Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Crane Hill Bio-Char Kiln

Welcome to Crane Hill Gardens!
Some folks very interested in Bio-Char production invited me to build an earthen kiln on their land.

Making cob adobes with the soil from below the kiln site.

Very heavy clay and silty soil...
Made wonderful bricks!
Oh, the glorious 55 gallon steel drum...
what earthen burning device can do without?

Adobe perimeter walls

Cobbing in the flue pipe
Light Clay-Straw insulation
loading it up for the test-run
Finally found some pure clay at the local gravel pit. It's the last thing they want to find, so they gave it to me for free. Two colors of clay here in easily divisable layers.
Shredding and screening straw
even found some catails to test in the plaster mix
(what an adventure in material acquisition this has been!)
the finished kiln

more on the wood vinegar colleciton system and char results soon to come!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

100-mile Bike Ride through the Los Padras National Forest

At least once a year or so, I like to do something totally physically challenging and something I never knew I could do. This year, my natural builder friend, Kata Polano, invited me to join her on a 100-mile bike ride from Santa Barbar to a Women's Permaculture Gatherning at Quail SPrings Learning Oasis. We would have to go from sea level through the Los Pardes National Forest and go over two passes, the highest over 5000' in elveation, so how could I resist?
Gearing up
Art can not believe we are crazy enough to do this!
Especially since today is my first day riding this bike

And we are off!

The first day we rode through last year's burned region.
Upper Mountain Road, Santa Barbara
Heavy sights to take in.

But also funny stuff! Kata found this biker mailbox and couldn't resist some comic relief

Camping out & rice cakes for breakfast

Awesome water hole

the terrain ahead

Looking back down over the first pass, tons of switchbacks!
we just increased about 2500' elevation without any downhills

We forgot to bring any salty snacks, so kata licks her sweat back into her body.
ya know, bikers are hard-core

We reach the summit!
(and then it starts to rain)
our last 16 miles we were completely soaked, but it still felt so great!
especially knowing we had an amazing welcome crew down at Quail Springs.

Cuyama Valley

We survived, hooray!

West Coast Women's Permaculture Gathering

Back to Quail Springs! This time arriving by bicycle! Never thought I would ride all the way to the Cuyama desert from Santa Barbara using pedal power, but somehow the notion of a women's permaculture gathering gave me the inspiration to do it.

The Goddess panel including
Penny Livingston-Stark, Kat Steele & Starhawk.

Our beautiful camping area

Bread making

the cob house is almost done!

Learning how to butcher a deer, we found it as road-kill on the highway

Lynn & Justin demonstrate how to use the compressed earth block machine.

A compressed earth block--home made.

Orchard toilets are our friends.

We began and closed our gathering with a ceremony including brewing compost tea. After it had bubbled away for two days, we all spread out the compost tea on the gardens.

Oasis Remodel

Got to help out on a really fun plaster job with Kata Polano at a home near Santa Barbara, California. The 40's style cabin is being entirely retrofitted to withstand the Santa Barbara threats of wildfire. By finishing almost all the interior and exterior surfaces of the house with earth plaster (including eaves), this home is virtually fire-proof and hopefully if one did come it would pass right by.
The style is really elegant and the color palette is just charming. Kata has a great sense for earthen finishes. It was also lovely to work with this all-female crew. Somehow getting dirty together always makes for good friends.
Eva mixes plaster
Sculpting the bar between the kitchen and livingroom
Awesome steel bracket details support the salvaged granite countertop.
Kata does aliz (clay paint) with lots of mica onto the kitchen ceiling.

Kata does more aliz on the walls of the entry porch
Blue glass bottles in the ferrocement roof wash great colors onto the wall.

I work on a window detail, more mica aliz!

The finished porch window

Amit plasters an exterior wall

Arched plaster meets the ferrocement window treatment at the basement level

The most beautiful mechanical wall ever!
Earthen plaster surrounds each of the utility boxes and cable conections.

We save the leftover aliz (clay paint) by making 'cookies'.
Once dry they can be stored and then saved for repairs. Since we use custom dye-lots, this is the best way to get an exact match.
An interior niche filled with light from a solatube. Note: this is not on an exterior wall, it coming through the center of the house.

The basement apartment has a sweet little kitchen and dining space which got frequent use since the main kitchen was still a construction zone.

We even celebrated with a rocket-stove baked pizza.

Eva and Art are really excited about it, so adorable!