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evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (39)

Ben is a straw-hat-wearing badass who's building some crazy cool stuff. Here's a few pics of the beginnings of some of his projects on Josh's plot.
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Ben's firepit and rocket stove
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Ben's pithouse started
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Ben's tipi and trellis atrium posts
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (40)

I built some retaining walls for Siesta so that the earth on the roof could slope gently down to the ground without spilling into patio or paths. As will be clear from later posts, it turns out I did it all wrong and will have to do some janky stuff to get it to work semi-properly and end up looking like I meant to do it.

Also I put in a tiny greenhouse-ish kind of thing dug into the south berm. The interior wood of this stucture will be charred black to soak up lots of solar heat. The idea is not so much to use it grow plants, but rather to have it charge the mass of 4+ feet of dirt between it and the house. Maybe it'll even be a nice place for a solar shower in the winter eventually. We'll see...

Also, there's a cute lil bee waterer down at basecamp near the well. I always see bees and wasps hanging out there like co-workers around the water cooler. Pretty nifty!
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downhill side of Siesta pre-burying
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south side of Siesta built-in greenhouse started
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bee waterer at basecamp
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (41)

The greenhouse structure and retaining walls mostly finished, I rolled old toothless Rexcavator over and piled up tons of "dry" earth, (it actually was relatively dry, having for months been piled up, sun-baked, and covered by tarps during rain events,) on the north and south sides of Siesta.

Jason and DJ helped me pick up a bunch of dry cardboard to use as insulation for the roof. Apparently dry cardboard is something like R3 per inch, and people tend to happily give it away for free. In contrast to a sheet-mulch application, (which we don't do here at the labs due to toxicity concerns,) the cardboard used here will never be in contact with soil or water, being sandwiched between waterproofing layers, and so should stay relatively inert and insulative. And since we put the cardboard straight into the structure the same day we picked it up from town, it never sat around long enough for mice to start using it to insulate their little mouse houses. If the mice want to get to it now, they'll have to dig through lots of earth and tarps.

Some of the cardboard had staples in them that we removed to reduce any chance of puncturing the waterproofing layers.
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Siesta from south with dry earth added
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Jason's truck with a load of insulation
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removing staples from cardboard
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (42)

DJ helped me get all the tarps laid out on the dry earth layer of Siesta. Thanks Deej!

Then it was finally time to bury it in "wet" earth, (not super wet at the moment  because it's been pretty dry here lately, but no steps were or will be taken to keep it dry, in fact it'll be mulched and seeded!)

Some of the wet earth, especially the little bit that goes up against the lower parts of the walls on the uphill and downhill sides, had to be shoveled on by hand because I left such narrow excavator access. Also, because I did the retaining walls all wrong, it was more complicated and laborious than it needed to be. Still, it's coming together, and it hasn't collapsed yet...
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dry earth and roof insulation of Siesta tarping from bottom up
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several layers later, a completed umbrella
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downhill side of Siesta getting buried by hand
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (43)

Got Siesta buried! Still lots to do, especially fixing the stupid retaining wall mistakes I made, before I can finish trimming and covering the tarps though...

Since Rex was around, and Kai and I agreed on a plan for the earthworks in Avalon, I went ahead and started tearing it up down there.
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Siesta buried, mulching started
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south side of Siesta buried
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earthworks in Avalon begun
 
Tyler Ludens
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What a cute house!
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (44)

Avalon is the southwestern ~1/2 acre of Ava, consisting of the bottom of a little valley and a mostly south-facing slope, but with some more westerly aspects towards the east and west ends. After more than a year of both Kai and I observing, dreaming about, plotting, and scheming for what to do with Avalon, we came up with a rough plan focused on massively increasing texture, usable surface area, and microclimatic diversity.

The lowest point on Ava was already in Avalon, and so it seemed the natural place for as big a pond as possible to accumulate as much water as possible and to rub that water up against as much life as possible before it leaves the site. Where to put all the dirt that comes out of that huge pond? Why, in tons of tall, long, and curving mounds of course. To make this multifold surplus of surface area more usable to us humans, we'll have Rex carve out a few paths and terraces too. Voila!

