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We are pumping out the compost these days! BUILDING SOIL ūüôā

Jordan and I have made 2 huge hot “berkley method” piles since May and just started a 3rd with Christina and Sinisha the other day. We have brewed 3 batches of vermi-compost and comfry tea and yesterday we did a extract brew, which was a quick and easy option. The extract yesterday was made using worm casings / compost from the first pile / and some comfry leaves. The whole garden got a good dose of nutrients last night!

I always assumed that compost extracts were not as good as compost teas and so I hadn’t given them much thought, that is until I read Verge Permaculture’s recent article on tea and extract brewing, which inspired me to make an extract. In essence both methods use a constant supply of rapidly moving oxygenated water over a period of time to extract and or grow microbes. The problem that came up with the tea we produce is that you had to use it very quickly… like within hours, or the microbes start to eat away all the oxygen and then rapidly die off. With the extract you have a few days (up to 2 weeks) to get it all on the plants… which is helpful then you are supplying the nutrients by way of a watering can over an 12 000 sq/ft area of food production! The other benefit to producing extract over tea is that the aeration machine only needs to run for 2-3 hours rather than 24 hours… which makes for more quiet time in the mountains, and less energy of course. ¬†This is the way have been brewing tea¬†which is a really super boosted and viable method, and if I had a smaller yard or an easier application method I would use regularly. As it stand I think we will keep on the extract train for a while, and take our time to deliver the nutrients to the crops.

We finally got the worms moved outdoors and into a make shift home inside a tub. The plan is to still utilize a worm condo system and have two double stacks functioning inside a single tub. Right now we are repurposing some plastic food crates which are stackable and ideal. The new vermi-home shares a fence with the rabbit / chicken run and soon will house the rabbits on top. The worms are getting all the rabbit manure + straw bedding, plus all the tea and coffee grounds from the house, along with some misc kitchen scraps that the chooks don’t eat. The rest ends up in the big compost piles.

As for our berkley piles… we have been struggling a little with the nitrogen content of the old winter coop chicken manure muck, as it was intensely caked and somewhat aged yet totally anaerobic, YUCK it is nasty stuff. The first pile we did was way way way to hot, the second pile was made almost entirely of wood chips and manure trying to keep it from over heating, and I think we have finally found the right balance with the newest pile: ¬†Incorporating wood ash, lots of diverse greens / weeds, the nasty old chook shit cakes, along with new poo and straw from the rabbits and the birds, some winter coat fur from Odin, wood chips, grass clippings, mushrooms, and bits from both the old piles and the creek bed for some added microbial excitement!

We have been using a number of different compost calculators online, and I found one that I really liked using here, These calculators are the perfect tool for building the right kind of compost, as the correct carbon to nitrogen ration is key to successful composting!  The calculator the results from our last pile are in the slideshow above, what I like most about this specific calculator tool, is you can use volumes of measure like : a wheelbarrow load (which is the easiest way for us to tally up our inputs) . We ended up with a 34 C:N (carbon to nitrogen) ratio which is ideal. We made the pile Thursday morning, and turned it Sunday morning for the first time, the temperature was sitting at 60 degrees. This soil building stuff is pretty amazing!

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I keep taking pictures and want to share all of the exciting accomplishments we have made around here, but everytime I pull out my camera to compose a picture I think… ‘ew look at thay ugly pile of poo, or those tarps look so messy, or why are all of those materials piled up like that in the way? Maybe it’s the artist designer in my who is always put off by the chaos in a image composition… yet I have no trouble living with the straw piled high in front of my waddle and daub shed and strewn with an ugly blue tarp! I have to admit I don’t share as many images as I would like to because I think the farm looks messy when captured in a single frame… but when your here, living and moving, growing and building the mess is all relevant to the successes we are having!

So messy piles and half finished undertakings aside we have so much to share, where to begin?

The entire “old” garden space got planted, new rock stairways improved access to the Yarn yurt and the new expansion of the garden (to the hugel and giant sheet mulch, and future key holes), we started a swift execution of an outdoor shower that was quickly quelled, and promptly replaced by a stunning pole framed shed roof shower house structure, which decks off from the yarn yurt and houses a new cedar board and baton shower and composting toilet house with stunning open views of the moutains across the valley and the top of Perrys Ridge. The new structure also boasts a lower level garden sink and outdoor kitchen area. OMG it is looking fabulous! with huge overhangs, and beautiful joinery. I was happy with the make shaft early version.. but this my friends is unreal. There is talk of milling a giant cedar slab countertop for the garden sink with part of a massive cedar trunk gifted to us.

