In The Book, there is a mere few sentences about starting on a level surface. Of course, it is common sense. The stack and burn tunnel need to be straight and smooth, so, level.
However simple the idea, the task was in no way easy. Our floor started out level, tamped drain rock. Then we made cob and built walls in there. Over time, globs of cob fell and built up. We walked over them and stomped out cob on top of them, forming little hills and valleys that had to be scraped level without disturbing the drain rock below. Not easy.
So, I am dedicating this entire post to the topic The Importance of Being Level.
We dumpster dive for chunks of granite and marble. Laid out with mortar, this one-inch marble will collect heat under the stove and lend it to the floor.
Kind of a shame this beautiful stuff will be below floor level. (The floor will be a cob floor with a beeswax finish.)
We mixed small batches of mortar in one of Nathan’s water drum troughs, usually used for soaking clay. Mortar is made of strained construction sand and clay. The sand needs to be sharp and fine, aka masonry sand.
Nathan used an old kitchen strainer he scored at a thrift store.
We are experiencing an abundance of mushrooms! Everywhere I look, shrooms are looking there phallic little heads from under the carpet of wet leaves; or springing from stumps; or decaying beautifully along paths.
Are we a bit concerned that honey mushrooms, a parasitic species, are everywhere we look? Yes. But we’ll take that concern with a little salt and sautee it in bacon fat for our Sunday stew. (Honey Mushroom and Chickpea Stew with Cabbage, recipe follows.)
Spider Spring is a spongy little corner of the Oregon Coastal Range. And each time it rains, layers of mycelium blossom into strange and beautiful, occasionally yummy, fungi.
Honey Mushroom Chickpea Stew
Cut one or two pieces of bacon into a hot stew pot. When it behind to render fat, throw in mushrooms (stems removed, caps brushed and gills cleaned of all needles and soil). Cook until mushrooms release moisture and the moisture is evaporated. Add chopped onions. Cook until soft. Add fresh fennel and cumin seeds. Add 4 cloves or so of chopped garlic and a chopped jalapeno. When garlic and herbs become super fragrant, pour in a quart of broth (chicken or mushroom). Simmer for 25 minutes.
Add a quart of water and soaked chickpeas (1 1/2 cup, dried) to the soffritto. Cook for 2 hours. Add 1/2 pound bacon (Irish or Canadian). Cook for 1 hour more. Add a small head of cabbage (or less) and cook for 1 more hour. Taste, correct seasonings. Eat it up! Yum.
Some have asked us about cleaning. If you know me at all, you know that cleanliness is not a strong point of mine. But I have improved a bit because keeping messes contained reduces critter stress. That being said, we use a cleaning solution made of vinegar and essential oils. Smells good and clean with no noxious chemicals. For mild abrasive, add baking soda. Clean, healthy, safe and cheap!
The red huckleberries are much too scarce to make jam, but they add delightful red polkadots to the flame-orange salmonberry jam.
We used pectin and followed the recipe for blackberry jam. After adding the pectin and while it was still boiling, we added a bit more sugar to make up the sweetness that blackberries have.
Our favorite application: Pancakes with peanut butter and salmonberry jam. Holy cow. Yum.
The great puzzle begins. We will use earthen mortar (sand-rich clay mix) to glue our “urbanite” (broken concrete) together. The first course is leveled atop a 2′ x 2′ gravel trench with drain pipe
We will leave the rafters covered with a tarp for an all-season work space. After the foundation, we’ll put down a gravel base for the future finished earth floor. While we cob the walls, we’ll tamp the floor with our feet.