Lower Avalon now looks like it was hit by a meteor, leaving behind a strangely shaped crater. Where once there was trees, shrubs, herbs, and groundcover, now the soil is bare and uncovered, a catastrophe!

Good thing we're permies and we know a thing or two about site repair. Better get to mulching and seeding like maniacs! Turn that krater into a kratergarten!
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lower Avalon before earthworks
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lower Avalon after earthworks
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lower Avalon earthworks viewed from above pdc swales
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (45)

More pictures of the diesel-powered devastation of Avalon, and some notes on planned future developments.
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looking southwest, future stage, dancing lake, and gardens of lower Avalon
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looking east, future longwallow pond, dancing lake, and gardens of lower Avalon
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looking west from dancing lake, future gardens of lower Avalon
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (46)

More pictures of the bare and freshly dug earthworks of Avalon.
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looking east across future gardens and dancing lake of lower Avalon
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looking northeast across eastern edge of lower Avalon, future gardens and hammock office of Eveningwood
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looking west from Eveningwood, future gardens, stage, lake, etc. of lower Avalon
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (47)

And a few more.
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looking north from jefferson exclave, southern border fence of Avalon, terraces, Yonder, outdoor kitchen complex, future amphitheatre and tropical greenhouse site
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sweeping from west to east from stage of lower Avalon, future gardens, Yonder, tropical greenhouse, amphitheatre, outdoor kitchen complex, Eveningwood, Siesta
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sweeping from south to west from future amphitheatre, Eveningwood, future gardens, stage above dancing lake, terraces, amphitheatre
 
Julia Winter
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Wow, now you'll need some pigs to help you gley the ponds. . .

Strong work Evan, can't wait to see what you do next.  I'm not smart enough to intuit why your retaining walls were less than perfect.  Could you explain it to me like I'm 8?
 
evan l pierce
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Thanks Julia.

In short, they're too short.

I guess "retaining wall" can refer to several different parts of an earth-integrated structure. The ~7' tall walls made of lumber that hold back the earth from coming into the inside of my house, which one could call retaining walls, seem to be plenty sturdy, holding back tons of earth just fine. The ~2' tall walls made of lumber that hold back the earth on my roof from falling off my roof and down into my patios, those retaining walls are doing just fine as well. But the retaining walls made of vertical logs in the ground, that sort of define the slope of the earth from the ground to the roof, that are supposed to hold back the earth from tumbling down into my patios from the edges of the berms, are just about 2 ft too short. They don't go up to meet the retaining walls on my roof but instead stop at the top of the 7' wall, leaving basically a 2 ft gap. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to shape these retaining walls and get them to curve and angle the way I wanted, and in hindsight I was mistaken to the extent that I neglected to fully integrate them into the rest of the structure, rather than (perhaps at least subconsciously) thinking of them almost as a separate project, or at least somewhat of an afterthought. It's too late to dig them up whole and replace them, (or at least I really would strongly prefer not to) though they are less protected and built to last than the other parts that could be called retaining walls, and it's sort of been the plan all along to add lots of rocks to make little stone retaining walls outside of, behind, and above the log retaining walls. But another problem with the log retaining walls is that in hindsight I don't really like the way I made their little micro-roofs angle, nor really the whole way I hastily nailed up those wood shakes that were theoretically supposed to help keep the retaining wall logs dry but in hindsight really aren't enough of an overhang. So... I will have to think about how to fix this. At the moment I'm not totally sure.  Maybe I can get away with just building lots of stone retaining walls and little terraces to gentle the slope out. Perhaps lots of cutting and fastening extra wood bits to extend the tops. Maybe build in a bunch of little bird houses, mason bee houses, bat houses, little wood sculptures or something, etc. Eventually though, it will look like I meant to do it. Hopefully.

In the meantime it will still look tarpy but be mostly functional enough.

Y2, Summer (48)

Meanwhile, all my neighbors are working hard on building some awesome houses of their very own. One of the best things about ant village is that everyone gets the opportunity to learn from not only their own successes and failures, but also from everyone else's too. The constant exchange of new ideas and new data from all the different concurrent experiments in close proximity is super fun! I'm happy to call these folks my neighbors.