We have had some big days in the last week planing cedar boards, pulling new dead standing poles from the back 40 for garden fencing, hauling shit, and building sheet mulch beds, and another HUGE compost pile (decked out in a fancy compostex cover rather than the trouble some tipi’d tarps). The other day I spent most of the day sitting in aged horse shit weeding it for the base of the barley bed. Poor Phil had the unfortunate task of hauling nasty chicken shit straw up to the new compost pile site.While Jordan got his chainsaw skills tuned back in, as he hauled the newly required 14 fence posts for the big expansion. Dyl and his dad plained miles of boards and the reward was warm shower for all Friday morning! What a delight! The space is totally functional yet not at all finished. It’s time for some designer attention. I have some idea to adorn the space with rusty bits and bobs repurposed. YEAH FOR HOT SHOWERS!

But I digress, I skipped the long weekend… Both of Dylan’s folks ended up joining us for what was a drizzly and cold weekend, but we still manged to get many tasks done and feed an army of 8 for days (whew that was a little tiresome but my culinary skills are honing in). It was as always so wonderful to have family out here! It was a real shock for Helen to see what we have done since her visit last summer (new road, 2 yurts, waterlines, and expanded gardens to name a few!) ¬†Jordan slipped back to Alberta for a few days but brought his friend Isis back with him, and I was thrilled to have some amazing estrogen in the dirt with me. Isis and I managed to plant out all the rest of the beds and she did a number on the weeds, cleaning pathways and flower beds, she even improved the esthetics of the man-yurt and painted a lovely mural on the door!

Dyl and I were getting a little burned out and called for an all out NO WORK weekend! For maybe the first time ever! We spent Saturday with Dave driving to Kaslo and touring through Sandon, ¬†it was wonderful to take a much needed day off… as we haven’t done that in months.

Today we heading up valley to help our friend raise the roof of their Conics shelter for their outdoor kitchen. What a wild structure! low cost, no waste, strong and resistant to all sorts of extreme weather. It was so cool seeing it go from a pancake of plywood tiles to a curved self supporting structure of beauty! With very few hitches!

Ah living the good life.

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I know I have mentioned a few times already that we are hugel-ing a part of the new garden expansion… well the other day we finally got the bed underway!

The hugelkultur bed (mound culture as it translates from German) was pretty simple to assemble:

We started by staking out a contour line, and as we are building it on a hill side, we pounded some pole steaks into the ground to catch the load of the first and largest punky tree trunks, then we neatly stacked more and more woody materials (which we have been hoarding in hugel stacks for months) generally building the stack from biggest pieces to smallest as we went up. The overall shape is a long pie wedge that acts as the boarder from the road way to the new terraces.

The following day we utilized our new gravity spring fed water line and really saturated the mound, which made for a nice refreshing sprinkler cool down as we worked on a small excavation about 12 feet away in the beating heat. Having a hugel dump site directly behind a earthen excavation was peachy! All of the roots and twigs and duff we pulled out easily made there way to the mound.

What a lovely way to use us massive amounts of wood bits and bobs; branches punky stumps, rotten birch branches, roots, twigs, leaves, pine needles, old straw well packed in chicken manure, the contents of many pee buckets, leafy duff, pine shavings, and sandy soil from an excavation… what does this all amount to? A self watering nutrient rich raised bed, that may even ward off the kouch grass for a time!

Check out Paul Wheatons Great hugelkultur Page full of diagrams and pictures of more examples of hugels in action!

Our hugelbed will will planted out with squash and chickpeas, all of which will be heavily mulched of course. As we work on building good soil it will be exciting to watch it grow!

On the topic of mulch; For the last couple years I have used a great amount of straw to mulch all of my beds, but struggle with the fact that it is not even close to local out here, it’s expensive and has been pretty seedy in the past. So what is our local counterpart to straw? Well it’s wood chips my friends! Lucky for us we have a friend who owns a small (this is a relative term) mill just down the road and he is swimming in wood chips and shavings, he gives us the word once he has run pine or fir and we head down the road 5 minutes for truckloads. I like the look of the wood chips in the garden, and on the occasion of a chicken assault on the garden the birds seem less drawn to the wood chips than they are to straw! Best of all it’s free!

We will add more pictures as we get the bed planted and it starts to grow and we get underway the next garden bed projects: sheet mulch key hole beds!

