dome doors!

this sunday, Rev and I got around to a long-discussed project: installing a proper door on the intern camping dome.

The dome is covered with a white tarp, to keep out the weather, and then a green parachute, to improve its aesthetics and prevent it from standing out like a UFO in the green area in which it is located. Up until this point, to get in and out, you had to lift a piece of the tarp and duck inside a triangle, and it was difficult to get furniture and other items in and out. And I had read about these neat ball-joint dome hubs that some folks in the UK are manufacturing, and I thought, we could use those to change the shape of one side of the dome, and attach a door. Rev went along with the idea, and I emailed the shop owner, and bought some hubs.

The hubs are designed to be screwed into the bars of a wooden dome. Of course our domes are made of hollow aluminum or steel rods — we have three such domes, all made of metal. so we figured, we’d detach the necessary joints, and cut the ends off the bars, so that we could insert a dowel, to which we can screw the hub. then we can change which direction the bars go, because the hub is 6 ball-joints with a central piece so they all swivel, and frame a door, and attach the bars to it. and it worked!

to begin, we got the tarp out of the way by tying it to nearby trees, which created this theatre-like space in which to work:

Then we took apart the joint that was where we wanted the door to go. This meant detaching each of the 5 joints that those 6 rods were attached to, so as to remove the rods entirely, and replacing each of the joints with the new hubs.

cutting the ends off the bars:

a pile of ends:

while Rev cut the bars with the sawzall, our intern Lucas and I screwed the ball-joints to the dowels, to be put inside each bar. (the hub kit comes with the hub, the ball joints, screws, and a washer, bolt & wingnut for stability after the hub is installed.)

we started getting the dowel-and-ball-joint piece into each bar for each of the 5 dome joints.

we used a 6″ length of dowel for each piece so that we’d have some flexibility with regard to the length of each bar, as the dowel could be slid around to where it needed to be, to create the right length of bar. This allowed us to do an infinite amount less measuring before we cut the bars. Later, we drove a screw through the bar-and-dowel, perpendicularly, for stability, but not until we had everything in place.

when we got to the two joints that are at ground-level, we decided not to install ball-joints, as they were not really necessary. instead we removed the bars that needed to go away, and simply re-attached the rest with their original bolts.

finally we had an open pentagon, with ball-joints on the top three joints, in which to situate a door.

Rev built a frame of 1×2″s:

While I hauled up an old door that we had laying around, which I think came from the Mahazda remodel — I think it was an old porch or maybe kitchen door. the glass had fallen out of the window, and we will replace it with screen for ventilation, and add hooks for a curtain. the door is extremely solid, for all its age and peeling paint.

When we got the frame in, we screwed it to the bottom bar of the dome:

and then measured it for the support bars that would spin out from each of the dome joints to attach it.

Rev had to cut each of these bars to length and re-crimp the ends so they could be screwed onto the door frame.

before we hung the door, we ended up adding two extra support bars, screwed on to both the dome bars and the door frame, to strengthen the door frame.

then Rev went back through and added screws to each bar-and-dowel to strengthen and stabilize the connections:

while Lucas and I rebuilt the cottage-stone sill, to help keep dirt and bugs outdoors.

As the sunset lengthened, we cut the white tarp to fit the door, rolled the sides of it around more 1x2s, and screwed it on around the door, to form a permanent attachment. we were careful to manage the tarp for good drainage while we did this, so rain will slough off instead of pooling up above the door. I don’t have action photos of this part, because it was getting dark out and we kept working until the twilight was nearly through.

but here is the final result, in the next day’s light!

the interns are calling it TurtleDome, for its new turtlish appearance.

Rev and I came away from the day feeling like we had accomplished the impossible. Lucas, the tall young man who is living in the dome while interning at Sunflower River, loves having a real door it, and was very happy to be involved in the project as a learning opportunity.

next up, the greenhouse dome! that one’s not on the calendar yet, though, so it’ll probably be a while. ;)

wall art! 2018 edition

This summer, we hosted our first wall-art party in a couple of years. It was an outrageous success — 7 artists (okay, including three people who were living on the farm at the time — but only one of those is a permanent resident) showed up to create works of art in cement plaster on the inside of our earthbag property wall.

