Monday, February 28, 2011

Earthbag Building Details

Earthbag Llama Barn Building Updates
Here are all the posts relating to our efforts to build an Earthbag Llama Barn:
Day 1 of the Building Blitz
Day 2 of the Earthbag Building Blitz
Day 3 Build a  Barn
Richard's blog thoughts

Peepers Jeepers, little chicken sunglasses and a Chicken Basics Class

Our chickens have been pecking each other to the point where bare skin shows, and in some cases they have started breaking the skin. I blame those evil lavender guineas for teaching them this annoying behavior. But, the guineas are gone and the bad behavior continues, so we researched online and found something called peepers.
These little plastic things fit into the nostrils of the chicken (and other gamebirds) and block the line of vision directly in front of them, so they can't see to other birds. They can still eat and drink (I wondered) and even peck at gravel in the yard.

We put the Peepers on all of our older layers. They look like little chicken sunglasses. It was highly entertaining at first as the chickens stumbled around and missed the perches, but they all got used to it after a short time and all is well in the coop again.

Chicken sunglasses

While Richard and I were catching hens and installing Peepers, their came a crowing from the brooder, and not once, but three times...the softest little cock-a-doodle-do ever. This time I caught a glimpse of the little rooster, and sure enough it's the little Barred Cochin--the one with the pit bull attitude, all puffed up and crowing with his neck stuck out in the air. My little Napolean.

Little Napolean

Moving chickens around today...Reds in the fort move up to the goat barn, where Richard built in four nest boxes. Charlie the Roo gets to go back down with the laying hens...he's got Peepers on too, and the Buff living with him in the goat barn is a dead chicken walking...she's not only pecking the others nonstop, but eating her own eggs. So the babies in the brooder get moved to the chicken fort and the brooder gets cleaned and waits for the new chicks to arrive. Yey!

And, speaking of new chicks, we are offering an Introduction to Chickens class here at the farm on March 6, 2011 from noon to 3pm where we will explain the chicken basics from ordering chicks to caring for day olds. Housing and feed, brooder temps and cleaning pasty butts will all be covered. A tour of the chicken coops is included and maybe some refreshments too. Only $10 per person. Register at Green Desert Eco Farm soon. Space is limited. Learn how to have your very own backyard flock and get fresh eggs every day from your own hens.

We are raising revenue to buy a farm out in farm country (Penrose) or to invest in this one here. We are encouraging classes on sustainability, and this is one of them. We hope to start a group here in Fremont county that is concerned and working towards creating a sustainable community...transition town...maybe call it Fremont Resiliency Group or something. We need to start working together on the problems that are coming in the near future...economic crashes, water shortages, food shortages, crazy weather, etc. Let's put our heads together and come up with a local plan.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Denver rally agains corporatocracy...join the revolution

Today we met with the USDA and became a legitimate "farm." I have mixed feeling about being involved with the USDA or government in general, but there you have it. Can they help us buy farmland in Penrose? Maybe. Maybe not.

Thinking of going to Denver tomorrow to get actively involved in the uprising in America. It'll be hard with the two little kids, and probably cold, and a terribly long drive with gas as expensive as it is, but I think we have to. We must start showing our support of those in our nation who are fighting back against the corporatocracy, who I personally blame for every evil in the world. Those few rich men are destroying our planet because they need more dollars in their pocket? To grow the portfolio? At the expense of people and nature and the very earth we live on? I've had enough. I've been saying America needs a revolution, and maybe this is the beginning of one. In any case, showing support for our fellow workers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and the rest of the world that dares to stand against the "man" is the right thing to do.

Everyone get out there and bring your signs!!! Let's let the greedy one percent know we've had enough, our opinions do matter, and we want our Earth back! Get to a capital city near you and join the revolution. It takes the masses to be heard. How important is the future to you? How important are the teachers, fire fighters and police? How important is the middle class? How important is a better life for our children? Let's take a stand!!

