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.