March 14th, 2011

Spring! projects, the wall, and a photo update

spring is springing. it has stepped in by degrees this year, starting the week after the alarmingly northern freeze. a bit early, and quite a lot dry, but spring nevertheless. the quince behind my office are starting to bloom (photos when they hit full bloom in a couple days) and the forsythia out front are a cascade of living gold. i swear they glow. i absolutely adore forsythia.

anyway, we have been frightfully busy, but also making enormous headway on our Infinite List. we started several projects more or less simultaneously -- installing irrigation gates so we can flood our field, running real plumbing underground to the barnyard to replace our highly-freezable hose system, remodelling the pump house, installing a new washing machine (arguably part of the pump house renovation), remodelling the garage at Caer Aisling into a bedroom, all while attempting the spring planting and continuing to work on the wall.

you know, Tristan's email signature says, "you can do anything, just not everything." i'm not sure that we haven't begun to try anyway. simultaneously, i mean; everything has been on the list all along.

at any rate, we had a great work party that moved the barnyard water project along, and then two trips to the hardware store (oh, plumbing, why must you be so fiddly?) and then Rev busted butt on the plumbing project all day yesterday while the rest of us also worked on various projects, and the sum of all that is that the barnyard plumbing is done. the washing machine is almost wholly installed (needs a test run and one more part-- see above, plumbing is fiddly), the pump house is closer to done (one more stretch of drywall mudding & taping, then same stretch painted, then we're on to putting in the freezer and building some shelving in there), the spring planting somehow got done (yay!) and its drip system is together and fuctional, the small ritual ground's drip irrigation system is fixed (see plumbing, fiddly, etc), the brooders are set up and have new baby birds in them, and we pulled down the damaged parts of the wall.

wait, what? well, we said we were going to build the wall out of earthbags so that we could make all our mistakes on it, and then make an earthbag root cellar with no (or many fewer) mistakes. and we sure are pulling that off. we have had to take apart two 20'+ stretches of the north wall, and will have to rebuild. the area behind the compost started leaning over so badly I could barely get between them, and we were afraid it was going to topple onto the compost and create a massive biohazard zone. fortunately, we were able to take it apart in a controlled manner before that happened. we also had a stretch up front, on the north wall, that was leaning from about 3.5' above ground and up. It was not leaning as drastically, but it was definitely on the move, so we took it down (to the point where it was still straight) as well. now we're investigating the rest of the wall carefully to find out if we have to tear down any more work before we can rebuild.

we think what we did wrong was not not mix enough sand (and in some areas, not enough moisture) into the clay that we used for the wall, and we didn't screen the clay, which we now think we should have done all along. we also had a little too much "oh, that'll probably be okay" and not enough in the way of rigorous standards when it came to enforcing the precise vertical plumbness of every single bag.

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