Sunday, January 24, 2010

On the Horizon: Straw Bale Workshops

While proofreading the newsletter for the environmental education center at Lutherlyn, I was thrilled to note that plans have been set in stone for three straw bale workshops this spring. Lutherlyn is in the process of building its second straw bale structure, a worship and music center. (Terra Dei was Lutherlyn's first straw bale building, to which we credit our early straw bale experience and where we lived for four years.)

March 21-27, 2010: Join us for an Alternative Spring Break focusing on straw bale construction. This week-long program will introduce students and campus groups to the basics of straw bale construction and earth plastering.

May 14-16, 2010: We will be offering a combination Straw Bale Construction and Earth Plastering Workshop. This event will cover the basics of design, construction, and finishing of straw bale walls. It will include plenty of hands-on experience.

May 22-23, 2010: Come for our Straw Bale Work Days! These days will be spent stacking and plastering bales. All volunteers are welcome to attend.

(On a side note, yours truly will be helping teach these events. I can't wait to get my hands on that earth plaster!)

For more information and to register for these events, please contact the LEEP office:

Lutherlyn Environmental Education Program

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Making the Move!

Last we talked about the straw bale chicken coop, Fred and Granddad had put the metal roofing in place. It was Thanksgiving. Winter decided to arrive in earnest the following weekend:

So after the big push during October and November to get the coop done, we were unable to move the hens down to Haven after all. Everything came to a very cold standstill. (Cold and dark, but oh-so-beautiful!)

Our driveway is about 1/4 of a mile in length. Not a big deal; actually, a pleasurable walk to the mailbox. But without a 4-wheel drive vehicle, winter becomes a test of patience. I have a tendency to get vehicles stuck in snowdrifts, so I park up at Great-Grandma's on the main road instead of getting stuck in our driveway.

But the early grasp of winter always gives way to a January thaw, which hit last weekend. We had a nice stretch of days ranging from 25-35 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that most of the snow melted. It was time to move the girls!

I wish I could say they were excited for their move. They weren't. We moved them five at a time in a cardboard box, with lots of squawking for effect. But all that seems to be forgiven and forgotten. They are glad to be home!

See how excited they are? (I know, chickens don't often get too excited, unless it involves treats.) A better word to describe them is content. They are content to be scritching around in the earth without a fence.

Here is a picture of the interior. The right side features food, water, and roosts:

The door opens to their nesting boxes on the left:

Yesterday was their first day to run free for hours. They were as happy as could be. Due to the large overhang of the roof, they found a dry, dusty spot. For a better part of the afternoon, all ten chickens were crammed into four square feet of dust:

Some of you may remember that we actually have 12 chickens. Two chickens opted to stay up at Great-Grandma's. My sweetest little chicken has been picked on by the largest hen. (And therefore, by all the others. They don't call it a "pecking order" for nothing!) Unfortunately, the flock has pulled out a good many of her feathers on the back of her neck, around her tail, and on her lower back. We thought that warranted a break, so she and a friend are going to stay at the other coop for some well-deserved rest time.

You can see from the pictures that we still have work to do on the coop, even though the chickens are living there. Two major improvements still need to take place. The first is to apply the rest of the mud plaster to the outside of the coop. I should be able to finish the two unplastered exterior walls with two good days of work. The second improvement is to run permanent electricity and lighting to the coop. For my friends who don't do chickens, egg laying drops dramatically in the winter if you don't have an indoor light to help them out a little. Electricity would also give us the option to use a heated waterer during the coldest months. We have to run electricity to the garage anyway, so it will be just a small job for Fred to extend that to the coop.

So for now, until winter comes to a close, that means taking warm water out to the girls a few times a day so it doesn't freeze. Compared to the 1/4 mile I was carrying water to their other coop, this is a dream. It makes me very happy to open my door and hear them calling to one another. It makes our homesteading life seem just that much more complete, to have our girls with us under their own little blue roof.