Kai made some shakes out of larch and used them to cover the drip edge and retaining wall of the roof of his house, Yonder. He's got a layer of sod up there now!
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froe action
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Kai-Yah!
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Yonder all shook up
 
Kerry Rodgers
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Location: North Texas, Dallas area suburbs, US zone 8
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forest garden toxin-ectomy
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evan l pierce wrote:Y2, Summer (47)
looking north from jefferson exclave, southern border fence of Avalon, terraces, Yonder, outdoor kitchen complex, future amphitheatre and tropical greenhouse site

sweeping from west to east from stage of lower Avalon, future gardens, Yonder, tropical greenhouse, amphitheatre, outdoor kitchen complex, Eveningwood, Siesta

sweeping from south to west from future amphitheatre, Eveningwood, future gardens, stage above dancing lake, terraces, amphitheatre


Evan, I love it!  So many cool place names!  Jesse also bopped the video camera through here briefly when you weren't looking.  I had a strong feeling of deja vu when I saw it.  Then I found this pic of Anarcadeah from last Oct.

Is that area covered in flora by now?

Did you and Kai happen to sketch any little plan/map when you designed all this?  It'd be fun to visualize how it is all positioned together.  Is it still roughly like this map from last winter?


Also, I was thinking Kai's house had an uphill terrace and was (partially?) buried before (or maybe just had walls?).  Is this Yonder the same house from last winter/spring?  I cannot find the pic I think I'm remembering.  (Hi! Kai.  Congrats on shakes+roof turf and garden!)


 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Evan, I had this slice of PIE and asked myself: what to do with it? Now I know: I gave it to this topic because you show so many photos of what you are doing!
 
Janet Branson
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Evan and Kaie have nurtured Tejas into a beautiful slice of paradise! I can't wait to see how they further sculpt the recent earthworks into works of art!
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Katy Rose
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I just read this whole thread (in a few sittings) and WOW! What a delight to follow along with your adventure, Evan. Thank you thank you thank you for the time and obvious care you put into keeping us all updated (and for the humorous photo captions too). I can't wait to see what comes next.
 
robert e morgan
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im probably a year late and a$ short ,but here goes ;   the only thing you need to keep deer out is some short posts big enough to hold insulators for solar power electrick fence
fence charger and the yellow and black cord -wire to go around the garden about 4 ft high  . string the wire and fasten triangles of tinfoil painted with peanut butter about every 6 ft.
sniff sniff the toung reaches for a lick the deer comes about 2 ft off the ground with every hair on end. and they dont come back .then in the fall take the fence away and sow turnips . and be ready in the evening to harvest some good protein.
 
David Wivagg
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The mullein is one of the greatest plants, because it can grow all alone in an arid infertile soil and is the first one to colonize unused basebal fields, but you shouldn't have the tea (a metal tonic) very often, says the FDA.
 
evan l pierce
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Thanks Kerry! As for Anarcadeah, it sure is much more covered in flora now than it was when that picture was taken. Compare that picture with the one below.

As for plans and maps, well, yes somewhat, but a lot seems to get revised on-the-fly once the excavator starts moving dirt around. I'm getting better at estimating how big of a mound here corresponds to how big of a crater over there, but I still find myself surprised often. I hope to find the time to make an updated map before too long.

Yonder is still over yonder and still has uphill terraces, but instead of wood and earth-berming, Kai decided to go with monolithic cob for his walls. It's turning out beautifully!

Thanks for the pie, Inge! Thanks for the pictures, Janet! Thanks for the kind words, Katy! Thanks everyone who's been following along! And a whole bucketful of thanks to all y'all awesome folks who've been supporting us on Patreon even though my posts have been sparse lately!

Y2, Summer (49)

Anarcadeah still has some bare earth showing, but it's pretty lush in there. The clover is especially thick!

Kai's making a cob house! He built a solid foundation of stones on which to build the cob walls.
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floral Anarcadeah
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Kai stompin cob
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cob wall on stone foundation
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (50)

Jason had a big turkey feather hanging from a string at his site. Observing it, one was able to clearly see which direction the wind was blowing from at any given time, and how strongly it was blowing, and I imagine someone could learn a lot from observing several of these wind-feathers spread around one's site over time.

