Category Archives: permeculture living

Work on the Cabin

I have been asked several times what part is the most difficult about going off grid.  For me it is time.  The shifting from a life of jobs, debt and schedules to an off grid lifestyle is not a matter of just stepping from one place to anther.  It is a process.  I still have to go to work, and pay my bills, and watch a clock. 

Summer for me is the busy time of year.  Being the Grounds Keeper for the town, and running the Community Garden takes up a great deal of the day and leave very little left over for work on the cabin or the yard around it. 

Having built more than one homestead I have learned to be kind to myself.  That is my number one advise to those new to the building and living an off grid life.  Be patient.  Do not try to rush to get tasks done in order to prove to others that you know what your doing and have made a good choice.   The second advise it to be aware of the area your in.  Watch the sun and sky, feel where the wind is coming from and do not forget to invest attention to all the seasons. 

That said, work on the cabin has been happening but perhaps, not at as fast a pace as I’d like, but at about the speed I expected.  Last I posted the cabin was in place, since then the windows have gone in.  june 2014 004

Purchased at a recycle-and-reuse store I got a set of three.  They had been cut out removing the outside flare used to screw them in place.  It made installation a little more difficult but nothing that was not easily adjusted for.   Two of them were 3’x3′ while the third was 5’x4′.  Great deal and now the challenge is to try and match them the rest of the way around the house.  That may or maynot happen. 

june 2014 008The big one went into the east wall. 

june 2014 001The two small ones went in on the south over what will be the main kitchen counter, stove and sink.  Main windows in the next step is t get the basic inside lay out and begin to insulate.  Many o of the walls will be slipstraw and cob, I am just waiting for the red clay.  A neighbour has both the tractor to load and the clay, I just need to line up a truck for a day she can load for me.  

The wall between the kitchen and the bathroom will be bottle bricks and cob.  I am just waiting for my friends to drink to enough wine to save me the bottles. 

The counter tops are already purchased and waiting for installation.  That will be the next project.  Each step brings it one step closer to being the home my son and I dream of.  While I could go and work on the cabin right now I must remind myself too be kind and patient.  Wait until the temps drop and the tasks become enjoyable.  That is after all, the point.        



Putting up the Yurt

This spring a friend of mine picked up a yurt. (It will house the intern that will work on her farm in the summer.) For her birthday several of us came up and helped her set it up.
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We headed up to the site at about 10 am and got to work.
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After levelling the ground we got he fun task of putting the floor together. The yurt had been used and passed along more than once so trying to get the pieces to all line out was a bit of a challenge.
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We took a quick lunch break and got back to work. To get the walls up we had to call on the aid of the kids.
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A few of the lattice peces were broken so it took more hands to hold it up while the center ring and rafters were put into place.
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It took us a bit to get all the rafters spaced just right but once we had them in place we took a minute to take a seat and watch the clouds pass over head.
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We got the wall stretched out and up into place, but the roof will wait fro another day. The center ring still needed to be stained but for the most part the yurt was up.
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All done for the day we all took a seat and had a homebrewed beer under the yurt rafters.
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If you know anyone interested in being an intern on a small farm and living in a yurt let me know. I might know just the place.
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Bottle Garden (project2 part2)

I rarely, if ever, buy water in bottles, I have a large mug for my water, but I do buy ice tea. These bottles are a bit more work to make into a garden but I have to say I like the result. I think I will stuck to the ice tea bottles unless some one requests the water bottle style.
All the steps are the same except that the lids are large enough to put in two screws on the union from bottom to catchment, making it more solid and eliminating the need to add super glue. The bottom of these bottles are made in such a way it is VERY difficult to drill them out, but have a nice circle that can be followed with a razor knife. Do this carefully so you don’t slice too far or slice off a finger! Doing this however, makes the hole too large to just push the tops through as you do with the water bottles. I had to find a washer to put between the cap and the bottom of the bottle. This is not a common washer size and might require you taking in the bottle to find one that works.
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with the amount of caulking between the lids once the caulking is dry the drain holes will be need to added so the caulk does not plug them.
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Bottle Lanterns – project 1- 2014

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Alost as soon as the snow melts in Montana the bugs begin to appear. Mosquitoes come out with sharp and hungry bites that are known to ruin the enjoyment of many stunning evenings. Beyond planting bug repelling herbs or spraying for them citronella candles help to hold them at bay, as well as offering a touch of light to any twilight conversation.
Using old bottles, (beer in this case) you can easily make as many as you like at very low cost, with some rather stunning results.
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you need the bottles of your choice, a small copper fitting (1/2″) plumbers tape and the wicks. You can add decorative details to them if you like, but really that’s up to your time and desire. Most bottles are just a little too big for the fitting to stay in place snuggly. To fix that you just wrap the copper in the plumbers tape.
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In this case the Lucky Buddha bottles fit the piece well enough that I did not need the wrapping on it. Just be aware that if the copper is in direct contact with the glass the heat will transfer. The wicks fit in like they were made for it. Just give it a bit to let the oil soak up the wick to get a good flame.
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Keep in mind the more of the wick that is out the bigger the flame and the more smoke it will make. I have made these for years and often give them as gifts to friends with summer birthdays.
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These too are for my sister.
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Coming Home to a Montana Spring

