Looking Back on 2015

By December 27, 2015Uncategorized
Land in the sunset hours

2015: the year we acquired land, built a straw bale octagon, traveled east and west..

It’s that time of year again when I like to reflect on the goings-on of the past twelve months, wondering what the heck happened to the time. There was no lack of building work this year, and some very exciting trips towards the end of the year… and then there’s the new land and a baby on the way, too. Hrm… this whole blogging thing might get difficult trying to hold a baby while planting potatoes in the upcoming spring, eh? Well, until that time comes let me take a moment to share some of the highlights from 2015.

Another Winter of Woodworking

Cherry Shaker Blanket ChestThis past winter we made our annual voyage to spend time with our favorite woodworker and dear friend Greg Pennington. On this trip, I learned how to make sack back Windsor chairs, and made two for the growing collection. April finally finished her spinning wheel, though I still haven’t gotten good photos and a video of the finished product. It’s definitely a sight to behold. April and I worked on a collaborative project together, too — a Shaker-style blanket chest. It’s definitely the nicest piece of furniture we own now, sheesh… in big part thanks to the incredible guidance from Greg, and that lovely curly cherry from his wood stash. Jacob made an incredible banjo from scratch… photos barely do it justice.

After we returned home fully rekindled in the woodworking fire, Jacob and I realized the workbench we wanted to build was overdue, having bought the material to make the bench a full year prior. Realizing we could make it a lot more efficiently in Greg’s space, we made a second trip south and did a 5 day Roubo workbench building marathon.

sack back windsor chair 01In-between bouts of severe cold and snow, I managed to make a new tool chest and some chairmaking equipment for my new Windsor chair endeavor. I was thrilled to meet my chairmaking tool fundraiser goal, and that allowed me to acquire some of the last of the hand tools to get my own setup going at home.

When it was too bitter cold to be in the unheated barn that was our shop space, I retreated indoors and finally finished my three part “How to Build a Better Cob Oven“, a series I had been meaning to write for a little while.

The Peak Season: Land & a Cabin the Woods

filling-earthbagsSpring was, if I remember correctly, ridiculously wet… and summer impossibly brought even more rainfall. (I’ve never seen so many chanterelles in my life.) We spent a lot of time this spring getting our friends’ off-grid cabin site ready for our July Straw Bale Workshop.

In-between building an earthbag stemwall and countless other preparations, there was the unrelated behind-the-scenes work of our offer to buy land. Having never been involved in the purchase of property or a house before, the process was all new to me. Thankfully, April bore the brunt of the at-times tedious work of following through with paperwork, legal stuff, and all the other bureaucratic necessities. It was a slow process.

looking south, 13 up slope_20002782854_l

However, we finally got a closing date, and things were looking up. On June 30, we became new landowners… after about a year of a half of active searching, and even more time before that talking about and planning to purchase land. Whoa. We would have to exhibit an inordinate amount of patience even once we acquired the land, because we had commitments lined up for the next several months that would prevent us from spending any real time at the new place or moving out there to remodel the existing house. Nevertheless, we can finally start the work of realizing our vision for a collective homestead and headquarters for natural building workshops, permaculture education, and natural living skills.

Straw Bale Workshop 2015 CrewIn July, our Straw Bale Workshop went out without a hitch, despite the inhumane levels of rain we experienced during the week. Everyone had a grand old time, myself included. We got all the bales installed, started the clay plaster, and overall had a lot of great fun. The later half of summer was chock full of income work (glimpses of our renovation projects can be seen in the gallery), and then in August came the Permaculture Design Course with Whole Systems Design in Vermont. I’m still very much thankful I had the opportunity to participate. It gave me a bunch of inspiration in thinking about our new land and design ideas we might incorporate.

A Full Fall and Beyond…

finished frame 00Once I got back from Vermont and we tied up loose strings on some income projects, April and I brought our bedding, food, and tools to the new land to begin the last major project of the year: remodeling our new home. Jacob soon followed, and we set up a kitchen on the back porch and began tearing out carpet, putting new windows in, acquiring materials, and on and on and on…

We had a solid month of time to devote to the new place before April and I were off again, this time to the west to join the 20th anniversary Natural Building Colloquium. I’d been anticipating the Colloquium since the spring, and the timing really couldn’t be worse for us. It was hard to pull away from our remodeling work knowing that winter was just around the corner. However, I was committed to going so there was no changing course.

gila national forestWe spent a month away in total, first in New Mexico for the Colloquium itself. We volunteered to stay on board the week after the event to help wrap up building projects, and then we had some time to explore the area before we headed back east to Missouri. In MO, we got to reconnect with friends and community mates, and we rented a moving truck to move all of our last possessions to Kentucky, once and for all. Upon returning back to Kentucky, we immediately got back to the work of remodeling the house: finishing the new hardwood floor, painting walls, laying tile, fixing up the wood cook stove

nbc20 groupAll the while, April’s belly has been getting bigger by the week, and thankfully throughout most of this craziness she’s been holding up like a champ. (The first trimester was by far the most uncomfortable for her… though the itchies have descended more recently, which has been preventing sound sleep.)

As I sit here (in our nearly complete “office”!), I’m thankful that the winter has been mild thus far, giving us a much longer window in which we could do all of this building work comfortably. (Though the implications of so much warm weather during this time of year causes me a lot of concern as well…) Additionally, throughout the winter I hope to have plenty more time to observe the land while the trees are still bare, and the contours are easier to discern… making more notes about the features of this beautiful place we find ourselves living in and planning how to co-create with the land in the future.

Next year will be a whole different kind of adventure…