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

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fall Closing In

      The beginning of fall has arrived in all of its forms--a chilly nip in the night air, leaves are tinged with brown, asters are suddenly the only wildflowers left blooming, Canada geese are honking overhead making their reverse migration, days are cut short by early and earlier dusks. Hmm. It is clearly time for us to pick up the pace on closing in the house before we too have to make our own winter migration...

      I wrote a little in the last post about feeling like we are passing through a dark, overwhelming chapter in our lives here, and in many ways that has not changed--the high-voltage line is still looming on the horizon and keeping me up at night, members of our community are still undecided about whether to stay here in Missouri or part ways, all that remains to be done on our house still feels overwhelming, and it keeps goshdarn raining, but.... there are also some small glimmers of light that have come our way. One is Tyler. We met him last winter and communicated some about his visiting here, so really it is not a huge surprise that he did indeed come. But somehow his arrival feels more like a visitation by a natural building angel, sent in response to desperate prayers for help... not only is he experienced, skilled and enthusiastic to help us with our house, but he also somehow fits seamlessly into our rather unusual life, bringing good conversation, laughter, and the cross-pollination of new ideas to brighten our days. I have to stop myself sometimes from begging him never to leave, which of course someday he will, but for the time being, we are blessed and so grateful for his help and presence.

Our friend Matt was swallowed by our giant straw pile at a work party! 

     Another bright spot has been help from our community in the form of a work party or two... organized somewhat frantically in the days before, we sent out calls, not really expecting anyone to be able to make it on short notice, but again, miraculously in one morning a crew had arrived and we had almost a whole wall plastered and our soggy strawbale wall disassembled. And what is even more miraculous, Mike was able to reassemble it all and finish baling completely in one more day. So we are determinedly moving forward: framing out the gable ends with the help of neighbor Brian, ploughing forward with the long process of plastering, slowly closing in all the openings left exposed. We even had a small dinner party inside on a cold evening, complete with tablecloth and candlelight. So even though it often feels like we are giant snails inching along with things, I can see we have made huge progress. A friend’s mother pointed this out to me as she had not seen it since the spring, with barely a floor on. What a difference walls make! It is almost a complete shell.

East and north sides of the house
South side with scaffolding set up for plastering
West side view, the search for a front door is on!

After a big 9 in. rain storm, our lower field was flooded and seaworthy! 

      On top of all of the house work, we have also been participating in strange harvests of various kinds. This weekend was the big sorghum harvest that our friends the Crawfords and their large extended local clan participate in every year, using the same press that many generations of their family have used in time past. We have adopted ourselves into the tradition, joining in the festive day. I just taught my first class on making and using natural dyes from native plants. I harvested flowers, berries or leaves from local pokeberry, tickseed coreopsis, wild sunflowers, walnut hulls, comfrey, and goldenrod and simmered and strained them into pots of beautiful dye color. The class was great, full of friends and new dyeing enthusiasts with white wool, silk, and cotton to experiment with. We had six rocket stoves going, fueled by sticks, and hours later, mounds of gorgeous colors being pulled from steaming pots. Beauty. (Many thanks to Teri Page for photographing the event, check out her blog- homestead-honey.com for more details about dying). Mike’s latest harvest has been the nuts of wild (and somewhat invasive) lotus plants from a nearby lake. The nuts pop out of the unusual flower heads and taste somewhat like a cross of potatoes and corn, when salted and fried and shelled. Mushrooms have been plentiful as well, and Mike’s latest food experiments have centered around creating delicious mushroom jerky. But mostly while friends and neighbors bring in their garden harvests and can-freeze-dehydrate the days away, we bide our time for the day when we too will be able to focus on food and not building. Hard to believe it will ever come! But with one month to go, our time is fully dedicated to closing in the house: with one more coat of plaster, oak siding on gable ends and the bottom few feet, and a few doors still to install, we will be hard at work.

Mike manning the fires for the class

Dye pots bubbling on top of rocket stoves

Sunflowers, Pokeberries, Tickseed Coreopsis, and Goldenrods working their magic

Wringing out the finished garments

Beautiful color!