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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Kai's Belated Posts

 
Kai Duby
Posts: 59
Location: Colorado~ Front Range~ Zone 4/Wheaton Labs
39
food preservation forest garden woodworking
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I've been up in the hills so long sitting under trees watching birds that, for awhile, computers ceased to exist. Alas, I've been doing a little more than watching birds (even though some days recently there have been so many birds in the trees it has been hard to get anything done) and many people have tried to goad me into posting. So here it is, the beginning of a thread!

I've been here at The Lab for nearly a year and a half now so catching up in a single post (or a single page) is unlikely. Instead I would like to sprinkle in posts on various projects I've completed alongside present activities.

I landed here at wheaton labs after a short stint in a big institutional learning facility (university) where I couldn't take the rigorous sitting around. I wanted, more than anything, to do things. Thus, I ended up in Montana doing countless things that I really didn't think I was capable of. The infinitely generous Evan granted me a spot to build a structure on his ant plot even though he had no idea who I was. So I am certainly grateful for that initial offering, which gave me the ability to create structures, gardens and continue on with crazy ideas.



Some things I've done

- Junk pole... so much junk pole. Ava (1.5acres) is nearly completely hand fenced with hand made gates. I'd say a conservative estimate would be 2,000 small trees cut, limbed and hauled.
- Tons of garden beds, terraces, hugels, ponds
- Built a lumber shed
- Helped build an outdoor kitchen
- Helped build a duck palanquin
- Built a cob house that I'm currently living in
- Made stools, benches, mallets, shakes, hammers, tool handles, roundwood shelves, dimensional shelves, latches, ladders, lofts
- Grew/growing  potatoes, rye, mustard, kale, turnips, carrots, apples, apricots, plums, black locust, parsley, peas, fava beans, lentils
- Chopped, sawn, screwed, nailed, doweled, peeled, hewn, drilled, stomped, sown, chitted, harvested, winnowed, threshed, mixed, shattered, snapped, cussed, laughed etc

The list seems small now that I write it all out especially when compared with all the things I'd like to do.
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Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 1841
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
154
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
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Hurray!  Can't wait to hear more about your perspective.  I love what I've seen of your work on other people's threads.
 
Ben Zumeta
Posts: 163
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
7
dog duck hugelkultur
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That  is not a small list...Beautiful work!
 
Kerry Rodgers
Posts: 96
Location: North Texas, Dallas area suburbs, US zone 8
26
forest garden toxin-ectomy
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Awesome to finally hear from you, Kai. I'm sorry to have been psychically goading you to post. 

It'll be great to hear whatever you want to write; but if you run out of other topics, I'd love to hear what you do in daily life at the lab in mid-winter.  Living a snowless life, I cannot even imagine--I mean, snowy city life yes, ski hill life yes, but lab life?  I don't even know who is there. Do you guys get together and hang out, or do you just stay in your own cabins 24/7 (except feast night)?
 
Amy Lynette
Posts: 7
Location: CO
2
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Huzzah!  Now I can stalk your posts along with everyone else on here (but you still have to call me...)  and need pictures of the flying squirrel
 
Kayla Irene
Posts: 1
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Your house is looking wonderful <3
 
Kai Duby
Posts: 59
Location: Colorado~ Front Range~ Zone 4/Wheaton Labs
39
food preservation forest garden woodworking
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Strange Forest

At first I had no great ambition to build anything larger or more complicated than a lean-to debris shelter that would get me through the winter. Gradually that simple plan morphed into a still small but more complex design inspired by everyone else s buildings and a little book by mike oehler that was circulating through the villagers' hands.

Prior to the decision to build a house I had built a compost bin and a light box. That's it. I may have helped build some such somewhere at some time but the light box and the bin were about all I had taken point on. Might I add that it was a rather flimsy light box and a botched bin.

