I’m finally almost “done” building my natural house in Montana, and I’m really excited about getting to put some more time and effort into creating the food forest and gardens. In the last 20 months I’ve really only focused on building soil, I’ve brought it 100 yards of wood chips and cover cropped with clover and other green mulch. I’ve made a few hugels and have lazily composted chicken manure and spread that out in spots where I’d like future gardens. I’ve planted some tiny bare root trees and sunchokes, some berries and other low-maintenance plants, some of which have not made it out of neglect. But I’m looking forward to spending more time outside next year rather than plastering all summer.
My quest for seeds has begun! Ultimately I would like to save seeds every year and not have to buy them, but I need to buy them once. What I’m hoping to find is a “starter pack” of seeds, organic and heirloom. Is this something that anyone knows of? I know “it depends” on what I’m looking for, but I would think that there is a starter kit somewhere out there to get me going and I can fill in the gaps as I go.
If this doesn’t exist, what are your preferred seed sources and garden rockstars?
Yea, it was all at once. It was a big day with some help from friends. But it looks so much better! You could also do one seam above a door or window on the backside of the house. Corners are also possible seam areas as you can not really see both sides at the same time.
I’m laying down my earthen floor basecoat on Sunday September 24 and wondering if anyone wants to get in on it. I have a large mixer, so really the task is just leveling the basecoat within an 1/8” of the target, which is 1” below finished floor.
I used 8” of perlite underneath 6” of road base, with 2” earthen floor topping that sealed with linseed. I wouldn’t worry about any wicking. It will eventually reach homeostasis and moisture won’t be an issue. You definitely want the perlite on the dry side of your vapor barrier. Keep in mind that the perlite will compact more than you think, which means more gravel than you think. It’s fluffy stuff.
I used StegoHome 10 mil vapor barrier. Would recommend. I understand the resistance to using plastic in a natural home, as I had the same feeling, but an under slab vapor barrier is not a place to cheap out as it can never be replaced. This product was extremely durable and easy to use, has a very long lifespan. We did not get a single rip during install. I am somewhat chemically sensitive and have an obnoxiously sensitive nose, and I couldn’t smell this plastic, which is rare. That should mean it’s a stable plastic and doesn’t offgas or degrade “much”.
Why do you want hydraulic lime vs hydrated lime? Hydrated lime is “should be” readily available in the states, while hydraulic lime is almost always imported. I have used some from st. Astier from France. Not cheap and not easily available.
But type S hydrated lime is available at my local Home Depot. Quick Crete makes one, as does most of the other usual suspects.
I don’t want to hijack this thread and go off topic, but here I go…
Cristobal Cristo, I have a question about what you just said.
I’ve been plastering my house all summer, many thousands of pounds of clay plaster. It’s been a simple base-coat of 3 mason sand 1 bagged clay 1/2 straw. I did a test finish coat on a small wall, and wasn’t super happy with the results. I used 2.5 mason sand, 1 kaolin clay, and 1/4 very fine sifted straw.
The finish coat was still a bit dusty, with some aggregate falling off when brushed. I applied with a stiff steel trowel, and burnished with a stainless trowel when leather hard. My research online showed that mason sand doesn’t typically have enough fines in it to produce a super smooth creamy finish plaster, and the advice was to put limestone dust in the mix to make up for the lack of fines. I was unable to find this locally, as I do not live in a place where there is limestone. I was unaware that I could buy this at a place like tractor supply, where there are many of those in my area.
Am I correct in thinking that this is what I’m looking for? Adding “barn lime” to a clay plaster? The barn lime is simply limestone dust, and won’t set similar to a hydrated/hydraulic lime and can be mixed with clay?
I bought this book 6 months ago and built an outdoor oven and have used it a few times this summer, and it is awesome. It gets up to 800ish degrees in a couple
hours, and is still 200 degrees 24 hours later. Crazy efficient.
From 0-5 years, then 5-10 years, and 10+ years, what percentage (ish) of support/soil building/green mulch plants should a garden consist of?
In other words, should half of a newly established permaculture garden be plants that feed other plants? Less, more? I’m still trying to get my newly established food forest up and running and really focusing on plants that feed the soil and other plants, such as comfrey, rather than plants that feed humans. But I also am struggling with patience and want to grow plants that I can eat!