Kaitlyn Bryson working on a mycelium sculpture behind the compost

i got a couple more cornstalks added to my long-paused ongoing project — two more left to do, and then the rainstorm beside it, until this piece is finished. and then the Bull of Lasceaux, but that’s another piece.

our intern Nettie crafted this exquite wildflower

and our intermittent intern Sammy, who also painted the gorgeous mural on the potting shed a few years ago, added a sunflower to match, which she plans to add to at our next Wall Art Day in September!

and Evan created this charming Woodhouse Toad, whose cement texture delightfully replicates the texture of the actual animal

We are planning our next Wall Art Day for September 22nd, and would love to see you there!

Harvest Festival 2018

You are invited to the 10th Annual Sunflower River Harvest Festival!

Help us celebrate our eleventh birthday as a community by coming to our Harvest Festival!

Monday, Sept 3rd (yes Monday, Labor Day)

Music jam
Pie-Baking contest
Bobbing for Apples

Mark your calendars and invite your friends! Plan to bring a potluck dish, musical instruments, and your most celebratory self! Bring your friends and family for this all-ages celebration of the year, the harvest, the cycles of the seasons, of friendship and family and the beauty of the world.

Kids are very welcome (and will have other kids to play with – as well as first crack at the piñata!), but please leave the dogs at home.

See you there!
Kat, Alan, Jenny, Tristan, Rev & Gawain
Sunflower River

Community Tools: How to get from January to December Every Year

Community Tools: How to get from January to December Every Year

A workshop on community and group management processes

Saturday, August 25th
at Sunflower River
10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
with a one-hour break for lunch
please pack a lunch (or there is a great New Mexican place just up the road from the farm)

Led by Tristan Fin

This workshop will provide a detailed exploration of the tools Sunflower River uses to collaboratively run our community. These tools include variants on the consensus process model, basic non-violent communication techniques, mission, vision and goals. We hear all the time that we are really well organized, and we know we’re good at getting things done. We’d like to show you how we do it, and help you find ways to bring these tools into your community-building projects. The workshop will cover our weekly process, yearly process, and special topics. These tools can be used for an array of contexts, from intentional community to any group working on a common goal.

Sunflower River is a five-person intentional community and farm in Albuquerque’s South Valley. Founded in September 2007, we are in our eleventh year. We have a dual focus on sustainability and spirituality. We are a host-farm for volunteers through the WWOOF-USA program, as well as Workaway and HelpX.

Tristan Fin, a founder and Steward of Sunflower River, is trained in group faciliation, and mediation.


Space is limited! Pre-registration is not required, however, please RSVP by email, text, or private message to Kat before August 20th!

Any questions, please ask. We hope to see you there!

the dance ground, the rain, and the mulch

Over the last couple years, the mulch on our dance ground has gotten very thin, exposing the hard clay to a lot of sunlight, which hardens it further. And enables more weeds to grow. The purpose of the mulch-layer on the dance ground is to prevent weed growth, and to soften the earth under the mulch, so that when we rake it aside for dance events, it is soft on bare feet, and level. Without mulching, the rain/sun cycle leaves the ground very hard and uneven underfoot.

We did not get a new mulch layer accomplished before the solstice, and then that week, Hurricane Bud swept up from Mexico, and it poured! A blessing of rain, an abundance of rain, 1.5″ in one day.

it got a bit muddy.

And then it dried out, over the next couple weeks, into a complete mess.

Last winter when we chipped up the Epic Stick Pile, we provided ourselves with a significant supply of mulch, of which quite a bit was (and is) left. So at the work party in early July, a team of stewards and interns tackled the fire circle and laid down a 3″ layer of mulch throughout!

in process:

and finished:


somewhere around the middle of spring, we realized we had way too many eggs, and were not able to increase the number of customers as fast as our hens were laying. we always do give volunteers farm-goods when they come to work parties, so we stepped up on moving eggs out of the house that way, and meanwhile, we reached out to our friend Gael at Exotic Edibles of Edgewood. She grows oyster mushrooms, which she sells to restaurants and at the Downtown Grower’s Market. She agreed to sell eggs for us at market if we could get the paperwork in order. So we reached out to the market manager, and wow, I had no idea how many hoops a person must go through to legally sell a few dozen eggs a week in downtown Albuquerque! over a month later, we have a state egg permit, a business license (well, okay, i already had that), have paid all the fees, and at last we have our grower’s market permit! for 2018. (we are starting this earlier next year!)

