It's bake day! The cob oven on Steve's place has been up and running for a week or two now, and I have done a couple of test bakes to get a feel for this individual oven. It seems to absorb more heat than the one I built several years ago, so I've had to adjust my normal bake times a little. Today is production day. I made several loaves of wheat sourdough for spreading around. The oven is Evan and Kai's work and I feel fortunate to have the ability to use one again.
Gary's here to be a gapper as of 3 days ago, and the man is a machine. So much is happening.
Things have been cleared, cleaned up and organized. The trash is all collected and sorted. The available building materials have been categorized. The loft floor has been finished, the wood stove rescued from under a Ponderosa and test fired, and the slats for the insulation straw have been applied to the walls all the way up to the point where we plan to commence the bottle cob. The floor of the house and both the front and rear door yards have been graded smooth and the front has been terraced. We even had dinner with Ben and Steve. Welcome home Ben
So now that the house is in capable hands, I can concentrate on projects like my STOVE! And my water harvesters and dew collector and air well! And my plants!
Today I put the second window in the house! Jesse left it all framed and some of the slip straw insulation done, but I will have to either do or coordinate the rest of it. We still have to hang three doors and put in two more windows, but two of them are done. Next we will start on the slip straw for the lower walls.
I'm trying to get everything on the lower level closed in. I figure once that's done, we'll be better off in the house than in the tent, even if the upper level bottle cob isn't finished in the exterior walls. The roof is rock solid and it is much cooler inside the house during the day even with no doors or lower walls, what with the earth sheltered nature of the house.
Today was a pretty good day. We went over to Steve's plot in the morning and talked about his cob oven-in-process, then got to talking about sourdough. Can't wait until that oven is done.
We tried to help Jesse with building the house today, but I don't think there is much we can do besides support work. Toward that goal I soaked clay for slip and made campfire chili, and Justin did some holding of boards.
It turns out that the clay in at least one section of the plot is absolutely perfect for pottery. I processed a hunk of it and made a test vessel. I don't know what to call it. A chalice, maybe? It's drying now, and in a couple of days I'm going to try campfire-coal firing. It will take a very big, very hot fire. I've seen it but I've never done it myself, so if it works, yay
Today I didn't work on the rocket stove because I took the boys out on an excursion to acquire pine straw. Jesse plans to use this as insulation, and he needs a lot. Justin tore into the assignment, and Ezra (almost 5) did pretty well, probably filling 2 or 3 totes' worth himself. Together we filled the truck bed. I expect we will have to go out again, but this should go pretty far. We went around the ant village harvesting needles from downed ponderosa tops.
We worked on important concepts while we were out, like teamwork, and gaining rewards from your work. Ezra is still in the headspace where he is deciding whether work can be enjoyable for its own sake, and he is learning about the satisfaction of accomplishment. Justin just wanted to conquer the pine needles.
After that the small ones napped, and I did dishes. Off grid campfire carry-your-water dishes. I don't like doing dishes. I did not take any pictures of that.
So I've been here at the lab for 3 days and tried fir cambium fresh. It twisted up beautifully but shrank and went brittle as it dried, leaving it loose. I've been harvesting the cambium and drying it for later use after I've reached a good stopping point on the rocket stove.
Here's a picture of the cambium just after harvest:
So it's Wednesday, and I arrived on Sunday afternoon. It's been a little bit of a whirlwind. Everyone is preparing for the PDC, so I haven't really pushed myself into base camp life. I am very glad I pushed it a bit and arrived a week early! I've been settling in and getting the kids used to camping again, talking to Jesse about plans for the plot and potential projects, meeting people and getting a feel for the place.
The first project I'm doing to help improve the plot is a cob-mortared stone rocket stove across from Jesse's timber framed kitchen. So far I have the hearth laid and a test base assembled.
The kids are adapting too. Justin has been able to help Ben and Kai with work in addition to helping Jesse. Makes a mom proud :'-) Ahava, who is 3, keeps everyone on their toes with what she says. Today as I was walking her to the outhouse, we had this exchange:
Me: "I wish you had gone with Naomi when she went, baby."
Ava: "No, I gotta go wif you, because you are da mom and you will protek' me from da dinosaurs."
I dumpster dove to feed my husband and I for a period while we were saving to rent a new place. We had to buy VERY little, basically just condiments and occasionally staple grains or cheese or the like. I had one source, made sure to only go in the middle of the night just after getting off work, and made certain to leave it better looking than I found it. I think we got through four months this way. I stopped when I got too pregnant to handle getting in and out of the dumpster. One time the thing was filled with two solid feet of perfect looking cabbages. I was able to select six pristine specimens and left shaking my head at the wastage, just like normal. I could never take everything the store threw away.
