Farm Update


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Yet again, it's been a busy few weeks.  We had a great WWOOOFer for a week, and then 2 more expected shortly after that never showed, so we've again had a bit more to do than we'd hoped.  

Last weekend we got a first coat of plaster on the addition walls.  We had 4 etra sets of hands, so we were able to get the entire wall done on Sunday afternoon.  The weather has been so damp that the walls are still too damp for a second coat, but a slow cure is certainly better than a too-rapid drying.  

The process of mud plastering is pretty simple - we again borrowed a small electric cement mixer from some friends, and Caleb uses it to thoroughly blend red clay, sand, water, and chopped straw.  We want the mud, especially for the first coat, to be nice and sticky, so he makes it heavy on th clay, and fairly wet - thus the longer drying time.  The first layer is also the one to ensure good contact with the straw, so we also want it pretty wet so that it gets worked into the straw really well, and doesn't fall back off at a later time.  

The second coat will be a slightly thicker mix - its purpose will be especially to build up the wall to an even thickness, so it needs to have more sculpting ability than stickiness.  It will also have slightly less straw in it to make a smoother finish.  We're hoping to get this coat on next weekend.  

The final coat is a thin, smoothing coat. We do a mix of mostly fine sand and lime, with just a touch of clay, mainly for color.  The lime is to increase the hardness of the finish coat, and also - particularly for outdoor applications, but even indoors in our humid climate - to help prevent mildew and mold from forming on the walls.  The current, drying coat is actually lightly molded - every bit of exposed chopped straw sticking out of the plaster is white and fuzzy, so it's definitely a concern.  Clay's ability to attract and hold moisture is not desirable in the final coat.  It is actually a vital part of the initial coats, though - that is the mechanism for keeping the strawbales inside the wall dry, preventing mold, mildew, and rot in there.  The clay makes an absorbant, breathable wall that retains excess moisture away from the straw, and then releases it again in dry conditions.  I personally think this is a grreat pairing with wood heat - any excess moisture from our wet winter weather will get passed through the wall, and sucked out by our dry indoor air :)  Now, I don't know if we'll actually get the final coat on in the near future.  Half of our first addition is still lacking the finishing plaster on the inside, so it seems a little presumptuous to think we'll do better this time!  Or maybe we'll find the time to do the old wall as well as the new one...

In other addition progress, Caleb got the bird boards all installed - a tedious job involving cutting small boards to fit between the ends of the rafters at the outside edge of the wall, named for their function in preventing birds fromcrawling  up inside the roof and nesting, but also helping with insulation.  We also got most of the ceiling insulation installed - as soon as the last wiring run is pulled we can finish that.  Again, I'm not sure that we'll actually get sheetrock on the ceiling any time soon, but at least it'll be insulated.  Once that's finished, we can take out the living room window and have an actual doorway, rather than climbing - and passing heavy tubs of plaster through - the window.  

Caleb has a new schedule at work - not unexpectedly, there's an up-side and a down-side.  The bad is that he now works from 8 am until 7 pm, losing most of our weekday evenings and cramping dinner/bedtime for the boys.  The good is that it's only Monday-Thursday, so he gets Fridays off now.  We feel this is actually a helpful schedule for the short, dark winter days - it's not like he's losing valuable evening work time, but he does gain even more valuable daylight working.  This week, we used the extra Friday to go pick up a new sheep from my midwife's sister.  This one is an East Friesian, an actual milking breed, and I'm curious to see how she compares to the other, not-actually-milking Tunis sheep.  When I asked my midwife, out of curiosity, if she had any young ones for sale, she said her sister's ewe was about to get eaten if she didn't get sold, so it seemed serendipitous :)  I won't actually be able to compare milking abilities until next spring as this one is only 7 months old, and we won't breed her until this coming fall for a spring 2016 lambing.  Another bonus of talking to my midwife about this is I now have a resource for access to a milking breed ram  next fall, which I didn't before.  I'd really prefer to up-breed my sheep for greater milking ability, rather than crossing them with a wool - or even worse for the fleece, a hair - sheep just for the sake of a milking cycle.  

That's our recent weekend activity, and farm improvements - I hope to put up a photo selection of my most interesting sweet potatoes next time I post - my personal favorite is the handlebar mustache :)  Until then!



yeah, updates!

Great to hear such detail of progress on the addition. Wonderful to hear the boys the other night. MIss you all.

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