Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rain and a whole lot of mud.

The monsoons have arrived, which means it rains nearly every afternoon, and sometimes well into the evening. Lots of lightening, which always scares me (too many extended family members'd think it ran in the family...I do my best to avoid the lightening!), and thunder, which scares my dogs. Last night was a mighty powerful storm that even got my Great Pyrenees, Honey, sticking to my side like glue, while the Chihuahua shook and tried to jump in my arms. The lightening was so close, I thought for sure it hit nearby, but we never saw anything on fire.

We were rather involved with our cistern problem while the thunder boomed and the rain came down. You'd think with so much rain, our cisterns would be quite full, but not the case at all. Our daily use cistern was apparently close to empty and the water was sputtering at the kitchen sink as the pump tried to pull in more water. So as it rained, Richard ran the generator, hooked up the portable pump and transferred the stash of water from the non working cistern to the cistern that lets water into the house. Unfortunately, it seems the pump in the house managed to pull some sediment into the pipes, clogging them somewhere, which meant we had no water coming in, even with water in the cisterns! So, while I paced frantically, wondering who to call at 8pm, Richard tried to blow out the pipes with his compressor. When that didn't work, he hooked up the shop vac, alternating between blowing air through, and sucking water back. Eventually something gave, the filters were full of gunk and after cleaning out the filters and working the shop vac, we had a trickle of water coming in at 10pm. Hey, some water is better than no water!

Today Richard is up at Cerro Vista Farm doing his volunteer day, and when he comes home, it's back to cleaning the filters and trying to get the water flowing again.

Tesuque Pueblo Seedbank
So, our evening was full of cistern fun, but our day was full of mud plastering at the seedbank on Tesuque Pueblo. That was a lot of fun and we learned how to mix the mud for the outside walls (clay, sand, straw, water) and Amy Lin (the natural builder in charge of the project) taught us how to apply the plaster. This was the second or third coat, so it was pretty painless, and rather therapeutic...smearing the mud with bare hands, although after a couple of hours, I was developing a blister on the heal of my hand from the tiny rocks in the mixture.

Richard putting on the mud.
Everyone working on the seedbank project was very friendly and Emigdio Ballon, the man in charge of the farm project, gave us a tour of the inside and the basement, where the seeds will be stored. The basement foundation is made of bailed tires, the sidewalls of the building are strawbale, with some adobe block in front. Insulation downstairs was straw and clay--very cool. We learned a lot and also got to see the farm project and orchards at the Pueblo. Very nice.

Even the kids can help with this job!

On the way home, we encountered  a rainstorm that caused flooding and left piles of hail on the side of the roads. Where? About 6 miles down the road from our land in Carson. While it was tempting, since we missed a workday out at our place, we decided not to venture down the muddy road and went home instead.

Yeah, it's stuck.

While we didn't get out to the land much this past week, we did make it out last Saturday for a bit. We took a load of gravel for the Earthbag cistern.

Rain. Did I mention how much rain we have been getting?

We got the car and trailer stuck in the mud in the road trying to get to our property. Luckily it was only a few hundred feet from our driveway, which made it easier, but not pleasant, to carry the tools and buckets of gravel to our building project.

As we were ferrying equipment, our volunteer friends showed up, walking down the road. Their little car only makes it so far down the road, thankfully, and they didn't get stuck in the mud. Our road is a high vehicle clearance sort of road, and four wheel drive is helpful, although, not so much in the case of a ton of gravel in a trailer planted at least six inches in soft mud.

We opted to leave the car in the road (not much traffic here) and work on our shade structure for a while, hoping to give the mud a chance to dry a bit.

We only had enough funds to buy half the metal roofing this time, but when its up, one half of the shade structure will be done and provide shade and water runoff. Hopefully next payday, we can finish the roof.

Due to more clouds building, we quit early and focused our energy on getting the car and trailer out before the next rain came and the car became a permanent fixture in the Taos mud.

With a bit of arguing about the best plan of action, Richard decided to empty the trailer, while I focused on building a gravel road under the tires of the car to give the four by four some traction. My plan was to run strips of gravel out of the ruts to allow the car to drive up onto the high parts of the roads and avoid more deep mud. With the trailer almost empty, and the rain bearing down on us, Richard, David, Simone and I shoveled gravel furiously into the road and under the tires, and you know, with all of our combined ideas and efforts, it worked, we got the car and trailer out before the storm rolled in!

Leveling the cistern trench.
After so much fun, David and Simone decided to head back to their car before the rain came. One day of hailstorms in their tent was enough for them. Richard and I stayed while it rained gently for about a half hour. Richard got the roof metal on the shed structure and my son and I leveled the cistern trench and filled it with the gravel Richard and David had carried from the trailer.

Gravel in the cistern trench.

With the rain every day, I'm not sure when we will be able to get back out to our land. I hope David and Simone are not stuck out there. (They have our number.) Most likely, they are enjoying some in town time.

Trailer full of pallets.
We did pick up another load of pallets from the local lumbar/hardware store. After the pallet shed gets done, I want to try and make a hay barn and pick up some hay for the winter before the prices go back up to $18 a bale!

The old truck is missing its gas tank as Richard tries to clean the sediment and corrosion out with white vinegar ( a tip from the local machine shop).
Otherwise we could be hauling gravel and pallets in the truck...assuming it didn't just die on the side of the road.

That old truck, broken down again.

Everyday is an adventure here in Northern New Mexico, but I wouldn't have it any other way. gives life some excitement and meaning! This next weekend we are planning on going to another mud plaster party at another Earthbagger's,  house on the mesa. Should be fun, and now we even have some experience!

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