To the person who found the box of candy bars: I doubt the manager told you the truth. When an item is recalled, stores are required to ship the item back to the manufacturer. I think she was snowing you to keep you out of her dumpster.
raven ranson wrote:Cordage is often made with the phylum layer of the plant - inner bark. The fibres are (more or less) the same as celery strings, only stronger. Only because it's cordage and not for clothing, it doesn't need to be processed into fine individual fibres. You can leave the skin/bark on.
In a couple of months, Himalayan blackberries will be ready to make cordage from.
Scotch broom is ready now.
Flax, nettles, kudzu all make fantastic cordage.
Cedar bark and roots
Newzealand flax and yucca - make the cordage from the leaf
Not an exhaustive list
But I don't know what grows at the lab.
If you need any help, let me know. I'm very curious about fibre plants that don't grow where I am. Especially finding uses for unwanted plants like blackberries those on the so-called invasive list.
I made baskets with kudzu while I was still living in the south, throwing that outer skin away when peeling the stalks because I didn't know about cordage yet. Blackberries are wonderful! What is it that makes them ready for cordage at this time? Bark development on the canes?
I'll be at the Lab in about 28 hours. I'll have to discipline myself not to dive into gathering materials immediately -- I have a camp to set up!
Michael Newby wrote:Last summer while I was camped at the lab I experimented with making rough cordage out of the knapweed that is so prolific out there. I didn't process the plants other than stripping leaves and side branches then crushing the stems. I made a simple hand twisted two ply cord that I tied around my tarp. Pretty strong stuff, it held a knot pretty well but the fibers get brittle when they dry. You could probably make much better cordage with better processing of the plants before making the line.
I've been looking for possible uses for knapweed,but so far the only thing I've been able to manage was a flower garland. That stuff is pernicious. I'm wondering about thatching with the stalks.
Ray Cecil wrote:I dont know if I could be alone that long. Maybe if I never knew the love of a good woman I wouldn't know what I was missing. I love my family and friends. I think we humans are social creatures. At least for me, I like alone time, but not a permanent alone time. Seems a bit selfish to me....why not spend time with good people?
I would agree except that recently I realized I've never known the love of a good man. Now I'm torn. I have the little'uns and either they would have to come, or I'd have to wait until they grew. Then I'd have to decide if I wanted to go that far out and miss their adulthoods...I think I've missed my chance to test myself that far. Spending time with good people is priceless; but sometimes not knowing which are the good people makes the solitude a much safer bet.
I am hoping to conduct some experiments with natural cordage materials when I get time. I already plan to do cordage lengths with dried grass and animal sinew (if and when I can get some), and in doing research I have found that willow bark and cedar bark are useful for that purpose. Are there cedars with a fibrous bark growing near the lab area? Does anyone maybe have suggestions about possible materials to use that grow naturally around the lab or base camp?
Candy Johnson wrote:I have bought both Mikes book and Bill Mollisons. But those i lost when i lost the house.
Hi Candy, I just found my second copy of Mike's book. I had replaced it because I thought it was lost, but in sorting my books in preparation for going to the ant village I just uncovered it. I would like to send it to you. Would you pm me some address or po box I could send it to? I need to pare down as much as possible, so if I don't send it to you I'll have to throw it out, and the thought of throwing this piece of gold away is just too much for me
Jocelyn Campbell wrote:
The 27th is the all day tour for PDC attendees, with the PDC May 28-June 10th; followed by the ATC June 12th-23rd. Very Busy Times!
Oh goodness, I didn't realize things would converge like that. I would like to be there in time to help get ready, not become a burden myself! I wonder if I can work out arriving this weekend...but I would have to leave day after tomorrow. Holicrap.
paul wheaton wrote:So a mom and kids ... I don't see a path at this time. But I am open to considering a path I have not yet figured out.
My guess is that you might want to talk to the ants about being a gapper for them. An ant might be able to figure something out.
How does one go about locating an ant who might need a gapper?
The ants that like to have a public face seem to have public threads in the wheaton labs forum that they fill with pictures. And sometimes the ants pipe up in threads like this!
Hi Paul and/or Jocelyn, just letting you know that Jesse Grimes and I have reached an arrangement in which I will be caretaking his plot while he is in California this year. I hope to be able to fill in with gapper jobs - Jesse's plot jobs having priority - and I have a strong and capable 12 year old who I am willing to vicariously work through. I hope also to be able to offer soft skills for jobs that need doing domestically or in an office environment. I will bring or can send a resume.