Sign up here!  Or just show up. We want change, so let's do our part to make it happen! 12pm local time...everywhere.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Classes at the farm

Thinking of giving classes here at the farm to generate a little revenue. I found a great farm for sale in Penrose with ten acres and water, and we are going to look at it today, but coming up with that $1500 earnest money is a struggle. We have half and are waiting for our tax refund to show up in the bank, but what if we decide we really want this property? Maybe it's not the right time. We will go look first and then see.

Also the conservation man from the USDA is coming out today to do an assessment on our property and decide if we can get one of the high tunnels to grow in. Exciting. And we meet with another department of the USDA tomorrow to officially get the farm on the books and see what programs are available to us. I'm hoping a farm loan for a real farm. Wouldn't that be cool?

Anyway, wondering if anyone is interested in some gardening classes or maybe chicken basics that we could run on Sundays? Ideas for classes would be great too.

Still working on the earthbag barn. We decided to stucco the portion that is done, and continue with more bags to make the walls a couple of feet higher, but we have to get the bags out of the sun, so this weekend we will be mixing up the stucco and plastering the outside. If anyone wants to come out and help, you are sure welcome to, just give us a call.

Class ideas:
Chicken basics...from day old to laying, to retiring to the stew pot.
Seed starting
Garden prep
Cold Frames
Soil Science
Bio Intensive Gardening
Build a hoop house
Cheese making (when the milk comes in)
Build a chicken coop
How to make a recycled can tin man and housing

If anyone is interested in any of these subjects, let us know and we can put together a class. Donations to the farm are always welcome and can be made through Pay Pal at the Green Desert Eco Farm site.

We are getting serious about farming now. Support the farm...ours, or any small, local, organic and natural farm. It is important that we change the food paradigm of America by not participating in Agribusiness.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day a barn

Day three had a great turn out too! The weather was not so nice...a little cold and windy, but our participants stuck in there and we got eight levels of bags up when the day was done.

digging more dirt to fill the bags

hauling the dirt to the earthbag barn

six courses

Rolling out the barbed wire for the next course

seven courses
Eight courses done at the end of day 3

Thanks to everyone who participated! It was definitely a hands on learning experience for everyone. Now we have to research some kind of mud plaster to cover the bags to protect them from the UV rays. It will be slow going now with just the two of us...or one of us as the case may be, so anyone who still wants to come out and help, give us a call.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 2 of the Earthbag Building Blitz

Big turn out today. People went home tired and sore, I'm sure, and we appreciate everyone's help. The structure came a long way in a few hours with so many hands.

Three courses...looks solid

Tying the bag

The end of four courses

It was a long day. Everyone was a big help and everyone's little kids had great fun together. We are meeting so many people who share a common interest in learning more about alternative building. It's a wonderful thing--earth friendly structures built out of recycled materials. You can't get more grounded than that for housing options. This structure will remain cool in the hot summer heat, warmer in the cold winter and block out some of the wind we get here in our high desert. It sure seems to make more sense than the modular home we live in now. We need to go back to building with the land, and for the climates we live in, keeping in mind the climate changes that are occurring and will get worse over time. Which is more sustainable, a modular, stick built house or an earth house?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day One of the Building Blitz

First day started off slow with only one participant. Kory came down from Denver to get some hands on experience, and he and Richard worked hard all day, finishing the trench, laying in gravel and putting down the first course of gravel bags. Good work guys!

Filling the trench with gravel

Gravel bags go in trench

Richard "sews" the bag closed with re bar wire

Kory fills buckets with gravel
walls and buttress ends

An excellent day for the Earthbag Barn. We are off to a great start. A few more people stopped by later in the day...Donia and Paula from the Canon Food Co-op, bearing pots and pans of food (thank you) and two ladies who might come back tomorrow when the building site should be hopping.

We made a new friend...Kory, who is as interested in Earth friendly structures as we are, and came bearing a stack of books to share on the subject. Can't wait to check them out when he returns tomorrow. Thanks for all of your help today Kory!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Getting ready for the Blitz!