On the topic of sheet mulch: Way way back 3 spring times agao, when all we had here was a waving hillside of kouch grass I eked out one 80 foot long bed using a lasagne or sheet multch technique. I built that bed right ontop of thriving fresh kouch grass, and still to this day it is one of my favorite and most nutrient rich beds in the garden. The grass is managable and not so vigorous and I feel like this is a really viable option for working with weedy long routed grass challenges! There are some things I have learned about that bed and my material selections I am set to improve this go round.

*** I am so stoked to have so much great news to report, having all the extra muscle and brain power around here is fabulous, we are making HUGE steps forward in all manor of food and human systems. Jordan erected a great shower house next to the yarn yurt and we finally got to use the bamboo walls Dayna gifted us last year for the task, The shower has a sturdy peeled pole bench and a pallet deck floor. We will have a double sink next to it for all manor of garden / toiletry / and kitchen camp uses both will be heated¬†with a hot water on demand unit designed for outdoor camps. The open air view from the shower is wonderful and I can’t wait to jump in an enjoy a sunny outdoor¬†shower!

Phil and Jordan hauled no end of big @ss boulders around today, improving access after days of bobcat disruption! We now have a raging water line across the garden and to the yarn yurt, and that was no small feat. Dyl had to learn how to drive a bobcat backhoe to get 140 feet of new water line in place, and that task was an all hands on deck pick axe-shovelling-racking fiasco! I kept singing “laying pipe all day long” and acknowledged that never before have I had 3 men “…working so hard to satisfy this woman”!

Yeah for water, and bobcats, and bamboo showers, and perky plants who loved the vermi-compost tea treatments!!!

 

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I am bubbling with excitement to share our latest adventure in composting…

Where to start… Well a few months back I got back on the vermi wagon and welcomed red wigglers back into my house, inspired by our friend Rob’s vermi-pod I created my own as a temporary ¬†house for my magical compost factory. Today I harvested my first casting. But let me go back a little further…

When I was about 8 My grandma has this wonderful invention I adored, it was a home spa, a portable long oval plastic deck you would lay in the bottom of a tub, connected to a really loud motor that for periods of 5-30 minutes at a go you could enjoy the rejuvenating bubbles of a spa right in your own tub! I used to drown myself in bath foam and create epic mountains of bubbles and play for hours in the tub. Eventually I ended up with the home spa, and dragged it from house to house with me never really using it, but always remembering home much I loved it.

After moving to BC, I was taking my PDC at Mountain Waters Retreat in Nelson and we were learning about brewing compost tea commercially! How exciting this was for me, as I had had and loved vermicompost previously and had in my possession a huge oxygenating pad which would so easily act as a brewer. Joyfully I came home only to find out a mere 3 weeks earlier Dyl had finally tipped my home spa in the bin! WHAT.. there goes my dreams of free tea brewing.

About 3 months ago I was scrounging through a second hand store when a small familiar blue and white box caught my eye. low and behold it was a home spa! Just like the one I had lost. I snapped it up for $5, and today it had it’s virgin run.

We had a tragedy occur here at the farm, that is we lost all the tomato plants and the cuc’s in the course of a few days. (more on tabacco related deaths in a future post), but all of the sudden the health and vitality of my smallest tomato and pepper starts was of the up-most importance! The starts needed a major boost of love and care and it was time to bust out the worms and the brewer and get at it!

Here is what we did.

I harvested about 4 cups of casting (and coco-husk bedding, thus the increased amount) and bagged it in a reusable produce bag that essentially acts as a tea bag, we put the tea bag in a 40L rubbermade bin, filled it with water along with 1/2 cup of Mycrobez (a wonderful live enzyme product made in Kaslo, sourced from Bocashi composting), added about 1/2 cup of unsulfured molasses and  immersed the home spa in the bin. Weighted it down with a tree root and a pick axe, that we just happen to have been using all week, used vice grips to over ride the timer function and got the tea a brewing! And boy did it brew!

Any fears about the home spa’s lack of air flow were immediately quelled as it busted out some serious bubbles! As I type the tea is in it’s 4th hour of brewing and by this time tomorrow all of our plants will get a hard earned juice boost from our friends the worms!

And as we are now rabbit farmers too the worms will get there first taste of rabbit droppings and straw bedding tomorrow!¬†Exciting times as the elements all start to come together around here. Stay tuned there is so much on the go, and I have a few more posts to share soon about earthworks, water, rabbits, and how tobacco plants kill tomatoes ūüė¶

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Oh what a week we have had here!

