Saturday, January 30, 2010

Plaster Bugs

The thrush of summer is upon us. Post-holiday heat and a new year of plans and wishes. We have a full group of apprentices here learning the hands-on of earthen building and gardening, and a bit on the homestead how-to.

Our first big project of the year is finishing up old projects left undone. Here we are mixing up a batch of clay-rich goodness to smear on our bathhouse walls. We are adding a good amount of sand and Paloma's manure to our earth to get a consistency of sticky-and-strong. (We also used a similiar mix to finish the adobe and bottle walls up to their curved edge air-venting top.)

After stomping well, the mud goes on with lots of love from our apprentices and curious passers-by who want to unlock the mysteries of earthen building.
(The post-and-beam roof was put up by Kimberly and our neighbor Claudio just before the holidays, which gives us a guarenteed dry work space and dry haven for the bathouse walls.)

Here's a good shot of our experimenting with the first layer of plaster on the bathhouse, which is cracking a bit but not flaking off. We will try adding more sand and some pine needle fiber next time around. This project, afterall, is all about experimentation and trying new things to get that gorgeous earthen shine.

Simultaneously, we are adding the finishing wall touches to the cabana. Here is a shot of the bottle-and-cob arch going up over the door. More plaster is also being applied to the adobe backwall, which was finished off with bottles and bricks just recently.

Other than building, our energies are also going toward salvaging what the bugs didn't eat and the jungle didn't take over from our gardens. Our tomatillos (or Peruvian cherries) did quite well, despite the invasion of hungry insects. We harvested and ate most, and even saved a few to experiment with making a liquer, which is looking quite delicious on our fermentation shelf.

Okay, so the humbing truth about starting your own homestead and wanting everything to go perfect on 80 acres in the first year and a half: uum, it doesn't. Take our corn, for example. We lovingly planted 3 varieties in 3 separate fields hoping to grow what we needed for us and our animals for the year. With all the sunshine and rain, we thought we were going to be picking arm-fulls of yellow-toothed delights soon enough. But... the bugs and the weeds beat us to them, or rather, I should say, we saw them coming, and didn't do a darn thing about them. We were so busy with the ten-thousand other projects going on at the same time that we just plain ran out of energy to save our corn. So, we learned a valuable lesson in working close to the "home zone" and keeping projects and planting to managable sizes. We did manage to save a few precious ears, and learn a good lesson in scale and the limits of our energy supplies.

Bonus Photo: What came first-- the leaf or the bug?