We are working like mad, trying to get ready for this weekend when people from all over will descend upon our little farm to build a barn.
Last four cabinet doors painted and drying

I've been cleaning the house, while trying to get the cabinets finished. As the doors go up, some more clutter gets put away and things begin to get organized. It seems like everything we need to do to get ready will never get done.

Where will everyone park? We are trying to clear some space and make a parking area, and one of our neighbors (one who likes us) offered to park cars in his field, if the ground is dry.

Finished doors, finished cabinets

The cabinets look nice, I think, for recycled cabinets.

Re-used broken bricks

Also have some recycled bricks to deal with, so I thought we could use the broken ones to make water wells for some of our trees. I think they look nice too, although our neighbors might disagree. The hillside is eroding so badly on the east side of our property, we need to hold the soil there long enough to plant some ground covers. I don't suppose our neighbors would understand anything about that.

This is trash

I did however find something else over on this side of the property: trash! and it isn't mine...could it be one of the neighbors is a litterbug?

And we have been taking care of pallets by putting up more pallet fence. They gotta love that!

Tires hidden under mulch

The tires by the driveway, that will eventually be a low retaining wall next to the berm there, were covered with some of the enormous pile of wood mulch, taking care of two eyesores in one shot...maybe. Is it better? Who knows.

Planting the fort
Richard built a frame around the kids play fort in the yard to keep it from blowing over again. The horrendous wind keeps tipping this big toy over, and the slide has been ripped off, unfortunately. This is kind of cool because once the kids outgrow the fort, we can put a roof on this, put a bench or swing under it, and enjoy the view of Pikes Peak in the distance.

I suppose this looks "weird" too.

I've been thinking of running NM or to Penrose, a farming friendly community. Colorado is a right to farm state. Do the covenants prevent us from having that right? Can they do that?

Richard went to the Town Hall to pick up a permit application and find out what the news is. We don't need the permit, and the clerk there was excited about our Earthbag barn, but he did say a few years back a man tried to build an addition out of tire bales and was struck down. The town wouldn't approve it. Can't build out of tires...he said. We were thinking of building a greenhouse out of tires, but Earthbags are much easier.

There were no complaints that came by him, he said, but we may have too many goats, according to county rules. Four hoofed animals is what we are allowed. The llamas have toes, and so do the goats, but all are considered hoofed. One animal per half acre. Who goes? My vote is for the bully goat girls, but that would still leave one too many. Would they notice? Probably.

Maybe we should start a community garden in our tiny town. The town clerk said they were trying to come up with ways to bring the community together. Maybe if we contributed to a good, green cause, people would see that we are not bringing mayhem to the land and call off their witch hunt.

In the meantime, we are looking for a friendly neighbor to house a couple of goats...

Found a piece of vacant property in Penrose. We could move the goats out there, put  up hoop houses, and farm to our hearts content, while trying to convince the county to let us build an earth house...Earthbags probably. The realtor has yet to call me back. I wonder what it takes to purchase land? Where do you get financing? How much do you have to put down? How does that work?

There's some cheap land down near Taos, sort of. Could we go back there? We could collect rainwater in NM. That's something. And NM is green builder friendly. Taos is a mecca for artistic and creative, eccentric and sustainable types of folks. I miss it. One of our guests this weekend is coming form Taos. She's planning on building an Earthbag house out in the wilds of Taos county and has started a blog Home Sweet Hive which will chronicle her story as she builds. Can't wait to read about the progress. Can't wait to meet her this weekend. Welcome Susan and family!

In fact, welcome to everyone who is coming to our little farm this weekend. Can't wait to meet everyone. It'll be great fun!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

After the press, covenant police

Ah, so now it comes...the people against sustainable living. "Not in my backyard." While I was doing my Wii fit exercises, there was a pounding on the door, followed by high barking of two watch dog chihuahuas. Richard's at work, the children are running a muck, sick with colds caught at the Pediatricians (of course), and I look my best in cut off sweats and old T-shirt. But who should be knock, knock, knocking at my door, the developer of the subdivision herself, waving some paper at me..."We have covenants here."

"Yeah, I'm aware," I reply.