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Leaving for San Diego my mountain home was still held in the grip of winter. Snow banks and ice were the dominant element of the landscape. 19 hour drive brought us to a landscape of flowers, green leaves, and flip-flop weather.
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many people thought me odd for taking pics of the flowers that they all seemed to utterly over look.
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We took a short walk on the beach before breakfast one morning.
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However, with the beauty of the flowers, the power of the ocean and the welcoming weather came pollution and traffic. trip to SD 2014 020
For me or anyone suffering MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity) the city was almost unbearable. I was eager to get out of the city and back home.
Being able to breathe deeply and feel healed for it is a gift far more precious than any convenience a city might offer.
It was a pleasant welcome to find spring had arrived in my absence. No spring in MT is over night but it greets you a whisper at a time and getting home the mountain seemed to greet men with bird song and smell of damp earth. Crusted snow and patches of ice still cover the yard but there is no mistake. Spring has arrived in MT.
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Today the snow and ice that had hidden the reek away for months now, gave way and the sound of rushing water has joined in with the birds and Kokopelli to bring in spring.
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Watching the melt off and path of the sun my plans for gardens, green houses and front doors fill my thoughts. Soon work will be able to begin.
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Today I can do edits on the books, go for short walks and snap pictures, soak in the sunshine. Maybe tomorrow I will be doing the same but once the ground thaws, and the last of the snow has melted away work to make this mountain a functioning home will begin in earnest. Blogs will share projects details. This promises to be a grand year.

Flirting with Spring

This year we have had record breaking amounts of snow. The snow piled up, buried vehicles, crushed green houses and piled up deeper and deeper on the roves of campers, 5th wheels and homes of all sorts. Metal roofs, without the proper gutters and edges to deal with heavy snow load slip, became dangerous avalanche zones. Snow plows were put to more work than the last ten years combined. One thing after another had to be dug out.
The poles of the green house bent, the plastic tore and from under the banks of snow the floor is flooded. (I tried to take pics but the water is so clean and over a sheet of ice so it does not show in pictures.)
(love my fuzzy pants. Warmer than Long Johns)
I do not recommend the plastic come-in-a-box green houses. For the same amount of money something far more sturdy can be built. If a person has no construction skill or the tools sometimes the buy it from Ace green house is the only option but keep in mid very few will last more than three years. With the weather in the 40’s it feels like spring and I am eager to get a green house built.
This time of year is a good time to walk, to wander and observe how the snow piles, where the water runs, what areas melt faster, where the ice stays the longest. This insight can help you to refine and tweak long term plans. I am eager to go hiking but the snow is still past my knees and now it is so wet its almost like wading.
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I have posted so many winter photos Im not sure I want to post more. I am looking forward to seeing he ground again, to being able to touch moss and earth, to being able to walk without slipping on ice or being hip deep in snow. The weather channel tells me that the next ten days the highs will be into the 40’s, even brushing towards 50 with nights barely freezing. Spring is flirting with promises of wonderful things to happen, but this is MT. I have never known a spring to whisper in gently and stay. She is a tease and likely to vanish the moment you think she might stay.
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January Walk

The clouds lifted and left the sky clear blue. Thin beams of light came past the road and into the yard itself but above the mountain was bathed in glorious sunshine. I grabbed a camera and headed up,
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Laving the denser forest I reached an area where the trees had been cleared in time past, offering a wonderful area of brush, bush and grasses.

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Higher up the sun was full, lifting over the mountain. My coat came off. I turned my face to the sun and just soaked it in. The human body, the very chemicals of our skin and brain require the sun. With the knowledge I stood listening to the birds I had not heard yet this winter, sharing in the gratitude for the break in the weather and the chance to just Be there.

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The snow was gone, replaced with mud. I found an old stump and just sat. The spring was moving enough that even where I sat I hear it trickling over the little water fall. I stayed with no sound beyond the water, the birds and further up the mountain the dog dashing about. No cars, no neighbours, no engines of any kind. I should have brought a folding chair. The stump was wet and eventually I had to head back down, but not beore I took another shot.

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Heading back down it was hard to leave the private moment of spring time above for the crisp cold below. This time of year is hard on plants an animals as it tricks them into thinking it is spring but its not. We are still in winter and the coldest months are yet to come. The chance to feel the sun is wonderful but I whisper to the trees to the stay sleeping, its not time yet. Soon, but not yet.

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