ある家族のパーマカルチャー的自然調和への冒険


by guibi

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カテゴリ:Other Work:その他の作業( 3 )

Coming in from the cold...

It seems that I haven't written anything here since December, so time for a pre-spring up-date.


The end of December saw the shed getting it's last few planks of siding fixed on, and a lovely new pot-belly stove replacing the one we'd borrowed from Iain and Tomoko. We took the chimney out through the northern wall instead of going through the western window, and it's made the shed feel so much more spacious. Not to mention warm.
As hinted at in that last post, we ended the year with the digger. Sankyo lease, our local tool hire place, has this cool system where they don't charge for days on which the company is closed. So, if you rent something on Saturday morning and get it back to them first thing Monday, they only charge for a day. Cool eh! We timed the digger rental for the new year holidays, meaning that while we had the digger for 6 days, we only had to pay for one! How's that for lateral thinking! We had to pay for drop off and pick up, but it still saved us a packet. We also rented a chipper which ended up costing nothing as I had to fix it before it would work properly, and they felt bad about it. "So", you may ask, "what were you doing that needed a digger and a chipper?"



The first job was to dig a pond.

We kind of like the idea of having water flowing across the land, and want to keep ducks at some point, so a small pond on the top terrace which will over-flow down onto the lower terrace seemed like a good idea. Another reason was that we wanted to fill and level what used to be a pond on the third terrace, down at the bottom of our land. We used the digger to dig the pond and fill the Kei truck . The poor old truck worked it's metaphorical arse off, hauling dozens of loads of earth down the track to the old pond. We ended up filling an area of around 150 sqm with an average depth of 80~90cm. You do the math. I reckon each load was close to half a ton, and oh, did I mention the snow? 50cm deep at it's worst point. The whole new-year period we had basically 2 days of snow, followed by two days of freeze and one day of melt... over and over again. The site looked like a scene from Flanders during World War One. Mud everywhere. Actually, once we were done with the digger and the snow finally cleared, I felt guilty as hell looking at what we'd done. What a mess! Still, all cleaned up now.

As well as the ponds, we wanted to make a turning space in front of the shed.
We ended up moving another 50 sqm or so of earth down the slope so as to make a new, flat vege patch. Of course, we needed to build a retaining wall to stop it heading further down hill than we wanted it to, and so we decided to make use of the free timber mill off cuts that I'd picked up before the snow to do just that. In the meantime, we just moved the earth and hoped we'd get enough dry weather to build the walls later (which we did, and you can read about below).
We had planed to grade the road around the site, but ran out of time and the weather wasn't co-operating so decided to scrap that for this year. We'll just have to fill some of the ruts with hardcore and see how that lasts.
Once I'd fixed it, we used the chipper to chew up all the wood we'd cleared from the old pond and spread the chips where we wanted paths up on the top terrace. Luckily we had a 'melt day' which allowed us to see the path lines which were previously (and later) under snow.
So, that was how we spent our new year. cold, muddy and physically knackered. I should say at this point, how impressed and thankful I am to Kazumi. Hardly a word of complaint, and an honestly fair day's work the whole period. Hat's off to ya Kazumi. I couldn't have done it without you!

The winter weather set in for good right after we'd handed back the digger, so in a way, our timing was perfect. Most of January was taken up with moving out of our house in Hyogo, and into a small apartment we've taken on temporarily down here in Mimasaka. Kazumi has quit her job to join me full time on the land, and the Hyogo house was no longer needed. We moved what was left of our stuff after we'd sold or given away a bunch of it, in a rented truck at the end of Jan, and as Kazumi had stuffed her wrist, it was down to me to load and unload all the boxes and furniture. Don't want to even guess at the number of times I climbed the stairs to our new apartment. Helped me get rid of at least one spare tyre around my waist, though