Our new intern Jordan arrived last week just as Phil departed for a time, we are soaking up the the new and unstoppable energy and crossing many items of the ever building To Do list! Things are looking tidy around here and Dylan is bucking up stacks of trees and Jordan doesn’t ever put the axe down… which means the firewood stacks are growing to a promising size!

I moved my nightshade starts into their new temporary home in the sweet cold fame Jordan built and we have salad greens popping up everywhere! The garden has been all encompassing of my time these days and ¬†Jordan and I have been spending endless hours digging and double digging the new massive potato patch, edged on one side by shelling peas set to climb up the fence and on the other is a cabbage and onions mound edged with a whimsical¬†olive oil tin ¬†kale / chard container boarder. We put 20+ lbs of potatoes in the ground today, 4 varieties, and are trying and interesting approach to planting… Firstly we set each start in the ground with a comfry leaf (to ward off scabs) placed 12″ apart in rows of triangles to maximize plants per space, then we gently covered them with dirt and will be building up layer after layer of straw mulch on top. The idea is that the potatoes grow in the straw rather than the ground, yielding clean and easily harvested ¬†potatoes, hundreds and hundreds of them!¬†Here is a good example of a straw potato patch¬†success storey.¬†Next we tackle the purple barley field and the corn crop.

This week we ¬†travelled to a south slocan farm to meet our newest animal additions… a mating pair of rabbits. Just working on the design for hutch housing and dropping collection to easily feed the worms. The idea has spiralled into a bigger far more function stacked system, but while we have the skilled hands we might as well throw in a passive solar green house and compost tea brewing facility right!?! ¬†We have orderd a few more chicks to keep our little solo babe company and have finally got our hands on the two breeds we have been after for some time; Marans which lay chocolate brown coloured eggs and Silkies which have a big white poof of feathers on their heads and look an awful lot like fragil rock creatures.

Our strawberries are flowering (which is so exciting because they will turn into the first strawberries ever from our land) and out guilded fruit trees from last year all look healthy and are popping with green, as is everything around us!

We managed to get our new hillside seeded out and planted with hundreds of basket willow starts to attempt to stabile the lot after our road work last year. Much more willow basket weaving is certain to be in my future.

We all managed to get the final strapping of the yurt roof done, it’s tied down, insulated and almost decoratively covered (with white tarp). Last night we celebrated with a fooz tourney, as the long stored foos ball table now has a home in the man-yurt. It is all most move in ready, with a well working door and a new temporary (albeit ugly) roof cap, that is a repurposed fiberglas massive satelight dish. We have sweet vintage metal cabinets to use in the new yurt ( or the Murt; man-yurt as we have been lovingly referring to it as) and the makings of a nice little kitchenette, complete with a bar fridge and a sudo- sink.

This next week the boys will finally tackle the unfinished 3/10th’s of ¬†tin roof on woodhenge! This will mean dry storage and re-stacking of lumber in racking!

We built and have been monitoring a whopping HOT compost pile… Ahh nothing like the smell of steamy cooking compost to get you up in the morning! Actually the pile got a little too hot, and took some effort to cool it down, but it will be lovely and ready shortly. Jordan took an in depth soil studies class with Doug Weatherbee last year and there is another round of this class I am really interested in attending this month in Alberta hosted by Verge. I love the study of soil and making it and it would be dreamy to get out to this workshop.

Speaking of interesting things happening in Alberta, The Western Canada Permaculture Convergence is happening this August (24-26) and it is certain to be an amazing event! Many of our friends are involved in making it a success and it will be a fabulously inspiring weekend of learning and sharing and networking!

I have been working on this post for a number of days, and since starting it Phil has re joined our team here, and I was happy he made it back in time for all of us to take in the May Day – Water Celebration. Winlaw’s annual festival in celebration of our stunning water in this special place. The event is a long day of music and dancing and reuniting with friends as we all shake of the winter and celebrate the spring, complete with a drum lead parade from “downtown” to the river for a blessing. The whole community joined in singing “down to the river to pray” and it was a breathtaking and fabulous! What a special place ¬†to be.

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a solid fir compression ring.

This is compression ring number 3 here at tricycle acres… this one the most rudimentary by far, in fact as we starting slamming what is now known as the man yurt or the “murt” together a week a go today, we were dreaming of a self supporting reciprocal roof rafters, built from the poles our intern Phil has been peeling by the dozens. The reciprocal method was not going to work on this yurt we discovered after pole #4, but with the help of our friend Dino… steady on we kept at ‘er and threw up a car rim up as the centre point… the poles all fit in really nicely cut using the on the fly chain-saw method of precision cutting 30 degree angles, the structure almost built itself… until it didn’t. That is to say somewhere around pole number 20 (of a planned 32) something went array and the hugely tensile rim shifted to lay less than level to the world. We hummed and ratchet strapped and tweaked, and some poles rained down on us, before Dyl packed it in for the shop to build another compression ring for yet another round pole structure!

