After 18 months living in our van, we decided to use our energy for more than traveling and vanlife, as fabulous as it often was. We wanted to root somewhere and cultivate a sustainable corner of hospitality. Why not Lafayette? We both like the size, vibe, proximity to family - and we had a unique house to return to.
First we had to wait out a tense rental situation. Then we had to fix up that 1800s house, now that we actually plan to make it our home.
We had a roomful of broken floor to rip out, repair and replace. The concrete underneath was uneven and had to be ground down, patched, shimmed...then we bought higher quality flooring to lay on top. Happily, a family took the reusable pieces of the old floor, through craigslist.
The rest of the house's original wood floors needed repair. Phillip (with guidance from my dad and uncle) spent two weeks on his hands and knees and you'll have to see it in person to understand why. The floors still have plenty of "character," including old scorch marks and repaired knots, they're going to last (maybe another 200 years?!).
There's too much more to tell, so I'll let the finished pictures do the rest. Next spring we look forward to working in surprising ways on the yard.
In the meantime our goal is to share this big house - anyone need a guest room or weekend getaway house in Lafayette?
We're shifting our Mexico Permaculture AdVanture stories to a new blog (which Phillip built to be just right - what a clever fellow!) Not sure what will happen here, but thanks for tuning in!
The rainy season started early this year. Every day, usually late afternoon, we get a sprinkle or a thunderstorm. And hail! We weren't prepared for that, emotionally or physically. We had to take a shade cloth down and empty out the other two, as they filled so quickly and buckled with the weight.
The next morning we saw hail around town as we made our 4th? 5th? trip to the migration office. Hail amidst the flower petals, on Mother's Day (in Mexico, a few days earlier than the US) looked like a mother's day bouquet for the many mothers separated from their children. Borders, violence, economic strife, emotional/physical/chemical illness....
Perhaps melodramatic. Could just be a mother's day bouquet for all the sleep-deprived mothers balancing family, work, health and more. Happy Mother's Day!
We continue to mother our sweet dog buds. Max charmed us once again by sitting down on my empty kefir/granola jar in the truck. We were just glad he sat down! Usually he has to stand during trips, and he's so unsteady (even on the ground) and the roads here are impressively bad. Usually I just hold onto him while Phillip drives.
Booker continues to wake up each morning, and we are ever-so-glad. He had a positive check-up with our wonderful vet and continues to take heart medicine.
Our second trip to the vet last week was for Max, who has a flare-up of gastritis and has been puking (mostly bile) a lot. Sometimes while we're trying to sleep.
Hannah surprised us all by finding a guard dog bone in her body. She barks and chases the neighbor dog, Torce, when he comes over. We wonder if she has a crush on him and she's pretending she doesn't? Cause this is Hannah - she's never asserted herself in her life!
I've been moving trees. Trees that are failing to thrive, and a few that look alright but they're living in ground that will soon be covered in concrete.
There are plenty of reasons trees might fail to thrive here: long dry season, masses of clay, thick limestone/caliche (we dug through two solid feet of it then couldn't get any deeper with our tools), unfriendly pH, etc.
Many of the trees I've dug up are root bound - their roots are growing in tight circles rather than out. Usually this happens when a tree is in a container too long, and its roots are bound by it. But it also happens when a tree is planted with a parcel of soil into an unfriendly location, and the roots just grow around and around within that bit of soil that it came with.
We'll be watching this dozen-ish trees (along with the rest on the land) and some may need to move again, or at least move into larger holes that have a larger amended environment. I've added aged cow manure, but haven't done anything to change pH, e.g.
What a natural response, to keep growing and growing in ways and places that are comfortable.
Follow-up on laundry...our bedding is too big for bucket washing, so I've been hanging sheets and blankets out and spot cleaning. Which is a good use of time and water, it turns out, which I never would have chosen if we had a normal electric washing machine. My perspective on clean and cleaning is rather circumstantial, it turns out. More on that another time.
I shook and hung out all our bedding today and looked forward to a clean bed tonight. We went out to use the internet and do errands and it took forever - turns out everyone is shopping today to celebrate tomorrow's holiday (May 1 is the holiday here).
