Summer eclectic

Summer is in full swing here at the homestead. Here are some photos of what we’ve been up to lately.

First Layer of papercrete on the earthbag dome

It was a battle to get the first base layer up during all of the rain we had a few weeks ago, but we managed to finish, and learned a lot for when we apply the second layer at the end of July.

Our PVC skylights finally have a glass cover on them.

The Garden of Eatin’

Our garden as a whole is 85% completed, and 95% planted. This season’s garden is five times bigger than last season.

Here are some of the kids who have made an appearance so far.

The tomatoes are off to a good start.

Our onions are happy campers.

Potatoes are starting up.

The walking onions are strutting their stuff.

The horseradish is growing like gang-busters.

There will be more of what we planted as they come up.. stay tuned.

And the greenhouse has three varieties of cucumbers… Parisian Pickling, Cucumber Delikatess, and Suyo Long. We also have some Zucchini, Crimson Sweet Watermelon,  Valencia Winter Melon, and Kazakh Melons.

Planting Siberian Pea-shrubs

We also planted 300 Siberian Pea-shrub seeds along our road, and around 300 seeds in a bed to grow for root stocks that will be replanted next Spring around the property.

Outdoor Shower

We also put together our outdoor shower. This year we built it out of pallets We still have to install the glass windows at the top, and we’ll be adding pine shakes to the interior and exterior with our froe, and some spiffy floor tiles.

We connected two five gallon buckets and spray painted them black to heat up better in the sun.

We cut a hole in one of the bucket lids and inserted a section of garden hose in it with the connector on the ground for easier access to the garden hose.

The makeshift shower head which works really great.

DIY Solar Night Light

And… made a sconce out of a wire hanger to hold a pair of solar garden lights to add a night light inside… simple and functional.

More to come later.


Montana Rain Forest

Rain… what can we say! It hasn’t stopped, but it has slowed down our progress on applying the papercrete to the exterior of the domes. So far we’ve managed to finish the first layer to the bedroom and the kitchen, and 80% of the front room. And… papercrete is a lot easier then applying the mud we put on last fall. (The mud was to protect the bags and get us through the winter until we decided what finish we wanted to go with) Three weeks ago we decided to go with papercrete. Why? We couldn’t think of anything else. We had to experiment with the mix until we got it right, but afterward, we started churning out batches and slapping it on. Unfortunately, we can only mix small batches at a time since we don’t have a big mixer, just a 1/2″ drill and a mortar mixer attachment.

Here is a pix of the kitchen after the first layer.

The other two domes are not as bumpy as this. Somehow the kitchen is always the test to perfect our technique.

So here is our process for making papercrete:

First, we collected a lot of newspaper from a local recycling bin. I’m sure people thought we were crazy when they drove by an saw legs sticking out from the bin when we reached in to grab bundles of newspapers. Next, we purchased two paper shredders from the thrift store for $5 each. The paper shredders overheat and stop… so we shred as much as we can then let them cool down. We add the shredded newspaper to a 55 gallon plastic barrel filled with water. If we can we let it soak overnight, but there were times we just let it soak for a few hours.

After soaking, we fill 5 gallon buckets, add a little water and put the mortar mixer to them and pulp them to an oatmeal consistency. Then we plop the pulp onto a flat board which is set at an angle to allow the excess water to drain until we are ready to use it.

The formula/recipe we used. (Per 5 gallon bucket)

4 (14.5 oz.) cans of water – 58 oz. total. If you want a thinner mix, add 6 cans instead (87 oz. total). We used sweet corn tin cans bought at the super market.

1 gallon of pulped newspaper

4 level scoops from a 48 oz. container of Portland Cement. (We used a 3 lb. Darigold Sour Cream container.)

1 tablespoon of Borax (to inhibit mold)

Mix with mortar mixer then slap it on.

We also decided on adding skylights to the kitchen and bedroom domes. So we removed the top bags, built a papercrete base that is angled and used a double paned window, then papercreted around the frames. Here is how the skylight looks from inside the kitchen.

We get an amazing amount of light from this.

More to come later.