I remember waking up one morning and going over to the house site where I had just put all the posts in and the morning sun was casting even (well- slightly off kilter) shadows from the posts just like in the surrounding woods. It did look like a strange forest. Woodhenge sprang up out of the moss, turf and excavator scar. Strangest of all I didn't think at that moment or any other during those early days of building in the last part of summer "What the hell am I doing?" Certainly I didn't feel confident in my skills but I somehow found the means in the making. Before, the concept of building a house was a distant dream I'd get around to when I had the time and the skill. Given the time I made up the skill. Rather than go at it like an engineer with facts, figures and experience I went at it like a bird building a nest.

Of course, I was surrounded by other people with their own ideas and skills. One day Jesse would come by and peer skeptically at what I was chopping on and say "oh- I wouldn't do it that way." The next Evan would come by and show me some way of measuring or a design quirk. The whole lot of us would get together at night and talk about building and, alongside supplementary books, the task of building a house became all the more tangible. So I'm glad to have been a bird in a flock of diverse birds than a lone clueless dodo.

That being said, if I was to build the house I built with the knowledge I now have then it would be a completely different house. That's not to say that I regret anything!

It's difficult to build a house when you haven't really built anything before but it's not that difficult. I reckon people have been throwing up shoddy buildings from the dawn of time and they work..for awhile. Luckily it's not the dawn of time and we have thousands of years of architectural knowledge to draw on. However, there's also a lot of knowledge that just comes from acting, which is why I chose to just throw myself at it.

Kind of like if you wanted to run through a dense jungle and had no personal experience to determine a route. The jungle is too dense with all that foreground foliage to find a feasible route but you know that trees generally grow strait and there might be fallen logs to leap over. There may or may not be someone telling you about tigers, snakes and thorns but generally if you see one of those you just don't run toward it. I say run because, for me there were tigers, snakes and thorns at my heals and I dreaded living in a damned apartment complex again but strolling works too. So ya forge on ahead through the vines and the swamps and the dark jungle. By the end of the jungle, if you've been paying attention, you know some of the trees, how the undergrowth can cling to you're clothes and the jungle is a little more illuminated. And a better jungle adventurer one becomes!

Basically what I'm getting at is that reading is fine but after you heft a hundred logs or chop a thousand poles there's a certain rhythm that's reached. I enjoy that adaptation the body makes to a task. It's just like drawing, writing or any other art except it's hacking and smashing. It's great to make things and all the better if I have no idea what I'm doing because it's the figuring, botching, improving, and experimenting that's the real joy.
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Strange Forest
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The First Post Sometime in September 2015
 
Holly Rios
Posts: 2
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Kai Duby wrote:I've been up in the hills so long sitting under trees watching birds that, for awhile, computers ceased to exist. Alas, I've been doing a little more than watching birds (even though some days recently there have been so many birds in the trees it has been hard to get anything done) and many people have tried to goad me into posting. So here it is, the beginning of a thread!

I've been here at The Lab for nearly a year and a half now so catching up in a single post (or a single page) is unlikely. Instead I would like to sprinkle in posts on various projects I've completed alongside present activities.

I landed here at Wheaton Labs after a short stint in a big institutional learning facility (university) where I couldn't take the rigorous sitting around. I wanted, more than anything, to do things. Thus, I ended up in Montana doing countless things that I really didn't think I was capable of. The infinitely generous Evan granted me a spot to build a structure on his ant plot even though he had no idea who I was. So I am certainly grateful for that initial offering, which gave me the ability to create structures, gardens and continue on with crazy ideas.



Some things I've done

- Junk pole... so much junk pole. Ava (1.5acres) is nearly completely hand fenced with hand made gates. I'd say a conservative estimate would be 2,000 small trees cut, limbed and hauled.
- Tons of garden beds, terraces, hugels, ponds
- Built a lumber shed
- Helped build an outdoor kitchen
- Helped build a duck palanquin
- Built a cob house that I'm currently living in
- Made stools, benches, mallets, shakes, hammers, tool handles, roundwood shelves, dimensional shelves, latches, ladders, lofts
- Grew/growing  potatoes, rye, mustard, kale, turnips, carrots, apples, apricots, plums, black locust, parsley, peas, fava beans, lentils
- Chopped, sawn, screwed, nailed, doweled, peeled, hewn, drilled, stomped, sown, chitted, harvested, winnowed, threshed, mixed, shattered, snapped, cussed, laughed etc

The list seems small now that I write it all out especially when compared with all the things I'd like to do.


