Posted by: anniewarmke | October 7, 2012

Sunday was cold…

Sunday was cold.  Instead of really working in any committed capacity after morning chores, we went for a little hike in the woods.  We gathered up some limbs to use as fence posts and we marked a bunch of sugar maples with the hopes of tapping a few of them for syrup.  Tapping and making syrup will be more of an exploratory exercise than an actual focused venture I’m sure.

Anyway, the leaves are changing and the walnuts and buckeyes are dropping.  We gathered up an entire plastic grocery bag of buckeyes from a somewhat dry creek-bed.  Annie said we could make a pretty penny selling those babies at the auction but I elected to attempt to eat them instead.

Apparently their tannin levels naturally border on poisonous so we are soaking them to steep out the tannins.  Once they’re ready, well score their shells and roast them.  I hope they’re delicious.  We had a Chinese Chestnut tree in the back yard of the house I grew up at and those nuts were delicious so maybe the buckeyes won’t be far off, being in the same family and all.

Lindsay and I cooked lunch, which was leftover potato soup and grilled cheese.  Lindsay was also stuffing peppers with goat cheese and baking them in the toaster oven.  When I then turned on the electric teapot we blew a breaker, only we did not know we blew the breaker for some time.  I stood there, cutting butter and cheese, preparing for the next round, and eventually thought, “Man, these grilled cheese sure are taking forever,” after which, I deduced the problem… five more minutes later.  Idiot. Oh well.

After that I wandered around looking for various things for an art project I’m slowly working on and a solar space heater I haven’t started at all.  After balancing across some fallen trees in the woods, traveling between barns, I crossed paths with Annie on my journey and helped her finish harvesting some amaranth for the goats as it started to rain.

We had some tea and I went off to take the coldest solar shower to date.  Somehow even though I could tell this was the coldest shower, I could also tell that I handled it better than that which previously held the record.  It might have helped that it wasn’t 11pm and windy and that the sun came out while I was in there.  After showering I started some laundry and then took some pictures of my new sleeping quarters… The Happy Nest!
Aaron has moved out of The Happy Nest and into The Dogwood Chalet and I have moved out of The Bunkhouse and into the Happy Nest.  It’s a re-purposed stock garden shed that was going to be thrown away that was renovated into a living space.  It’s got a bunk bed and a desk and that’s pretty much it.  Under the barn wood walls is some straw insulation that will hopefully make this little home a comfortable place to winter… especially with a tiny space heater in there—mm, toasty.


Posted by: anniewarmke | October 1, 2012

Well, it’s be…

Well, it’s been a while since I (Andrew) have written.  In addition to a weekend build, another workshop, visitors, volunteers, parties, a new intern, and general exhaustion, I’ve been busy with the Llama Lounge.  We’ve completed both bottle walls, a lengthy and time-intensive process, and attached a gate, reused of course.  I’m currently painting the wood, which is the bane of my existence, second only to writing the blog.  I’m trying my best not to paint the slate but I am.  I’m also painting my hair.
The good news is we’ve busted out the instruments.  I now have access to a guitar, keyboard, and violin.  I’m not good but I like to play.  The “bad” news with the keyboard is that it is not 88 keys and thus pieces like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata are out of play.  I hope to “fiddle” around with the violin the most, as I know how to play that instrument the least.  This may be difficult because quarters are tight in the Earthship so bad violin-ing would be heard easily, quickly reaching madness-driving decibels.  Perhaps I’ll steal it away when I move into the Happy Nest for the winter.

The Happy Nest is where Aaron currently resides, but once he finishes the Dogwood Chalet, he’ll move into there.  Mandy, a repeat volunteer, has been showing up to help since her participation in the weekend straw-bale build.  This place is addictive, people, and we have proof!  Today they’ll be lime plastering the vaulted ceiling which will be quite messy over head and eventually under foot.

More positive proof of Blue Rock Station addiction is the addition of intern #3, Lindsay.
Coincidently, she and I are from the same part of Ohio.  And interestingly, she is somehow or another related to June Carter-Cash.  She will mainly be helping out with cooking, but she has already done more with slate here than me.  I’m hoping to convince her to share the blog responsibilities with me, especially because I have, of late, poorly kept up with them.

