so M-F we have this stiffish schedule with 8am check-in after chores and breakfast prep & eatin. then by 9 we are mixin clay & sand, 2 parts to 3, respectively. usually 10 shovels of clay with 15 shovels of sand, on a blue tarp, with one person holding firm each corner, then two on one side walk toward the two on the other side, pulling the tarp up so that the sand and clay mixes and flows over itself, then the two sets of two reverse roles and pull it back the other way, and back and forth until it looks pretty mixed, then instead of left to right, they go top to bottom, so to speak, and mix it the other way for a few rounds. then they shape it like a volcano with a cauldron, into which we pour water of (hopefully) just the right amount, or a little too little, and continue the tarp mixing until the water it mixed in evenly, then test it to see if it's right mix by (1) rolling a fat cigar shape and seeing if it can hold up on its own or fall, and (2) making a ball tennis-ball sized, throwing it up and catching it on our flat palm, and if it holds together, it is ready and right.
if we're using it for plaster, that's it, it's ready to apply with a hand-spade or whatever it's called, or just with our bare hands. if we're to use it for cob, then we sprinkle straw (wheat straw, at the moment) on top of the mess and stamp & stomp it in with our bare feet like a dance, add/sprinkle more straw on, stamp it in, until there's just the right mixture of a bit of straw throughout, which is entirely dependent upon who's doin the cobbin. cob is used to fill in larger areas than plastering, and sometimes the main thickness of the wall is actually clay-straw, a wet mix of a wee bit of clay on a whole lot of straw—it makes light-weight and inexpensive insulation for the whole wall of a house. one process we did in June was called clay-straw slip, where we temporarily nailed in plywood sheets (slips) as a form within which to pack and tamp clay-straw.
but you could just use solid cob, which has much less straw, and dries thick and solid like rock, and stays that way longer than our own lives, as long as it is not exposed much to direct soakin water. for that you need to have a good overhanging roof, and diversion of any ground water to avoid it washing up onto the wall even during a storm.
all of this is for building walls to buildings and houses. we are doing this on a large open and chambered structure with a large fireplace and chimney in the middle, and lots of every kind of shaped windows and doors, and a kind of upstairs lofty area in the inner middle. it's roof has plants of many sorts growing on it, nothing as big as a tree so far. the whole structure has been a demonstration in-progress building for the school for 15 years. Albert Bates the orchestrator and prime teacher of this whole Ecovillage Training Center, and who is listening to a book on tape of Naomi Cline's new book in the car on the way to Adam & Sue Turtle's ecological experimental garden of everything and most expecially bamboo of all nature and kinds, and back, for the regional Green Party gathering last nite and this morning, so that he can write a review of it. he is keenly interested in and knowledgeable and experienced in the topic. and he claims we will finish the building this year by the end of October if we keep at it. it is called The Green Dragon.
we do that plastering and cobbing for from 9 to Noon most days, so far. and again from 2-3:30pm. then break for lunch 12-2pm, and for 4pm-5pm lecture each weekday on permaculture. then there are supportive movies/videos/ shorts/longs abounding, never ending, usually several each weeknite from 7:15-8:30 or 9pm. this last is the part i have contracted out of, my self, so that i can go to sleep at 7pm, but they are rare and rich and each hold crucial relevance to permaculture, which is an ever-widening field including design of life, transition towns, etc, etc..
so we are learning hands-on how to make cob houses, clay-straw slip houses, clay brick houses, earth bag houses, and several other similar kinds, all earthen and quite renewable & inexpensive in material. somewhat labor intensive, but not necessarily more labor intensive than other forms of building. and to me very beautiful.
the labor is rough enough with this just 5 hours a day being really hard, but not destructive, for me the first day or two, then being hard, but feeling very good and building up for me physically.
we make our own meals, rather irregularly, supposedly to a schedule, but in the end quite amply, and then this group likes to eat out relatively often, pile in a car and go to a drive-in fast food (Sonic) or the Yoders' (Mennonite) General Food Store on US-20 for sandwiches on their home made breads. and then they're always askin for a ride to buy cigarettes. and for weekends, beer.
James from NC, Shanti from Montreal, Freye from Australia, Conner from Connecticuit, and me. Conner, Shanti, and me don't smoke; i'm the only one who doesn't drink. i'm the only one much over 30. Albert's a year shy of my age, came to The Farm in 1973 or 4, barely out of law school.
we have chores, also scheduled and rotated each week, such as letting the chickens out in the morning and putting them in in the evening before the nocturnal predators are out (raccoons, armadillos, opossums), cleaning the coop; tending the compost pile; watering, weeding, & harvesting from the organic garden; dishes; sweeping and putting in order the common area.
oh, and off the subject, i went a week up to my h.s. 50th reunion, and my brother Tom negotiated a day with me and our cars got to meet for the first time and we had fun with that, fast foods, and the very dear usual brothers sharin life. so here, finally is what he's asked for since July: a picture of my car, "Boose", his car, and two bruds. red & green. jus in time.
love. wasn't that the message? to you too. marty