While we were out it rained, which was not in the forecast, and we fantasized that it wasn't raining on our mountainside. But we came home to wet blankets at dusk, and the best way to dry them is to touch them, so we're in bed with wet blankets. We gave Max the single dry blanket and Hannah and Booker have towels between them and wet blankets - they're so tender! We did have dry, clean sheets.
I wanted to turn on the van for a little heat, but we're low on gas. The pick-up, which we're using for errands, had trouble on the way up the hill tonight. So tomorrow we'll stay home and I'll dig all day looking for places without feet of limestone, and Phillip will build a chicken tractor. And if it doesn't rain too much I'll be making something with chocolate - we need to cheer up!
Two buckets make up our washing machine. I got this navy blue one a few years ago and used it to save water, electricity, and explore a simpler life. The problem in Indiana and Pennsylvania was that I could never get the clothes wrung out enough so they would get mildew-y stinky on the line.
That is not a problem here. The first clothes I hung on the line were dry by the time I washed the 4th bucket load. Which is small, by the way, a full bucket in this washing machine is 2 t-shirts or 5 pairs of underwear.
There's a slotted tray at the bottom of the bucket to keep the clothes a couple inches off the bottom, theoretically cause the dirt all settles there, so this keeps the clothes out of the dirt. I don't think that makes sense, cause I'm using the plunger as heartily as I can, and I'm sure that pulls the dirt up through the tray. Other than that, any bucket and any plunger would be equal to this task.
I got the sky blue bucket here to facilitate rinsing, so I can use the same wash water a couple times, then turn the rinse water into wash water, and so forth.
Wind, as is so often the case here, is the biggest challenge.
I spent hours this week burying buckets (again, buckets, but this time they hold posts in concrete) that we're using for shadecloth because the wind keeps taking them down - sometimes onto the van. We wonder when one will land on a dog or person! Only two buckets-with-posts are still unburied, and that's because we don't know where they should go yet - it's a lot of work to do twice.
I took this video a few days ago, so we can compare this look to future views as we make changes on this landscape. I climbed a brick wall to get the view - worth it, but a little scary. We'd like to get a ladder, but it would get stolen so quickly, and make stealing our stuff even easier.
Here's a sample of the beer festival we went to last weekend. National had the best beers, though we only sampled 1/2 of the breweries there.
Any different than a beer festival in the US?
Sorry I went so fast, I need to improve my cellphone videoing skills.
We decided to put our toilet in our tent for privacy. This means I can call it a püp tent, which is almost cute enough to make up for how uncomfortable it is. We can't sit up straight, which makes cleaning up and getting dressed really annoying. Soon we'll put together a teepee-style toilet room.
In the meantime, the dogs apparently know it is a pup tent, and the boys like to go in for some cool and quiet. All three dogs follow me in when I'm using it, and paw at the bags of wood shavings, which contributes to the challenge of using the toilet.
Phillip and I held on to the newlywed romance of pretending we simply don't poop. Well, when he had a bowel obstruction the topic came up, but in general we live in a poop-free fantasy. Until the poop tent. We're leaving its windows open cause who wants to be in a tiny, breezeless space with a toilet?
And then the other day I didn't sit far enough back - hard to find proper position when crouching in a tent so I had to clean my own mess out of the pee diverter. I was too annoyed not to tell Phillip about it.
See, this toilet works because under the seat are a bucket and a big funnel. The funnel is in front and also called a pee diverter; it's nested in a 2 gallon jug which gets emptied as often as we feel like it (daily is good).
Everything else should drop into the bucket and be sprinkled with something absorbent like wood shavings, dry quickly thanks to the exhaust fan (which Phillip pulled out of a computer headed for recycling). Once the bucket is full (how will we decide what counts as full, I wonder?), we can put a lid on it and wait a year, or add some worms or microorganisms and wait two weeks, then use it as compost. Way cool, or disgusting, or both.
The pee is separate so the rest dries faster. Plus the pee is already ready to grace the land as is--or diluted with water if you're pouring it on your vegetable garden--adding essential nitrogen.
I've seen a version of this in India and the US: two separate outhouses and you go in one to pee and the other to poop. Gotta know and control your body very well. And best when you don't have a stomach bug, like I do.
We'll let you know how this unfolds.