Well, it’s off to chores and the Llama Lounge.  I want to try to finish it today because we have another build this weekend with the ETHOS engineers from University of Dayton, which means if I don’t, I won’t be able to work on it again until Monday. So, here I go!

(Brief explanation of blog as bane: take this particular entry for example: I tried for an hour to post this on Friday to no avail.  Nothing would load on either wordpress or facebook. Nothing would copy or paste.  This happens often enough to discourage anyone, mainly me, from attempting in the first place.)

Posted by: anniewarmke | September 18, 2012

Thursday and Fr…


Thursday and Friday in Athens, OH, Annie and I attended Waste to Wealth: “Building Rural Assets Through Resource Recovery,” a summit organized by the Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative dedicated to finding solutions for all things recycling in our region. When Annie asked if I wanted to attend, I had assumed there would be around twenty people total from various city councils from two or three Ohio counties.  Well, in addition to those people, as the conference unfolded, I was overwhelmed by attending Ohio state senators and reps, CEOs and government officials from other states, and chairpersons of various federal boards from D.C.  I was certainly the smallest fish in the “waste stream” (industry jargon).

Neil Seldman, President of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Thursday’s keynote speaker delivered an inspiring account of successful ventures across the nation achieving zero waste goals.  He praised the Austin, TX waste plan as the template all other cities hoping to achieve zero waste should adopt and adapt.  As he generally explained our current waste issues and potential solutions he lobbied for extended producer responsibility meaning that companies should be accountable for all of the waste they produce.  To prevent millions of pounds of material from entering the waste stream, Neil also petitioned for a bottle bill to demand the use of refillable containers, professing that the real, lasting solution to waste was to not generate any in the first place.  he continued to suggest reuse as the solution to recycling and I was very much encouraged by this notion, especially as that success would make obsolete the jobs of many in attendance, or at least force an adaptation to a changing market.

Pam Curry, Center for Economic Options Executive Director, inspiringly spoke about deconstruction as an option for harvesting valuable materials.  She and her constituents are working hard to make deconstruction a viable and valuable part of our economy.  I spoke to her after her plenary panel asking if she knew of the hundreds of foreclosed properties in the Columbus and Zanesville area about to be demolished and if she knew of a way to salvage the building materials rather than throw them away.  She was receptive to the idea, suggesting one of her colleagues probably knew about it, but went on to share the difficulties of bringing deconstruction to fruition. She explained that, locally and across the nation, entrepreneurs are not convinced of the value of this pursuit.  It was more discouraging to hear that the Chinese are convinced to the point of sending workers to the US to deconstruct buildings and ship the material to China.

I also spoke with Kyle O’Keefe, Rural Action coordinator of the Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative about communication difficulties related to creating a network to connect commodity sources to producers.  There are probably resources available that producers simply don’t know about because of a lack of media infrastructure to support the information in addition to ignorance about the worth of those commodities.  Additionally, broadband is currently extremely limited in Appalachia Ohio.  It was encouraging to hear that our regions State Rep is working on a broadband solution and that Rural Action sees the importance and value of a kind of social network for waste-based commodities.

Friday’s final plenary panel hammered home that localization and treating clean waste as commodities were the best steps toward zero waste.  There is no such thing as a pile of worthless trash.  We have commodities that have worth, from paper and glass to food scraps and yard waste.  We are a resource, either individually or collectively as a city, business, or other entity, and if we connect with, or create, local producers who need our commodities then we become an outlet for sales that will not only get rid of our “waste” but create a profit and jobs for our local communities.

All in all, I had a great time at Waste to Wealth and felt very lucky to have been in attendance.  I was excited and encouraged by everyone’s interest in being accountable for the future, a cleaner planet, and a better life.

Posted by: anniewarmke | September 11, 2012


Thursday I began work on the Llama Lounge.  I brought Guilliame with me so that he wouldn’t feel lonely and so he would have an entire field to eat if he wanted.  As I began to cut up the earth with the mattock, he was more interested in what I was doing than roaming the vast expanse now available to him.  When his young mind wandered so did he off into the field.