Early February saw the snows melt away at last, and we could get back onto the land without freezing or picking up a ton of mud on our boots. As I mentioned earlier, we had a retaining wall to build, and so that's what we did next. Made a lovely job of it too, I reckon. We mixed in a truck load of well composted cow shit/woodchip bedding with the soil, and it looks like it'll end up being a prime growing patch.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the day the digger arrived, our neighbour turned up with a story about how they owned a slice of our land... Riiight, show us the documents... What? No documents? Riiight.... Here's a map from the city defining our borders for taxation purposes... let's go and pace it out, shall we? Of course, she wouldn't accept that, so we ended up telling her to take us to court if she felt like it, but in the meantime, kindly step out of the way so I can get the digger in. Thank you very much! Long and the short of it, we no longer have a friendly neighbour and have decided to put up our deer and wild boar proof fence earlier than we had intended.


Before doing that though, we decided to pace out and mark our lower terrace vege beds and paths. What fun that was! And how much easier it is to envision the place as it'll hopefully look in the not so distant future. I dug out some old plans, re-thought and re-drew them and armed with a compass, dozens of pegs and a huge ball of string we proceeded to mark it out. We don't really want to turn over the soil down on that lower terrace, as it's lovely and soft as it is. Trouble is the weed seed bank buried down there. We've decided to take our time and do the job properly, sheet mulching out all the weeds this year and building up the soil little by little over the years

Which brings us to the middle of February. Now, as you might recollect, we built the shed using timber from the local home centers. Which was ok, except that we were limited to using the sizes they stock and were paying over the top for the timber itself. Our fence, to be truly deer and boar proof, needs some pretty hefty posts. The best we could find in the home centers are 40 or 50mm diameter and no longer than 2m. Not really man enough for the job. We finally got off our arses and tracked down a proper source for wood. We stumbled upon a small wood yard near to our new apartment, and popped in to ask about fence posts. What a goldmine of useful information they've been. And friendly? Hell, we've been showered with hospitality down at the Marudai lumber yard. The boss, one Oishi san, sits at the center of a constant flow of coming and going, with carpenters, plasterers, glaziers, hunters, and other local retirees dropping in for a chat over a cup of ocha and a smoke. seriously, it never stops and we've been welcomed into their world with open arms! We asked about posts for deer fencing and got a seriously competitive quote for exactly the dimensions we wanted. 3m long, 6" diameter posts. Oishi san took us out to a free range chicken farm which is using the same type of posts, and sure enough, they were exactly what we'd been looking for.


200 3m posts are not the sort of thing to be found quickly, however, and we were told that they'd take about 10 days to gather. No problem, we thought, we can get on and dig the post holes. Two days later, we got a phone call, and were surprised to hear that they'd struck lucky and located the posts. One wee snag, they were all of Hinoki. Now, if you've been here for a while, you'll know that Hinoki is the king of woods out here, beaten only by Keyaki, but almost as pricey. Thing was, they were happy to let us have them at the same price as we'd been quoted for the regular Matsu (Pine). We couldn't believe our luck, and told him to go ahead and get them delivered.
I had to go into Osaka for work the next day, and Kazumi got a call saying that they couldn't find our land so had delivered them to the Marudai yard which we were welcome to use as a place to de-bark and charcoal the ends so as to make bug and rot proof(ish), if we wanted... keeps on getting better and better, this yarn, doesn't it! Bingo! So, for the last few days we've been de-barking the posts, the majority of which are very conservatively labled as 6" and often bigger... at their base of course. A word of warning. 200 posts take a lot of time to de-bark!
Of couse, having two weirdos working out the back of his yard just adds to the entertainment value from the point of view of their stream of visitors, and we're constantly having to down tools for yet another introduction. Each visitor has something seriously interesting to to say though, and a result of this, we've now got a freezer full of venison, finished off about 3kg of boar meat and been fed and beerd every day since we started. Our project has sparked the interest of a number of folk, and advice and good ideas are coming in fast and furious. Surprisingly, no-one has laughed at our ideas (yet) and these are country folk, not used to mincing their words bear in mind. The builders love the idea of a yurt, and a cord wood house, the farmers nod approvingly when we mention oil based fertilizer, pesticide/herbicide free farming methods, and when people hear that we don't have or want power or mains water brought onto the land, they nod sagely, and start talking about how things used to be...
Refreshing!


