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Archive for May, 2010

 

And it begins...

 

The first of the bags laid

 

Centre and rotating poles in place

 

Easy, quick measuring tool

 

Lower halves of door forms moving into place

 

Starting to take shape

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It’s raining again, and not a soft drizzle or periodic bursts of heavy rain but a steady torrent, and it has been since last night. It’s been an impressively wet spring, alternating between snow and rain- most impressive of all because we live in what has been classed a drought area. “The Special Areas”, five million acres of arid land not suitable for many crops due to the high salt and clay content, made worse by a government initiative years ago that drew in farmers from all over who tilled the ground until it was no good at all. We don’t generally get much moisture in these parts and what we do is quickly picked up by the heavy, steady winds- but not this year. Not that the wind has died down at all.

Normally I love the rain. Originally from the East coast, I have an affinity for water and I don’t care if it’s in a standing body or falling from the sky. I just love it. But not so this year. I’m wishing it away to no avail. It’s seriously hampering our building efforts. Not that we mind getting wet. I can work in the rain- no problem. But we need the clay to be soft and crumbly, not wet and mucky. Clay likes to stick to itself best of all and in order to get a consistent mix of sand, gravel and clay- the clay must start off dry. We sift the clay in huge quantities to allow for quick measurement of each mix that will pack the bags and, well, there’s no sifting in this weather.

The moisture content of each mix is also critical, as we’ve found through experimentation, and a tiny bit too much is just as bad as too little if not worse. We recently attempted mixing in the rain and the results were disastrous. The rain that accumulated in the buckets en route to the bags was just enough to make the mix soupy and difficult to work with, and the bags still haven’t cured (whereas the others are rock-hard within hours, sometimes less). Thankfully of the hundred or so bags already laid, only half a dozen were of that variety.

I’m also acutely aware of our lack of a water harvesting system with all of this precipitation. Such a system would be, well “optimistic” to say the least in our region but this year would be brimming. Instead I listen to the water pouring down from the roofs on the property lamenting all that we could do with the water. Funny how one starts to look at resources when preparing for a sustainable lifestyle. I used to make shopping lists, now I look around and see all that is given for free and being wasted.

But, on a positive note, I was able to get a good deal of work done of the site this week. By myself no less. With Shane at work I decided to try my hand at all of the work, solo. I was a bit concerned about whether I could do it. The bags are a couple of hundred pounds. The buckets of mix to fill them are quite heavy and must be moved between the cement mixer and the rooms. The clay must be sifted, the gravel measured, the mix just right, the bags laid in place and then tamped until “sidewalk hard”. We normally work together and even then I’ve already managed to bruise myself all over, take a toenail right off, strain all sorts of muscles I never knew I had, and blow out my wrist. So I wasn’t convinced I’d be a huge help on my own. But I was wrong.

There is nothing that we’ve done as a team that I’m unable to do alone. Granted I’m not as fast, but I’m more than capable. Which is tremendous because one of the things that’s been most important to me about this ‘style’ of building is that anyone can do it. Not “anyone” with a team of ten, or “anyone” with a big, strong man for a partner- just anyone with determination. And I’ve managed to prove that to myself this week.

You see, I’m not in this to “save the planet”. The planet will save itself, as it has through far greater environmental ‘challenges’ than the one we’re faced with at present. And before any of our environmentalist friends jump in to lecture me, save your breath- I’m far more conscious of my impact than most of my ‘green’ contemporaries. I’m in this to get back to basics. To provide for myself what I need, rather than working to pay someone else to provide for my needs which is, let’s face it, a ridiculously unsustainable practice that will only leave me overworked and scrambling in a totally uncertain future, what with increasing demand and dwindling resources.

I’d like to not only live sustainably, providing for our own needs, but teach others to do the same. And yes, I have a particular interest in helping women being that I am one. Why should a woman have to “partner up” in order to own, or build, her own home? The notion is as antiquated as are our current notions on ‘survival’. (If we’re not reliving Easter Island as a society, I’ll gladly eat my words.) So my work this week has been abundantly satisfying in that it’s not only put us further ahead but proven to me that a woman most certainly can do this.

Uncooperative weather aside, our dream is proving more real every day. Once “hopes”, we now have proof. We’re on the right track and only get closer to our goals every day. As for today, since I can’t build, I suppose I’ll catch up with the many other things that must be done- continuing building the raised bed gardens, baking bread, laundry and so on. There’s never really a “down-day” around here and, honestly, I like it that way.

Brandee

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Our foundation and rubble trench coming along nicely. We’ve started loading the trench with gravel.

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