Eventually, when his mind wandered again, he remembered he came here with someone and returned to beg for my attention.  I complied for a while but then returned to work and he’d returned to the field and the cycle continued throughout the day.  Despite these pleasant interruptions, I finished digging the footers for two walls and a shallow trench for water run-off along three sides.
Friday I poured the concrete into Thursday’s dugouts.  I had hoped to pour everything but it ended up taking much longer, and using more concrete, than anticipated.  We had purchased more cement the night before but did not unload it from the car.  Of course then we forgot about it and the car was gone most of today.  Luckily the downtime between not having more concrete and the car returning was minimal.

I did not bring Guilliame to help today, as he was sure to step into the wet concrete.  I had to corral the llamas out of the field as well for the same reason.  At one point, they escaped their little enclosure and Aaron and I had to herd them back inside.  I finished pouring the wall footer we needed for Saturday’s Build (and adjoining drainage culvert not crucial for Saturday.)
Saturday, Diane arrived.  She was the sole person enlisted in today’s build.  It was raining and I was not looking forward to working in it.  But soon the rain stopped and we began to construct a bottle wall on top of Friday’s footer.  The bottles act as bricks and a sand-clay-cement mixture (6-3-2) acts as the mortar. We built three layers and then had to stop to let it set, so we turned our attention to the two existing walls.  One of the two was ready for lime plaster so we mixed up a batch (three parts sifted sand to one part lime). Like me, Diane seemed to find the application meditative and before I knew it we were done.
So we could cob beneath it, from the remaining wall, Jay had been removing the slate, which was there as a feature in previous-intern Nans’ design (the Llama Lounge is made to resemble a llama’s head).  Months ago, strong winds had blown off the slate in several places, and it was decided that cobbing the wall might make for less wind under the slate.  Also, the llamas had broken through the wall on the other side and ate some of the straw.  The hole which had been repaired before, needed repaired again, so I cobbed that while Diane cobbed the “slate” side.   Then we were done for the day.  Diane said she had a great time and that she’d be back for next week’s straw-bale weekend workshop.

Sunday, I built another level of the bottle wall and cobbed some more of the slate wall.  But then I wanted to spend some time with Guilliame who I could hear crying at the barn.  I’m pretty sure he knows his name and my voice because when I call out, his cry changes from one of utter despair to “I’m still really sad but I really hope that’s who I think it is.” And then, when he sees me, he has no need to cry anymore and smiles a great goat smile.
We climbed the rocks in the field and went into the woods.  I walked along the trails the other goats had made and he followed right along behind me.  (Why can’t Tomas be as good of a follower?  I’m pretty sure Tomas is mad at me—jealous I’ve been spending more time with Guilliame.)  We made a big loop and it began to rain a little, but we climbed the rocks in the field again anyway and then I returned him to his stall.
Tomorrow I think I’ll try going for a walk with Tomas and Guilliame.  I think Tomas will still be too much of a kid and quit early on, or make such a fuss as to not even begin.  Either way it will be fun.

Posted by: anniewarmke | September 8, 2012

It’s 9AM. Do you know where your kids are? No I don’t.

Wednesday started off with a bang… followed immediately by a second bang.  
The first involved my head.  I’m six feet tall… the door to the goat kids’ stall is five.  I know this for two reasons.  First, on account of my dual information-gathering eyes and interpreting and memorizing brain, I can tell quite readily it is a short door, having dealt with short doors before.  Secondly, this wasn’t the first time I hit my head on it.  Why then haven’t I learned? Kid stampede.

Each morning I enter the kids’ stall to muck it out, anywhere from three to six kids try to run out.  They cannot run out because if their mother has yet to be milked, they’ll drink it all.  Today was no different.  In my attempt to keep the kids in the stall, I hit my head on the door jam… which hurt… a lot.

Second bang.

Shovel and rake in hand, I had tried to use the tools to block the kids from escaping.  Once I hit my head, the combined ricochet and body recoil, fueled by immediate pain, frustration, and anger, jettisoned my face into the handle of the shovel with the force of the asteroid that carved out the Yucatan.  However, my crater already existed—my left eye.

