Tag Archives: Tarpopolis

Earth Day Every Day

Happy Earth Day everyone.  It seems like an appropriate time for your bi-weekly Maya Creek update.  The last several weeks of sunny 70 degree weather have given me the chance to get a lot done.  I’ve built two new sheet mulched no-till garden beds, one of them being a 4th vegetable bed so that I can do a 4 year crop rotation, and the other is a 2nd perennial bed.  The new vegetable bed is already planted with 5 different kinds of potato, and the perennial bed is now home to asparagus and soon to have some jerusalem artichokes added.  I made a video while I was making the 4th garden bed, but I’m not particularly happy with it.  I’ll probably post it anyway after I take another look at it.

It seems that we’ve past the last frost in the area, and so my gamble on getting a few things in the ground early might well pay off.  I’ve already learned a couple new lessons in the garden.  I’m going to start planting trap crops of radishes for the flea beetles.  They attack the radishes and I yank them and burn them, seems to be the only method I’ve come across for handling them organically.  Otherwise they pretty quickly make my turnips and eggplants look like someone shot them with a really small shotgun.

I’ve done a lot of interplanting of flowers and things this year, and I’ve planted a number of perennial flowers in the perennial beds to draw in some beneficial insects.  I’m aiming to plant even more once I figure out where I’m planting the rest of the fruit trees and berry bushes that I’ve ordered.

Last year it got pretty tiring hauling the generator up to the garden to run the pump for the solar shower.  I considered setting up a small solar power rig, but it just seemed like way more time and money than it was worth.  So essentially I built a fancy solar bucket shower.  I still heat the water the same way with the black barrels under a clear plastic drop cloth, but now I just pour a couple buckets of the hot water into a small holding bucket with a faucet and shower head I stole off one of the solar shower bags, and whallah.  It doesn’t have much pressure and it comes out fairly slowly, but I can easily take a shower, wash my hair, and shave on around 2-3 gallons of water.  We were easily using 7-10 gallons with the pump system.

One of the two work exchangers I have coming this summer is heading over from Nebraska early next week.  He’s about my age and he’ll possibly be staying a couple months.  I’d been needing to get tarpopolis set up again and this was my excuse.  I’ve got all of the tarps hung again, which went significantly faster this time around now that I know what I’m doing and have all the pieces cut to the right size.  I’ve also set up the two guest tents and put mattresses and some shelving in them as well.  I’m still looking for more work exchangers, so if you’re interested shoot me an e-mail.

Apart from that I’ve set up the storage tarp area and have been moving all of the stuff from inside the straw bale place out to it and organizing it as I go.  It was kind of a disaster area in the place since I left in kind of a hurry last year when the temperatures plummeted last October, and now I’m paying for it.  It’s like coming home from a vacation and you’ve got dirty dishes in the sink, no clean clothes, etc.  I already feel a little more bounce in my step and I’m only about half way done with the clean-up.

Once the house is cleared out I can start on the roofing insulation again in earnest.  I’ve got a wonderful source of trash Alpaca wool.  Basically the wool from the legs is very coarse, and since it’s not good for clothing gets thrown out even though it still has excellent insulative properties.  I’m sure that process will go much faster with a second set of hands as well.

I’m also reading a natural plaster book and starting to refine my ideas and plans on how to plaster the building.  I’d been thinking about a lime or possibly paper-crete covering for the gravel bags to protect the areas most likely to get splashed, but I’m now thinking about covering everything in earthen clay plaster and then adding a mortared rock splash guard around the bottom.  I think it’ll look really nice and be more environmentally friendly to be sure. In the meantime, Pink has certainly been enjoying rolling around and sunning himself on the clay mound outside the house.

The Big Thaw

It’s finally happened.  The weather has warmed to the point it’s no longer miserable to be outside.  In fact, it’s down right pleasant and judging by the chorus of crickets and peepers, the wildlife would agree.

The change in temperature has been swift, but I remember being struck by how quickly the chirps and hum of nature disappeared last fall.  One day it was there, and the next it wasn’t.  Two days ago the woods were completely silent at night except for the occasional owl hoot, and yesterday it was as if everyone got the memo.

As the days have gotten nicer they’ve also begun to pass much more swiftly.  That tends to happen when you’re constantly busy, web work in the morning and projects in the afternoon.  I have to slow myself down at times because it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer scope of everything.  I’ve taken to making to-do lists every other night just to keep that next step in perspective.

I’m aiming to start setting up Tarpopolis again at the beginning of April.  Once I empty the house out then I can start working on the interior roofing again, and after the last frost is past the plastering can start.

Until then I’m focusing my energy on the garden.  I built a trellis in the garden and cheated a little by buying some bagged garden soil to plant the sugar snap peas in.  I’ve also got a lot more seeds in the mini-greenhouse and coldframe although I’m a little worried I may have to restart some of them since I think I might have cooked them by not paying attention and opening them on a sunny day.

Due to some ridiculous beaurocratic wrangling with the DMV I wont’ be able to get a plate for the truck until early April.  Which severely hampers my rotted manure collecting operations among a host of other things I need the truck for.  I do have a plan on how I can still use it, however, it’s not exactly legal so I won’t post the specifics here.  Big brother may be watching.

I’ve got several new sources for manure which I plan on taking advantage of.  I’ll be adding a 4th vegetable garden bed as well as a 2nd perennial bed and then I’d like to add at least a small layer of manure around the perimeter of the main beds where I intend to plant berries and fruit trees in a couple weeks.  All in all I’m probably looking at 8 full loads of manure and another 2 or 3 of free mulch from Columbia for the paths.  It’ll be a good workout and warm up for the coming construction season.

A couple weekends ago Justin and Melainia came out and we burned a bunch of the brush piles that had been built up over the last year or so.  I wanted to make bio-char out of them by putting them out before they’d turned to ash.  The charcoal holds a lot of the nutrients in the ground so that they don’t wash away.  Unfortunately I didn’t have any water so we just let it burn where I’ll be adding the new vegetable bed.  The ash will still be good source of potassium for the plants.

One point of excitement was when we all 3 came back with bunches of brush to find flames leaping from the humanure pile which was maybe 20 feet away from the fire.  It was amazing how quickly the pallets caught on fire as well, and putting the whole thing out wasn’t easy with the aforementioned lack of water.  It was tempting to stomp on it, but it would be the equivalent of stomping out a giant flaming bag of poop on your doorstep.  Justin made this excellent graphic which is certainly t-shirt worthy should the opportunity arise.

I was considering planting standard size fruit trees, but there really isn’t enough space in the garden for that.  Instead I’m going to plant a lot of semi-dwarf and dwarf trees and have a big variety of different kinds of fruit.  I’m hoping that these trees will serve as sort of the genetic stock for the eventual food forest in the ecovillage center.

Typically you don’t want to start a fruit tree from seed because you don’t know what kind of fruit it will have, for instance an apple pollinated by a crab apple probably won’t have very tasty fruit.  However, if you start some of the trees from seed and then graft a branch from one of the tried and true varieties that I’ll have growing in the garden here then you’ve got something you know will be tasty.   Of course, any trees grown like that will be full-size since size is determined by the roots and they won’t have the dwarf root stock, but that’s what would be more appropriate for the ecovillage anyway.  Standards produce a lot more fruit and do so for many more years than dwarfs and semi-dwarfs.

I’m also waiting on the truck plate to pick up the pipe I need to raise the wind generator.  I’m hoping I can get that next week and get it up and running soon.  I did manage to fix my gas generator which hadn’t wanted to start since I got back so I at least have some power until then without having to go recharge my batteries at my friend’s place every several days.

I also picked up some trash along the road with some help from a friend last weekend.  I noticed that people had still been parking at the driveway to the old cabin and littering it with more beer cans and bottles since I cleaned it up last year and posted the “No Trespassing” signs.  Clearly they didn’t get the message so I lugged some of the 30 or so old tires that someone graciously dumped in the old root cellar and placed them as a barricade across the driveway entrance.

There are still another 30 or more tires in a ditch just down the road.  I plan on using some of those in the garden to grow potatoes in, and saving the ones that are in decent shape for other uses down the line.   A lot of them are really too far gone to do anything with and I may end up hauling them to a special tire recycling place not too far from here.  I also posted a homemade “No Dumping” sign in the hope that it might make some sort of difference as far as future tires are concerned.

My current struggle of the moment is getting water in the camper.  It appears that simply opening the main drain valve didn’t empty all the water out of the pipes and at some point the water froze and burst the water supply line in two different places.  Neither spot is very easy to get at, but I’ve only had to cut minor holes so far.  I’m on my 3rd attempt at patching them and each time I’ve gotten closer.  In fact the last time they held for a couple hours, enough for me to take my first hot shower in the camper, but then one burst and the second started leaking.  I think I’m finally on the right track now though and I should have it taken care of in the next day or two.

I’m also looking to get 3 or 4 laying hens and keeping them around this time.  I considered guineas again as well, but I wouldn’t be able to actually have them out and tick hunting until late July again.  They also don’t have the benefit of easily collected eggs and aren’t going to handle the winters as well.  The chickens have stinkier poop, but I think if I only let them free range around the campground and construction site every other day or so then it won’t be too big of an issue I’m hoping.  In the future I’d like to get guineas again since they have a wider tick-hunting range and they’re just kind of cool, but I’ll save that for another time.

So that’s where I’m at.  I’ll probably start having visitors out on the weekend of March 27 weather permitting if anyone’s interested.