Notes from Windward: #66

Signs of Spring at Windward

It's March - time to shake off winter and do stuff

bringing in sand and rock for concrete

     As the days get warmer and we start to venture farther from the woodstove, it's time to look around and see what tasks need attending to in preparation for another season's growth and activity. One need that caught the eye was to replenish our stock of the sand and gravel that we use to mix our own concrete.

     There's almost always something going on that needs a bit of concrete poured, and it's something I've come to see as the quintissential Windward skill :-) From the retaining wall on the dining hall, to casting pavers for a walkway, to pouring the foundation for the yurts we're going to build for interns to stay in, our ability to mix concrete when and were we need it enable us to build things right, build them to last and build them for a price we can afford.

     We're far enough into deep country that the concrete company charges more than a hundred dollars to deliver ready-mix concrete to our site, and when we're looking at pouring a slab or some project that needs yards and yards, then we're happy to pay the price, but any time we only need half a dozen mixes in order to shore up a foundation, create a pad in front of a door or form up a set of steps, we either crank up the mixer and go for it, or if it's just something small like putting a solid base around a railroad tie fence post, we'll mix a batch in the wheelbarrow.

Ten yards each -- ready to mix

     And so, as soon as the ground dried up enough to take the weight, we called a friend in the hauling business and asked him to put us on his list for a delivery of ten cubic yards of washed sand and another ten yards of concrete rock.

     That's enough to keep us busy for quite a while. Another way that we keep our costs down is that we have an understanding with our suppliers that we're willing to wait until they can fit us in, with the result that we usually get a break on hauling costs since that allows them to use what would otherwise be dead time.

     It's said that the way a sculptor transforms something into a bear is that he takes his tools and cuts away everything that doesn't look like a bear. That's a fair description of our approach to many things this year as we're entering this new phase of Windward's life.

     Way back when, we started with raw land, and for a long time made do with a collection of old trailers and campers for housing, but we're now to the point where those days are behind us, and we're starting to move out the old to make way for the new.

the old cab-over camper, loaded and ready to haul away

     A key project for this spring will be the construction of yurts for interns to stay in during the summer months. We decided that the location we wanted for the first one was currently being occupied by an old cab-over camper, so it was time for the camper to go.

     We jacked it up, backed the flat trailer under it, and hauled it up to the upper garden area where it will be stripped of its useful parts and demolished. It served us well, but we're glad that it's day has come and gone.

     After the camper was out of there, Todd grabbed a farm jack and chain, and pulled the T-posts that had been used to create small "fenced-in yard" there, and by the end of the afternoon, we had a nice clear spot just right for one of the new yurts. Those T-posts will come in handy to create enclosures for the four new apricot trees that we'll be planting next week -- the old saying, "waste not, want not" is as true today as it ever was, especially when replacing things means paying the high cost of gas to get to town and back.

Pulling T-posts with a farm jack
sure beats straing the back

     With the cab-over relocated to our recycling area, the fencing relocated to its next use, and the miscellaneous trash gathered up and sorted out (and it's amazing how much stuff can collect under something that hasn't moved in a few years), it's not possible to tell that there was ever anything there, which is the goal we've been trying to maintain with the various interim measures that we've used to get from raw land to sustainable community.

      We've been willing to work with available systems and resources that weren't especially sustainable as a means to an end, and we're so glad that the end we've been working for is finally coming into sight. That isn't to say that there's not a lot more to do -- for there certainly is -- but more and more of our work is focused on making manifest the sustainable principles that inspire the work we do here, and that's sweet. Very sweet, indeed.

     Removing an old camper, and replacing it with a nifty yurt is just one step, but through the summer, as we pull more of the old rigs and replace them with yurts, the cumulative effect will be to make a significant change in Windward's appearance, a change that will make it all the more self evident that this a different sort of place, doing different things in different ways.

     The investment we're making in each yurt is really an expression of our sense of wonder at the opening of this new phase in our organizational growth as we engage in earnest the process of bring in a new, younger crew -- sort of "Windward - the Next Generation" -- and a statement of how excited we're becoming as we connect with the twenty-somethings coming from all over the country to play their part in taking the work we've done on to the next level.

yurt site number one -- ready for construction

     And so Todd and I take a moment to savor the work that has cleared away a bit of the past and set the stage for something new, something which will speak of Windward's way of seeking sustainability by blending old ways with new materials and techniques.

     These are exciting times for Windward, as spring is in the air and change is happening right before our eyes.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 66