I was done.  The kids were out.  I didn’t care.  I threw the tools.  I didn’t care.  I dropped to the urine soaked ground.  I didn’t care.  My eye was black or so I thought.  Luckily the bone just above my eye took the brunt of the shovel.  My eye lid bled slightly and turned pink and purple anyway if not black.  Once I remembered who I was and didn’t feel like punching everything in mono-sight, I returned to mucking out the kids stall.
Later, Jay and I took a walk over to the Llama Lounge to discuss what repairs and additions needed done to complete it.  To make the building more useful year-round, we are adding two walls that will ascend half the height of the roof.  It will be warmer for the animals, having a little more shelter from the wind, and we can use some of the space for storage.  We’ll start the Llama Lounge bottle wall during a workshop on Saturday.

The rest of my day involved making salsa with Annie.  We had a million tomatoes and peppers that need used up so we began to cut them all up.  I was on pepper duty and eventually I must have cut a few hot peppers because my hands began to burn badly.  I was paranoid I would somehow touch the cut above my eye.  We processed everything including some onion and garlic but as we neared the end and peered into our salsa cauldron it was clear we had more peppers than tomatoes.

So we’ll finish the salsa when we get more tomatoes and tomorrow I start the prep work on the Llama lounge.

Posted by: anniewarmke | September 7, 2012

Heaven, I’m in Heaven

Tuesday, we drove to Athens to pick up Guilliame (pronounced “Gee Um”), the spring-born buck.  When he was brought from the field he was unkempt and downtrodden, pissed on by his peers, quite literally, smelling of musk, timid and scared.  He probably suspected we were there to kill him.  Why would he have hope or trust when he had for so long seen himself as worthless?
As we put on his new collar and lead, he resisted fully his presumed fate, fighting as we pulled him to the car. But then like the Lion having reached the Emerald City, he was brushed and petted, his hooves were trimmed, and he was given a dose of Annie’s special Bach Remedy mix to give him confidence for his long ride to his new home.  Almost immediately he accepted his fate, even if it was death, as being not so bad after all.

We picked him up and put him in the back of the Rav4 which was fenced and lined with plastic and began the drive home.  He never actually laid down or slept but stood, bouncing against the walls as we traversed the rolling Appalachian hills of southeast Ohio.  He must have been confused the whole time thinking, “These people sure are making a day out of killing me, but this is the best I’ve felt in years so I’ll stay awake for it and see how it all plays out.”

After two hours, four pees, and one poop, we arrived home.  Annie decided to keep Guilliame in a different field, separated from the rest of the goats where three of the llamas were kept so that the breeding didn’t start before we were ready.  At first he seemed to think this was the end of his road, but as we lifted him out of the car, set him on firm ground, and began to groom and pet him again he thought, “Alright, you got me. Where are the cameras?  Is that llama a camera? Hey, there is grass here too…munch, munch.”  I fed him some morning glory, which he devoured with great vigor, that was growing on the nearby plastic-bottle green house and made sure he had water Then we let him be.

It wasn’t long before he was crying incessantly.  We could hear him at the house.  He had Stockholm-syndrome withdrawal, missing the familiar cruelty of his old life.  He was also simply alone.  He knew there were other goats around somewhere but he was alone.  So I went to console him.  

I brought Tomas over in his harness to introduce them and to try to lift Guilliame’s spirits.  Tomas however was not interested.  Being the kid that he is, he was more excited to be in a new place and was running around eating things.  Then he heard his mother call from the other field and began to call back in a panic.  So I hooked him back up and we ran home together.  I returned Tomas to the herd and then I returned to Guilliame.  By now it had begun to rain.  

I walked Guilliame into the Llama Lounge to escape the weather.  It’s only a two-sided shelter and the wind was blowing through as the rain fell harder.  By this time the little guy was wet so he tucked himself against a wall beside the big box storage crate and began to weave back and forth in his attempt to sleep standing up.  Eventually he pressed his head against the box and began to nod off.  He looked miserable.

Annie and I couldn’t stand to see him look so sad, sleepy, wet, and cold, so we decided to clear a stall for him in the goat barn where he would be warmer and close enough to the herd to not feel alone.  We waited for the rain to subside enough to make a run for it.  I carried him to the barn, and upon setting him down, could tell he was much happier.  I dried him off as Annie freshened his water and hay.  Then the rain let up and we let him out to meet the ladies.