During the first real rainstorm since excavating Avalon, we made a massive mix of seeds, over 100 different species, diluted about 5 gallons of seeds with almost twice that of moist sand, then flung them all over Avalon. Good luck seeds!
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feather wind observation tool
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seeding Avalon with 100+ species polyculture
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polyheaded sunflower
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (51)

Jason built a sweet multi-sided triple-fireplace out of stones and cob at his site. One of the fires was a rocket-ish cook stove with a secondary air intake below the burn chamber. The second fire was a simple rumford-ish open stone-lined firepit. And the third fire was a whimsically arched rumford-ish sheltered firepit. Jason was happy to let us help with the cobbing and rocking, and Kai added a little cob goblin sculpture between the second and third fireplaces.
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Camp Kimchi triple fire place
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lil rock arch
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kai's cobgoblin sculpture at Camp Kimchi
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (52)

Remember that little prickly pear that Sharla brought out here with her? It's putting on new growth!

And that nectarine tree that Kelly gave us? It's got a nectarine on it!

The solar dehydrator has been working alright, but it still needs to be sealed up better I think. The apricots we dried out in there turned out great, but it didn't happen as quickly as just a screen out in the sun. The slower speed and the limited space made it insufficient to meet all our drying needs. A really giant dehydrator in the same style would totally work, but be a bit expensive to build for now. I think with the quantity of produce that we intend to dehydrate, we'll want to do a combination of direct and indirect methods.
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the prickly pear of Lewisylvania lives!
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first nectarine in Lewisylvania
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some apricots dried out with the downdraft solar dehydrator
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (53)

Some sights from Ava.
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dried apples on a screen
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some synesthetic symbiosis
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johnny jump up in kailarado
 
evan l pierce
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Y2, Summer (54)

My dad and fellow ant Steve's house is coming right along. I think he and Gabe did a real nice job on the notching.

Steve had me run the excavator for him, and I dug out a little driveway and some drainage ditches, made the pad for his future larger house, and piled up a giant berm along the road. Putting terraces about midway along the sides of giant berms helps with being able to actually use all that extra surface area, plus it's fun to walk along and peer over the ramparts of the earth fortifications along one's borders.
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Gabe and Steve's cross-bracing notches
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Steve's shack
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Steve's driveway and terraced berms
 
Gary Huntress
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You're getting to be quite proficient with the whole earth moving thing, Evan.  Nice job!
 
evan l pierce
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Thanks Gary! I feel extremely fortunate to have so many opportunities to practice and build my skills and just have fun moving tons of earth around.

Y2, Summer (55)

Giant berms can help to obscure the view of one's house or other structures from the road, helping to create and preserve the aesthetic of uninterrupted natural gardens.

Janet had me run the excavator for her too, and I dug some drainage ditches, made a bunch of terraced hugel berms, and roughed out her driveway and house site.

Janet's been making awesome progress accumulating her house materials and getting her logs peeled and charred. She'll have a house up in no time!
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Stevantium from Pascal Road
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Janet's house site and some hugelberms
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Janet peeling logs for her house
 
Kerry Rodgers
Posts: 122
Location: North Texas, Dallas area suburbs, US zone 8
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Hi Evan,
Thanks for the Anarcadeah update pic! And the Avalon seed photo is amazing.  5-gal of seed is an amazing amount.  Hope it grows like mad.  I love lush!

I sent you and Kai a (small) box of (not very many) seeds, trying to respect the list in your sig, sorta.  UPS delivery estimate to Missoula is Friday.  I hope you have enough water there to grow some of the species you named.  Maybe a pond edge?  You have a duck pond, right?  There was that picture "Igneous, Gneiss, and Tourmaline out for a swim with moms".  Maybe they need the pot-and-greenhouse treatment for the winter.  (Will the Siesta-integrated greenhouse be functional by this winter?)

It must be like the home stretch before winter, there.
 
evan l pierce
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Kerry! The seeds you sent are amazing! Such diversity! Kai and I are super excited to get these seeds in the ground! Thank you thank you!

To answer your questions, I don't think I will have the Siesta-integrated greenhouse fully functional by the beginning of this winter, but I might be able to finish it during winter.