I ran into Jeremy recently who told me you were living in a perma.
It makes my heart sing to see you living such a beautiful life.
I'm impressed with your house too.
I couldn't venture to do something so amazing.
I hope you are enjoying every day.
Say hello to the birds for me.
 
Holly Rios
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Also...
I went to your schools, I went to your  churches,
I went to your institutional learning facilities. So how can you say I'm crazy?

Immediately got Suicidal Tendencies stuck in my head. Ha.
 
Sean Pratt
Lab Ant
Posts: 42
Location: Rensselaer New York
13
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Good to read your stuff Kia! Miss you all a lot. The little bits of news i get are really a god send. Hope you all are staying warm. Still not certain when i can get away from this hell hole but it wont be long now. Maybe a month maybe two. Expect me to arrive with a truck loaded with tools and lots of the usual friendly harassment  before you know it though!

P.S. call your grandma
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 3836
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
149
bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Excellent post Kai, very inspiring to those who wonder if they might be able to follow along the same path. Please keep writing !
 
Kai Duby
Posts: 59
Location: Colorado~ Front Range~ Zone 4/Wheaton Labs
39
food preservation forest garden woodworking
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Here are some pictures of my recent puttering. The snow just keeps coming down so I'm not quite puttering in the garden yet but peas, arugula and rye that I planted in the fall are all poking their heads out of the ground on the south facing berms.

I've been whittling the days away on little projects that will inevitably be put off once the snow melts and the pending pile of bare, unfrozen ground tasks take over.
Mostly I've been working on woodworking projects: chair making, notch practice, gates, ladles, tool handles.

The second picture below is of my first attempt at a half dove tail notch, which is used in joining the corners of logs in cabins. I'm using them for mini log cabins to support water barrels for roof runoff. It's a very sturdy notch even when poorly done and I can see why it's used so much. The most time consuming part is making the whole face of the angle flush and flat. I started just hacking the notches out with a hatchet but I found that it was easier to use a saw first and chisel out along the grain. The chisel tended to make a more even surface that wouldn't rock on top of the other log. These are only 4-6'' in diameter and 2ft. long so the tools I'm using may not work on a scaled up cabin size log. ~I got the idea for these out of a Foxfire book Ben left me. Thanks for pestering me with all those books!

And lastly a picture of the squirrel I found curled up in the solar dehydrator. After looking over the dehydrator it became apparent that the squirrel had gone down the stove pipe and had trapped itself inside. So there it was shivering, all curled up with its tail over it's ears cursing the infernal contraption that had lured it in with the smell of dried chokecherries (which I forgot to empty out of the dehydrator). I opened up the glass and the squirrel surprisingly didn't respond but when I reached down with an old t-shirt to scoop it up it  opened one eye and stretched out revealing wing flaps from paw to paw. Flying squirrels are supposedly indicators of healthy ecosystems and I was thinking of this creature spreading seeds and truffles and providing all of the functions a flying squirrel might provide in a forest, which made the mistake of leaving the dehydrator closed worse. I tucked it up in my coat then made it a fire to warm up next to. The squirrel didn't make it to sun down whether from too many chokecherries, cold or dehydration. Tucked it up and set it under a tree.
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Mysterious Matt Walker grain (probably rye)
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Half Dove Tail Notch
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Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9571
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
171
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Sad about the flying squirrel.  But it is proof of flying squirrels there, which is thrilling!  Unfortunately sometimes the only way we learn that we have rare critters is to find them dead.  My sister found a dead beaver near here, and my husband found a dead badger.  Both of these are usually listed as extirpated in this region, but apparently some still survive.
 
