Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Equal Night

Happy Fall, everyone!  Living without A/C definitely makes Fall one of my favorite seasons!

My family (the 4 on the left) and the rest of my maternal family (Mom, sister, brother, heading to the right away from me) at the beach in the Florida panhandle last weekend.  First time we've gotten this much related blond hair together in a long time!  Forgive the matchy-matchy Gap ad - Mom's request - we haven't gone back to watching TV or using a water-flushing toilet or anything, just making Mom happy...;) 

Time to start drying things out from a muggy summer.  The first fire will be lit in the wood stove before too much more time goes by.  Books will get their annual maintenance.  Shoes too.  Mildew rules the summer in most places and ages.  And will again one day.  The large serving of energy required for air conditioning goes a long way toward a lot of other, less presumptuous, conveniences when the time comes.  Even after the planned addition for solar power next spring we won't have nearly enough power for even a single window unit.  Never will.  That's not part of our future.  So we get out the anti-fungal essential oils and rub the books down every Fall!

Today is also my Dad's 61st birthday, so we wish him well for another year!  And look forward to seeing him next month at the trail ride.

Not too much to cruise through this time around, but I do want to show some updated photos of my school project and a cob oven I'm working on at home.

Starting with the greenhouse at school:

I've set it up sort of like a cattle chute to file school children through on greenhouse days.  The solar oven in the foreground is getting increasing usage from the students, though admittedly, it took some prodding to get them out of the microwave. 
And out the other side, no congestion necessary.  In the last update this was still very rough; now it's looking a lot more polished, and a rain barrel has been installed as well.  This seems to be plenty of water for watering the greenhouse bed and seed starting flats, and filling small livestock fountains nearby.

The herb garden has mostly recovered from the goat encounter, and is once again giving us what we need for regular herbal classes and cut flowers for the classrooms, although the Brown-eyed Susans in the foreground bloomed in a stunted way.  We did our first herb class of the year yesterday on lemon balm, complete with lemon balm and honey tea.  Kids loved it. 

The perennial fruit has mostly recovered too.  This row of raspberries on the hugelkultur mound is looking pretty strong after being nibbled down to nubs in early June.  Grass in the playground seems to be benefiting from the chicken tractor's regular circuit.
On to my house and the new cob oven in progress:

Did a dry-stacked base for the oven out of fairly large rocks.  The oven will enclose the south end of the firepit area and create more of a cooking complex between the two.

Oliver checked each addition for stability.

This is the platform, ready to receive the oven.  That big flat rock on top cost me a massage...

Here's the first course of cob laid in place, and the beginnings of the sculptural roots extending down into the rock base.  I did this partly out of a craving for artistic flare, and partly to help glue what I considered the weakest part of the rock base together.

Second cob course going on.

New batch of screened mineral subsoil ready to stomp.

Just like biscuits...

All stomped up, good texture, ready to use.  There's no straw in this batch as it will form the thermal layer on the interior of the oven, and will be exposed to open fire and high heat.

I changed my mind and decided I wanted a brick arch for the door instead a cob one, so I just pulled off the cob that was sticking out this way and extended the sand mold to support the bricks as I built it.

The door/interior height ratio seems to be one of the more critical technical aspects of building one of these.  Supposed to be right around 60%, door height to interior height.  Mine's pretty darn close to target.

The sculptural roots have developed some more, and we're working on a "root dragon," as the kids call it, sleeping under the top layer of rock.  You can see his snout sticking out directly under the sand mound.  All of this will be coated with the colored finish plaster we seal the oven up with, and will stand out from the native rock, which of course blends very well with the cob made from subsoil that used to BE the native rock!  As soon as I'm done with this post I'm going to go wet my cob back down and finish the thermal mass dome layer.  Hopefully I'll have some great photos of the finished product, and some fine baked goods cooked in it, to show off next time around.

Well, like I said, not too much to show this time around, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway.  I know I'm enjoying it, and loving this cooler fall weather even more.  Ready for the bugs to call it a season, and ready to light that first fire in the old wood stove.  See you next time around, about Halloween.

Tripp out.