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.

folks at the work party laying aquapex and filling in trenches for the barnyard plumbing project.

filled-in trench leading back to the pump house (and my handsome truck)

oh, hey, we planted some new plants, too. this is our new chicken-coop shade tree, a chitalpa (half catalpa, half desert willow — i’m curious to see how that turns out! a catalpa is a big broad-leaf single-trunked shade-tree, and a desert willow is a ferny deserty many-stemmed thing with light shade and pink flowers.)


Rev busted through the concrete wall of the north ditch, built forms, poured concrete, and installed this irrigation gate last weekend.

now we need to install the turn-out gate (which goes across the ditch to cause the water to turn the corner into our field), and then we’ll be ready to experimentally flood.

and we cleaned out our earthen acequia for spring, including lowering it a bit.


garlic, planted last fall, up in the garden

trench filled, barnyard cleaned up

barnyard cleaned up in all directions

raspberries, planted in an arc around the small ritual ground, which is really starting to come together as a space (note the now-fully-functional drip system, as well)


and the small ritual ground as a whole


sunning bunnies (for your daily dose of adorable)

and the blessed apricots, always hasty to put on blooms, blooming away while many freezes are still to be expected. *sigh* we put giant things of water under them, to act as thermal mass and help protect the blossoms from freezing.

the newly-planted garden, under the newly-partly-trimmed cottonwoods (it got windy, so trimming had to stop)

Rev, working on the laundry greywater system

the laundry greywater system from the inside

and the laundry system, installed!

isn’t that new machine pretty? it’s also efficient, with 10g of water used per load instead of 30, and it has its own hot water heater, so we can occasionally use hot water when diapers or athletic clothes are being washed. the greywater from the machine drains immediately to a surge tank for cooling, then runs via hose out to any nearby garden. when things like diapers are to be washed, a valve along the wall there allows you to switch the machine so that all water runs to the county sewer system instead. this photo shows that detail a bit better:

the front hose bib developed a new system

it’s totally a system, not a spaghetti, i swear. that 8-shaped loop in the black hose is taking the weight off the spigot and transferring it to the window bars, which are better able to bear it without breaking. the 4-way spigot is mounted up there because the hose bib down near the ground is SO close to the ground that you cannot install a drip system on it; there’s no room for the timer and filter.

meanwhile, lilacs!

the kitton, growing daily and getting cuter

a house full of tired Sunflower Riparians at the end of the work day
(that’s Yulia, currently interning with us, and Tristan & Alan)

cottonwood catkins and the half moon. looking straight up from the back steps of the house.

and then, as of 5:45 this morning, chicks! Tristan and Jenny got them from the post office and got them settled in the brooder.

the water is yellow because it contains the chicken equivalent of gatorade; vitamin-water for healthy growth

Yulia with a baby bird

i do not appear to have uploaded any pics of the downed wall. i will remedy that.