A chronicle of Mike and Julia's adventures creating a home on the Missouri range...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Pond Project

In the midst of this drought, as Mike and I have been carefully conserving what little water is left in our rainwater-catchment barrels, we have been thinking about how we are going to integrate water into our homestead in the future. Somehow, this didn't really factor into our everyday thinking before now: water was just what came out when you turned on a faucet! But our land lies farther down our gravel road than that municipal water lines run, and we aren't entirely sure we want to pay the expense of ripping up the road, laying pipe and extending it to our house site. A 5,000 gallon cistern catching rainwater off of our roof seems like it would provide us with enough water for our household needs. However. We have watched (and helped) as our friends have kept wilty vegetables and vulnerable small trees alive this month with hoses and buckets, using thousands of gallons of water, and wondered where such back-up reserves would come from on our land. At the same time, our neighbors just finished having a pond dug, and as we got to talking to them about it, Mike came up with the idea of digging a pond on our land. It would be uphill from our envisioned orchard/ food forest site, and uphill from our main garden site, so that we could even gravity-feed water by underground pipe to those parts of the land. Though we hadn't budgeted this year for a pond, it makes sense to do it this summer, so that by next summer, it will be full enough to begin to use when we start planting trees!
       So, with the predicament of funding such a pond excavation on our minds, we consulted some friends who just created a crown-funding website for permaculture projects. They just launched the website, and were hopeful for more campaigns to have a strong start... and so we agreed to give it a go. If you have ever heard of Kickstarter, it is very similar idea-- you launch a campaign, you send out pleas for contributions, and if you make your goal then your project is a success! I never ever thought I would be actually launching such a campaign myself (being somewhat camera shy), but here I am, just having spent 12 hours putting together video and a proposal... asking you... to check it out and see what you think. The best part of the campaign to me is that as a thank you for different contribution levels, we send out gifts! And to a hand-made gift enthusiast such as myself, I would thoroughly enjoy making prints of my art, handmade spoons and frames and such and sending them out in gratitude for your support. So, if for no other reason than to see our land and Mike and I on camera... please check it out, like us on Facebook and pass on the word... www.wethetrees.com

Could this be our future pond? With a wing and a prayer... 

Declaration of Inter-dependence

    Building-wise, this has been the month of moving heavy, monolithic materials--concrete slabs, tree trunks, barrels of water, and 1 cast-iron bathtub (for a friend)--though perhaps I am being optimistic in calling it "the month" when in all likelihood, there will be several months of this type of activity. Unfortunately. I realize that never before in my construction history have I encountered such heavy materials. Before now, I have always worked with pre-milled boards from Home Depot of nice, dry pine (light as a feather, stiff as a...). Oh, those were the days! But felling a mature tree and then limbing it and moving its heavy, wet trunk to a location some distance away has been challenging to say the least. Similarly, for our foundation we have needed large slabs of stone or recycled concrete to complete each of our 12 gravel pits. Luckily we have had my parent's truck on loan, which has made transport much easier. Still, as you can see from the photo to the left, we have been devising some questionable rigging systems and enlisting unsuspecting friends into helping us awkwardly maneuver "urbanite"  blocks from demolition sites in town to our land.
We then lugged them into place, microadjusted their levelness, and heaved a huge sigh of relief that that difficult step was over and it would all be smooth sailing from here on. Ha.     
        The next step was acquiring tree trunks for posts. In my mind they would gracefully loft down to the forest floor with the single stroke of a chainsaw, and then the two of us would lift either side of the trunk and trot merrily to the building site (somewhere my sister is laughing at me). Again, I really had no idea what was involved, being the aforementioned effete Home-Depot patron that I am. Imagine dripping sweat mingling with chainsaw grit, plumes of gas fumes and frustration fumes, hours of unsticking mis-aimed trunks that accidentally fell and got stuck in neighboring trees, plus the high adrenaline rush of not really knowing when and in what direction the massive trunks would crash to the ground. Then the realization that there is simply no way to lift the trunks with our own god-given muscles. And even if we could, there is a creek bed to cross (bridge yet to be built). Discouragement.... The bright side truly has been our friends here, who have come through assisting us in every step of the way. For example, two friends plus an ingenious log-moving contraption called a "log arch" below made moving 20 ft. juniper trunks a snap, well, relatively. And we have determined that very likely there are a pair of hulking Belgian draft horses in our log-moving future, owned by an Amish neighbor, who are able to maneuver logs out of the tricky maze of the woods. I will hopefully have more to report on this endeavor soon!

 Our neighbors have been working on their own homestead endeavors with similar need for our assistance at times. Some of our neighbors who are getting married in a few months, Christian and Taiga, decided to purchase a small portable mill for their land and have learned how to mill their own wood for it. In the last month, they built the wood shed to the right and milled all of the lumber in it! Then next summer they are hoping to get started with the construction of their house. For the time being, they--like us--have been "tenting it". They have also been making their mill available for community use at a very reasonable price, which includes our Amish neighbor Jake assisting with logistics...
    Another one of our wonderful neighbors is Beth, who in the course of the past year built herself a small portable house, fully insulated and finished beautifully, as well as a storage shed and started trees and garden beds around her house. The house is perfect for one person, with a loft bed, small kitchenette and folding table and chairs, and even a tiny wood-burning stove for cooking on. She also managed to squeeze in book shelves, a desk, and two wardrobe/closets and a comfortable reading chair! Beth has worked for years finishing residential straw bale buildings with gorgeous earthen plasters and paints so you can imagine her own place is beautiful.
        We have also been having a series of community celebrations. For one, instead of celebrating independence day in the traditional fireworks-and-hot-dogs style, the greater community had a big "Inter-dependence Day" where we celebrated our interconnection with each other and the land. A big group pond swim was featured in this celebration (and every other one) as we have been enduring 100 F+ days without air-conditioning. Another party was hosted at Santa Fe lake nearby, with all ages in attendance for a 5 year old's birthday and we also have had a few potlucks, like the one below, after a community work-exchange morning. (Note in the background an outdoor kitchen structure I designed and built with a class a few years ago, now getting good use!) But water has been on my mind a lot lately as the heat and the drought continue and every day it seems like there is more yellow and less green... more to come on the subject of water shortly...
 And last- for your amusement, we happened to spot the below scene the other day and it seemed to encapsulate the cultural intersections of this area-- to the left you have a trucker just pulled off the highway, gassing up, and to the right, there is an Amish buggy, which is horse drawn, however since the Amish often use gasoline to fuel up their power tools and small engines (kind of like an Amish loop-hole to use these since they are technically disconnected from the grid), this man is filling up portable gas cans! Still, it makes a funny juxtaposition.