He was concerned all day that he was going to die.  Now, he was sure he had died and gone to heaven.  As the girls lined up against the fence, he took on the stance of a prince and declared, “I humbly accept the responsibility of the arduous and mighty task set before me for the betterment of goats everywhere… when do we start?”

“Not today Guilliame.” I said and returned him to his stall.

Posted by: anniewarmke | September 6, 2012

Holy Bumps Batman!

Monday during evening chores I discovered a sensitive spot on Trish, Tomas’s mother.  Whenever I feed the goats I generally hug them, rub necks, and massage their rumen, petting them all over out of my sheer joy of getting to work with them.  When I was petting Trish, she pulled away from me when I touched the area just inside her right hip.
Upon further examination I found a small bump I first assumed was a swollen lymph node.  Annie said that was probable as they all might still be dealing with the shot we had given them the previous week.  When I checked the other goats I discovered the same lump but only on some of them. Tilly had the bump on her left side with the addition of a scab.  This fact changed our hypothesis from lymph node to blowfly.

Etta Mae had some sort of  blowfly several months ago that appeared as a bump and scab. When Annie broke the scab she was able to see the larvae.  But when we broke Tilly’s scab we didn’t see anything.  Trish had a very small scab compared to Tilly’s that revealed nothing as well.  We brought all the patients—Trish, Tilly, Pinky, and Lana—into the milk room one-by-one to trim the hair around the bump to have a better look.

Blowfly is still the best conclusion, but there is not much we can do now other than to dust the area with diatomaceous earth, hoping the little bugger eats it, and to treat the exit wound with acidophilus to prevent infection after the insect breaks out and departs.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of Mysterious Bumps—same blowfly time, same blowfly channel.

Posted by: anniewarmke | September 5, 2012


Sunday morning it was raining hard and it had been for some time. Supposedly this wealth of water was the reaching remnants of Hurricane Isaac.  When I awoke, I saw in the swath of land between the bunkhouse and the privy a mighty river. No man could fjord it, no matter how severe his privy needs.

Arriving at the goat barn for morning chores, we discovered several pools of water in the small area between the adjoining barns.  One formed beneath the milk room eave because of yet un-repaired gutter damage from a previous storm.  Aaron took it upon himself to cut channels in the earth with John Henry-style speed, connecting his tributaries to what is affectionately known as “The Poop Canal.”

The Poop Canal is the natural watershed for this area near the barns that often needs kept free of accumulated muck.  Aaron had recently dug the canal deeper, and we joked about a photo op, shaking hands with Jay dressed as Theodore Roosevelt at a ribbon-cutting with fanfare and paper boats afloat on their way to the “poopy Pacific”, or “Poop-cific”.

Eventually it was time to process some paw-paws we had purchased at Thursday’s produce auction.  The paw-paw is the largest edible berry (technically) indigenous to North America.  A paw-paw tastes like a mango-banana, and becomes mushy like a banana when ripe.  Because it is so mushy the peel doesn’t peel easily and the many seeds are difficult to extract from the pulp.  As we began to process, it quickly became evident to me why I’ve never had one before.
The best way to process this delicacy is to put an entire paw-paw in a colander and smash, but we don’t have a colander with the correct-sized holes.  We have so far processed by hand, peeling with a knife and then mashing the seeds out with our fingers, collecting the pulp.  We are saving the seeds to plant as well.  After what seemed like several grueling hours (it was probably less than one) we had enough mash to make… ice cream!

We pureed the mash with some sugar, heavy whipping cream, raw goat’s milk, lemon juice, and vanilla, and then tossed the mix into the ice cream machine, which was dusted off for the occasion.  After the addition of ice, rock salt, and the insanity-inducing whine of a tiny electric motor, we enjoyed some homemade paw-paw ice cream.


Posted by: anniewarmke | September 3, 2012


Saturday, it rained.  We had a small tour scheduled, rain or shine, but it seemed as though the rain would last and make it even smaller.  But, by the time the tour started at 1pm, we had more people show up than we had expected initially.  We did however do the chores in a light rain, which I found peaceful and serene.  The goats were all sleepy and huddled in the barn and I would have loved to have just lain down with them.

During the first part of the tour, which is at the goat barn, