Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cob house update

November 26

Update on Cob House

Save the Cerrado, a permaculture blog, started publishing three years ago, in August, 2012. If this is your first time visiting this blog please check back  from the beginning (check postings in right column) to understand our approach to permaculture and to see the photos that  document our progress so far.                           

We’re getting ready to receive our first long term guest, Grace, who responded to the invitation we put here on this blog in May. Her arrival in mid-December has been a great incentive to speed up the work on the cob house where she will be living. You can see in the photos below that we’ve made a lot of progress since we got back from the States in early October.

           October 20 – Expecting rain; the cob needs to be protected.

    November 8 – That’s better. Let’s hope the tarps can withstand the winds. 
                                          Walls are up several feet.

Second bedroom and bathroom.

Row of glass bottles to let some light into the bathroom.

Outside view of the bottles.

November 25 – Walls have reached full height. We had a fierce storm last night with lots of wind. and rain. The tarps held fast and the house remained dry. 

Guy has set the window frame in place. It still needs to be tied into the cob wall.

We tested a patch of plaster for the first coat: earth, sand and finely chopped grass straw.

The first bedroom begins to look inviting. By December 5 the second window frame as well as the door frame should be in place for the carpenter who will install the windows and door.

The second bedroom is coming along too. The floors still need to be finished and ceilings will be added soon, but the tarp covering should stay in place until we're ready to put in a permanent roof.

Meanwhile farm life goes on:

Lolita monitors all comings and goings.

An older Rhode Island Red joined our flock, and NoName hatched a healthy flock of chicks.

Nina and Polly and five-month-old Nellie are doing well. We're milking only Nina.

Here Nina and Daisy share their food with bees.  

November 29 - Today we're in Brasilia to participate in the Global Climate Change March, which had already seen large demonstrations in the Philippines, Japan, Paris and elsewhere. 

    Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Back on the farm

October 16

Wild cashews, ripe when we returned from the States in early October

Back on the farm, work on the  cob house continues apace. The next step is to build a large temporary roof that will cover the three rooms we’re working on so that building can continue as the rainy season starts up. So far, since we arrived from the States, we’ve had only one rain, a storm with wind, lightning and thunder and copious water. Guy hadn’t uncovered the cob construction yet, so damage was minimal. But our large blue tarps allowed water to collect in big pockets and some water also got in on the floor, a danger to the base of the cob walls. So this coming week a wood frame will go up with cross beams to support the tarps, which are still the least expensive way to cover the area for now. Not attractive but functional.

Daisy, our second goat born on the farm
Two days before we arrived from our trip, Nina the mama goat, gave birth to her tiny black and white kid, whom we’ve named Daisy. Mother and daughter are well. Three days later we started milking Nina. One of her teats was overly full – I don’t think Daisy had nursed on that side at all. 

Often goats have two kids at a time but both Polly and Nina only had one, their first pregnancies, and I noticed that both kids developed a preference for one teat. Nina’s milk for the first three days tasted strong and unpleasant, probably some colostrum at first.

Nina's newborn, Daisy, nurses inside the shed. Nellie nibbles the plastic container while Polly watches Guy.

        We’ve also restarted milking Polly, after five weeks when only her kid Nellie, nursed the milk. We’re getting two to three cups of milk each morning, enough for our needs. Soon we’ll start experimenting with yogurt and cheese. And we can’t wait to try the milk pump I bought in the States from UdderlyEZ.

Another farm mama welcomed us with eight tiny chicks. Henny-Penny is the  hen given to us by friends back in June with nine chicks that have turned into six little roosters and three small hens. The hens should start laying eggs at 22 weeks, or the second week in November.

The cockerels have to go, butchered, sold or exchanged for hens, leaving one to rule the flock if we decide to keep one. The hens will continue to lay eggs without a cock but the eggs will be infertile, which means we’d have to bring in fertilized eggs from elsewhere if we want to let the hens hatch a brood when they go broody.

Right now we have another hen, NoName, who was given to us by a neighbor, who went broody back in August. Thinking the seven eggs she’d layed weren’t fertilized – our cockerels were just eight weeks old – we tried to break her out of the broodiness. It turns out she remained broody the whole time we were gone and insisted on sitting on two old eggs I’d left in the nest to encourage any layers. Now I’ve acquired ten eggs from a neighbor, mostly Rhode Island Reds, and by November 4 we should have a new batch of chicks. All this population explosion disturbs Guy who thought we were aiming for four to six hens. I guess I like the whole chicken yard scene, with little chicks and a rooster to announce the morning.

"How many chickens do we need just to get a few eggs? This is population explosion."

Now that we're back we reflect: How does flying, with its heavy carbon footprint, fit in with our permaculture lifestyle? Ideally, it doesn’t. But permaculture as I understand it is not dogmatic. It makes room for the reality of the world around us. Seeing family and friends in the States is important to us and the five weeks we spent in Massachusetts, the Lehigh Valley, and Silver Spring, MD, were invaluable. On Labor Day Weekend we watched our grandsons play four or five soccer games near Needham, MA. 

Grandson Luke, number 24, watches the ball intently.

Guy, grandson Isaiah, and my son Zeke walk back to the car.
Zeke, Luke and Isaiah.
In the Lehigh Valley we saw some of Guy's relatives and many dear friends. We went to a LEPOCO celebration and dance, and stayed in the homes of two women who plan on visiting us on the farm soon, Jaqi and Grace. In Silver Spring we visited my daughter Sofia who just moved back to the States. While she was living in Brasilia in 2013 and 2014 Sofia was a constant companion to us on the farm and participated in most of our permaculture projects. It was a delight to see her. 

I've been scanning old photos each time I go to the States and I'll share three of them with you:

Our farm is situated in the part of the world where this photo taken, in the Central Highlands of Brazil,
when I was 11, with my sister and brothers. (I'm the child at the left)

My first efforts at farming.
My brother, George, with a neighbor's goat in Ohio.
                                         Check back soon for an update on the cob house.