Monday, October 12, 2009

mercedes, new chickens and a broody american..

We had an avocado tree that had grown from a seed and was about as tall as me. Note the past tense. The culprit is in the background there, innocently munching on grass like she was supposed to in the first place. I was fortunate enough to have picked most of the best leaves off the basil to be frozen in readiness for the coming months before Mercedes decimated it too. Lucky she is such a sweetie, otherwise I might be tempted to listen to my father-in-law's espousing the virtue of goat at (or perhaps more correctly, on) the table.

We have a new clutch of chickens to keep the old boilers company. They haven't started laying yet but when they do we will have an absolute glut of eggs. If the broody american doesn't steal them. She has been sitting on her eggs for two weeks now and we found that she was stealing the other chook's eggs to add to her clutch. Oscar's dad came over the other night with a special light and we checked all of the eggs to see if there were actually any chickens inside them. Of the 12 she was sitting on, only two have chicks. No disappointment for me - who want's a hundred chickens anyway?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Searing temperatures, torrential rains and how we coped.

So! Our first summer in the earthship is coming to a close. It is still pretty warm here during the day but nights have cooled down enough to need a light cover on the bed. As you can see from the title of this post, Valencia has been subjected to some pretty extreme weather over the past few months. I was lucky enough to be in Australia for two of them and so missed most of the terrible heat, but Oscar bravely stuck it out. How was it, you ask?
Well, the design of our earthship has vertical windows as opposed to the sloping ones that you most often see. This was to ensure that the angle of the sun in summer would lessen the amount of light entering the house and therefore keep it cool. We also have 16mm climalit glass with a thermal coating on the inner layer. However neither measure is anywhere near enough to stop the heat of the sun hitting the glass and convecting in through the house during the long, torrid summer days. Our bedroom, which had little plant cover and no trees outside shading the windows, got up to 30º celsius (outside it was generally between 39 and 45ºC). We need blinds! I tried some old sheets when I got back from my trip and though they provided slight relief it really wasn't enough. The inner section of Carla's bedroom, which has a partition wall shading it from the light was the coolest room of all, but was still in the mid to high 20s. The skylights in each room (120cm square - huge things) were another source of heat and will also have to have their own little coverings. Of course we haven't had enough money to buy these lovely blinds yet, but they are a priority for the coming year. We just need to save about 4500 US dollars. Ho hum.

Towards the end of September we had absolutely incredible rains for about two weeks. The tanks filled up and overflowed on the first day it was so heavy (they were at about half capacity so that means in one afternoon we collected about 17,000 litres of water). And it just kept raining. At first there were no drips and I was well pleased but after about the fourth day water had wangled its insidious way into the roof and we had to have a few buckets and saucepans strategically placed around the floor. I think the main problem comes from the openeings in the roof. I suppose this is logical but I still can't understand where it is getting in. Everything seems to be tighly sealed. I do have a theory, but to prove it I have to dismantle the skylights and pull up sections of the metal roofing. Not something I am looking forward to but it will have to be done. Luckily the drips are only that, little drips. A more serious problem was that the outer wall in our bedroom grew a damp patch. It was about 2 metres up and about 50cm in diametre. How odd. Investigation revealed an enormous ant's nest dug right up against the wall into the earth berm which had simply flooded with all the rain, running the water up against the tyres and mud, though these are covered with a layer of plastic as per earthship instructions.
We have to fill the ant's nest and pile some more dirt on top.
The damp area has already dried itself out. This is the great wonder of mud wall coverings, they breath and dry so well, no peeling paint or bulging render. Phew.