Nice work, I’m interested to hear more about the cooled bed. How much mass? Do you like it/use it often? If you sleep in that bed for a while then switch to a different bed, do you notice much of a difference?
I am doing a new earthen floor over an insulated 8” compacted gravel subfloor, “slab on grade”. I am putting radiant heat tubes in the floor. I am currently about 2” shy of finished floor, with about 1000 square feet of earthen floor to lay down, coming up in about 2 months. Because of the volume of material I need and the thickness of the floor, it seems like a better use of material to use a more coarsely sifted mixture with longer straw fibers for a base coat, then spend more time to create a smooth finish coat.
I have Sukita’s earthen floor book, which only mentions but does not discuss finish coats for floors
Thank you Joseph! I harvested about 10% of the flowers a couple days ago, will do again twice more in the next week or two, then leave the rest for the birds. I appreciate the advice, as does my dry south facing hill.
I am hoping to spread balsamroot on my south facing hill in western Montana. I see that it needs cold stratification, so plant in the fall. When is the ideal time to harvest seeds? I have read that once the flower starts to dry up, the seeds quickly disperse themselves and harvesting from the dried flower heads is less than productive. Any tips?
I met Oliver at a plaster workshop in Washington earlier this year. If I lived closer to Oregon, I’d be all about this! Oliver is really making a cool product that should change the way buildings are made. It blends conventional 2x framing and natural building.
I moved outside of Missoula 18 months ago, and I do love it here and I hope you move here, Jeff, so we can hang out! But soil at 7000 feet in Montana might be a little less than ideal. It is the Rocky Mountains, and every time I stomp on my shovel and get a twinge in my foot, I’m painfully reminded I have a healthy supply of rocks. And I’m at 3500 feet. But building soil is possible anywhere, so come on over!
I used faswall ICF blocks to build my house last year.
Not inexpensive, but recognized by building code and building officials. Cob/rammed/straw/bag etc is great, but for financing, insurability and resale reasons, I think ICF can be a great option for owner/builders.
I had a roommate in college who had a really awesome, unbranded old cast iron. His grandparents house burned down in the 50s and their cast iron pans were some of the few items that they salvaged after sifting through the wreckage. 50 years later, still going strong.
I wasn’t aware that stainless could be seasoned. Does it last longer than a single meal? I thought that was the whole point of stainless, that it wouldn’t get stained from something like polymerized oil.
Anne, what kind of oil do you generally use? I have read that there actually is a difference in “seasoning ability “ of different oils, depending on the make up of the fats. I’ve read saturated fats are not as good because they are more stable and less likely to polymerize, and unsaturated fats are better for the same reason. Which is why butter is not used in wood working and linseed oil is.
I have not seen much of a difference in my own experience.
OP, that spatula looks decent, but you may want to sand off the corners to more thoroughly scrape out the corners of your pan.
Before we get too far into this, in my experience the spatula used is the second most important factor, after the pan.
What type of spatula? I use a stiff stainless spatula with a flat front edge, so I can thoroughly scrape the pan after cooking. This scrapes off any food bits, but it also slowly starts wearing down the little peaks of the rough surface of the cast iron. Do this scraping every time you clean the pan, and after a whole you will end up with a nice smooth surface.
Or, take sandpaper and remove those little peaks all in one to, rather than incrementally over time.
I have attic trusses in my house, so I have an 8’ wide attic running the length of my house. I have enclosed 20’ of it to use as an office/guest room. I made 2x6 redwood tongue and groove flooring, 10’ lengths, finished with a fancy linseed oil. I did it this more difficult and more expensive way in order to not use plywood subfloor, as that stuff is nasty and doesn’t belong in my home.
However. I am concerned about future squeaking, which is why most 3/4” flooring receives an underlayment on the plywood.
Since my flooring is only touching the joists (truss bottom chords) I am hoping to use only narrow strips of some type of underlayment, perhaps stapled to the joist. This is the only place where I am using a raised floor, as my ground floor is earthen. I would prefer to not buy a giant roll of a natural underlayment if I only need a handful of 1.5” wide strips.
