Tag Archives: water

Spring 2014

The day after my last post we planted potatoes. Last week we harvested those potatoes.  That’s how erratic my blogging has become so I’m not going to go into detail about the almost 3 months in between, but I’ll try to summarize.

solar-hot-water-collectorHot Showers!

Not long after my last post I finished up the solar hot water collector and the associated insulated hot water barrel.  I made sure to leave space next to the collector in case I needed to build another one.  That turned out to be unnecessary as the collector easily heats the 55 gallons of water to scalding temperatures within a day, and then holds it there even on cloudy days.

It feels so much more civilized out here now.  Sure, it’s still really dusty in most of the buildings, and there’s still plenty of work to do before we have real sinks or a washing machine, but at least now we’re just a bunch of mildly-dirty hippies instead of filthy ones!


plaster-workshop-2So far I’ve held a shiitake mushroom log workshop, wild edible foray, and an earthen plaster workshop, all of which have gone well.  There was plenty of good networking going on between people with mutual interests, knowledge was shared, skills were learned, and I got a nice pile of inoculated shiitake logs growing their way towards deliciousness.

One side note on the shiitake logs that I’m kind of excited about.  I cut more mushroom logs than I had spore plugs for, and I decided to take some of the mushroom logs that already producing and stack them interspersed with the uninoculated extra logs.  I have strong hope that the mycelium will grow into the other logs or that spores will fall on them and they’ll begin producing as well.  I’ve had the mycelium grow between the logs and from the logs into the pallets I stack them on, and have had mushrooms pop out of the pallet itself so it’s not far fetched.  If so, I may be able to seriously ratchet up my shiitake production for a fraction of the effort I put in now.

The Garden

garden-6-18-14The garden has done really well this year.  We’ve gotten an above average amount of rain and only had to water occasionally mainly to get seeds started and transplants settled.  All of the extra rain made construction projects difficult, so the volunteers spent an above average amount of time in the garden; weeding, fighting bugs, harvesting, etc and we’re now reaping the benefits.  The dehydrator is constantly full and anything we can’t dry we’ve been canning.

It now seems clear that I can grow almost all of my own food, and probably trade excess for the things I can’t grow.  The volunteers have been a big help, but I could do it all on my own if I didn’t have construction projects to deal with too.  Maybe in a couple years I’ll try a year of total food self-sufficiency and see how it goes.

Construction Projects

earth-tube-trench-billy-diggingI originally planned on working on getting the inside of the common house finished, but after more detailed planning I saw that I needed a lot of carpentry work first that wouldn’t be easy to use volunteer help on so instead we’ve been working on getting the 2nd, and most labor/material intensive, coat of plaster on the cabins.  The small single cabin now has it’s 2nd coat completed and we’re well on our way to getting the duplex coat on.

We’ve also been digging a 100′ long 2′ deep trench to lay some PVC pipe in and use as a very simple geothermal cooling/heating system called an earth tube.  I’m mostly concerned with the cooling side of it, though it should decrease the already small amount of firewood I need in the winter.

According to what I could find on the internet I believe the air coming into the duplex even at the hottest part of the summer should be 70F or less and be significantly less humid.  A small CPU fan will pull the air and as it cools in the pipe the moisture should condense and drain out.  Another CPU fan attached to a pipe going through the highest point of the roof will blow the hot air out.  The fans may not be needed all of the time since natural convection should move the air, but they certainly won’t hurt.

The rainwater cistern is the next big project and we should be starting on that in August.  The pit is still wet from all of the rain this year, but the storms seem to be dropping less and less water and I think it’ll dry out enough to work on within the next month or so.


manu-billy-mulchRight now I’ve got a full house with 3 volunteers.  Billy, my full-summer volunteer is turning into a real asset now that he’s gotten the feel for things.  The other 2 volunteers are Emmanuel, from France, and Daniel, from Utah.  Both of them have been hard workers with good senses of humor and pleasant dispositions.  I’ve also had a couple of volunteers from Pennsylvania and London earlier in the Spring.

July 2012 Newsletter: The Doldrums

The doldrums of June spread into July, but despite the incessant heat we soldiered forward on our projects.  We haven’t been accomplishing as much as we’d hope though, and have decided to postpone finishing the rainwater cistern until next year.

We’re still making good progress on the duplex.  Jesse has installed some bracing because the 2nd story was wobbly, and the bracing has really made a huge difference. He along with some volunteers also put in the blocking on the roof to fill in all the gaps between the purlins.

Over the last month we’ve finished the framing, dug the foundation drainage/insulation trench, put down the gravel bag stem wall, and poured the base layer of earthen floor.

We just finished placing the foam board insulation and drain tile in the rubble trench.  The foam board isn’t exactly environmentally friendly.  We’re thinking about using a layer of empty soda bottles as a dead air barrier in future construction.

Tomorrow we’ll fill it in with clean 1″ gravel and can move on to other building aspects like building window bucks, finishing the roof, and actually stacking the bales!

We finished installing the metal on the roof last week and we’ll have the gutters done tomorrow.  We used some semi-transparent pieces of roofing to let more light in and it looks they’re going to let in plenty of light.  We’ll probably only need a few lights inside.

We’ve done a good bit of digging in the root cellar squaring it up and getting it down to a better depth so some of us taller folks will be able to walk around in it without knocking our heads on the rafters.

There’s still part of a day of digging left to do on the root cellar, and then it’s on to framing it up, plastering the walls, and adding the gravel floor, shelves, and steps.

We had a wonderful 4th of July party, made some new friends and enjoyed the company of some old ones.  On the 21st we held an earthen floor workshop which was sparsely attended, but enjoyable and hopefully helpful nonetheless.  By the way, our next workshop is earthen plaster on August 18th!  Come by, learn something new, and give us a hand!

As it does every year about this time we’ve gone lax on our gardening duties as we fall behind on construction projects.  The drought certainly hasn’t helped anything, but despite that we’re still getting a nice crop of tomatoes.  So far the favorites are the yellow cherries and the hillbilly orange tomatoes. We also got a good haul of potatoes, onions, and garlic.

Most everything else is in serious need of water, but we’ve mainly kept the watering to a minimum and have been making sure the perennial fruit and berry bushes don’t die.

We’ll still plant a few more things for a fall garden, but unless the rain picks up we won’t expect much.  If we weren’t so pressed on construction we’d be hauling more water, ah priorities.  Next year we’ve got a full-time garden manager already signed up so that should help alleviate this seasonal decline.

We’ve had a number of comings and goings this last month, Dan, Lucy, Mike, Tristan, Tony, Bobbie, Janis, and Natalie.  We appreciate all of the hard work everyone has put in!




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.