Cob Project: The wheels are in motion for a new cob and straw bale building at Harts Mill in 2017 in collaboration with Greg Allen from Mud Dauber School. As of this writing, the final design is still being developed, but it is fair to say that the building will be substantially similar to a project Greg recently pursued. A pit being dug for the cob for the building will eventually become a root cellar. Follow the blog for progress on the project, see more about the plan, and sign up for planned workdays in April or to donate to the project.
Trails: One of our early projects on the land was to build a system of loop trails to take walkers deep into the woods and to the far edges of the property. Work started with a group of Anthony’s students in the Spring of 2014; Anthony kept staking trails ahead of the work-parties; many members have taken pa
rt over the time since; and in Spring of 2016 we completed passable walkways all around the main chunk of the property (we haven’t gotten across the beaver pond/marsh area to the southeast yet). Varied terrain and woods and fields are included on almost a mile and a half mile of trail. Current trail work consists of maintenance and upgrades: clearing stumps, levelling the footway, and reorienting the trail to avoid damage to special wildflowers and fungi that keep showing up.
Beehives: For two summers, Randy cared for hives at Hart’s Mill. In the fall of 2014, we worked with the National Pollinator Partnership to obtain wildflower seeds and seed about 1/4 of an acre in plants that are beneficial for pollinator species. We tilled the land, planted the seeds, and put two beehives next to this “bee buffer” in April of 2015 as a step in exploring the viability and integration of honeybees into the landscape. The hives seemed to do well through the summer. In September, one of the hives mysteriously perished overnight in a manner consistent with what has been experienced recently by many beekeepers- “colony collapse disorder”. The other hive made it through the fall but starved in the winter. It appears as if warm temperatures in late fall/early winter resulted in an unnatural buildup and depletion of the hives resources so that all of the reserves were gone in February before the spring nectar flow kicked in. A message was sent around and the committed Harts Mill community pitched in in early 2016 to try again, this time with three new hives. These hives all collapsed, and as a result, beekeeping is on hold for the time being at Harts Mill.
Village pathways: Last Fall we staked out the paths of the current site plan on the land and began mowing and where necessary clearing them (through the ailanthus slash field), so that members and visitors can begin to envision the actual village on the land. These are now even visible on Google Earth! Since the site plan may be adjusted, we may be clearing new paths soon.
Tractor and shed: To aid in bush-hogging, mowing, and eventually plowing, we acquired a tractor this Spring thanks to the generosity of Marsha Back and financing from Paul and Anthony. “Big Red”, “Red Rocket”, and other names are being considered for our classic workhorse 1962 Massey-Ferguson 35. Meantime we needed to build a proper shelter for it, so over several workdays in the spring and a big work camp over Memorial Day weekend, we built a big shed roof for it off of the storage unit. Thanks to a big crew for that work – and all the fun at camp in the meantime. [photos, both shed and camp; Paul on tractor]
Water: The shed is about 400 square feet of roof that drains into a 300-gallon storage tank that in turn is piped 250 feet or so the garden, where we have set up a bright red hand pump so that gardeners can easily pump water for the plants. We also have 100 gallons of water storage at the Pavilion. Now we are fine-tuning the tank and pump system.
Vegetable garden: This year’s garden features tomatoes, carrots, pole beans, and herbs. Thanks mainly to Carol and Paul, the soil has been enriched with plenty of compost, biodynamic and other soil amendments, and straw to keep the weeds down. Carol conducted an experiment contrasting biodynamic and organic approaches and how they affect production across a number of factors. We look forward to seeing her results soon. In the meantime, we’re sure enjoying the tomatoes!
Tree of Heaven (ailanthus) removal: Ailanthus is an invasive tree which is harmful to other trees and native species. Our forest stewardship plan recommends removal, but this is easier said than done. Cutting them down or pulling them up by the roots just encourages rapid growth. This past year, Donna and Margret have been experimenting with an eradication technique involving girdling the trunks (removing the outer layer of bark) and inoculating them with oyster mushroom spores. There are some signs that it’s weakening the tress, but it’s still too soon to tell. This method provides a clean way to address the problem though it takes a lot of work.
Maintenance and upgrade at Pavilion and Fire Circle: Early on, we built a Fire Circle and soon thereafter a Pavilion at the “center” and high point of the land, and these have become main community meeting and activity areas. Now we keep them mowed and cleared (gradually expanding them, e.g. the new mowed circle around the big oak tree, first cleared for our beginning-of-summer work/camp/out) and gradually upgrade them, e.g. Anthony built stone steps by the Pavilion, and Donna got us a big loo upgrade.)
Field maintenance: As the land comes under our active management and the ecologically draining farming has ended, we also need to keep the meadows somewhat open while considering habitat for small field animals and insects as well. We have bush-hogged most of the east meadow and now keep it mowed down for community activities, while following a schedule and establishing a plan for bush-hogging the rest (west meadow and Far Field) in sequence over several years.
Forest maintenance: A forestry consultant has just come on board and we are looking at his recommendations in conjunction with the farm planning work. Some of them overlap with current trail maintenance projects (eg. dam clearing). Read our Forest Stewardship Plan, funded by the Eno River Association in 2013.
Maintenance at Frazier Road: We maintain the lawns on the old Kim V. property adjoining Frazier Road, including the old house site, and in general try to meet the neighborhood aesthetic where our main entrance road will eventually go.