The new ring went up today and the roof plugged together in just a few short hours (now we were really practised). So today day 7 from newly cleared very uneven sloped land we now have a built from scratch 20 foot yurt complete with solid fir lattice walls and and cedar pole roof, sitting on a plywood deck built on a super solid foam block piling system engineered with with pallet wrap and some scrap plywood. We have not used one bit of manufacture yurt parts yet… but Tomorrow we haul the skins and insulation up from the barn (which is fast walking down the hill MUST GET IT STABILIZED..and soon). Then we go recover a HUGE old satelight dish that has been given to us to make the murt roof cap! The door comes from the Thread Guild heritage building complete with antique glass knobs (my favourite) ! Ahh Upcycled yurt in a week and a bit!

SWEET.

The yurt is sitting smack daub in the middle of what we now call PERMA-CAMP. Our intern / camper / overflow / friends and family outback! Can’t wait to watch this area evolve into a little camp town. I am a happy girl…. better amenities out there mean less impact in here. This tiny space seems ever tinier by the day. Soon we’ll have a heated shower and sink in perma camp, as well as a little kitchen in the yurt. I am hoping someone will build a couple tent decks so our tenting pals have some flat land to set up on. To day we hung a hammock at the camp and are talking about building a nice bench around the central yew tree. yew sit. yew think. yew rest, here. The view is stunning up at ¬†the camp and I am thrilled to be moving forward and crossing things off the fridge list each day.

Today the fruit tree’s got mulched heavily with wet straw and some poopy chicken straw all set above coils of soaker hose and perennial companion guilds. I have planted out a few beds so far… carrots and onions, and beets. My starts are exploding! I have the healthiest tomatoes and cucs starts of my gardening career right now! Eeee! The garden plan is in place and I am chewing away at it as I can fit it between yurting and cooking and baking.

I am looking forward to a few focused garden weeks ahead with our next intern, as we take on some raw couch grassy new land and put in some keyhole garden beds as well as the hugelkultur¬†¬†bed, which we have been amassing materials for. In fact “hugel” has become a verb around here… “hugel it” we say everyday as we add to the sorted orderly piles of forest materials: burn pit, rocket fuel, hugel bed, future build pile, firewood stack.. etc.

The spring clean is on, and we are sorting and hauling and stacking EVERYTING! even the red mossy van got hauled away today! The wagon is next and soon maybe even the old ford van and truck too!

The trees are about to burst… the buds look like they couldn’t possibly stay closed one more day, and the bee’s and the swallows and the song birds are all back, as are the eagles and the bears! Oh and we have found our first mating pair of rabbits.. and are off to meet them this week! Mating, and babies, meat and fur, vermicompost, compost ¬†tea … here we come.

Oh and moma bird looks to be a certified one hit wonder, again we only have 1 chickie. Funny we named her Madonna and yet her sister hen Cindy Lopper has yet to set but would have been a better name for our moma hen.

Yesterday I went to the annual yard and yardage sale at the Threads Guild and loaded up on sprawling flowering perennial plants to add to the “bee garden” and birch graveyard. We are drillingout old tree stumps for bee condos set amid rhododendron and bee balm and now motherwort and another 5 or so blue and purple flower plants I will likely never remember the names of!

I am so bagged… long hard days hauling heavy dirty shit around. And to think we are only weeks into it all. Living the good life.

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I am so very grateful today.

I am grateful for the sun back in our lives, for vitamin D and the warmth on our skin and plants. I am grateful for the renewal of energy we are all feeling and for health (again). I am grateful for the internship opportunity we opened ourselves up to the lessons we are learning, and the great enthusiasm that Phil is bringing to out little slice of mountain. I am grateful that our family is all on board with this whole crazy adventure, of living this more difficult yet more rewarding life. I am grateful for the new food bursting from the ground. I am grateful for the new tiny little lives beginning here. I am grateful for this special community we found.

ah.

THE FIRST BABY CHICKIE OF THE YEAR HATCHED TODAY! Not that I am counting my chickens before they hatch, I learned that the hard way last year (funny how applicable all of these old antics are these days, as we live here on and with the land)… ¬†Madonna is still sitting on a nice little pile of eggs, so we’ll see if more hatch in the next day or two. I did the nesting mom thing today and cleaned the old coop up for her and the babies, picked up chickie feed and did a little baby proofing of the waddle and daub coop, where moma and babies can live in peace as the other birds are all in the new forest coop.

