Apologies to those who have been waiting to hear from us... It's been a long time (3 months!) since our last blog entry - yes we are still alive! Actually, I haven't felt this alive in a long time. Upon leaving New Zealand, we spent a few days in Los Angeles catching up with friends, then headed straight to Indiana, and that is where we are now, for the year. We spent a little over 2 weeks living with my (Cory's) parents, and catching up, while we searched for a home. As it turned out, the trailer we had planned to live in was trash (pun intended). Cosmetically it looked fine, but it gave me asthma instantly when we started cleaning it out. So I began to investigate, peeling back flooring and wall panels, only to find that the wooden frame and entire structure was rotten and covered in black mold. Time to go trailer shopping! We found one we love, and that will serve our family much better than our original trailer. We are now living in a 33 foot, all weather trailer that has 3 large slide outs, which nearly double it's width. It is actually comfortable and roomy enough for the four of us. So for the past two weeks we have been trying to set up our daily living. This has included laying a gravel road to our site, digging drainage trenches, setting up sewage drainage, connecting water and electricity, plotting where gardens, and chicken coops and sheds should go... Throw in my brother's wedding, my Grandmother visiting from Florida, and Carrie's parents visiting from Canada - we have been incredibly busy, and needless to say, we haven't even thought about the straw bale house yet. I predict it will be another month before we get a start on it. For those of you who are waiting to see some straw bale action, sorry for the delay!
Turns out that hard labour is, well, laborious... and hard. I am slowly getting used to it, but as I've been sitting on my ass for the last 14 years, I am very sore. Also, there have been lots of things to set up for basic living in the woods. As I mentioned, I have had to put in a gravel road. It still needs some drainage and leveling work, which I'll complete once it dries out a bit. My father owns a tractor that I have been using for almost every task, it seems. I had no idea tractors could be so much fun! As far as site prep, I cut down 7 trees that were a potential danger to the house because they were dying, or leaning too far over the site. I had some quick instruction (from my Dad and brother) on how to use a chainsaw, and I pretty much use it every day. We are currently building a chicken coop for our pullets (young hens), that were gifted to Bethen from Grandpa, so eventually we will have fresh eggs coming in. Since I had to clear the trees anyway, I decided to build a log cabin chicken coop with the felled trees. What a blast! I cut them to length, cut notches with the chainsaw and chiseled them out, then put them into place with the tractor. I will use earth plaster in between the cracks. A great way to test our site's soil for the eventual walls of the straw bale house. Today I made a bunch of test samples for earth plaster with soil from our site. I was very pleased with the clay content, and am excited to see how they turn out after drying. Testing the adobe on the chicken coop is a great experiment, and will give us a good indication of how it will hold up. The coop's roof is a free truck top we acquired from my parents. I reused some old fencing from a dog pen to create an outside chicken run. Since there has been little need for nails, the entire coop has been built for free. We are also using the felled trees to build garden boxes which we are rushing to complete, as it is time to plant. The last tree, a sycamore, I am saving to build a front deck for the trailer. The steps will be varied sizes of huge cotton wood stumps my brother has laying around. We have to buy some nice top soil for the garden, and seed/plants, but otherwise, the cost for garden, deck, and chicken coop (so far) is nothing.
On a personal note, last week we were helping set up and take down for my brother's wedding. It all went very well and they had a beautiful wedding. It was wonderful to see so many old friends, and family. Carrie is doing very well, and is settling in after the initial culture shock of moving to small town USA. She is on a continual search for organic and wheat-free food options... which is somewhat of a challenge here. She is also trying to fit about 4 cubic meters worth of stuff we brought from New Zealand into our trailer, with only mild success. Nuala is always happy, playing more and more, and always exploring herself and what's around her. Today it was the sandbox. She got a mouthful. First thing other than breast milk she's eaten! I really don't think it will be that long before she's crawling. She can scoot around with her legs, and is now mastering the push up. When she connects the two, we're in trouble! Bethen took some time to adjust to all the changes. She was asking to go home frequently in the first days after leaving New Zealand, but is now settling in nicely. She's had a lot to deal with in the past few months - an aupair, then grandparents, then aunty and uncle coming and going from overseas, a new baby sister, traveling across the globe and staying in unfamiliar places. For a girl who's just 2 years and 5 months old, she's adjusted really well, and continues to take it all in stride. She even impressed us as the flower girl in last weekend's wedding, throwing rose petals down the isle before the bride entered behind her. I introduced her to fishing last week, and she loves it. She caught 17 fish in her first two days of fishing. She has a little "barbie" fishing pole for kids which she managed to hook a 5 pound bass on. Incredible! She was calm and reeling it in nicely while I was excitedly shouting out instructions and waving my hands wildly. Unbelievably, the "kiddie" pole was handling it fine even though the fish was as long as the pole. She reeled it in close to us, but the bass spat out the hook... oh well. She's been catching (some might say tormenting) frogs, and swimming in the lake, and generally having a good time being a kid. We catch all of our own worms for fishing, and she even enjoys that.
On the hunting and gathering front, I tried my hand at turkey hunting. During the 3 week season (when we first arrived), I had four turkeys walk right by me, two of them almost right on top of me! Guess I managed to set up pretty good camouflage and am quiet enough for the sport, but as they were females, they were off limits. On the last day of turkey hunting season, after rising at 5 am several days in a row - only to be eaten alive by mosquitos, I packed up my gear, went straight to the grocery store, and brought home a frozen turkey. Carrie thought it was pretty funny, and I dare say there was more meat on it than the wild variety I had been hunting! The fishing is going pretty good, and I will try my hand at hunting again when deer season comes along. I wonder if they sell whole frozen deer at the grocery store?
I've already come to realize that building may take a long time with two little kids to chase after, but then again, I am here to enjoy them too. As far as the house goes, we have been continuing to collect things. My grandfather, who is now in a nursing home, has given away all his no longer needed belongings, and I have acquired all the tools I could ever need to build a house, and tons of building materials such as nails, metal, wood, ceramic tiles, copper pipes, as well as furniture, and more. There is no shortage of auctions and yard sales in this neck of the woods either, and we have found a local farmer who will be baling wheat straw in July... here's hoping the bales will be dry and tight enough to construct our walls with!
Hopefully this entry has caught you all up with our news. Apologies once again for the lack of correspondence, life just got a bit too busy/frantic in the weeks before leaving New Zealand, and subsequently, since settling in Indiana. No matter how organized you think you are, it is always that way when moving house. Let alone, moving house from one hemisphere to another, with 2 youngsters in tow. We do not have an internet connection at our trailer in the woods either, so that makes it harder to keep in touch and update frequently. Please let us know if there is anything in particular we have forgotten to mention that you are interested in knowing about. We have been met with a real mixture of interest, and blank stares, when we tell people here about our plans to build with straw bales and earth. So thanks for your continued interest and support!
Cory and Carrie