Thursday, July 21, 2005

Marking Trees

This coming Saturday, Bambi and I are going to mark trees on the land for the loggers. Mostly we'll be marking trees that we want to keep. I want to employ the permaculture concept of a ragged edge to provide the greatest transition habitat between clearing and forest. The greater the edge the greater the diversity of life that can thrive there. Much like the Maine coastline, when clearings are made there is an opportunity to create a very long surface edge for plants and animals that like to live at the edge of forests. If you are interested in joining us please get in contact with us.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Barra Bunk House

bunkThe Barra Homestead has a bunk house for visitors. It's constructed entirely by hand with timberframing techniques. I could imagine a couple of these kind of structures around destiny, perhaps providing sleeping areas for those who can't tent and/or a couple stewards. Notice there are no screens. The idea is to live as closely with nature as possible.

Barra and Destiny

my trip to barra helped me envision a destiny community living off the land. they offer workshops all summer long feeding the attendees with food they grow from a 1/4 acre garden. i could imagine a couple three-season stewards managing a garden at destiny, living off the land for the summer, helping to provide food for gatherings and maintaining the place. i'm convinced we need stewards now, and our designs should reflect this.

essentially, jim and rowan are permaculturists, and throughout the weekend they showed us examples of their implementation of permaculture which helped me think about ways destiny could implement them. their solar hot water heating system worked really well, completely passively, gravity fed. i'm going to talk to the state today to see if we can't implement some of these ideas. our public campground designation has been a challenge all the way through the design process, requiring us to implement conventional solutions. perhaps, since we began this process, there may be greater allowances for alternative systems.

The Barra Homestead

barra homesteadi'm back from barra, the homestead in east corinth, vermont that i visited saturday and sunday. jim and rowan, the homesteaders, live almost entirely off the land. their answer to the question: how much land? three acres per person. this three acres includes everything they need: shelter, garden, storage, forest for fire and building wood, water, and equivalents for energy spent not directly related to land. driving their car to town, for instance, increases their "footprint."

their food producing garden is about 1/4 acre. so, for food alone, they need 1/8 acre apiece. they eat directly from the garden during the summer and preserve the rest of their food for the winter, by canning, pickling, or storage in a root cellar. they were just nearing the end of their canned tomatoes last weekend.

veggie manurei attended a workshop entitled gardening for self reliance. over two full days, jim and rowan showed us how they "make it" in vermont. they have no animals. their garden is fenced to protect from deer, gets good south sun on a south slope. they grow a wide variety of foods including, grains, beans, squashes, roots and herbs. many beds are intermixed in beneficial arrangements. for high nutrient fertilizer they put weeds into a barrel full of water (pictured) and let it steep in the sun creating "manure tea" that kills the weed seeds and smells almost exactly like animal manure. they collect water from rooftops and use gravity feed from a nearby stream. drinking water comes from the same stream. human waste is composted under a post and beam platform with squatting holes screened by woven saplings. leaves intermingled with the waste encourages breakdown and there is no offensive smell, unlike pit toilets.

woodthey keep stocked several cord sheds of wood, burning about 1-1/2 cords a winter. they cut live trees, for the most part, because fallen trees are part of the natural process of the forest that help retain moisture and provide habitat. they heat the house and cook with wood. they also have two outdoor ovens: a solar and cob. the solar oven is a mirrored parabolic reflector that focuses about 600 watts of energy on a cooking platform. with full sun, after only a couple minutes, a pan of rhubarb stems was steaming.

cob oventhe cob oven (pictured) requires firing for a couple hours and then it stays warm for quite a while and can be used for different functions as it cools, such as baking, warming, drying veggies or fruit, clothes drying (on the outside), or warming up pretty much anything. the oven was still very warm when we first arrived, about 24 hours after it was fired. the local snakes love it when it gets below cooking temperature. rowan said she often finds them in there when she takes the cover off to start it.

sheafthe biggest surprise for me was their grain growing. i had no idea you could grow wheat in vermont. while it was still a little green, the chipmunks were feasting on their crop this year, and in an attempt to save what we could we got to try our hand at harvesting using a sickle, tying sheafs, and threshing. it was still too green to thresh so jim tied up what we cut into a traditional bundle (pictured). much of their grain is winter rye which is planted in the fall, sprouts, winters over and then continues in the spring. it retards weed growth and can be turned into the soil as a nutrient builder before growing other crops.

the thread through the weekend was permaculture, a concept of bringing man into harmony with nature, where design decisions mimic nature and encourage multiple uses for each feature and multiple aspects to each use. i came away with a much better feeling for how one can live in vermont with the bare minimum, in harmony with nature and mostly independent of fossil fuel. i highly recommend visiting barra for one of their weekend retreats. you can find their programs at the global living project website.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Logger Confirmation

I received a letter today from Long View Forest Contracting confirming their work plans for Faerie Camp Destiny. Clearing price is $3,500/acre with an estimated 1.5 acres to clear for a total of $5,250. Stacking of hemlock for our construction will cost $150/thousand board feet (a board foot is 12" x 12" x 1"). I'm guessing we'll want somewhere between 2000-3000 board feet to work with adding $300-$450 to the cost.