I expect to arrive no later than the weekend of the 27th of May. Is there a contact email where I can ask logistical questions? Thanks!
I was five, and my mother was freaking out. My brother was a month old, and I remember her pacing the living room holding him, worrying about her parents' house in Scappoose. She told me my grandfather was having to go up on the roof and shovel ash every 4 hours to keep his roof from caving in. It's still kind of a landmark event to me. We used to go from SoCal to Oregon every summer, and a few summers later we toured the mudflow that wiped out the Toutle River and walked through an A frame house that had been filled with liquidized ash to hip level (well, hip level on an 8 year old). I have felt much more an Oregonian than a Californian since I was very small, and I remember being very sobered that such a disaster could happen in the place I considered my home.
I have one plant of Hardy Yam but it isn't doing much because it doesn't get sufficient water.
Regarding deer; I wouldn't be able to grow anything without fences.
I did not know there were hardy yams! WOW! One of the things I have missed about the South has been the long growing seasons and the sweet potatoes. It seems like these might be an acceptable substitute. NICE!!
One use I have thought bamboo might be good for might be as wattle strips for wattle & daub construction. Also I know people will make drinking vessels out of sections of fully mature bamboo. Then of course the shoots are edible.
One fear I have had about planting bamboo is that from what I understand, once you've put in bamboo, you really can't keep it from taking over your place, as it's a grass and it spreads via broken root sections a lot like bermuda grass does. Does anyone know if I'm right? I haven't studied it very closely.
paul wheaton wrote:I think this is a good time for folks to list stuff that they might build for how much. And this would be a good time for folks to list stuff they might like to have built and for how much.
I don't know if this is still a thing, but here's my list:
Things I might build or put in for money:
Cob or wattle & daub houses
Outdoor cooking areas (cob based and canopied)
Dry stone walled bases for things
Dry stone walls
Pottery kilns (simple earth based wood fired ones)
Things I might raise or make for money:
Vegetables and fruit
Sheep and their resultant products (meat, wool, milk, cheese)
Simple pottery home implements and roof tiles, made from native clay and woodfired
Spun yarn from wool
Knitted or crocheted items from that yarn (socks, hats, scarves, mittens, blankets)
Flax and its subproducts (linen, flaxseed) - assuming such would grow in Montana, perhaps making use of a microclimate within the Lab
Things I might purchase from people at the Lab:
Electrical wiring capability
Heavy woodworking capability (timber frame construction is as yet beyond me because I am short and have no practice)
Mechanical repairs of all types
Forged metal items
So, ants - is a gapper needed by any of you wonderful people?
I am much more experienced with permaculture than most, having lived a good chunk of the last three years in unpowered situations, whether on property or camping. I am very comfortable with gardening, woodfire cooking with staple foods, making campfire coffee, light woodworking, and working with cob and adobe. At the beginning of last year I built a garden for a friend before leaving the East Coast. When Paul began this program I had a very strong urge to participate and inquired toward it, but as a mom of 5 with a brand new baby at that time and an unwilling husband, I felt unable to do so. Now, said husband is out of the picture in one way and another, and I feel able to look at this again.
The catch is that I will not be bringing child care, nor will I be bringing much coin. I understand that families with children are already present. Does anyone think it might be a possibility that I could barter work for child care? Should I be able to work out the details, my intention is to work into being an ant myself, and two of my kids are old enough to work with me. (We homeschool, so it would just become part of lessons.) Depending on the answers I receive here, I should be able to take a Greyhound into Missoula within a week or two of this posting date. I'm looking forward to responses!
I am very very encouraged to know that there are families with kids who will be on the place this year.
Last year I inquired about entering the ant village program, but my husband nixed the idea after discussing possible destinations (we were leaving SC for points west at that time). We are now in Coeur d'Alene, ID, and I have not lost my dream of entering the program. However I don't have a spare $900 at this point to go straight into the ant village. Also, if I pursue this, the children will all be coming and my husband likely will not, since he hopes to be working in Alaska for fishing season this year.
My question is, do you have space for one permaculture-experienced hardworking mom in the boot program, or as a gapper? And might it be possible to arrange child care during work hours with some of the other parents onsite, do you think, being that we might be able to come up with work trades or suchlike?
