Tuesday, July 23, 2013


After the rain...

We're getting more efficient with our water.  We still have a bunch of small bottles that have water in them for future crete projects, but we also have quite a few empties left, so we bring up gallon jugs of water to get those into the walls.  We'll continue to bring up the gallons to fill the cistern as well as carting up a bunch more full water bottles to augment what we've already got.  In short, we have water on-site, and every trip we bring much more than we'll need for drinking and cementing / building.  Eventually, we'll have a large reservoir and we'll be doing water catchment.  If we manage it well, we may never have to dig a well.  We hope.  We shall see...

We're getting better at desert "hacks" as well.  To keep our potable water and other drinkables (wine, juice, Gatorade etc.) cold, we've been freezing our beverages in their containers (make sure you pour off about 1/8 to 1/4 of the liquid and leave the lid off) and packing them in our cooler.  No loose ice to melt and turn the cooler into an icebath and it takes a long time to thaw, extending the cold for refreshment and also providing refrigeration for perishables.  Win!

We also came up with a nifty way to handle our garbage.  Instead of burning or burying it, we're going to put it into hollow cardboard tubes that are used to make piers and pilings from concrete.  When the tube is full, we'll cover it, and turn it into an above-ground pseudo cairn / fake rock formation.  You'll never know it wasn't a natural land feature.  If we make enough we'll have plenty of "rocks" for landscaping and even incorporation into our walls and other structures.

Anyway... on to the week's work:
Front wall is fully up to height, connecting the dome to the courtyard wall

The van is almost completely hidden from view


Fun anecdote for this trip (although not so fun at the time):

We were in the dome working in the shade mixing a batch of crete to get another layer on the wall when the wife suddenly says "I think I just saw a dog."
No sooner said than I look out the door of the dome and see a dog and said "You did!"
Before the words were out of my mouth and as I was quickly moving to put the worktable between me and the dog while reaching for the closest weapon -a stainless steel colander for draining the crete aggregate- I heard a sound I've never heard before...
The wife is rather fast when motivated and she went tearing out of the dome running straight at our canine interloper screaming like a proverbial banshee!
My reaction was to follow (I was a bit slow as I was on the other side of the dome from the entrance and I had taken and extra second to find the aforementioned weapon) and I promptly fell getting out of the dome in a small patch of mud left over from an earlier spill.
I sprang up and the wife was still screaming and chasing the dog, and another dog we hadn't seen yet, out of the domestead.
In the distance we could see a couple of people on horseback over on neighbor Montana's property.  The dogs made a hasty retreat off in that direction, so we assume that they were theirs.
Several notes:
  • I don't like being snuck up on by ANYTHING.
  • It's probably good that the AR-15 was in the van outside the dome, or I would have shot the dog on sight.  Nothing against the dog personally, but out there wild dogs can be dangerous for a host of reasons.
  • This is more incentive to get the domestead totally enclosed.
  • The extra adrenaline this encounter provided gave us a boost for more work once we calmed down.
  • The wife is SCARY!

Sunday, July 7, 2013


What's the most destructive thing in the desert (beside people)?


The ground is so dry and hard packed that any excess water isn't absorbed as quickly as in a more damp environment.  That said, the domestead was a sea of mud when we got there on Friday afternoon.  

We'd been planning on a leisurely evening, unpacking, staging and eating a quiet dinner under the stars. Instead, we went mudbogging in the mommy van:

and then got out crocs and flip flops sucked off our feet by the 3-6 inches of mud that covered about half of the domestead - the half that we were planning on working on.  We ended up spending the evening laying ceiling tile and cement bricks down as walkways so that we could even get to the work area by the new front wall.

The flooding was so severe that it moved and crates full of stuff that had been weighted down with cement bricks across the entire courtyard.  As you can see, it was TRASHED.  Very disheartening, especially since we had finally(!) been able to start getting the Domestead into some sort of presentable order.  (Making both of our OCD/organizational brains happy.)  The mess made us both VERY unhappy.

So, we cleaned up, moved the van to higher ground, ate something and went to bed just as it was beginning to rain.  The thunder and lightening was AWESOME.  Jeff's cat would have been terrified.  The wife's cat wouldn't have given a damn.  The rain wasn't as bad as we'd feared and when we woke up the next morning, the ground wasn't appreciably wetter.  That's not saying much tho.  Our work boots were coated in 2 inches of mud within a few minutes of getting to work. (Now we know why Jax and Murdoch's sell muck boots!)

By 7:30am, we'd set up the concrete mixing table in the firedome, unloaded all 25 gallons of water from the van and gotten to work. By 3pm, we were out of loose bottles, water, portland cement and preground ceiling tile aggregate. And we were bonking. Hard. The wife was crabby and the husband was flaking.  We stopped for some cold soup right out of the cans while we decided what to do next.

This is what we'd gotten done: 

The wall is roughly 4 feet high in most places, connecting the courtyard wall to the firedome.

That's when the OCD/organizational brain problem kicked in again and we started cleaning and organizing in the dome and in front of the new wall.  And digging.  Jeff got to organizing the firedome, but kept hitting his head on the roof in a couple places, which led him to grab a shovel and start digging down to stop the head-pain.  (The digging out was part of the long term plan, but not for this trip.)  Beth was out in the driveway getting frustrated and really muddy trying to pry up the bricks and ceiling tiles from the mud to get them put away.  Both of us were exhausted and the mess was still overwhelming (see courtyard picture above!)

We said screw it and went home.

We stopped on the way out long enough to take these two pictures.