Kat: wall update. two steps forward, one step back.

i’m looking forward to this saturday’s wall plastering party. at the last one, a couple weeks ago, we made the decision to add portland cement to the earthen plaster mix we’re using on the north wall, with the result that the new mix did not suffer any damage in the ongoing rains we’ve experienced.

we certainly don’t want this much-needed rain to go away, or even to let up. we just want our work to withstand it as it is supposed to.

saturday we are going to tackle the last exposed stretch of new construction. next week, (gods willing and the creek don’t rise, as they say), we have three new interns arriving. they will be able to do the bits of patchwork here and there throughout the whole north wall, where the rains have knocked down last year’s (and some of this year’s) work.

the reason we’re dealing with this many repairs is mainly time. earthen plaster doesn’t happen in a single layer, and the wall is very long. the time it takes us to get a single layer over the bags is substantial, not least because we are doing one or two workdays a month with as many volunteers as we can wrangle — which is sometimes many, and sometimes none. this year, due to an assortment of schedule confluences and the ongoing length of this project, most of our wall days have been just a handful of Sunflower River residents. so that has slowed us down, and we can’t work full-time on it; we have jobs and other responsibilities that prevent us from being able to work full-timeon any one farm project — and this is *far* from the only project going on at the farm! so there’s that. priorities are all over the map, and with good reason.

but the longer the project stretches, the more the rain and sun wear away this base coat of plaster, which is not actually supposed to be the final wall surface. it gets two more coats, then a limewash at the end. between the second and third coat, we’ll add more sculpture to the wall’s interior, as we are doing on the (much more finished) east wall:
(tiger by Eso Robinson & Nina Dubois, art studio MFA students at UNM).

so we’re doing a lot of this kind of patchwork:

and the bit of wall in that photo has bits that need to be redone again, as the weather has gotten at it in just these few weeks. we’re hoping this fall’s interns can help us get all the necessary patchwork filled in with the new cementatious plaster mix.

we got a big rainstorm (3″ in one storm) at the end of July, that did this to the north wall:

this was an area we’d had particular trouble getting plastered last fall. this time, we covered the wall material with chicken wire (most earthbag resources say that this is not necessary, but we are discovering that this is an exaggeration at best; the chicken wire helps a *lot*). then we re-plastered. IMG_5889

that time it stuck, with minimal damage in the less-intense rains that came between work days.

returning to the project a couple weeks later, we used the new mix over that whole end of the wall, with this result:


we got so much done at that work day, that we were able to take time to beautify the apse out front at the day’s end.

that’s right on the corner of our property, and faces the road, so it’s a relief to have it looking so good!

if you’re feeling inspired, or have a need to throw things and would rather do so while also getting soemthing done, come on down to the farm this saturday, or on Sunday, october 6th, for our last two wall parties of 2013! we can use all the help we can get, and the work really is fun (and really is all about throwing mud), and is livened up even more by the good company.