I managed to get the cold frame filled with greens, and the plants seems to stretch up toward the sun in gratitude for their new home. I enjoyed a few sunny warm hours in the garden today cleaning up beds, finding new surprise onions bursting from the earth, along with the 150+ garlic’s I planted in the fall all perky and bright green, reaching for the blue sky.

The guys we’re busy filling old tires with old plywood and old chicken wire along with a cement mix full of wood pulp fibres from our chipper. The old cement mixer fired right up after living in the garden all winter. The tires will be yurt footing, I think I already mentioned that. I have a vision of this second yurt being all things upcycled. I am dreaming of pallet furniture and maybe even a pallet board walk, we plan to repurpose an old satelight dish for the yurt cap. Hoping some of our interns will have some good waste stream diversion ideas to make their accommodations even better!

I have to say we are just loving having an extra pair of eager hands around here. Phil is keeping Dylan on track and working hard, projects are coming together rapidly. And I truly think this 2nd yurt will actually happen in the next couple weeks! How great is that?! This whole process is taking some getting used to; sharing space and time, responsibilities and obligations. I am having to keep Phil fed with hearty food at reasonable hours… trying to get a regular schedule together on the meal front. It is much easier to put off feeding the family at regular times, but when you have someone so diligently sweating it out fuel is super important! All things doable and manageable I am certain.

The garden plans seems so much more real these days now that I can see the earth again! The biggest food task will be turning the hill side above the existing garden (shown in slideshow, yurt in background garden fence posts on left, lots of tree bits and mulch piles, where food will grow soon). Grain crops this year will be barley and corn.. both in large volumes (large by our standards that is), I plan to do more buckwheat too, but likely just to enjoy as micro greens.. mmm missing those tender crunchy bits these days! Looking at adding keyhole gardens and hugelkultur beds in this area as we are drowing in wood chunks and brush looking for a new purpose.

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Seems like we have been at a bit of a stand still the past few weeks, what with a trip to Alberta which had us hauling home all sorts of deals and materials for repurposing, oh and a nasty bug that beat us all. We were welcomed home with a week of dreary rainy grey sky complete with coughing and aching. UGH! Luckily we had two shinning bright sunny days to remind us just how great life can be out here, when your working without the rain pouring on you.

Right before we left we welcomed our friend from Calgary and first permaculture intern Phil, He is making the transition from urban to rural life and we are lucky to have him and all his drive to figure out this mountain life of building with trees, which as we well know by now is awfully idyllic but full of sweaty tedious dirty chores from; sighting the tree, falling the tree, de-limbing, hauling, peeling, storing, and milling or chopping the tree, all before you even get to hammer a nail into it! Phil has been reading a lot of Rob Roy, and is very well educated on the process, but like anything doing is so much different than reading about doing! He diligently trudges on though, and is making great work of the newly fallen birches; chopping and stacking, and the cedars we felled to clear a small building site… these poles nearly 40 of them have almost all been peeled by hand by Phil! I think he is perfecting his technique, and as he dreams of his own cord wood home he now has a good understanding of the magnitude of each of these tasks… something we still often forget.

Soil blocking has become my new past time.. I am loving my soil blockers and can‚Äôt believe how healthy and strong my starts are this year! Just the other day I transplanted beautiful cucumbers in their 2″ blocks into the maxi ¬†4‚ÄĚ soil block… what fun! We have salad micro greens nearly ready to eat now!

During our 2 days of sunshine the guys took a break from the drudgery of pole peeling, and we set to work making the new chicken coop (version 4.0). The coop started with a 6 pallet deck at the base of a great stand of ceder trees, we then quickly assembled the used shed we purchased a few weeks back, dug a number of deep fence posts and tamped in some of the biggest newly peeled ceder poles. The days were full of joyous successes and practical use of waste and local materials. The chickens will be OH SO HAPPY in their new forest home, protected by great trees and solid fencing (FINALLY)! Using ceder mill scraps we executed a lovely nesting box / rousting bar fixture, and today the guys are fastening the wire fencing and afixing the lovely garden gate Dylan made for me for Christams! I think our lovely ladies will make the move tomorrow to their newest and bestest home yet!

