we finished the earthbag wall!

or rather, the good folks at Perez Plasters finished it. in a week and a half, no less.

after three years of building, plastering, rebuilding, and replastering, including one rather disastrous fall (a section of wall tumbled, at midnight on christmas eve of 2010, i am so not kidding, onto the gas meter — that was an exciting night!), and four sections that we voluntarily pulled down after that, rebuilt and replastered. and then last summer, we finished all the building, got the plaster almost done, and had a ginormous rainstorm that knocked 1/3 the plaster off the north wall again and revealed that the whole structure was in danger of coming down if we didn’t get a good solid base coat of plaster onto it real fast. we did that, and then spent the winter having a very serious conversation about how to get two more coats of plaster, plus artwork, onto the 150′+ of the north wall in a timely manner, through our very real burnout on the project.

so we figured ourselves out, and hired a company from a few miles up the road to finish the job for us. They came in on a monday and re-chicken-wired the whole thing, added tyvex to the top on tuesday, and had the scratch coat done by thursday afternoon. the following tuesday, they came back and finished the brown (final) coat. and bam. done.

check. this. out.

Wall Site, May 31st, 2010. We broke ground the next day.
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Wall, March 2014.
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click through for larger images.

isn’t that gorgeous?
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the north wall:
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and the east wall:
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and a shot of the sun setting behind the garden, through the coyote fence.
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is this the last you’ll be hearing about this project? nope. what’s left? artwork! we’ll be hosting a wall scupture party in early May, most likely one more in september, and probably a couple more next summer. i’ll post updates on the event page (and on facebook! if you want to keep in touch, be sure to follow us on facebook!) as things get closer.

and of course, after we finish the work on Mahazda, we’ll be buildign and plastering a wall out front of it. after this 300′ test of our ambition, we all feel pretty good about a mere 40′ extension. we’ll have that one over in one summer, just watch. and done right the first time, too.

….and, since Alan called me on it, here is the obligatory Cute Kitty Pic.
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path project: changing the way we walk the land

we’ve had it in mind for a while to revise our path through the back acreage (the wayback), so that it makes a loop around the north and south boundaries, rather than slicing through the center. there are some delicate ecological areas we’d like to stop foot traffic through, and it is a nicer walk with a better view from the edges. true of so many things in life, that.

this turned out to tie in nicely to one of my major projects for this year: fixing the fire circle. the fire circle has rather accidentally become commonly used as a thoroughfare, rather than a desination. like all of the other ritual spaces, it really ought to be a place one walks to, rather than through. the constant foot traffic has combined with flood irrgation of the whole wayback to create permanently and dangerously uneven footing throughout the theoretical dance ground. it’s unsafe to dance on presently — grown up in tall dry grasses, lumped and ridged with sun-baked clay forms of muddy footprints from the last two growing seasons. a total mess, in other words.

at the retreat this year, i finally figured out what my first steps were in solving the problem. and sunday, i got started on making that a reality.

starting condition: a path that leads very strongly into the fire circle, which creates the fire circle as a walking path.
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starting condition: stuff everywhere inside the circle, creating a confused, boundary-less space, and a very clear walking path through the middle, created by inattention and habit rather than mindfulness, and clearly perpetuating itself.
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four hours of stick-moving later: a very clear path leading directly to the hexayurts, and bypassing the fire circle:
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and a clearly-demarcated ritual space, with only one formal entrance/exit.
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it’s now possible to see what the space is *supposed* to be when you walk into it.

next task: obliterating the walking paths. first, we’ll berm the inside of that stump-ring, a nice high solid clay berm, to keep flood water out and create another layer of clear boundary. we’ll work on this structure until it fully functions to keep out the flood water. then, we’ll remove the grasses, which are not friendly-to-dance-on grasses, and begin layering the entire circle with clay, until we have created a level surface to dance on. I will build up the fire ring if needed during this process. when we’ve achieved a nice dance ground, we’ll mulch it, much like Crawford does up at Zuzax, to protect the surface and discourage plant growth.

while i worked on the fire circle, our intern Jaime worked on the path looping the back property. when i’d finished the circle, i joined him, working on the north path while he worked on the south path, consulting occasionally to clarify exactly where we were going. since we were working in the absence of direct input from the other Stewards, some of the work needs to be revised to align with their input, but it is mostly complete now.

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and it’s a fine new path.

from snow to spring

february started with small snow, and closed with small rain. we’re grateful for the moisure, however little it is against the specter of deepening drought.

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apricots are in full bloom, and both trees hum with bees all day. if it doesn’t freeze, the fruit will set and we’ll have a harvest this year, but the odds are stacked against us; for all the unseasonable warmth of the last few weeks, it would be pretty surprising (and unnerving) for there to be no further freeze between now and april. they say you get a good fruit harvest one year in five in the high desert, and so far, our experience bears this out.
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that said, they sure are pretty. there’s a great deal of spring springing up everywhere.

yarrow in the herb bed
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walking onions
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a lively regrowth of water celery in the aquaponics bed
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and i think this is year three or four on the perennial chard in the main garden.
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bulbs are opening up as well.
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as always, these are last week’s; i saw hyacinths coming up this morning, but it will probably take me another week to get their photo onto the internet.

and of course, here’s your gratuitous kitty picture:
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up next: our annual retreat, a couple weeks ago at Ardantane.