There are several crater-gardens/ponds on Ava, but currently all of them go dry seasonally, (still muddy and wet at the bottom, but not even a puddle in the driest part of the year.) Over time I hope to increase their ability to hold water longer by running pigs and ducks in them, adding more organic matter, and adding more shade. For now, hopefully between these crater gardens and the wetter sides of the hugels the moisture-loving seeds you sent will find a place to grow. We'll do our best, Kerry, thanks again for your outstanding generosity and support!

Y2, Fall-ish (?)

So far I've been trying to keep this log mostly in chronological order, but the backlog is getting pretty big and at the same time I would like to have my posts, when I actually find the time to make them, be somewhat more timely. I have about a month's worth of pictures and updates to post, but as Kerry pointed out, it's the homestretch before winter, and there's still a pile of projects to get done. At the same time, I feel the need to keep y'all somewhat up-to-date, so I'm thinking that I will break with chronology for now and try to skip ahead towards the present.

As many good things as there are about this forum as a format for my log, (especially the dialogue and feedback from all you awesome permies,) the way I've been doing it thus far is fairly time-consuming, and so I'm hoping to find some way to streamline/automate the update process and simultaneously display all my old content in a way that's more navigable and aesthetically appealing to me. I've looked into a few options for blogging websites but haven't yet found one that meets all my specifications. Surely the technology is out there that will display all my content in the way I have in mind, but for now I'll keep posting here occasionally and hopefully y'all will keep finding it useful/entertaining.

Josh, Ben, and I just went on a nearly 7000 mile road trip out to the east coast and back, gathering as many seeds as possible along the way and visiting loads of friends and permaculture sites. I'll get around to telling the longer story of our adventure some day, but for now here's a couple pictures from the trip.

The first picture is of the seeds Kerry sent, what a wonderful gift to return to!

The second and third pictures are of the incomplete wofati-inspired structure I built in new hampshire in 2014, which I checked up on and tidied up a bit when we were in the area a few days ago. It's similar in shape and design to Allerton Abbey, but even less completed. Maybe not the most sensible design for the wet environment in which it was built, but it was an interesting and educational project anyway.

Sorry for this post being all over the place, but I'm kind of all over the place at the moment and I just wanted to get one post out that somewhat summarizes where I'm at/have-been before I need to seriously buckle down and get ready for winter. This post probably doesn't do that. Oh well. Here's hoping that I can get my stove built and Siesta buttoned up before winter, and then my blogging situation figured out eventually. Don't expect much activity from me on here until then.

Meanwhile, check out what all the other ants have been doing here in the village:

Jesse: https://permies.com/t/47811/labs/Jesse-Ant-Village-Videos

Josh: https://permies.com/t/48594/labs/Josh-anty-updates

Jim: https://permies.com/t/50566/labs/Jim-Ant-log

Sean: https://permies.com/t/58522/labs/Lab-rat-diaries

Steve: https://permies.com/t/58791/labs/Sticks-Stones-Steve-Words-Ant

Janet: https://permies.com/t/58356/labs/Janet-Antics
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more seeds from the amazing Kerry
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bardo hobbit house interior panorama
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bardo hobbit house from downhill
 
evan l pierce
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There's a cookstove in Siesta now. It's not fully complete, (still needs an exterior layer of bricks, some tinkering with the stovepipe, and eventually a mass bench,) but it seems to already be burning wood very efficiently in the first few test burns.

The core design and inspiration for this stove came from Matt Walker. His beautiful and thorough documentation of his Walker Riserless Core, and in particular its application in a cookstove, can be found in the build album on his website: walkerstoves.com. Between the hundreds of pictures Matt took of nearly every step of the process and his patient guidance via email, I felt confident enough to attempt to build this stove. Thanks Matt!

My dad Steve gifted and loaned me much of the money needed to purchase materials, (especially the pricier insulated firebricks and stovepipe,) and the plan is to build another walker cookstove, (with an oven,) as soon as next year in Steve's planned future house! Both my dad and my mom have been super supportive and encouraging! Thanks mom and dad!

Kai, in between finishing off his cob cottage with a rumford fireplace and lorena stove, and lending many a helping hand to ants and gappers alike, also sifted and mixed some fine batches of clay-sand mortar. And Sara, visiting from saskatchewan, helped me mortar together the core and manifold of the stove. Thanks Kai and Sara!