Kai Duby
Posts: 59
Location: Colorado~ Front Range~ Zone 4/Wheaton Labs
39
food preservation forest garden woodworking
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Sean Pratt
It's good to hear from you! You're froe has been coming in handy lately. I've been splitting more shakes and I used it to quarter junk pole for chair rails, which was way easier to draw knife than a full, knotty pole. Looking forward to your return!

Speaking of grandma I checked on my bishop weed transplants today and they were all sprouting up in the bag looking for light so I potted them up and put them on the windowsill. The plants were originally transplanted from my grandparents to my mom's house more than 20 years ago and I was able to dig some of the runners up when I visited Colorado in December. Hopefully they spread profusely and grandma's 'snow on the mountain' will be everywhere! Thread on Bishops Weed

Holly Rios
Glad to hear from you as well! It's been quite awhile. Hope you're doing well. Here's a birdhouse I gouged out of a log.

I've had a lot of takers: chickadees and nuthatches peering into the opening but no one seems to want to move in yet. Habitat for birds and bugs is another thing I've been puttering at while the snow is still flying.
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First attempt chair. Sit carefully!
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Aegopodium podagaria
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Log Bird House
 
Amy Lynette
Posts: 7
Location: CO
2
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Is the middle pic Gma's 'snow on the mountain", the one that says Aegopodium podagaria?  I sent you some mouse repellent made from peppermint oil, hopefully it does not repel flying squirrels too.  Do you have a floor in your house yet? 
 
Maureen Atsali
Posts: 227
Location: Western Kenya
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It's really fun and exciting to see what you are working on. I hope you keep the posts and pictures coming.
 
Kai Duby
Posts: 59
Location: Colorado~ Front Range~ Zone 4/Wheaton Labs
39
food preservation forest garden woodworking
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Junkpole Saga #1

In many instances I have said I hate fences. It's all there seems to be in the trackless expanses that U.S highways rip through. Barbed wire strung out even and sharp for hundreds of miles. In a way I keep a little respect on reserve for all those poor bastards that dug all those post holes and stretched all that wire. Mostly, to me, it feels claustrophobic and ostracizing to have all those loose stranded walls hemming in the roadways. Not to mention the  chain -link, razor wire, concrete, picket barricades of cities. If anything, all those fences sure do make for a well defined countryside.

I've been stung, cut, racked, whacked, tripped and poked by fences but, despite all my misgivings toward them, I find myself building them. However, junk pole fencing is a far cry from any other fencing I've dealt with. Building fences has actually really helped me gain basic skills I was lacking when I came out here and the artistic possibilities of fences are actually pretty wide open.

To preface my use of the word "junkpole" I'd like to say it's a stupid description for something so useful. "Utility Pole" is cumbersome and sounds more like I'm putting in power lines. So whenever I say "junkpole" what I really mean is the young trees larger than a sapling and smaller than something about 5-6'' in diameter that can be used for: lathe, dowels, fencing posts and rails, spoons, firewood, sleds, sheds, tool handles, benches, stools, siding, mallets and probably a thousand other things I haven't done yet. The reason that they are deemed "junk" is because they're smaller than is useful to mill so they are either mashed into a pulp or burned. If given all the junkpoles that are wasted in local logging operations I imagine that I would be set for life with materials for making all sorts of things.

For the initial thread. This first design is what kept Sir Chops the potbelly pig in and I think it is still the best design for large animals and as a privacy fence. However, this design does take a lot of poles so I decided to forge ahead in fencing innovations that would take less work and materials. (100poles/20ft) (6-10 screws min/20ft) This fence seems to go up fast once the poles are gathered and the posts are in.