Global Living Project

This weekend I'm hiking in to a place near East Corinth, Vermont, called the Barra Homestead, a land-trust set up in the spirit of Scott and Helen Nearing, famous back-to-the-landers, for a two day workshop on growing food for self-reliance. Techniques such as creating guilds, energy and nutrient cycling, mulching, cover-crops, pest and weed management, diversity, and succession will be explored. I'm hoping to learn how I, and Destiny as well, can use Vermont land for growing food. They also have some hand-hewn timberframe structures there that I want to check out. The program I'm attending is part of the Global Living Project. I'll let y'all know what happens next week!

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Things seem to be settled for the time being schedule-wise. The loggers are now scheduled to start August 8th, the day after Lammas finishes and will be on the land about two weeks. Our excavator will then start work shortly thereafter about September 1st. He will be on the land three to four weeks. In September we also will have the well drilled.

We will need help in September during the week and on weekends installing the water system. Since we're still not sure exactly how this all is going to play out, I can't say exactly when in September we'll be needing help, but we'll post here and on the listservs when the time comes.

We're also making headway with our permits and amendments. I was down in Springfield, Vermont, where the Act 250 regional office is, and stopped in to see Linda Matteson who oversees our project. She thinks we may have to make a "minor" re-application to bring the project current with Act 250. This means resubmitting our original application with the changes we want. Since our permit was reviewed and passed muster before she doesn't think there will be issues, but moving buildings around is apparently more than an administrative change. So, I will be doing this work as soon as possible to get our stuff into the process. This permit activity has no bearing on our work this summer. We can do everything the current permit allows.

I've sent our water system amendment to our engineers in Bellows Falls and they'll be sending them on to the state for approval. We should hear back from them in a few weeks.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Logs, Earth and Plans

I spoke with the loggers today and they've got more work than they expected and will be pushing our start date to August 1st. I spoke with our excavator's wife and she thought it would work out better for them to start in September. This will place our end of construction sometime around the end of September. I also got a call from the state about our Act 250 amendment. They want a site plan that shows original and altered building locations and sizes so that they can determine the level of amendment we need to apply for. I will work up a site plan this weekend or early next week and get it off to them. Dan has cut a check for the new wastewater permit which I'll be sending to our engineer on Monday.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

We're Rolling

With enough cash and credit to more forward, today, we hired Long View Forest Contracting to do our clearing for the mound system and the building sites. They will begin work in a couple weeks. Next Wednesday, July 13, Bambi and I, and anyone else who is interested, can join us in staking out the logging areas. We'll be clearing about 1.5 acres. We're still deciding whether to keep the hemlock or send it to the mill.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Governance Gathering

i returned from the governance gathering refreshed and feeling good about our progress on the land, most of which has happened off the land lately, getting estimates, looking at schedules and in the money planit where funds are being raised. endora and i gave reports at an evening circle saturday night, endora reporting on fundraising and i on the construction. in parallel bambi was holding a circle in new york at dick and daisy's loft.

on the construction front, by fall we should have the building and septic sites cleared and chipped, the saw logs taken off to mills and any logs we wish to keep stacked for the winter. we should also have our mound, water system and sitework completed and the privy tank installed. these things will cost us about about half our budget, the money for which has been raised or set up as credit.

at this point, it seems prudent to delay construction of the buildings until next spring which will give us a full building season rather than a couple months. the plan is still to build with an all volunteer crew so time is important.

i'm applying tomorrow for an extension to the act 250 permit which has a construction finish deadline of october this year. primarily, the act 250 people are looking for decent progress on the project. by october we will have accomplished about half of what is described in our permit, and i think that will satisfy them when we ask for another few years to complete.

Monday, July 04, 2005

heard from the loggers

We heard back from both loggers in the days before I left for New York City. Both had prices comparable with each other at around $3,500 to $3,800 per acre and $150/ per thousand board ft. on the hemlock which we want to keep. Since I've been in the city, I took part in a circle at Daisy's loft about the current steps to get the logging, clearing done so we can install the septic mound and begin the work around drilling the well and building the kitchen. Folks also had some great feedback about finding ways to work with our neighbors on the vandalism concerns in the neighborhood. Someone suggested that a meeting be held at Tom Martin's place. Well, I hope folks at the land are enjoying the Governess gathering. Bambi