Thursday, July 30, 2009

split bamboo and mix mud

bamboo splitter
Originally uploaded by touzanka
Spent the day splitting bamboo and mixing mud for the mud walls. This is what you split bamboo with. You can probably guess how you use it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Yet more rain.

More rain today, but had to go into work. Doesn't look like I'm going to get to the fields today. Tomorrow is a bamboo hauling day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Heavy steady rain today

Heavy steady rain this morning. Won't go out to the fields today. Reading about saving tomato seeds in 2009 Farmer's Almanac. Think it may be prudent to start saving seeds. GM0's and "terminator genes" pose a threat to farmers like me and to plant life specifically.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bamboo for Lattice Work in Mud Walls

Went out to cut bamboo for the walls that we are going to put in the outbuilding. We needed about 80 pieces from between 5 to 2 meters long. The bamboo we cut was on some property next to the home of the carpenter that his helping us build the building, and we got their permission to cut some. We tried to thin out the grove rather than cut everything in one patch. A person should be able to walk through a healthy bamboo stand with an open umbrella, and so with that in mind we cut the plants that were weak and too close to other healthy plants. We loaded it onto the truck, and drove it home, but it was quite a challenge. We took three loads back, and the leaf springs on the truck were flat.

I thought we would see more beasties. As it turned out we only saw one very big hornet. It was large enough that the beating of its wings blew dried out bamboo leaves as it passed close to the ground. Major insect.

Putting in A Beaten Earth Floor

We are in the process of building our out-building. Yesterday we put in our beaten earth floor. Here is how one is made the Japanese way. I guess that some places use ox blood in it. We did nothing that extraordinary.

We have an area about 50 square meters for which we wanted a floor to store our small tractor, other farm implements, and harvest through the winter. We have chosen to build as close to a traditional Japanese "kura" as our time and effort will allow. That means that instead of a tile roof with dirt underneath as an insulator, we are using galvanized metal with a foam insulator underneath. And instead of two layers of bamboo lattice in the walls, we will use one layer of lattice, making the walls about half as thick as the 40cm walls on the real deal.  Yesterday we put in the beaten earth floor, it was quite a workout, but made considerably easier to do with experienced help and modern equipment.

We started by digging a 30cm wide and about 10cm deep ditch 30cm from the where the wall will start. The ditch will serve as a deep spot to keep the floor from slipping  outward. There is also a ramp area in front of the door that will be kept relatively dry with the overhang on the front of the building, for which we dug a deeper ditch, about 30cm deep. We put a wooden frame around the building, just within the ditch. Then we started mixing earth and plaster. We used about three quarters alluvial sand to one quarter plaster with a small backhoe. We mixed a total of about 5 metric tons of earth, and started from the outside, shoveling in the sand and beating it down with hardwood mallets. They were short handled, and the business end was long and rounded. The entire mallet was about 50cm long, and the striking surface was about 30cm of that. We were working on building up about 15cm of beaten flooring, which required about three layers of earth. My guess is that loose earth compresses to about 1/3 of its original depth after beating. The outside floor required hand tamping, because it was laid around the beams of the building and inside the wooden frame. We used two gasoline powered tampers to compress the larger areas inside. The outside floor was nicely polished with a mason's trowel. One of the masons there to help us with the project kindly showed me the method for flattening and smoothing the surface. You must beat it to smooth out the bumps, and then sort of massage it with the trowel. This works the larger particles of sand in and brings the finer particles out, which smooths the floor.

We started working on the floor at around 8 in the morning and finished cleaning up and loading the equipment back on the trucks at around 6. Several of our friends came to help, and were happy to have had the experience. They are also working on developing their homesteads, and one family that came to help is in the process of building their own home with wood working studio and extra sleeping areas to come. I'm sure we will use our hard-earned experience with their projects, too.

It was hard work, and I am sore today from swinging those mallets, but we enjoyed the work and companionship, and now we have an earthen floor that will return to the earth, hopefully long after I have.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Cats in Summer

Couple photos of the cats.

Chikens thriving

After a bit of a rough start, the chickens are thriving. First we had the incident with the older birds pecking the younger ones. We segregated the little ones into an old doghouse. They are well, and then one of the cats got through two layers of fence to grab one of the birds, injuring the chicken slightly. We brought both little ones in and warmed them up in a box with a light attached, and they are now happy and health. We have added another layer of protection to the sides, especially to keep the cats at bay. They are still interested, but can't get at the birds.

Now we are enjoying watching their growth. The little ones are getting their combs, and the older ones are getting wattles.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Students want to diet

My students, most of whom are first-year women, often comment that they need or want to diet in order to lose weight. I tell them to eat well. I don't just mean vast quantities, nor do I mean just expensive food. I mean eat good food that is good for you.

They are poor college students. All the better my dears. They don't have much money, so they need to spend it on good food. By that I mean chemical free, locally grown, high quality grains, vegetables, fruits, and meats if they're into them. Let me take meat for example. We are close to some of the highest quality beef grown in the country, Matsuzaka beef. It is beautiful and a meat eating experience like no other (if you're into meat), but it is expensive as blazes. No student could afford very much or very often. That would be the way to go. If they limit themselves to quality food, they will get less in grams, but more in satisfaction and health. Brown rice costs more than white (for reasons I can't explain), and chemical free is even more costly. Chemical free fruits and vegies are hard to find, but available at a higher cost. Everything will be less affordable when buying quality, but will satisfy and less is more when you want to lose weight in a healthy way.

If they eat this way, they can also be healthier than if they go for quantity rather than quality. When the buy for quantity, they get large loaves of white bread or white rice, lots of sugar and chemical additives, as well as more salt than they need.  I hear students say that they had instant noodles for breakfast. They will crash long before lunch, they will binge eat large quantities of crap, and then then they will feel bad. Why bother? Have some brown rice in your rice cooker and a kettle the stove for a cup of quality instant soup (not the variety that they sell at supermarkets), and a cucumber, and there is a breakfast that will stay with you until lunch.

Since many of my students are women, so they want to eat sweets (a phenomenon that I was not aware of in the US) often in the form of cake. I tell them not to bother with hormone tainted cream cakes and white sugar when confections made with tofu cream and raw sugar are available at a few good cafes around the area. Granted, they won't be filling up on cake at the prices that quality sweets cost, but they will enjoy themselves and get something good for themselves in the process.

Don't know how many students take my advice, but if they are happy with themselves and healthier, we'll all benefit.