to give as many people access to them as you could.

Today John and I went back for a more in-depth tour.  We got to explore the site fully and get a lot of questions answered.  The amount of energy that Ethan exudes is staggering, and I’m amazed he’s able to maintain it.   He and others at PA are part of the superheroes organization which ride bicycles in superhero attire offering help to people.  Perhaps he really is a superhero in more ways than one.

I’ve created an album of photos from the tour here.

Visitors

We had a nice visit from Bob and Kelly earlier this month.  They were out from California looking around the area at permaculture related projects.  They’re planning on moving out this way in the near future, and are planning to help out at Maya Creek after they get settled.

Nic just left to help set up a camp at Burning Man.  He was here for about a week helping us put in some earthen floor and just checking the place out.  He came down from Minneapolis, but has been traveling around all over.  It’s always nice to have a new person with new stories and perspectives come and share that with us.  I’ll be seeing Nic again at Burning Man in a few days.

Getting Warmed Up

Yes, I know, I’m overdue for a blog entry. As soon as the weather warmed up it seemed that everyone decided it was time to get their web page revamped.  Every time I’d sit down at the computer I’d feel like I needed to be working on web work, and the blog could wait.  It can wait no longer!

There’s so much to do and just not enough time to do it all.  I’ve significantly cleared out the garden area along the edge and put up a 5′ tall fence.  I’ve taken to throwing all of the brush on the outside of the fence to further deter deer from jumping it and hopefully it’ll be good wildlife habitat for less garden-aggressive creatures.

I decided to cut things back when I started planning out the exact fruit tree locations and realized that they’d be getting quite a bit of shade, and if I didn’t cut those trees back now it’d be a lot harder when the fruit trees are planted because the trees and branches could very easily fall on the fruit trees.  It’s been sweaty work, but it’s finally done.  I don’t enjoy cutting trees down, both on principal and my general dislike for running the chainsaw.  It just makes me nervous handling something so dangerous.

Incidentally, a couple weeks ago I accidentally cut a tree down and had it fall on the straw bale place.  It did some damage, but not nearly as bad as it could have.  I’d actually taken extra precautions because it was near the house.  I had a wench set up and had it under a lot of tension pulling it away from the house and cut an extra large wedge, but somehow the laws of physics decided to throw me a curve ball.  I’ve since chopped the tree up, along with some others and will be inoculating them with shiitake and chicken of woods mushroom spore plugs in the next week.

I’ve successfully been driving the truck around without being hassled.  So far I’ve picked up all the supplies I’ll need to raise the wind generator, supplies for the plaster that’ll cover the gravel bag foundation wall, a load of horse manure, and a heaping load of compost.  The compost came at a price though.  I didn’t realize that the new trailer that I’d been given couldn’t handle the weight I put in it.  The person who gave it to me told me that he’d used it to haul compost and so I just filled it up.  I didn’t realize anything was amiss until I pulled into the driveway and was clearly dragging something… it turned out to be the whole trailer. The neck part basically just bent, and I’m not sure what I can do to fix it.  The guy who gave it to me does welding, but I’d feel bad asking him to fix this.  I’ve considered just flipping it over and using a sledgehammer to bash it straight, but even if it’s effective it’ll still be weak.

Despite the tree falling on the roof and trailer breaking things have been generally good.  I put up the gutters on the front part of the house and have been harvesting rainwater.  All of my seedlings seem to be doing well.  I was worried for awhile that some of the older seeds weren’t good any more, but they just took a little longer.  I’ve got one of the garden beds planted with cool weather crops. I’ve added nesting boxes and a run to the old guinea coop in preparation for the chickens.

I’ve met some interesting people in the last few weeks as well, and everyone always seems to bring me things.  A couple people from Columbia came out and brought me 3 loaves of freshly baked homemade bread which was absolutely delicious.  I’ve even been invited to come out to the next bake so I can see how it’s done.

Yesterday, a guy that lives a little over an hour from here came up for a visit.  He’s building a geodesic dome, and it turned out we had quite a lot in common.  He brought me some great stuff that he’d got dumpster diving behind a Trader Joe’s.  I’m quickly getting on board with the dumpster diving idea.  It’s not exactly sustainable, but it’s certainly making good use of things that would otherwise just go to waste.  You wouldn’t believe the perfectly good stuff that people throw out.  He’d even found working power tools in hardware store dumpsters!

As with every post, I’ve got to talk about the weather.  It’s been unseasonably warm here, it got up to 82 today and right now there isn’t anything close to freezing temperatures in the forecast.  I’ve been sleeping with the door and windows open, and I installed a cat door on the screen door so Pink wouldn’t just tear a hole through it.  He didn’t like it at first, but he’s getting used to it.  The nice weather has made it all the harder to spend time inside working on the computer.

My next projects are getting the fruit trees in the ground, getting more manure, and raising the wind generator.  I’ve had a lot of offers for help getting the wind generator up, but there’s quite a bit of prep work I need to do, and even then I need to think about exactly how it’s going to work and what people will need to be doing.  I’m trying something a little… unconventional, but I’ll save that for my next video post.