Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Permaculture Design Course at Quail Springs

Welcome to the Cuyama Valley in southern California. I'm taking a Permaculture Design Certificate course at the Quail Springs Learning Oasis and it's been absolutely amazing!

We've been learning about earthworks and watershed restoration and lots of 'secrets of the soil'. This desert, once a forested valley inhabited by the Shumash natives, has suffered from deforestation and over-grazing by cattle. It will take some time to bring it back to it's fullest potential, but with the Permaculture Design process initiated, it's already well on its way to a diverse productive ecosystem that will flourish with plant life and support all the folks living here.

The central ethics of the system are 1.) Earth Care, 2.) People Care, and 3.) Return of Surplus or 'Fair Share'. There's a lot to it and I could go on for hours (and I will if you want to talk about it), but it's basically a holistic design system for sustainable human ecosystems. It's a way of making our environments work with us and allow all elements in a system to reach their highest potential. With clever design strategies, your garden can end up very productive with very little input effort because energy is shared and reused throughout. I highly recommend anyone who's interested in changing their life and helping our troubled world to take the course.

The paradigm shift in invokes is perhaps one of the most important things you can experience.

my campsite under the stars

View from the garden towards the strawbale building

Geoff Lawton

Demonstrating a micro-gabion

Standing on a real gabion

Typical classroom visual

Final Design Project

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Leo Party at the Laughing House

For Ianto's birthday and to celebrate the new floors in the house, we had a Leo party. And following tradition, each course of the meal was interspersed with entertainment. About 30 people were served and the music went late into the night, Great fun!

nature's champagne chiller
meal prepartion

reading the Edgar Allen Poe's 'the Raven' by candle light

Linda's Little Helper

As soon as a got to Cob Cottage again, I was handed a pick axe, shovel and a wheel barrow. And then I headed into the woods with Linda Smiley to harvest some beautiful red colored clay. The next day I was shredding straw with a chipper/shredder and screening it through a fine mesh. We did a few test samples and before you know it, we were laying a beautiful red-colored straw-clay floor in her little cob cottage. These pictures show the screeding process and an example of what the final finish texture will look like once it's burnished.

The finished 'loving' room floor...

I also did a sculptural niche behind the spiral staircase using earthen plaster with the same red clay. The structure of the niche wall is wattle and daub which was done by Max Edelson. Making this transition look nice between where the earthen plaster met the lime plaster on the main walls was definitely the hardest part, but I had fun with sculpted spiral form. I like how Max pointed out that this followed Christopher Alexander's notion of decoration--that it should be used when transitioning between materials.

The final project in the Laughing House was tiling and grouting the kitchen floor. Again another opportunity for a fun transition to the wooden step down. We decided to use some small ocean pepples to fill in the larger grout areas. It was a whole new technique for me, but it came out just great! We even decied to repeat the motif in the cooler box.

Overall, the house is really starting to to reach a 'finished' state and Linda was just delighted with all my help--and I couldn't have had more fun working with her.

Back to Cob Cottage

Returning to Cob Cottage to work trade for alittle while, this logging truck was the perfect reminder of why I'm doing this whole thing...

And since I had been there, another workshop had taken place that was focused on plasters and finishing, they did a great job on the walls we had built in the workshop I took.

The niche with the sand cast crystal Will made was one of my favorite touches. I did the wire-wrapping with the inside of an old electrical wire.

Maitreya Cob Bench

So before I get too far removed from Eugene, I thought it's be good to show some pics of the cob bench I worked on at Maitreya EcoVillage with Jack Stephens.

Local school children used to gather at this driveway waiting for the school bus, rain or shine. Now they've got a nice covered spot to wait and inspiring form to sit on. Maitreya also wanted a place that they could post announcements for events going on in the strawbale community building. There was an old fence at this location and the original fence posts were integrated into the structure. If ever needed, the original gate could still be reattached.

First we built an urbanite foundation (reclaimed roken chunks of concrete usually found in urban places...). Then we were able to start the cob process, we started mixing clay, sand and straw on tarps and then formed small lumps of the misture (called cobs) and began stacking them up in the form we felt best suit the space. As it grew we also learned how to cantilever and form arches with the material. The finish was done with an earthen plaster and then lime/casein paint with iron oxide pigments.

The earthen bench was completed over the course of 4 workshops and involved probably over 50 people. After attending the first workshop, I work-traded for the rest in exchange for building the roof structure. All the roof framing was made from reclaimed materials and constructed on sight, thanks to Rob Bolman.

I particularly like the back side of the bench wall with this adorable little face sculpted into it. It makes me giggle ever time I see it. :)