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The changing quality of sunlight and later sunrises and earlier sunsets, all point to the turning of the season toward fall. We are still having hot days, but nights are blissfully cool and I’m sleeping soundly most nights. It is cool as I write this and it feels like every living thing is breathing a sigh of relief after the hot weather we’ve been having.
I confess I have been a bit oblivious to the goings on around the village, as I have been steeped in moving the SubHub project forward. But I’ll try my best to represent. One thing for sure, nothing ever stays the same in this village. Liz here, with the latest from our beloved ecovillage.
The ever-changing nature of the SubHub project is a case in point. We have gotten a lot done since March and the whole project continues to roll forward, almost with a life of its own. We finished applying the finish layer of lime plaster on the outside of the building and painted it a forest green with a limewash paint, making the white oak trim visually “pop,” and the rest of the building now blends naturally with the trees all around it.
Graham and Prairie have been working on base kitchen cabinets for about six weeks now, fitting the cabinets around our new stove, sink and refrigerator. The kitchen windows are trimmed. The window above the kitchen sink now has a mosaic tile sill. Earlier in the spring Prairie put a layer of finish plaster on bottle walls that form the interior living room/hall walls. Squirrel just finished putting tung oil (mixed with Citrasolv for penetration) on the bottle walls to help harden their surfaces. I am putting the finishing touches on a lathe and clay plaster wall that I built between the bathroom and the living room. I am experimenting with natural earth pigments to find the right color for limewash paint. K* was instrumental in filling drainage trenches with gravel for the shower and kitchen sink drainage system, now complete.
For weeks, while working on my lathe and plaster wall, I have been forming a plan for an earthen floor in the living room. In crucial moments when creative decisions have to be made, I rely on my younger sister, an interior designer, for feedback and encouragement, and I’ve been having many conversations with her while the planning develops. I found a book, Earthen Floors, by Sakita Crimmel, which has been enormously helpful in organizing everything ahead of time for the floor pour. The living room is 219 square feet, which means we need five buckets of finely cut straw, 18 buckets of sifted sand and 9 buckets of soaked clay. The soaked clay is whipped with a mixer until it has the consistency of pudding, and then manure, colored earth pigment, and cattail fluff are added to it. This clay mix is then poured on a tarp and two buckets of sifted sand and half a bucket of finely chopped straw are “stomped” with it, as we say, which means that we combine these ingredients with our feet. Only then can we call it clay plaster! Each bucket of soaked clay makes about three buckets of plaster, so that would be 27 buckets of plaster to pour for the floor!
I have to admit, I was feeling overwhelmed thinking that I might have to do the whole floor pour by myself. Squirrel and K* have been helping with the prep, which is much appreciated. I happened to mention to Prairie that my book recommends getting everything organized ahead of the pour and then pouring the floor all in one day. She jumped in enthusiastically, reinforcing the idea that we should do just that, with a work party. Graham overheard us talking and enthusiastically agreed that a one-day pour was doable and preferable. So that’s the plan now! An example of the advantage of living in the community.
A few days ago, I witnessed the raising of some major tree posts that form the entrance to the new Critter Kitchen (see photo). Last November, the outdoor kitchen burned down and this May the reconstruction began, designed and directed by Alis. It was awe-inspiring to watch the massive timbers being raised in place by machine. Many villagers came to witness this new beginning. The trees for the posts were cut from a nearby forest on DR land. The bark was removed from the tree logs with hand tools and the logs were then shaped and cut to size with a chainsaw. The posts are held together with mortise and tenon joints, chiseled by hand. The rebuild is being done by several guest timber framers, DR folks like Jed, Mae and Graham, and Darby, one of the many work exchange people hosted each year by Fox Holler Farmstead. Critter Kitchen is one of three co-op kitchens at DR, where people eat and cook for each other as a group.
For the last several years I have been blaming squirrels for stealing Asian pears from the trees that grow on the east side of SubHub. Several days ago, in the quiet of a hot afternoon, I was working inside when I noticed thrashing motions outside in the tree canopy. The window reflection was just right so that my movement inside SubHub was undetected by a sizable woodpecker, hanging upside down in the pear tree, pecking at unripe Asian pears. After several pecks, each fruit fell to the ground to rot. It had become my daily job to clear them away each time I spread a tarp to stomp clay plaster. I’ve never seen a woodpecker eating fruit before, much less while hanging upside down!
The topic of developing DR’s support for businesses and jobs within our village has come up a lot lately, and this interests me, as I reopened my acupuncture practice in April, after closing for two years during the pandemic. Making a living at DR is always a question for each person or family who moves here, as there are few jobs already established for people to move into as new residents. It is not practical or affordable to commute to jobs outside DR with our shared cars. After looking at different options for whether to open an office in a nearby town or see clients at DR, I opted to see if I could attract clients to my beautiful treatment space at DR.
Social life here is approaching what it was prior to the pandemic, with weekly poker nights, movie screenings, karaoke and dance parties, and, each day, happy hour in the park. More than ever, we host work exchangers (wexers), friends, family and guests, who come to visit us and to have a taste of our life here.
I leave you with a quote from Robin Will Kimmerer, in my latest favorite book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & the Teachings of Plants:
“Knowing that you love the Earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the Earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.”
Liz Hackney divides her time between providing acupuncture treatments for clients and working at SubHub, a straw bale natural building project. SubHub is a women-focused project, providing jobs and training for women who are interested in learning natural building and home construction, and an inclusive work environment for the whole crew.