She told me her phone had been ringing off the hook with complaints from the people who live here. Something about the newspaper and a barn, tires, animals and pallet fences.

Huh, all in one swoop. "So what exactly is the problem?" I ask.

No permit for this barn.

Don't need one. The barn is under the required size for a permit. Am I sure? You bet, we did that intentionally.

She went on to ask me if the barn would look like the house. Yeah, same color with a red roof, like the house trim, I said. Too many animals. The covenants tell me we can have two large animals on our lot. I count the llamas, although they are "miniature" and the two of them together might weigh as much as one horse. Too many goats? Yeah, probably. We want to see how they all milk and keep a couple of the best milkers. The town said we could have chickens and that's not in the covenants anyway. All of our buildings are within the required setbacks, and the town told us we didn't need permits for Ag buildings.

"Barbed wire."

"What about it?" Complaints...but the only barbed wire we have is on a roll, wrapped in plastic, waiting to be placed in between earthbags to hold them in place, eventually covered by more earthbags and stucco. The covenants say we cannot fence the main road line of our property with barbed wire fence. That's the only mention of it. We could technically fence the rest of our property with barbed wire, and one of our neighbors does indeed have his property fenced in barbed wire, even on the main road side. And I like my pallet fence, I told her. It doesn't look that different from the wooden privacy panels you buy at the big orange store. She agreed. There's nothing in the covenants about pallet fences.

She just wanted to give us a copy of the covenants, she said, in case we never got them. I asked her why people move to the country and then try to turn it into suburbia? I asked her why it wasn't expected for a family to move to the country and put in a garden and raise some chickens and even supply natural, raw, fresh milk for their kids? She thought that was okay. I told her I'd love to share our farm fresh eggs with our neighbors, and vegetables too, but the covenants do say we can't run a business out of the home. She didn't think there was anything wrong with selling eggs to the neighbors. Hmmm...

I told her I'd love to put in a huge, ugly metal garage like my neighbors, but I didn't have that kind of money, and in this economy, I had a right to live as sustainably as I could. I told her we don't have money for fancy fences or siding for our barn right now (I want to stucco it too...mostly we don't have enough time, but there is the money issue). I told her I'd love to bring in some fully grown trees to block my view of the neighbors, but that wasn't possible. I told her we planted tress, 200 of them last year, and that in twenty years, maybe the neighbors wouldn't be able to see us anymore.

She told me if we were abiding by the covenants there was no problem, but that she would check with the town on Monday to see about that permit thing. (Isn't she on the zoning committee?)

In the end, I think I had her seeing some of my points, realizing maybe we weren't doing anything wrong. Or, maybe she, like so many others talks out of two sides of her mouth. She (or her deceased husband) wrote the covenants for this subdivision.

So, what's the problem? Richard came out of his office to see what the commotion was, and offered to talk to anyone about their concerns over the earthbag barn. I told her we'd even hold a town meeting if they wanted. Did I set us up for a lynching?

As far as I know we are within our rights, not breaking any laws, rules or covenants, but it sure is a big pain in my butt. I wish our neighbors would man up and come and talk with us about what is going on, maybe they'd learn a thing or two. Maybe, they'd appreciate that someone in the town and community is going to be growing some clean, local, natural food.

All said and done, I think this woman is a nice enough person, and I don't hold anything against her. I hope she doesn't show up with the "petitions" she mentioned the neighbors talking about, but I'm not sure what they could petition, since we aren't violating anything. I told her with our "neighbors" driving fifty up the road in front of my house, I needed a fence to keep my little kids safe. She said they were working on that problem, but there wasn't much they could do. Can't enforce the speed limit, but can harass property owners because the neighbors are afraid of what they don't understand? Bring down property values? Sure, the neighbors we do know have told us their houses aren't worth the mortgages, just  like the rest of the country. Whatever.

Maybe I need to circulate a petition that bans airborne pesticides and herbicides from straying onto my property and presenting a health risk to my family and animals, and garden.