Anyway, more posts to skin tomorrow, so I'm going to finish this post there. I'll add some pics over the next few days so keep an eye out.
[PR]
by guibi | 2011-03-01 20:01 | Other Work:その他の作業

Brrr! turns to Ooooo!


Due to public demand, It's time for another update.
As you can see, winter has arrived. We had our first frost at the end of Nov, and the cold has brought about an increase in activity here in Okayama, both to keep warm by moving during the day, and to keep warm once the moving has stopped at the end of it.

The 'un-shed' has come on leaps and bounds. After cladding the walls with 'Yaki Sugi' boards, it was brought to my attention that a single skin of boards was going to be pretty drafty. Indeed, it was. So, after extending the floor out to the second bay (as reported earlier) off came all the cladding, and up went a skin of plywood...


This pic was taken mid November, and you can see that the roof is still just felted at this stage. Please note the lovely fascia board which is now in place!

Having got the plywood up, it all of a sudden felt a darn sight warmer in there, and, dare I say it, quite homely to boot! Some transparent bin-liners stapled over the window spaces, and yes, we had succeeded in cutting out almost all the drafts!
In fact, it felt so snug in there that I even started to think about other stuff, like vegetable beds and the area where we're going to site our real house some years down the line. In fact, in a couple of days of recklessly not-getting-on with-un-shed-building, we dug the first vegetable bed and on another day I went and cleared all the brush and scraggly trees that were going to be in the way down the bottom.
Here we have the first vege bed complete with cabbage, onions, spinach and strawberries... should make for some interesting salads, hmm?


Anyway, I was brought back to reality and resumed shed building activities with the return of Iain and Tomoko, which coincided with the early morning discovery of ice in my kettle and frost outside. Time to get back to work.
I decided that seeing as Iain was around, it was time to get the tin roof on, so we did. I opted for 0.3mm painted corrugated iron roofing as it was cheap and thicker than all the other varieties available locally. We fixed 9 sheets across and 4 rows of 7 '尺-shaku' sheets and one row of 8 'shaku' sheets to cover the roof. Much to Iain's disdain, I gave in and used synthetic caulking in various places, just to be as sure as I could that we had a water-tight roof. Now it's dry under there, but the quality of the water that comes of the roof is debatable. Good enough for washing clothes though, I'm sure, and if I pass the rainwater through some sort of filtration beforehand, I'm sure it'll be ok for irrigation purposes... Just as an aside, with rainfall of a mere 1mm in an hour, we stand to get almost 50 litres of water off the roof. Seeing that rain rarely falls so lightly (average local rainfall figures here) and with a monthly average of approximately 121mm, I should be getting well over 5,500 litres of water a month off that roof! Where to put it all?! Something tells me it's not all going to fit in here!


Meet 'Ern', btw. A monstrous great earthenware bottle that we found in a recycle shop that was closing down. Had to be had!
Anyway, with the roof in place, while the shed was dry, it soon became apparent that it wasn't all that warm after all. Iain to the rescue once again! "While we're off searching for our plot, why don't you use our woodburner?" Blimey! What a dude! So, we figured out a place to put it, and in she went!

Man, you have no idea (or maybe you do) just how big a difference the stove can make. No more frozen kettles in the morning, just put a monster log on before turning in, shut down the air flow to a minimum, and the thing's still warm come first light. Excellent things!
Trouble is, the stove used up one of the three vertical windows that I like so much, so I've now moved it to exit through the wall to the right (North) of the stove in the picture above. Now I have my three windows and the luxurious heat of a roaring woodburner!

