seedy dreams and garden states

Although there is a 3 foot layer of hardened snow on top of my lovely cedar slab picnic table, I am still dreaming of greens… germinating, sprouting and beginning the food growing process again. The other night I was very diligent and made an inventory of our seed bank. I compared it to to my garden dream list which I have been adding notes to all year long; “don’t grow this again, make sure to plant more of this, a good companion of this is that….” you get the idea. I then mapped out a planting plan for our crop rotation and new expansions, and summarized what was left to purchase. Whew.

I trade seeds with friends all the time, and I often buy a few packs of seeds here and there (more so these days) but as it turns out I have about a dozen different types of peas this year which is funny because I didn’t harvest ANY last year! I just chopped and dropped peas as nitrogen fixing cover crops here and there. We also wished we had about a million more kale plants at the end of the season last year, especially after Mia discovered kale chips and started exploring marinades and took on our household snack production.  I must have brought home kale seeds at every opportunity because I now have a hearty supply ! We also didn’t make any dill pickles last year and had a poor cucumber harvest, so that too has amounted to a dill ready supply of seeds! Funny how failures are so easy to remember!

I am really excited about the new and improved seeds starting system we are putting in place! We started by purchasing  really lovely energy efficient ultra low profile grow light with reflectors. As you might imagine I have access to a vast array of retail shops specializing grow equipment for indoor harvests in my area, and there are many experts in this field, Lucky Me!

Presently I am eagerly awaiting my new SOIL BLOCKER system, and can’t wait to start using it to air prune my starts and remove the unnecessary step of transplanting out of pots and shocking and damaging little plants and their roots. After much reading I am also adding a fan to the seed start station, which improves the strength of the starts, just as wind helps trees grow strong, it does wonders for wee seeds. Finally the base and back of the rack will be wrapped in the wonder foil we are using for everything from window insulation to yurt insulation. It’s essentially bubble wrap sandwiched between two layers of reflective foil, and it should do a good job keeping all the greens warm and toasty.

I am using the wire rack greenhouse Helen gave us last year, which was a nice fit into the South window box, but my starts were often weak and troubled last year, I had to rotate trays daily and struggled with drastic heat changes and heavy arched plants, I lost whole trays of seeds more than once due to overheating and sweating too. Not all was lost, and as it was my first attempt to start seeds indoors ever, and I did manage to plant dozens and dozens of plants but my starts looked nothing like the starts I bought from the local green houses (obviously). My goal this season is to take one giant step closer to hearty strong abundant starts with all of these amendments! Here is to our expanded production needs being met.

Just some thoughts on my dreamy garden state these days.

In other news Dylan just built us a 1′-1″ scale house model last night… so I am making cardboad appliances, staircases and key furniture models today… pictures to follow when we roll out our final (work in progress) plans! Oh my.

It’s funny our new house is sitting on the floor our our current house and has taken up  nearly all of our available floor space,  ‘oh how we are longing for a real house. Exciting times!

Heading back to the big city soon for a quick resource mining / family visiting / ethnic food indulging mission, oh and I am going to spend the day in a session with Joel Salatin, Americans most influential farmer ! So very exciting

building on the brain


Every day we get one step closer to the house of our dreams, and one step further away from our preconceived notions of what that dream house was years back, before living here, like this, and observing this land, and our way of living with it (the land that is).

What started out as a clear plan to build a frank Lloyd Write inspired Hemicycle (the Jacob two, shown centre image), out of rammed earth into car tires, has now become a challenge in repurposing materials and using what we have locally: poles, a shipping container, local wood and access to a small mill, clay and earth, sand, some other industrial type waste materials…. and about 10 million designs on how to incorporate them all, into a modest, insulated, natural, owner built off grid home!!! After lining in a trailer which is not unlike the jacob house in scale we realized we want some cozy hidey holes, and intimate space.. not a long rectangle, and after Dyl did his Earthship Internship we realized that without a team of 50 dedicated tire pounders for weeks on end, we would come undone trying to ram earth  ourselves.

We are leaning heavily towards pole frame now but have a keen interest in quonset homes (Q-hut). If you know us, you know we adore sleek post modern lines, and love the challenge of creating usable and sexy spaces. We are scrounger extraordinars, and in fact hauled about 5 tones of industrial salvaged material here with us (oh and almost lost them upon delivery you may remember). We want to build our home for less than $30 / sq ft.  But the more free materials we can use the better.

We love the warmth of straw bale and I have dreamed of living in a straw home since my first workshop back in 1995. We also love timber framing and it certainly runs deep in Dyl’s blood. We have really enjoyed playing with pole construction with all of our out buildings. I love earthen clays, and hand sculpting, incorporating glass and other garbage bits into beautiful walls.

Our solar energy here for the most part is stored for us by the forest, and comes to us via wood. The inefficient method in which it is burned and wasted however is not at all appealing to us. We love rocket stoves for heat, and wood gasifiers for electricity. We will design our electrical needs down even further, maybe even scrap the fridge all together, and plan to use DC LED lighting, and have a solar water heater for the summer months, as well as a small PV array for summer energy…. but then comes the winter, where it’s cloudy and mild, propane is a nice option for water heating and cooking… so long as you can afford to buy it or are able to access it in the future.

Greywater is a must in my mind, and incorporating a green house space off the home is really important, this is something the earthship folks do really well. We have a composting toilet in hand  just waiting for it’s new home, and we are building a particle sand filter to add to our lovely living mountain water.

A couple weeks back we had for the first time a full design on paper that we both really loved. It fit all of our needs, and wants, and it incorporated 2 additional shipping containers. As it turns out they are not as easy to come by out here, and the delivery costs fell out of the budget range. So back to the drawing board we went… but this time with the most solid blueprints we have had to date. I love that the plans keep all the water on one wall, it features simplified and minimal electrical runs, it house the compost containment in a protected insulated outdoor space, the design keeps all of the systems in one space, with short runs to appliances. Our plan also incorporated the 20 ft sea can we currently own as an earth bearmed root celler, and swanky architectural detail.

Time is ticking and none of us want to spend another winter in this tin can, luckily we have our cozy home away from home, and we often have yurtings to break away from the trailer life!

I haven’t posted for a while because I wanted to keep the call to interns up for some time (and thanks to everyone who applied, we are beginning the interview process now for our April on interns and are looking forward to welcoming our first intern of the season in one short month! yay we are so very excited to kick off this busy expansive growing and building season!

We are all happy and healthy and loving this turn in the feel of the sun (ever since ground hog day) the sun seems warmer and brighter and the days feel closer than ever to spring.