Notes from Windward: #59

This and That
glimpses of what's going on

Hi! Walt here, and welcome to a quick tour of what's going on around Windward these days.

One of the pads for the new cabins
This year has seen substantial progress in a number of areas, most notably in the preparations for constructing more housing. Our conditional use permit allows for the construction of more cabins, and we're currently in the process of doing the site work needed to prepare for actual construction to start this fall.

One of the first things that had to be done was the clearing of a pad for the construction to take place on. We're nestling the cabins back in the woods, about half way up the slope between the dining hall and the water tanks, so they'll be somewhat back from the main area, but still close enough to be convenient.

Dennis nails the decking on the rood of Finney trailer's utility buiding
The electrical code requires that a mobile home have an exterior disconnect located within thirty feet. One reason is so that in case of a fire, there's a way to quickly and safely shut down the power without having to enter the trailer. Since Finney trailer is located fairly close to the water tank, we also will need to install a booster pump to raise the water pressure. While we're at it, we want to have a generator rigged to provide power for when the grid is down.

The upshot is that we decided to construct a utility building next to Finney Trailer in order to centralize these functions. It's an earth-sheltered ten by twelve foot square room with a dutch style room. Dennis is nailing on the planks that will form the first layer of the roof using wood that Bob2 cut on his sawmill from trees we cut down on site (whew! that's a mouthful).

Heather at the art show
Heather's been creating artworks using the medium of handmade paper and silk. Her work has been receiving some exciting aclaim both artisticly and financially.

There's a special train that winds up through the orchards, forests and rivers that line the slopes of Mount Hood. The train carries folks up from the town of Hood River, across the river and through the orchards and forests that line the slopes of Mount Hood to the quaint city of Parkdale. In the spring, people come from all around to ride the train up to Parkdale. Once there, they disembark and wander the town tasting the local wines and viewing local works of art.

It's a juried show, so Heather was delighted to have been selected to display her works. She was even more delighted when a number of pieces sold both at the show and at the an art gallery in Hood River.

The power supply for four cabins
In order to bring electricity to the four new cabins and Finney trailer, we're going to be installing a 650' addition to our main power service. Before that happens, we have to get the electrical services installed and approved.

What you're seeing here is a 400 amp meter base that feeds two 200 amp service disconnects. Each of the disconnects will serve two cabins. The large metal thing on the left is the 400 amp meter base, and the smaller metal box on the right is one of the 200 amp disconnects. The other disconnect is directly behind the meter base, and doesn't show in this picture.

I'm especially proud of this design and layout because it gets a lot done in a small space. We're trying to do the construction work so that it ends up being an unobtrusive as possible. Ideally, I'd like to see the cabins blend in with the trees as if they had just grown up as part of the forest.

Momma Duck makes a nest in a tree
One of the sure signs of the end of spring and the beginning of summer is when the hens start seeking out their nesting sites. They tend to use the same sites year after year, so over time, we've learned where those site are and can keep an eye on how the clutches are coming along.

One of the prime duck "condos" is a space in the base of an ancient oak copse. When you cut down an oak tree, the root system doesn't die. It just send out new sprouts and busily sets about regrowing the upper part of the tree using the resources stored in the underground part of the tree.

In the case of this particular tree, three sprouts took hold and grew three trunks from the same root ball. Over time, the three trunks grew together and formed a hollow space. The hens think that this is just the most nifty place to lay eggs and it's common to see a flood of eggs there as different hens try to "lay" claim to the nest by laying an egg in it.

The electrical and phone service to and from the dining hall
This is a good example of how much of the good work we do around here just doesn't show. It's a bit like the work of a good magician in that if you can see the evidence of how he does what he does, then he's not very good at what he does.

In this case, buried under that clear and level space between the electrical boxes on the left and the building, there are four runs of conduit: two 2" runs, one 1 1/2" run and one 3/4" run. In addition, the main water line runs through this space as well.

Dennis and Gina did a lot of work on this area, and as you can see, none of the good work they did shows. A casual visitor to Windward will only see a nice, neat area, and have no understanding of the effort that went into making things look so simple. Anyone can make something look hard; it takes skill and effort to make something look easy.

Adding the skirting to Finney trailer
One of our prime goals for this year is to get Finnery trailer online this summer/fall. One key part of that process was the installation of adequate skirting. Since Finney is 12' by 60' with one large push-out and a tip-out on the end, and since the trailer is installed in an area with a substantial slope, the skirting project was non-trivial.

Still, like most other things here, it was just a matter of taking things a step at a time and getting on with it. In the lower left hand corner of the picture, you'll notice our flat bed trailer. It's a multi-use piece of gear, and in this case, it's serving as a 6' by 10' work table. With 111 acres to work with, we're developing a variety of ways to set up temporary working capacity where ever and when ever its needed.

The peacock in the wood pile
One of our neighbors has a flock of peacocks that range our place at will. One of the males decided that our stack of railroad ties would make a dandy bower, and so he took up residence.

The stack is right alongside the driveway, and for weeks, whenever a car would come near his bower, the peacock would jump down and do a display to show the intruding car that this was his territory, and to move on. Remarkably, it worked every time ;-)

We don't know if he's been successful at attracting a mate, but he sure has been fun to watch.

Fern and Penny
One of the Karakul lambs was born late in the season to a first time mother, and had a hard time initially. For some reason, the lamb wasn't able to stand on its own, and that meant that it couldn't nurse. The new mother was very concerned and kept pawing at the lamb. We were afraid that she might inadvertently hurt the lamb, so I scooped it up and took it into my trailer.

For the next few days, I keep the lamb in a straw bed in my place near the fire, and regularily tubed it with milk. In time, it started to get its feet, and to gain its strength, and once we were fairly certain that she would live, the little lamb was dubbed "Penny" because of it's copper colored fleece. That's a rare color for a Karakul, which was an added incentive to help pull this lamb through.

Well, with all the attention, Penny has grown into a very loving lamb, and she especially loves it when Fern brings her down a bottle of fresh goat milk to drink. Each year seems to have its special lamb or kid; this year, it's Penny.

The new "compost mixer" is delivered
We're always expanding our garden areas, and that means we have a never ending need for compost. The standard compost mixers are too small to make a real difference. Since our soil is cool, we're relying on container gardening in really big tires, since that adds about another 45 days to our growing season, but the task of filling all those tires with a soil, compost and manure mixture is a daunting one.

The plan is to use this old cement mixer as a both a composter, and to adjust soil composition. The commercial trucks now use much bigger mixing tanks, and this one was "too small". I figure it will be "just right" for us.

Walt with one of the new gensets
We're always on the hunt for equipment that will further our goals of self-reliance and sustainability. Storing a year's supply of food is a substantial challenge, and freezers play a key role in that. We strive to can, dehydrate and root-cellar ever more food each year, but freezers will always play a role in our food storage and utilizaiton strategies.

Freezers offer a number of advantages, and one big draw back. If the power goes down for an extended period of time, a lot of food is at risk. Canning takes more work, but once the food's in the jar, there aren't any energy costs incurred to keep the food safe for years.

We've been without grid power for as much as five days, and so as our food storage grows, our need for emergency backups is also growing. That's why we were especially delighted to be able to acquire two 15 Kilowatt diesel generator sets. This means that come what may, we'll be able to operate the kitchen and keep the freezers running.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this mini-tour around Windward, and a glimpse into some of the projects that are going on. You might also want to click over to The Old School to check out the activities and classes that we're going to be offering over the Labor Day weekend.

With best wishes from Windward,


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