My first rendition has one post in the ground and a second 8ft. pole that is screwed in and acts like a clamp to hold all of the other poles horizontally. I found that I could make small horizontal gaps by using the long screws between each post as shelves to stack poles on top of. (See poorly done Paint drawing below) The second upright is upside down simply because combining the fat end of the stick with the short end of the other post allowed me to use shorter, cheaper screws. In later portions of this fence I just sank both posts in the ground and screwed them together, which wasn't that much work and it turned out to be a little sturdier. I shaved down the ends of some of the horizontals so they would fit snug between the posts. This fence has stood for more than a year now and it has held up well other than some screws snapping. I recommend avoiding screws for attaching posts that are getting other poles wedged through them. (40-60 poles/20ft) (8-12 screws/20ft)



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First fence at basecamp. I've rebuilt parts of this twice now.
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My first renditions.
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Building up my first fence.
 
Kai Duby
Posts: 59
Location: Colorado~ Front Range~ Zone 4/Wheaton Labs
39
food preservation forest garden woodworking
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Here are some more pictures for the first fence design.
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The screw shelf
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When a screw shelf breaks.
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Otherwise holding up
 
Kai Duby
Posts: 59
Location: Colorado~ Front Range~ Zone 4/Wheaton Labs
39
food preservation forest garden woodworking
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The ground! It's finally started to thaw and, hopefully, it's for good this time. I even planted some things today: fava beans and arugula. The south facing berms are the only garden space that still isn't covered in snow but the ground is completely thawed and plants are slowly germinating there.

The color of yarrow greens and grass greens is a welcome relief from the douglas fir green. At some point last year I thought "wouldn't it be nice to have violets first thing in spring." So by accidental design the first flowers of the year are right at my doorstep even with a foot and a half of snow on top of them.

Peas, rye, vetch, arugula and cilantro that I planted in the fall are all coming up nicely. I also discovered that lentils will overwinter under the snow! Many of the little ufo beans that I planted last year were stolen by chipmunks and mice but late in the year I noticed that little clumps of them were popping up, especially under the larches. So chipmunk planted lentils are shooting up everywhere.

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Ain't no pansy here.
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Arugula and salsify
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Overwintered lentils planted by chipmunks.
 
Kai Duby
Posts: 59
Location: Colorado~ Front Range~ Zone 4/Wheaton Labs
39
food preservation forest garden woodworking
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Other joyous green things.

I've read that turnips and carrots won't overwinter where it gets below 0F. Some did not make it through the winter but many survived!

The clary sage that I planted a year ago should be blooming this year. Thanks Thekla for the clary sage seeds!

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Overwintered turnip
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Clary Sage
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Elderberry cuttings and pots of bishops weed awaiting the thaw
 
Ben Skiba
Posts: 32
Location: where the fox howls
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Puggin and Thuggin.Shout out to pubbins and tiny buns.True heroes of the realm.
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Kai Duby
Posts: 59
Location: Colorado~ Front Range~ Zone 4/Wheaton Labs
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I was going to cook pizza on a rocket stump but I have yet to master the art of lighting a fire inside a log through a one inch hole. Plus it was snowing. Plus it had been snowing for weeks so the stump was damp to begin with.  I did get coals in the core of the stump but hunger and cold set in so I journeyed out to Jim's to make a stump-less pizza instead. After about five hours I returned home through the dark and blustery night and found the burning beacon of the stump and a ring of melted snow all around. I didn't get any pizza but I did get a fine start to a bird house I've been meaning to build.

I've wanted to attract a large bird like a common flicker, pileated woodpecker or a small owl so a large nest was in order. I used 2X scraps to make the bird house deeper (apparently about 2ft x7'' is ideal for common flickers and other large birds). I'll mount the house on a pole in the nearby woods. The entrance may be too large but I'm going to set it up and see what moves in. Maybe some flying squirrels will come along!

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The Burning Stump
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The Voluminous Bird House
 
Amy Lynette
Posts: 7
Location: CO
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Haha!  Yes Kai, you definitely need birds for when I come visit... just let me know when the guest house is finished    Ben and Evan, it was great to meet you!  I promise next time my dogs will be on their best behavior (which isn't saying much)...
 