Speaking chickens… I put my flock to work the past couple days in the garden and green house, cleaning and turning the soil, weeding and debugging to their delight! How easy cleaning the garden is when you have over 2 dozen eager volunteers! Unfortunately the days ended poorly for a couple of our animals, as Odin (the puppy) after behaving himself for nearly two whole days, took after a bantam bird… who luckily escaped… but we discovered yesterday he had nabbed himself a hen on the sly and sadly we lost a good layer. Odin has proven himself a loyal and sweet smart and lovely boy… but his chicken prey drive is deep routed. As we humm over his fate he is wearing ‚Äúthe necklace of shame‚ÄĚ. We took the advise of many an old farmer and tied the poor dead bird around his neck, and he is dragging that carcass around with him and sadly is out of the pack today. Hopefully this changes his opinion of chicken hunting… because he is on strike 3. Not sure my future dreams of ducks and a fish pond will work with Odin around ūüė¶

Brighter skies ahead I am sure.

For more of our mountain side adventures check out Phils philosophical blogs (likely more artfully written than my own!)

http://i-ching-guidance.blogspot.ca/ 
http://allthingsindigo.blogspot.ca/ 
http://phils-natural-building.blogspot.ca/

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Falling on my head like a memory… I have been singing this all day long! Yes I am a child of the eighties, and yes I LOVE the Eurythmics, Actually yesterday I got to re-live my other 80’s love : rollerskating! We took Mia and 4 of her friends to the new roller rink, run by the local derby girls, and we had a BLAST on 8 wheels celebrating a decade of Mia’s life!

But more than my love for 80’s electronica, is my love for SPRING TIME. Just the other day (after my false hope a couple weeks ago) I found myself feeling like spring is actually upon us. Most of our road is muddy and the earth is showing through. On the side of the back road there is even grass visible. Our BBQ magically re-appeared this past week along with much of the picnic table! Then came the rain!We have had some epic albeit brief downpours exposing even more ground, and carrying away even more snow!

Exciting spring times ahead, and fitting that I busted out my soil blocker last week, I got my potting soil slurry mixed up and starting producing soil blocks. The grow rack came out, and the new grow lights, and the seed bank. I managed to plant about 120 starts, mainly tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and spinach, oh and some marigolds and sunflowers. I kept the seeds warm with the wood fire eco fan directed at the seed rack and a bubble wrap of space foil keeping the starts cozy for germination. I really enjoyed making the potting cubes and I am hopeful this technique and tool will help us grow more food, more successfully. I wish I had everything in hand for the past new moon, or that I would be home for the next new moon.. but alas my moon cycle planting will have to wait until April, and until then I will have my hands full keeping my new baby’s cozy and strong!

Dyl has been working tirelessly this week at clearing our house site which is perfectly situated above the new road overlooking the garden and yarn yurt. The space is ideally located as all the trees that need to come out are small cedars (perfect poles for more building projects) and the 2 large trees that had to go opened up a huge pocket of late afternoon sunlight to the existing and expanded garden, as well as the new house. The large hemlock that came down will be used in the house construction, and we have many many birch trees that are dying off ready to be chopped and stacked for next years firewood which also made way for the house. It feels so great to stand where our house will sit and take in the magical mountain top view. It is funny, there was a chair growing mossy back in the forest a little way from the trailer that we stumbled upon on our walks often, it sat in the middle of some trees facing nothing much, It always looked like a good thinking space, well now that chair as it turns out is smack dab in the middle of our future living room!

We picked up a small used 10×10 shed (one of those plastic canadian tire units), we would never buy new but seemed an ideal quick and perfect solution for our expanding food system. The shed will be the spanky and very urban looking chook haus, situated in a new happy chicken yard, cozied under a great stand of cedar trees to protect them from both predators from above and heavy snow and rain fall, it is also perfectly situated midway between the current house and our new house, it’s also NOT on a slippery muddy chicken poo slide of a death slope( like our current coop). The new chook site will solve all sorts of growing flock / access / drainage problems we didn’t foresee in our first site design (a clear example of why you should never build a first thought design). Luckily the old waddle and daub mud coop is the perfect expanded garden shed with some easy alterations. The problem with the new chicken space is that looming high above it was a MASSIVE birch tree, slowly dropping rotten limbs down (read as silent death from above, or trailer killers as we like to call them). The tree had to go, and it took a small miracle for Dylan and I to fall it without taking out the trailer or the garden gate, or the cold frame, all fairly important structures, IMHO. We synched and strapped and scoped out the fall, said a prayer to the great forest gods and mother gaia, and down she came, massive and textbook perfect in her landing. ‘Ahh sigh of relief. Falling those big trees always stresses me out, especially when Dyl is chain saw deep into a big ‘ol falling timber!