Any thoughts? I have some linen scraps from making curtains. Seems super fancy to use something like this under my floor, but it would be free… I want to do it right the first time and never address it again for the life of the floor.
I have used primarily cast-iron cookware for the last 10 to 15 years. I maintain them well (wipe out food residue and add a dab or fat), they are amazingly non-stick and gleaming black. I do love cast-iron.
I recently inherited a pretty gnarly, rusty lodge cast-iron pan. I was a welder and metal worker in a previous life, so I know a thing or two about metal, and have many tools to work the material.
I restored the pan by wire wheeling it, grinding it with a flap disc, and then orbital sanding it, starting at 40 grit and working up to 320. It took about 20 minutes from rusty to shiny. Nearly all of the pitting is gone, it is nice and smooth, but it is silver because it is raw cast iron without any seasoning.
I brought it in from the shop, put it on the stove, wiped it out a couple of times to get all the abrasive grit and metal dust out of it, threw a pad of butter in it and cooked some eggs. It performed excellently, just as my other pans do, no sticking whatsoever.
I know that cooking with cast iron is a skill that I have honed over the last decade, but it is definitely not rocket science.
So, why is it that the cast-iron was nonstick after effectively zero time spent “seasoning” it? The pan had oil on hot metal for a maximum of five minutes before it was cooked on for the first time.
Why do we waste time and energy seasoning when apparently it is totally unnecessary?
My vote would be an earthen plaster. Lime plaster is great for outside because it offered more weather resistance and durability, but earthen plaster is easier to apply, repair, and is quite a bit cheaper.
My house has a cement stabilized earthen plaster outside and pretty much the same recipe for inside except without cement.
After many tests, 3 parts sand 1 clay .5 straw was the recipe I used inside. For the exterior I added .333 part cement. It worked great.
Edit: substrates are difficult, I went through the same thing. My exterior walls are wood fiber blocks that receive plaster well, but my interior walls will be framed walls with gypsum board. An adhesion coat of wheat paste and sharp sand will allow a skim coat of plaster to adhere well. I looked into the reed matting or burlap or lath or cob options… all things considered, such as cost, environmental food print, ease of construction, etc. I am ok with drywall. Not ideal but pretty close. And so much faster and easier than the other choices.
It is indeed strange that the colors vary so much, but I think that may just be the nature of earthen floors. I would think that the wax would darken it a bit and even the shades out, but I also think that the linseed oil has probably done most of the color change that it is going to experience. It looks great! How thick?
I just plastered my house this summer. 3/4” cement stabilized clay plaster with straw. I used a metal “J” trim plaster stop at the bottom of the plaster, then a drip edge underneath that. This gives a pocket for the plaster to sit, and good drainage. The horizontal part of the J trim had a 1/4” hole every 4” to allow for drainage. Given this drainage, I think you would want the plaster away from the foundation wall so the edge can drip. I did this at windows too.
I mostly followed this one. I would think a sort of membrane would be worth it here. Those are important wood beams and it would be unfortunate if anything happened to them. I’ve not heard of the clay balls. I understand the concept as clay is so receptive of water, but would you want that in a mostly sealed box with wooden walls? Seems like a potential to encourage moisture to hang out between the beams. Maybe build up a nice and smooth mortar bed with sloping edges and that’s your attachment surface. A membrane could work drape on that well and shed water. Sill Seal is a product used for separating bottom plates and on-grade concrete slabs, maybe that would be enough.
I am coming off a year of building my house. I used a foundation product called Fast Foot by Fab Form for my footer, would recommend. It is plastic, it was one of the few places I used plastic in the house, and I feel good about it. It also takes the place of any water proofing that might be necessary for your foundation. It is a “bag” concrete form, where the bag is the form for the concrete and remains in place once the concrete cures. No bulky forms to move, rent, clean. I made a rubble foundation for the footer, then poured the concrete over that. It worked well. Accommodates stepped footers.
My thinking for pouring a small concrete base is to embed steel brackets in the concrete to attach the island to. I’m not sure how else to affix the island to the floor that is done in a way that a solid hip check into the island won’t crack the earthen floor.