Kai Duby
Posts: 59
Location: Colorado~ Front Range~ Zone 4/Wheaton Labs
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Haunted House

Perhaps there are ghosts in all these structures up here on the hill. Sometimes I can hear them howling and carrying on in the earth behind the walls or tapping at the stones in non-existent foundations. I surely see them in my home anyway. At times they're headless, at others they drag chains from their shoulders but all the ghosts are talking of plans, plans, plans undone, unfinished or thrown away.

Projects often seem to take on a mercurial life of their own from the start. For me this has entailed bashing my head against plans, plans, plans and then deftly evading those plans. So things evolve "organically," which is a nice word for haphazard, inefficient bullshit. Building things organically makes ghostly imprints that last on through the creative process and influences future decisions. Building organically is, in that way, a means to an aesthetic like the fingerprints left in a cob wall. However, in that same way, an organic ever modifying plan can entrench the builder in despair and frustration when that person lacks the knowledge and foresight to see the path that they're treading.

I had never built a cob wall before starting on my house. I did do some test bricks beforehand but I mostly just started throwing it up. An interesting aspect of building a wall out of mud when you don't know what your doing is that the first foundation layer is probably the most poorly done. Of course, any future cob walls I'll build will still have a foundation built with less skill than the top but at least future first layers will have been reinforced with experience. It's the knowledge that the bottom is less sound than the top that is most frustrating about trying to teach yourself all this stuff! Thankfully mud and sticks are relatively forgiving. With an experienced teacher working beside me I may have forgone some of the frustration and anxiety of doing it on my own. I suppose bravery and brash stupidity coupled with interest and wayward passion are as good a teachers as any.

From the tumultuous get-go I tend to slip into slow, plodding, tactile revelries. When I'm building something I have to move it around in my hands and ponder it with an archetypal knuckle to chin. This was especially difficult with something as large as a building, which is partly why I built such a small house. I can eye the whole thing up pretty quickly and toss it around in my caveman skull.

I had ambitions to earth berm and integrate various increasingly complex retaining wall systems. I jutted out the walls into the berms to make more room and break the square. The umbrella was going to have to be integrated underneath drainage and terraces built on the steep slope of the berm. I began burying my house with a shovel and wheelbarrow and it was after a week of enacting these plans that I turned them to ghosts. The enormity of burying a house by hand wasn't as daunting as the possible structural instability wrought by my inexperienced hands. In the heat of the sun in mid-summer shoveling over hot tarps and hauling retaining wall pieces it all began to look haunted. I had nightmares of the house collapsing from the weight of dirt and foolishness. So I stopped and thought on it all. In the course of a day I changed the design completely. The walls would be simple blobs of cob and the complex dreams and nightmares flew on by. I'd spent a lot of time sculpting in the past so I knew that I liked working with clay. Cob is much more tactile than tarps and shovels so it was a joyful relief to switch everything up. Many have extolled the laborious quality of cob building but after hauling, mixing and walling up a whole house nearly single handed (thanks to everyone that lifted buckets with me!) I'd choose it any day over burying a house by hand. That is not to say that I don't appreciate the possibilities of earth integration and hope to one day experiment without trepidation. But the rigors of building an earth integrated structure without proper foreknowledge was too much for me to construct organically, which is just about the only method available to one with my skill level.

So the house got built on the backs of ghosts and lack-wit caprice. Although, I like to think that there is some wisdom in those muddy walls that trickled out to me as I made them.



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The Retaining Wall that became a Garden
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The First layer of Cob
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House Sketches
 
Kai Duby
Posts: 59
Location: Colorado~ Front Range~ Zone 4/Wheaton Labs
39
food preservation forest garden woodworking
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The slow climb to the top of the wall.
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Construction Site
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Wall Building
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2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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