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Spring is coming, but winter isn't done yet...

posted Mar 3, 2019, 2:52 PM by Greg Coffey

The sound of birds chirping has always been a welcome thing after months of the cold quiet, but with a few more snow storms on the horizon, winter hasn't broken yet.

That said, if you've got a cold frame, it's time to start your cold season veggies, and maybe even your lettuce...

Our house project, which was on hold through the winter, is about to take off in a big way. An excavator will be coming in to remove the last of the rock that I've broken up, and get the site leveled for the pad pour. That will be cast once the forms are set, the plumbing bedded, the substrate compacted, the insulation laid, the vapor barrier placed, the rerods tied, the radiant plumbing secured, and everything's been checked off by the inspector.

What fun!

Spring is going to start happening really fast.

Breaking Rocks Part 2 - Chemical Warefare

posted May 28, 2018, 3:25 PM by Greg Coffey   [ updated May 28, 2018, 3:27 PM ]

What a difference modern technology makes...

I went to the land today to do some more chipping away at the ledge we're trying to remove, and after only about a half an hour I had broken off more mass than what we have in many day-long sessions prior.

The secret: Ecobust expanding mortar... poor that gloopy-gloop into holes drilled in the rock (big shout-out to my friend and my brother for helping get all those holes drilled [and swinging the sledge and stuff]) and over the next 48 hours that stuff expands like your waist-line on Thanksgiving to stress-fracture the rock quite nicely.
...nice enough, in fact, that the good ol' pick axe and pry-bar can chunk off the slabs quite well.

Turns out, there's a reason people use dynamite on big rocks...

posted Mar 30, 2018, 2:55 PM by Greg Coffey   [ updated Mar 30, 2018, 2:56 PM ]

Sledges, feathers, and wedges are slow going.
Looks like there will be plenty of work to keep us occupied all summer long!

Feathers and wedges are in.

posted Mar 26, 2018, 6:58 PM by Greg Coffey

Though I contemplated making my own, the cost of materials and my time far exceeded picking up some of these old-fashioned masonry tools from one of the big online stores... oh well; still going to crack open some slabs of rock by hand, which has to count for something.

This is one of the first steps we've taken toward the home project in a while, so it's really getting exciting to see progress again! There's been lots of YouTube watching to get ready for this

Some Inspiration...

Looks like Spring has sprung!

posted Apr 9, 2017, 8:25 AM by Greg Coffey   [ updated Apr 9, 2017, 8:26 AM ]

Barring some late-season frosts, we should be looking at warm[er] weather in the coming weeks, which means it's time to start thinking about planting some of those early crops!
We'll be creating a wildflower meadow in the build site, seeing as the build will not be occurring this year.  In this manner we'll be helping out the native fauna and all the pollinators around.

But what are we doing indoors!?  Time to get outside!

Loppers and Saws

posted Oct 7, 2016, 8:20 PM by Greg Coffey   [ updated Oct 7, 2016, 8:20 PM ]

Time to clear the build site; been over there after school this past week, and will put in a full day on Monday.  Oh yea.

Clearing and Construction Planning

posted Sep 28, 2016, 5:48 PM by Greg Coffey   [ updated Sep 28, 2016, 5:48 PM ]

I'm going to be using this news stream to let people who are interested in helping with the Earth House know when we'll be there working on the project.

Technology is great.

Wedding went off with a single hitch... ours!

posted Sep 28, 2016, 5:45 PM by Greg Coffey   [ updated Sep 28, 2016, 5:45 PM ]

Thank you all who shared the day with us this past Saturday; it was truly a special occasion!

Caterpillar Plague - Beaten, but not Broken

posted Jun 25, 2016, 8:05 PM by Greg Coffey   [ updated Jun 29, 2016, 8:52 PM ]

As southern New England recovers from a bout with Gypsy Moth caterpillars that is (according to many) the worst invasion since 1983, we're forced to ponder a few things:
  • Why are they here?
  • How does the invasion spread?
  • What slows down the wave of defoliation?
  • How do we deal with this in the future?

Why are they here?

Well, the nature of the beast is that some guy in the Boston, MA area released some accidentally in the late 1860s.  His start-up plan was noble; make a better 'silkworm.'  Unfortunately, this did not work, and the only thing this guy was able to start was a major forest pandemic for the subsequent years.

How does the invasion spread?

Like any other insect, gypsy moths and their caterpillars can move on their own.  No surprise there.  What many people might not think of is that they also look for vectors to increase their spread.  One such helper is the wind; caterpillars can spin fine threads and wait for the wind to take them to greener trees.  A byproduct of this spinning of strands is that the little guys hang from the skies (trees) like paratroopers, and can easily grab onto passing animals, people, and vehicles.  This also acts as a vector for their spread, and as we travel the roads of RI and CT, it is readily apparent that the busier the road, the more likely the trees are bare.

What slows down the wave of defoliation?

There are many natural factors that reduce populations, including predators and pathogens, but something we've noticed is that forested areas with a greater diversity of tree species tend to be better off than those areas that have a prevalent species.  Even oaks, when mixed in with many diverse hard and softwoods, are not as defoliated as a lone oak in a forest of maples, and far less damaged than an oak forest.  This may be because the more diverse forests harbor a broader range of predators, or even that the diverse wood will force the caterpillars into the open more often as they try to find suitable food.  Whatever the reason, biodiversity seems to be a good non-chemical means of slowing their advance.

How do we deal with this in the future?

We can safely bet that the gypsy moth isn't going away anytime soon, so we will need to address this insect as a part of our greater ecosystem.  Of course, nature will find a balance, so the various species that are least affected by the moth will do well in forests over the years until the moth has less and less food, and the populations balance out.  That said, we can also engineer our forests to include more diversity, and in so doing, establish trees that will replace those lost on account of gypsy moths.  Cultivating biodiversity is likely the option that will see the forests and the moths reach an equilibrium sooner.

We'll see...

What a Weekend!

posted Apr 6, 2015, 8:21 AM by Greg Coffey   [ updated Apr 30, 2015, 8:19 AM ]

Not only did the prep work get done for all the new plantings, the first round of plants came in as well!  Here we are three days later with 44 trees and shrubs in the ground in well-prepared sites; thank you so much everyone who helped to make this our reality!

Wow; what a weekend...

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