so… drumroll… you will be able to buy Sunflower River Farm Fresh eggs (cage-free, ungraded, extremely tasty) at the Downtown Grower’s Market starting this Saturday! You’ll find them at Exotic Edibles of Edgewood with Gael.

but if you want to get in on the peacock eggs, you’ll still have to come to a work party on the farm! next open work day, July 7th. ;-)

now accepting work-trade volunteers

We have openings for June, July and August for work-trade volunteers. We can host 1-3 volunteers during this time. We are a host farm through wwoof, helpx, and workaway. We ask 25 hours of farm-work/week in exchange for room & board. Room looks like either our clean and cozy vintage travel-trailer (available after June 8th), camping space in our awesome 16′ dome in the shady green-belt area of our back acreage, or regular camping in the green-belt area. We provide access to the community house for kitchen, bath, laundry, and wifi, and food for all your meals.

We are looking for people who are motivated self-starters who love to do active outdoor work. If this sounds like you, please email us at with some information about who you are, the skills you’d bring, and why you’re interested in a work-trade! Thanks!

Spring Projects – Yurt Cover Protection

Another project that needed attending to this spring was the protection of Alan’s yurt cover. The cover was originally made from a reclaimed billboard, sewn into yurt-cover-shape and then painted grey with regular exterior latex house paint. That was in 2009, so it really has lasted a long time, all things considered. Last summer, we observed that the roof material had developed pinprick holes everywhere, and water was getting in. By this past winter, it was possible to see daylight through the roof in the thinner areas.

So we brainstormed solutions, from “buy a new cover” (expensive) down to “repaint it and hope that helps” and settled on repainting it — but with an elastomeric roof coating, the kind of thing used on flat vinyl roofs.

It took three people one entire day — also not bad for a project on this scale.

It is very white now, but we are pleased to report that daylight no longer gets through the roof! As soon as it ever rains again, we’ll know if water can still get in, but I’m betting this worked. It should extend the life of the cover by a few years, hopefully long enough for us to be able to invest in a new one!

spring, sprang, sprung

There’s been so much going on at the farm this spring! Which is usual for springtime on farms, I suppose.

After a number of setbacks (mice, irrigation, wild swings in the weather) the greenhouse is up and running for the year and beginning to produce lovely little seedlings for us.

Meanwhile the peas are climbing, and some other veggies emerging from the garden, and we are looking up at what is going to become a bumper crop of apricots if the weather holds.

(photo taken a few weeks ago — it takes a lot longer to write blog posts than to grow peas, turns out)

The beehives are ready for bees to move in next month:
note the lovely observation window, which should make it a lot easier on us, and the bees, when we observe how they’re doing.

Our intern Shelby and I took apart the old Glass Shed (a shed we used to store glass jars and other canning supplies in, which has since been replaced by the Potting Shed, which is larger, solider, and has many fewer cracks for dust to get in through. the Glass Shed had skunks living under it all summer and we decided it was time for it to go.) So we pulled off the asbestos tiles:

And then took it apart:

And then Rev took the pieces, and made a lot more progress on the Tree House beside the Pirate Fort:

Meanwhile, baby turkeys have arrived:

And we’ve had our first flood-irrigation night of the year. In this intensely dry weather, the floodwaters are both a great relief, and a precious precarious resource. We are praying every day for rain.

a year of tasks, measured in beer-inches

One of the ways we communicate about projects on the farm is that there is a kanban (information board) in the kitchen, with sticky notes on it, that go from Projects to Tasks. When a task gets done, you move it to the Done section, and we celebrate that at house meeting each week, and then put the done notes in a jar. At the end of the year, we take the whole jar worth of notes to the retreat. Here are the results from the last two years, measured against a standard reatreat-food item. ;)



it looks like we got more things done in 2017– or anyway, were better about keeping track of the things we got done!