Jim, David, Josh, Syra, Ben, Sara, Kai, and Sean all joined me in Siesta for a stove-building and then stove-lighting party, sharing help, food, drink, music, poetry, laughter, and warmth! Thanks so much you guys!
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bottom half of core
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core and manifold test burn
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inside fire box sideways flames secondary air
 
evan l pierce
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The double ram's horn of flames was visible where the fire blasts into the middle of the back of the riser and spirals up to encounter the fireglass cooking surface. While the rest of the cooking surface darkened, the area right above the riser burned away clean, leaving an amazing view. The picture below doesn't do it justice; I'll have to try and get better ones.

Some of the mortaring still needs touching up, and it will all be much better sealed once the outer skin of bricks is on and I install a proper door with a gasket, but so far it seems to be exceptionally clean, fast, and hot with nothing visible but heat waves coming out of the chimney. Awesome!
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mortared core and mocked-up manifold
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wisps of the legendary double ram's horn
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stove after test burn and breakfast
 
evan l pierce
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Such beautiful weather this fine fall day. Josh and Sara and I all practiced some yoga and acro-yoga in the uphill patio of Siesta. Kai and I converted the old fire ring into a vertical raised garden bed. The ducks have been a-quacking, enjoying the filled ponds and many puddles from all the recent rains. A perfect time for making art and music with friends.
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Josh basing, Sara flying
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vertical garden and gnome tower
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Kai and Syra making art and music in front of Kai's cob house
 
evan l pierce
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Stevantium, that resplendent fatherland to the south, is coming along nicely. The ponds in Téjas, both Upper and Lower Delta Lakes, are holding some water from the recent rains. The department of ducks has issued a statement in support of the mere annexation of Téjas. The clover, mustard, daikon, and other cover crops are sprouting, but everything could probably use more mulch!

The Hundred Year Hut, as Steve refers to his tiny house, is looking better every day. Some mulch on the roof sure went a long way!

Back in September when Ben, Josh, and I were leaving for a trip out east, Ben asked Steve if he wanted us to pick up anything for him. He jokingly replied, "a martin guitar." Ben happened to have one back at his house in pennsylvania, and so he brought it back a couple thousand miles and we painted on it and presented it to Steve. He was surprised and thrilled, and immediately plucked out a jam in gratitude.
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Steve rockin his new guitar
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Steve's hundred year hut with roof mulched
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Téjas, Stevantium, Upper and Lower Delta Lakes
 
Shauns Webbers
Posts: 61
Location: Brick, NJ
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Evan Stove looks like it is coming out to be pretty epic ! You are all killing it as usual . Stoked to see the sun a shinning again out there!  Thanks again for showing me around I'm working on a little montage but sadly 80 Clips and photos didn't get recorded . So bummed I didn't get any of Ben's jams or Kai's Jams . Im guessing the clip will just be a random sample of ant village, and wild mushrooms, some tinkering. Will Post very soon !
 
evan l pierce
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Shaun, it was awesome having you out here! Thanks for all your help and all the art you brought to the village! You're welcome out here any time!

Here's a couple pictures of the wicked wooden totems that Shaun hand-carved and gave to Kai and I.

And also a picture of the new door that Josh built for his Bear Den. Shaun took tons more pictures of the construction process of the Bear Den, and video! Check it out:

https://permies.com/t/60089/Weeks-ANT-Village-Wheaton-Labs
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S2 totem faces
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S2 totem rears
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Bear Den with a door
 
evan l pierce
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Loads of mushrooms have been popping up all over the lab since we've had such a wet autumn. Here's some pictures of some of the more stunning varieties.

Shaun even made a thread devoted to this flush of fungi:

https://permies.com/t/60117/Fungi-ANT-Village-Wheaton-Labs
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throneshroom by creek
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maroonshrooms
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tiny shrooms and moss
 
evan l pierce
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Here's some relatively up-to-date pictures of progress on Siesta and the Walker cookstove/mass heater inside.
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Siesta after being inspected by department of ducks
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mass bench plumbing
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starting to cob mass bench
 
Matt Walker
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Fucking awesome.
 
Gary Huntress
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Everything looks great, Evan!  I see you came up with a solution for those wing walls (no surprise there).  That house should keep you nice and toasty on the coldest of days, I would imagine.
 
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