Back to work.
Renee had lots of stuff on her mind, but what do you do, where do you start when you are beginning with nothing?
Do what is fun!
How about a bench, to rest your weary self?
We've got the rocks.
We chose this place for its quiet location, but also just....the place, you know? There are trees, there is stone.
The idea is to see what is here, then allow that to guide us in what and how to build. Rather than bring in the heavy equipment to strip the ground bare, we want to keep our footprint human sized. Try not to buy, and to build in human time scale, if that makes sense.
Don't pour a foundation that will exist for an eternity, especially when the house itself is total junk within 20 years. I used to love cement, and reveled in the strength it gave to what was being built, but now I view it more as a crutch. A permanent, everlasting.....something, that will be difficult to reuse in any way. Dry laid stone can be repaired, then reused. Forever. Like reverse cement. Another nice bonus.....this lava rock is beautiful, perfectly shaped for easy stacking, and....it's kinda light, too.
So, on day #3 we dug more rock, and piled more REALLY beautiful soil.
This is better than anything that I've yet seen, anywhere, rich with silty loam, friable and full of good "dirt" smell. It will be interesting to test the pH. God knows we'll have plenty of biochar handy, if we need to buffer the soil in some way. Maybe I'll distill out the "Wood vinegar", see if there's anything to that miracle talk.
Also interesting is that we are finding some of it to be almost like clay. Is a Japanese mud infill wall to be in our future?
Ellie rescued a nest-fallen baby cardinal last week, and despite our fears, the little thing has managed to hang in there. He's looking at the camera, a little pissed off.
I've been on bird duty while Ellie is in school, as the guy needs to be fed every 15-30 minutes. He started out nearly bald, but now has most of his juvenile feathers set, and is taking short flights. Mostly though, he rides around on your finger, and you get a lot of this....
"INSERT FOOD HERE!"
So it was REALLY hot. I'm not really a "sweat-er", and I've never lived anywhere like this. To perspire, just standing there doing nothing and still get drenched.....it's very novel still. It reminds me of a sauna, 'cept all the time. It makes clothing very unpleasant, but I have no intention of subjecting our new neighbors to that sight, lucky them.
So Renee and I are hot and tired from two days of pulling and digging, so Renee wants to do something else that's fun instead. Here's her bench, big enough for three.
I love the way she creates such flowing sculpture. And it's in the shade.
So what am I doing on this hot afternoon, while Renee is slaving away to make us a better life?
I'm sitting in the woods, drinking a beer (or three, haha). Sunlight brings thick vegetative growth, but once you break through the thicket close to the road? It opens up in there, a bit at least. The sun is less intense, it's quiet and cool. The moss is deep and lush, and the ground is a compound of broken lava and detritus. And Guava.
Lots of Guava. It's the thin whippy shoots that make navigating this environment challenging, as they will grow everywhichway trying to get to the sun. Some of the whips might be 1/4" thick, but 15' long and wound around the other growth.
A perfect tripping hazard and the Aluhe ferns are even worse. So. What can we build that uses thin sticks as a material? Wattle and daub comes to mind, woven screens and dividers, trellis material for climbing fruits and plants --The passion fruit are going crazy right now, and will cover everything in sight if you give them half a chance. Pole beans might tolerate this area, with its lower rainfall, we'll see.--.
Anyone have any ideas? Comment!
Just poisoning the invasive species seems like a wrong way of living, but that's an option, and evidently the only way that people have found of keeping the Guava in check. This stuff is seriously crazy, grows like mad and chokes out the other species. It's drops tasty fruit prolificly, filled with hard seeds that get eaten by people/pigs/pheasants and then passed through the GI tract. Planted and fertilized in one. Very efficient.
I would prefer to treat the guava as a resource, it's fruit would make an interesting homebrew, and the wood is very tough, dense and resilient. The down side to the lumber is that the high sugar content in the wood makes it attractive to both bugs and rot. That needs to be considered in designing for its use. Ground contact would be foolish, but properly dried and seasoned, it's good stuff. Stripping the bark immediately after cutting would reduce the bug concerns some, but even after being chewed up by beetle larvae it still retains much of its strength. Here at the tool shed, we've got a hand rail on the stairs that is barely 1" thick, but it's saved me from numerous potential falls. Good stuff. I'm eager to see what kind of charcoal it provides.
Because the trees here are rather thick, the guava has had to grow tall and straight to reach the top of the canopy. Many of these clumps are nicely developed. Here is just one of.....hundreds? I don't know yet, but there is never a shortage of Guava. Here is my size 10 shoe for scale.
The larger ones are a solid 4", but there are many larger ones as well. These are just where I happened to be sitting at the time.
The primary trees are the native Ohia, and the Guava are just filling in the gaps. My hand has a solid 9" span, so this old guy is maybe 12" diameter. 200 years old? These grow VERY slowly, but it's a guess.
The general practice is to plow the land flat using a bulldozer, then trucking the debris to the solid waste station for mulching. Often the mulch eventually works it's way back to the land, to provide a barrier in gardens and landscaping. It's better than nothing, but seems awfully energy intensive. Boring, too. Who wants a flat chunk of land? A lawn, haha! Yeah, right.
Guava, tall and straight, 6" butt, 20' clear. There are hundreds of these right here, millions if you look around.
I'm getting some ideas. Pole barns don't get much easier than this. Mark Grable recently reminded me of a quick way to lash poles together, using a specific twisted wire wrap. I've got the poles and I've got the wire. I've got lots of salvaged steel roofing, too, perfect for throwing up a quick and dirty shelter, ugly though it is. The steel roof also allows you to capture the frequent rains. People hate this Guava and will pay you to remove it (if you poison or dig out the roots, no easy feat.). One of the adjacent properties is so thick with the stuff that you can barely see through it.
Help me find a use for this stuff! As a society, we need to shift our thoughts from buying, to making. Therein lies true wealth and prosperity. Knowledge too. Share what you know.
Don the "Shinglemaker" (one of my favorite blogs, his pictures are so beautiful, showing his strength and understanding of the simple materials that he uses in his craft. He pays attention.) recently wrote about how the work he does is not economically feasible as a business, you can't afford what his work will cost, he only does his best work for himself. Even though I have not 1/10th his skill, the work that I do is still beyond value. It's ironic that by consciously choosing a life of near poverty, we can learn and create such things that are not really available, at any price. I give away what I make, but you can't really buy it. That will probably change in the near future, but the idea remains.....what is our time/life worth?
The idea of true cost and pricing is difficult, as good, solid construction, simple and built to last for generations is expensive, particularly in terms of the skilled labor involved. Fewer people every day are knowledgeable about these things and we are so far over the curve, that the days of once common sense and practical knowledge are distant beyond sight. We are over the horizon. Don writes of a frame for a window, built solid, yet with knowledge and understanding of how practice and time flows. You can build a window frame that will fit one window only, then when the window breaks, as they all will in time or better windows are now used and the old ones are obsolete, or out of style, or....whatever, you're screwed. It probably doesn't matter, because the house will probably be ready for the landfill by now anyways.
You can build solid, but with the understanding that times change, and buildings change as well. Don admires the traditional Dutch practice of framing an overly large opening so that it can accommodate differing standards. A larger window? No problem. Cut the opening bigger. Rotten wood? Cut and replace. His example was specific to massive construction like brick or stone building, but the concept is one that should be kept firmly in mind. How will the building evolve? Even if it just evolves into the ground as a decayed ruin......that is good, too.