We finally pruned all of our old fruit tree’s this week too! And boy could you could feel the improvement and openness ¬†breathing from the trees, like having a much needed shave or hair cut.. you know the feeling!

So much TO DO and it’s amazing how much time seems to speed up as the season of doing is at hand. But while things are still snow covered I have two more rugs to weave on my 3 rug warp, all set up and calling to me. ¬†I am thrilled with the results of my first T-shirt rug, and can’t wait to play with some variations on the following two!

Mia is teaching a fairy needle felting (members day) workshop next week over spring break at the threads guild, and she is awfully excited to share her knowledge and techniques of this fun craft. We had a great time Saturday celebrating Mia’s champagne birthday, as she turned 10 on the 10th! She challenged me to create a hamburger shaped birthday cake this year, and I thought it turned out just as good as some of our past cakes!

We are looking forward to welcoming our first Permaculture Intern this week! His first tasks including peeling some of the cedar logs we took down, so we can start playing with new structures and new fencing!

TTFN

Every day we get one step closer to the house of our dreams, and one step further away from our preconceived notions of what that dream house was years back, before living here, like this, and observing this land, and our way of living with it (the land that is).

What started out as a clear plan to build a frank Lloyd Write inspired Hemicycle (the Jacob two, shown centre image), out of rammed earth into car tires, has now become a challenge in repurposing materials and using what we have locally: poles, a shipping container, local wood and access to a small mill, clay and earth, sand, some other industrial type waste materials…. and about 10 million designs on how to incorporate them all, into a modest, insulated, natural, owner built off grid home!!! After lining in a trailer which is not unlike the jacob house in scale we realized we want some cozy hidey holes, and intimate space.. not a long rectangle, and after Dyl did his Earthship Internship we realized that without a team of 50 dedicated tire pounders for weeks on end, we would come undone trying to ram earth ¬†ourselves.

We are leaning heavily towards pole frame now but have a keen interest in quonset homes (Q-hut). If you know us, you know we adore sleek post modern lines, and love the challenge of creating usable and sexy spaces. We are scrounger extraordinars, and in fact hauled about 5 tones of industrial salvaged material here with us (oh and almost lost them upon delivery you may remember). We want to build our home for less than $30 / sq ft.  But the more free materials we can use the better.

We love the warmth of straw bale and I have dreamed of living in a straw home since my first workshop back in 1995. We also love timber framing and it certainly runs deep in Dyl’s blood. We have really enjoyed playing with pole construction with all of our out buildings. I love earthen clays, and hand sculpting, incorporating glass and other garbage bits into beautiful walls.

Our solar energy here for the most part is stored for us by the forest, and comes to us via wood. The inefficient method in which it is burned and wasted however is not at all appealing to us. We love rocket stoves for heat, and wood gasifiers for electricity. We will design our electrical needs down even further, maybe even scrap the fridge all together, and plan to use DC LED lighting, and have a solar water heater for the summer months, as well as a small PV array for summer energy…. but then comes the winter, where it’s cloudy and mild, propane is a nice option for water heating and cooking… so long as you can afford to buy it or are able to access it in the future.

Greywater is a must in my mind, and incorporating a green house space off the home is really important, this is something the earthship folks do really well. We have a composting toilet in hand ¬†just waiting for it’s new home, and we are building a particle sand filter to add to our lovely living mountain water.

A couple weeks back we had for the first time a full design on paper that we both really loved. It fit all of our needs, and wants, and it incorporated 2 additional shipping containers. As it turns out they are not as easy to come by out here, and the delivery costs fell out of the budget range. So back to the drawing board we went… but this time with the most solid blueprints we have had to date. I love that the plans keep all the water on one wall, it features simplified and minimal electrical runs, it house the compost containment in a protected insulated outdoor space, the design keeps all of the systems in one space, with short runs to appliances. Our plan also incorporated the 20 ft sea can we currently own as an earth bearmed root celler, and swanky architectural detail.

Time is ticking and none of us want to spend another winter in this tin can, luckily we have our cozy home away from home, and we often have yurtings to break away from the trailer life!

I haven’t posted for a while because I wanted to keep the call to interns up for some time (and thanks to everyone who applied, we are beginning the interview process now for our April on interns and are looking forward to welcoming our first intern of the season in one short month! yay we are so very excited to kick off this busy expansive growing and building season!

We are all happy and healthy and loving this turn in the feel of the sun (ever since ground hog day) the sun seems warmer and brighter and the days feel closer than ever to spring.