So, what's gong on here? Who knows. Maybe they don't like Richard's long hair, but ironically enough, he's about as straight edged as someone could ever be. Oh man, give me Taos and the weird New Mexico world any day. I'd love to have neighbors with dreadlocks and tattoos and piercings....if they were environmentally and spiritually aware, doing their part to change the world. Isn't it funny that most of the time they are? It is the black sheep, the lunatic fringe who will save the world, or die trying.

We need a real farm and lots of land...with no the southwest, with enough moisture that we can garden, and not too high that nothing will grow, and cheap enough we could buy it, and put up a tent while we build a house made of earth that does no harm to the environment.

Why would a building that is so environmentally responsible offend people? Here's what it will look like, sort of. It's the building at the top of the page, in the header. Imagine it more closed, a pale beige color, with the buttresses turned a bit different to protect the door, and with a metal red roof. Is that offensive? I guess we could make it square, if that's what they want.

Not sure what to do with this. Keep on marching forward I guess. Honk if you support the farm!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The newspaper article is out today!

Here it is, much anticipated, and like all journalists are forced to, Carie asked Richard his age, but thankfully that information did not make it into the article. Not that it matters, which is exactly my point, and when I wrote for the paper up in the Springs, I argued with my editors about such trivial information not mattering at all. Does it matter how old an artist is if the work speaks for itself? Does it matter how old the farmer is? Maybe if he's turning a hundred and one and still farming strong. Anyway, I have strayed from the purpose of this post, which was to share this great article, thank Carie and Jeff for the story and photo, and invite everyone out for the barn raising!

Earthbag Building Blitz article

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Earthbags in the news!

Finally we have sun! And on this slightly warmer day,
Photo shoot
the press came to visit and get information for the upcoming story on the Eathrbag llama barn building blitz. One reporter and one photographer from the local Daily Record came out to interview Richard and get a few shots of the Earthbag building project, although there was not much there to shoot. Richard was up at dawn, digging the trench for the foundation bags, and he even managed to get gravel in the trench, and a bag filled before the photographer arrived.

The trench is dug, the gravel is ready, and the bags are layed.
The building blitz is on! We even have two confirmed participants! Maybe with the story running in the local paper Friday or Saturday, more people will show up and we can get the barn raised in three days.

Just in time. The sooner the better, since one of our newer goats, Yvette, is bullying the heck out of our three original goats, and headbutting my fat, pregnant Cinnamon in the belly. That is not allowed. Last night Cinnamon and Tres spent the night separated in the milking parlor of the barn. I'm ready to get rid of the two big ugly goats, but Richard wants to see how they milk. Well then, they simply have to be separated into their own pen to protect the others. More projects.

All the animals and people survived the cold spell here on the farm and we got a little snow out of it. The winter rye is starting to come up down in the chicken yard, so Richard spread some seed out in the new llama pasture and in the old pasture too, taking advantage of the moisture. It may not come up until spring, but it should come up. We need to get some pure, untainted, organic alfalfa seed to add to the mix.

This morning when we went down to feed the chickens, as usual I heard one of the hens barking at the feed dish. Richard says she always does that, maybe yelling at the others to move out of the way. I decided we should call our farm newsletter The Barking Chicken, so all of you CSA members stay tuned.

Repurposed feed bags

Still looking for more feed bags for the barn build and any and all interested people who want to help and learn hands on about building with Earthbags.

Details at

Please send us a note if you are coming so we can plan accordingly. I hope to come up with some kind of a meal for each day for all participants, but if anyone wants to bring a dish, feel free, and we will do it up buffet style in our farm kitchen. It's free of course.

Let's build a barn--one that incorporates some of the proponents of the New Earth Paradigm: recycling, re-using, re-purposing, building community, teaching skills, earth friendly, passive solar --an earthen house for and by the children of the earth. We are all connected.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cold day in Hell?

What a crazy week...sub-zero temperatures outside and the USDA approves Genetically Modified or Genetically Engineered alfalfa.

