It’s been awhile since we’ve done an update post and we’ve been pretty busy, so be prepared for a fast paced and loosely collected narrative a la David Lynch, but with less body horror.
To start off we got an insane rain storm/runoff event about three weeks ago, sadly I was too busy frantically shoveling drainages and building dams to get any pictures. It wasn’t in vain though as our yurt did remain dry as a river flowed on either side leading to our stock tank which filled into a quarter acre pond which just dried up this past weekend.
Watching the sheets of water flowing across our land gave me a ton of insight and inspiration into how to build a system of earthworks to harness the water that flows through and effectively transfer the run off that comes down our valley across the slopes of the hills. This is a necessity as we begin ramping up our agricultural efforts to a large scale market garden model over the next few years. It’s all very boring and technical talk of slopes and infiltration rates but needless to say I’m very excited.
Laura has been getting back to her horse girl roots and is working part time as a horse/burro trainer in the local community. Every Monday she leaves the farm to go spend a few hours with Free and Easy, a pair of Friesians owned by the country store down the road. She’s also helping get a neighbors (half)zonkey ready for the Burro Races at the Jackass Flats ‘Dutch Oven Cookoff’ in October.
One of our friends brought a bunch of piñon pine nuts to a blues night at the Cactus Farm(local gathering spot). For those of you who don’t know the piñon is a southwestern pine tree with a delicious large edible nut, similar to pine nuts you can find at a store. We were very excited to hear she’d harvested them herself not far from where we live, and offered to take us to her friend’s house to gather some ourselves some time.
While in Alpine at the post office the next day Laura and I ran into her and she said she was going to head over there now, so we went along and got to share in the fun of harvesting our own piñons. We tried a bunch of techniques, including raking the ground with our hand, laying down a sheet and shaking the pine nuts into it, harvesting the pinecones off the tree and digging into them, but none proved as effective as our friend’s technique of scooping them from the ground with a hand strainer, she outpaced both of us combined.
As exciting as it was to find a source of piñon near our home it was even more exciting to find that the house we were visiting to harvest them was a giant adobe home, which had been built by the woman who lived there and her late husband. He’d started an adobe company in the area years ago and we were able to pick her brain for some tips. Which came in very handy as we’re now starting to seriously begin the preliminary stages of building our own adobe home.
When we returned south to Terlingua we were inspired to set up our new cement mixer and make a batch of test bricks. We learned that the mixer we got can only handle a load of about 6 bricks, while the mold we made was for 8, but there are worse problems to have. They’re curing now and will continue to do so for a few weeks before we can really tell how they come out. The plan is to do 6 batches; straight soil, soil mixed with straw and manure, soil stabilized with cement, straw mixture stabilized with cement, soil stabilized with emulsified asphalt, and straw mixture stabilized with asphalt. We only got one batch made as we were lugging the water for it out in five gallon buckets. That problem will be solved soon though as our friend has returned from North Texas with a load of IBC water totes, so we’ll be able to set one up right next to our adobe field to make mixing a more streamlined process.
Finally, we’ve been making and selling a creosote salve at local business and have been shopping around trying to get it in a store in every town in Big Bend. We’ll keep you updated on how that goes. Today we’re taking it up to Alpine to sell it at the Midweek Mercantile, a kind of craft fair/farmers market/concert that Alpine puts on every Thursday afternoon. We’re also bringing some greens from our garden which will be our first time actually selling farm surplus, so far everything has been eaten by us or traded/gifted away.
We’ve also had some cool night time visitors under the shade structure Laura got some pics of.