What else have we done..? Well, Kazumi, being a sensitive wee lass, found that the only significant draft was coming from the entrance area where the hole in the floor was awaiting a gravel and brick sunken 'genkan'. She undertook it as her job to build, and has done a really nice job of it with no end of scrabbling around under the floor shoveling stone and dirt in as the base for the bricks. It looks really cool, and I'm sorry to say that you'll have to wait for a pic (keep an eye on the photo gallery, btw. I often upload pics there even if I can't find the time to write here in the blog).


Other stuff?, yes, there's more. We've put a vapor barrier on top of the plywood, battened it in preparation for the 'Yaki Sugi' boards mentioned earlier, made a solid start on planking the exterior (rain stopped play today and yesterday, hence the blog update), dug a couple more vege beds, planted some more trees (Acacia, Yama Boushi and Bay Laurel), logged a windfall Sugi and built a temporary wood pile. All in all, a pretty productive six weeks since I last wrote here.

Sorry about the slow rate of my posts here. As you can probably imagine, I don't spend much time in front of the computer anymore. I'll probably get the next post up in the new-year, and just as a teaser, I'll leave you with a visual hint of what you can expect to read about then... bye for now.

[PR]
by guibi | 2010-12-14 15:01 | Other Work:その他の作業

So it's not a shed...


Well, after getting the shed framing up and (relatively) plum, the flooring and roofing went on. And then the comments started flowing in... "You should live here!", "This is too nice to be a mere shed...", "Look at all this space... are you really going to use two thirds of it to park cars under?", "Imagine some nice lighting under those beam braces...", "You could turn that bay into a bedroom for guests.".
Ok! I give up! I'll build a shed somewhere else and this will be a living/relaxing/temporary accommodation space. Alright? Satisfied? Jeez...
So, I've now floored the center bay, and will be removing the cladding on what was the northern wall of the Southern most bay (ex-Shed!!) so that we have one big room and people can come and look at it and say "When are you going to floor the third bay?".


Actually, I've spent so much time on this 'shed' that I fear I've left getting the deck up for the yurt too late, to be honest. Bummer, but maybe I'll move the yurt parts (somehow, it all weighs a ton) into the third bay until spring. Ho-hum.

In other news, our slightly skewed solar array (too much beer and wine the night of 10/10 methinks) is now standing straight and level and is aligned properly. That should improve its efficiency markedly!

The trees we planted are doing reasonably well, only the Walnuts are giving me cause for concern, but maybe it's just that the weather has turned quite wintry this last week or so. We'll see how they look in the spring. Talking of trees, all my research on the web turned up two opposing schools of thought on whether one should fertilize the soil when planting. Some say that the sapling needs a boost of compost mixed in with the back-fill, and others say that doing that leads to a weaker tree that is reliant on more human care than otherwise might be the case. I opted not to add anything to the back-fill, as less maintenance is a good thing, and I figure on losing up to 25% of the trees anyway. Better the weaklings give way to the vigorous ones, in my opinion.


We've also added another half dozen trees to those we planted on 10/10. This time filling the citrus 'gap'. We planted a lemon, a lime, two varieties of orange and two of mikan. Now, wherever you stand in the 'forest', you'll find a citrus, a nut, a pear or apple and a soft fruit evenly spaced around you. Darn, I'm looking forward to doing that 10 years from now. We also scored some cranberries and some more varieties of blackberry, so they've gone in too. Finally, our local garden center had neem trees in stock the other day. We snapped up 3 of them and planted them on the bank behind the toilet/shower block. They're supposed to deter cockroaches and mosquitoes and be generally handy trees to have around. Wouldn't that be nice! Trouble is that they're usually found in subtropical regions of the world, and don't do so well when temps drop below 4C... we'll see how they fare. Actually, as they grow pretty big (15~20m is not uncommon), if only one survives, that'd be cool enough.
[PR]
by guibi | 2010-10-27 14:55 | Other Work:その他の作業

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