Here on the farm, we've been trying to keep ourselves and all of the critters outside warm enough to get through these chilling times. We put heat lamps on all of the chickens and I try to lock the goats in the barn every night, which is an entertaining circus of me chasing some in while others run out; me cussing and threatening goats, and them just staring back at me; me pulling collars and pushing butts, and them digging their toes into the dirt, or the two inches of snow we got over our cold days. Eventually I did get the girls all in and locked the doors up while my breath froze on my scarf. Luckily we had no casualties over the freezing cold nights and we seem to be heading into warmer temps now.

We did have some frosted llamas.
Frosty boys

Icy Vader

 And some frosted plants.

This was the ice cloud we lived in, until the snow came. Delightful weather in southern Colorado. Happy to see the sun shining again today.

The week was not spent idling away, however, as I found some great desks for the kids on Freecyle and we had an adventure driving into the wilds of Penrose to get them. That was fun and we always drive by the camel rancher up that way to get a gander of the camels, llamas, striped donkies (zonkies) and peacocks.

The desks are old school, just like some I had back when I was in grade school. I love them and the little ones do too, although the kids are a bit small yet to enjoy the full experience. Let the home-schooling begin!
Little feet, big desks
And I finished the painting I was madly working on, oblivious to the freezing fog, the snow or the time, except when it mattered of course (like taking a pitcher full of hot water out to thaw the chicken waterers mid day).

Let's just call this one Utopia for now, for lack of anything else. The colors here are a little off, but you get the idea. Somehow I got caught up in my personal vision of what I'd like the world to look like, and this is what came out in my stupor of creativity. I love to paint from the subconscious, never really knowing what's going to happen until it's all done. It's a surprise to me too, and then I get to try to figure out what it means. I always feel like creating art is a trip into one's own spirituality, where the spirit has free rein to communicate however it chooses. I love it. The spirit of art: communicating with the soul.

Anyway, like most of my art, it's for sale. Make me an offer.

After the painting was done, I was at a loss, coming down to a reality where Monsanto is taking over the world? Can it be? I guess so. And, Whole Foods supporting this nastiness? Is it true? Apparently. I don't shop at Whole Foods any way because I feel their prices are too high, but now, I never will. And I hope more people think about boycotting the "organic" food store because we don't agree with their decision to sell out to Agribusiness. Maybe we should do a protest march, with signs, around the Whole Foods near us.

I'm afraid of what this means to the organic food movement, like hey, it's over! I'm afraid of what this means for the future of the world. I feel like I'm standing here, screaming silently, while I watch a few evil corporate giants pound the nails into the coffin of the human race.

I'm not sure what to do with this, but this week I have been feeling physically ill (sinus headache or spiritual pain?) from the craziness of the world. I have been feeling hopeless indeed as I sign my online petitions to stop GM alfalfa from becoming the standard. Too late.

Now tell me, where am I going to get organic alfalfa for our goats, whose milk we drink? We could grow it, right? No. If anyone in the region is growing Monsanto alfalfa and it cross pollinates our organic variety, not only will our clean livestock food be ruined, but Monsanto will sue us for "stealing" their patented plants.

We went to one of our feed stores today, and while I love the people there and think highly of country people in general, I was surprised to hear that the reaction to the approval of GM alfalfa was fairly positive. What????? I buy my hay from these folks...the farmers in the area. If one chooses to grow this nasty crop, then we all suffer the ramifications. What do we do with this?

Are we ready to give up on the organic food movement before we had a chance to change the world? I'm good and mad. I'm also reading another Gary Zukav book, Heart of the Soul, and right now I'm working through the chapter on anger. Where do I feel it? All over. I'm angry that we humans are letting some other humans destroy our vision of Utopia. Damn them!

Maybe we need to look at Egypt as an example and think about rising up against the corruption in our own home country. We need to take back our food, take back our medicine, take back our energy policies, take back our environment, and take back our souls. It is a cold day in hell indeed, as I contemplate my thermometer crapping out at negative 2 F, and think about a planet with no natural food, air, water or soil, and wait for the next catastrophic weather event to strike. Depressing. The stuff anxiety attacks are made of.

Any ideas, anyone????