Friday, December 18, 2009

Year Endings and Keepings On...

Another wonderful sub-tropical month for us, with lots of rain and goings-on. The Internship finished up and we all learned so much from the great experience of coming together to do some gardening, mud-hutting, and sustainable sharing. We are all due a brief break, one for reflection and a re-gathering of energies.

How about the cottage...

Creative hands plastered and sculpted the outside of the cottage.
The roof... this is a view of the framed building and roof, so that you can get an idea of its luscous site.
The roofing material is recycled from tetra-briks and plastic soda bottles. This is a close up.

We used 3 different Earthen building techniques for the cottage. The foundation wall is Earth-bagged around a post-and-beam framing. Then we filled in wires and wood with "Chorizos" or wattle-and-cob sausages.
The south wall is adobe bricked with mud mortar, the third technique.

The bricks were then plastered over with our mud mix, and fancied up with bottles and a niche.
An inside view of the car windows and bottles with the first layer of plaster.
The outside view after a few days of drying.

The cottage is absolutely lovely. Not finished, due to loads of rain, but super close. Our project for January? You guessed it... Plaster and painting.And let's not forget the garden... an onion flower just about to put out seed.

Whoa, zapallitos! These little squash delights are growing happily in the Intern's keystone garden.
And the yoga platform was put to good use with our morning yoga sessions and meditations.And just what did we do with all that wine we made? One guess.... (The favorite was the dandelion delight, the yellow one in the middle!)

Amanita sends her love from the new (larger!) earthen refrigerator.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mud Cabin and Other Delights

Yes, still a million butterflies fluttering around us as we continue to enjoy the joy of learning. It has been a rainy month (totally opposite of last year's drought at this time) and our rivers are at record highs (vs. record lows last year.) We have been able to do lots of experiments and work with our interns, despite the weather, or rather working with the weather and taking some rainy afternoons off.

Our Earthen cottage is coming along so wonderfully! Here are some photos of it going up.

The roof is made out of recycled Tetra-Brik and plastic bottles, smushed into long tiles. It is 8mm th¡ck which adds thermal protection, plus it is quiet in the rain, pretty to look at (lots of colors), and easy to install.

Three of the walls (above the Earthbagged base wall) are made in "chorizo" style, or sausages of straw and mud mix. Wattle-and-cob is another way of saying it too. We framed with scrap wood at first, then switched to wire between the posts to wrap our mud-straw around.

Here's the chorizo-making station inside the building. The straw is all harvested from our rye grass winter crop. We tried a wild growing straw but it was too coarse for the wrapping bit.

The chorizos go onto the wall and with a little hand-sculpting and love they can wrap and frame windows and bottles, etc.

Our windows are recycled from the scrap yard and junk stores.

We also used old car windows and loads of bottles...

And drank lots of yerba mate in the process!

Pesticide making: leaves from 3 different plants in the jungle, put in a bucket of rainwater and let sit for at least a week till it's nice and stinky, then spray onto the garden to fend off evil over-eating grasshoopers and the like.

We took the interns on a field trip to see Professor Eric Barney and his alternative power creations. We also visited the Chacra Suiza and saw their bio-gas and gardens.

So, we are hoping to finish up the building this week, put in an adobe wall, give some love to the gardens, and keep staying dry from our massive rains!
Bonus photos:
This fella was gigantic!
And these will be gorgeous butterflies soon enough...

This is a photo from our friends property where we took a little day trip when we were on break from the program.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Muddy Holes and Baggy Buildings

It´s butterfly time again, and they are delighting us with their spontaneous wind dances and quick licks and kisses! Of course, they also want to kiss us as caterpillars, which is much less pleasant...
So. Just so that no one gets the wrong idea from the last blog entry, that all we do is eat cake and make moonshine, here are some photos of our real hard work-learning.

The cottage is in full bloom-- here we are Earth-bagging the foundation stem wall (a mix of Earth, rocks and lime) while reinforcing the posts for our roof, which are only partly in the ground since we are building on top of bedrock. Don't worry-- they are extra braced at the base with wood and na¡ls.

We dug a giant hole, used part of the dirt and rocks for the Earthbags, and the other part was sifted and poured back into the hole with sand, (composted) cow manure, and woodash. This is an experiment (based on local indigenous methods) with a fermented Earth mix for the Wattle-and-Cob technique we will be using on the wall construction.
After stomp-dancing the hole, we added cut-up and de-spined cactus to help the ferment and stickiness. Lucky for us, a storm broke down a few cacti and we were able to put them to good use just in time.
The roof framing team just after all the tedious cuts were made and squared and almost-perfect corners done just right.

All in the hole for prepping the mix!
Sometimes the work is a little dirty.

We mostly speak English in this course, but there are occasional Spanish classes at the river for deep study...
One of our neighbors came down to take us on a medicinal plant walk in the forest. Here he is blowing through a type of fibrous bamboo which can be used to clean wounds if ever you get stranded in the jungle with deep gashes that won't stop bleeding. Hmmm... not that that happens often, but good to know.

And Marcelo, when he is not framing the roof, is usually suspended in the Mulberry tree behind the house. He says he just has to climb up often to beat the birds to the fruit...

Our Halloween Mexican-Food Fiesta Full Moon Costume-Contest Party...

Bonus photo... Mamas and babies everywhere.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bamboo. Beds. Brewing. Bugs.

The Spring Internship is underway and the creative learning juices are flowing! Our focus for the last few weeks has been mostly on the gardens, composting, bamboo building, and kitchen creations.
Some California red worms were donated to us, so now we are vermiculturing with these little beauties.

We split and wove bamboo for our garden fencing, which will also be a spectacular trellis for the beans and some other vining fruits.
The cucumbers also received a lovely bamboo trellis which they are already starting to climb with vigor. Soon enough, we´ll be eating and pickling!
The interns also designed and planted a gorgeous garden, in which life is already sprouting. Green beans on the way...

Our fall gardens are blooming, which means seed saving and gathering. Here is a little fella hanging out on a carrot flower.
And the tiny grasshopers are back with their spontaneaouly-corregraphed group stem-dance. They still haven´t found our delicious gardens... yet.

In the meantime of all that gardening, to entertain ourselves on those rainy days, we have been brewing up some intoxicating concoctions. Dandelion wine: dandelion flowers, raisins, orange and lemon juice and peels, and yeasts from our wild mulberries...

And Mulberry wine....

... the leftover berries, not to be wasted, went into this little treat... Also, while we were in the fermenting mode, we went ahead and cooked up some beer. Our first attempt, and looking good!
The under-the-sink fermentation cabinet. Beer in the white buckets with their blow-off tubes, and mulberry wine in the bottles with balloons which we have to "burp" every so often. (And some olives curing in the back too...)

As for the building site (home for a little Earthen cottage), we have started digging the Hole to prep the earth for a fermentation tecnique we will be trying, as well as some earthbagging. Next week, roofing!