I have spent a large proportion of the last three years living off grid, in campsite situations (by choice), cooking over woodfire and using rainwater collection systems. I built my own cob oven and used it for several months in breadbaking for my family. I am just a short Greyhound ride away.
A repost of the Wired Magazine article posted earlier in the thread.
It appears that the prototypes were set up in the northeastern highlands south of the Nile, which are pretty high elevation but not desert. The Warka Water towers seem to do double duty as fog collectors but only incidentally according to the article. I suppose I'll be able to report more precisely on the workings before too long. I am in South Carolina, more humid than some areas, but generally not until the dog days of summer. It doesn't fog here as a rule, so if this is going to work for me, the design will have to be workable as a dew condenser.
I'm about to build an air well panel using some of the same type of webbing material used by the Warka Water air well (the orange basket looking dealybob from earlier in the thread). The material is apparently quite similar to the netting non-permies buy their fruit in. I've been collecting the bags from friends for several weeks and I'm now sewing them together into a panel, which I plan to frame and position above a collection trough leading to a barrel. It'll be ugly, but it might work. I'll post pics and report my results if people are interested.
I'm sure you already know this, but I think it's worth mentioning that the organic materials in the mix must be dry. Maybe the person who said not to use grass meant that you shouldn't use wet grass. Dry grass is very close to straw in its action within the cob mix.
Hi Paul, I'm going to ask these questions here because due to the apparent volume of email sent to you, I suspect you'll see this post sooner than you would if I emailed.
My husband and I are blown away by the opportunity this ant village represents. We're very interested in taking one of those last three ant spots. Last night we listened to both podcasts on the ant village and I am left with a couple of points I need cleared up.
First, some background on us: We're a couple with several young kids, the oldest two of whom are smart, capable and old enough to help with a lot of what we would need to build and do. We spent the majority of 2014 living in the woods here, the kids in a tiny cabin and the two of us with the baby in a tent next to it. The land had no power or water piped in. We built a cob oven in which I baked our bread; foraged for wild foods; cooked entirely outside on the two brick rocket stoves we built; learned about food storage without refrigeration; created braziers to heat the inside of the cabin; collected our water via a rainwater catchment system; created a working relationship with a colony of soldier flies, who ate our waste and provided us with a nice quantity of castings for our poor sunstarved potted vegetables; handwashed our laundry, etc. We weren't able to do nearly what we would have wanted because of misunderstandings with the owner of the land, in that everything was prohibited including basics like putting in a garden and keeping a milk goat or some chickens. We even had to ask which particular trees we could cut and which piles of deadwood she wanted left alone. We left that place for town during 2015. We want to get back to what we were trying to accomplish as quickly as possible, in a place where we can keep some interest in what we have built and raise these kids in a chemical- and radiation-free way, while teaching them how to feed and care for themselves in a society that knows nothing of self sufficiency.
My husband is beginning a new post-injury career as a fiction author, and has a book on Amazon and its sequel in progress as well as a related website for which we are actively seeking contributors other than ourselves. I would be able to get up there with a small reserve of cash, and we have a Dodge Durango which we would be willing to volunteer for carpooling purposes. Since we have our kids to shelter, and since we have been working on the assumption that our next stop would be bare land, our plan has been to purchase a used camper trailer within the next month, with the intention of pulling it up to a semipermanent parking space on the land until we have a small home built. (I was happily shocked to see that you not only advocate but prefer underground housing.) Would we be able to park a 25-30 foot camper trailer on our plot until we build? I would want to get a home excavated and roofed in as quickly as possible, but I have lived largely in the southern parts of the nation and I don't know how early in the year the ground on the plot could be worked. That along with providing our food needs makes me unsure how quickly the camper could be gotten rid of. If there is another option for sheltering ourselves until we can get something built I am open to it, but I do feel it necessary to have some type of shelter in place from the beginning for the sake of the family. If it were just him and me we could sleep in the car, but you know, babies.
So, question 1: Being that you have had some time to see how the ant village will develop, are families still welcome?
Question 2: Would we be able to bring our own temporary shelter? You said in your most recent post that there are warm bunks for everyone, but we have 5 kids age 10 and under, and the youngest is about a month old. I feel pretty strongly that a separate building for sleeping would be important. We would keep the camper self-contained with the intent of getting rid of it as soon as we could; or we could occupy something separate you might have on the place already.
I'll want to move forward with any plans as soon as the finances settle, which should happen within a month. We're doing something of this sort next, either digging into the anthill you've got going or finding a low cost plot of our own in the area, but as things stand right now we would far prefer to join forces with some like minded folks and build some assets before we get our own place.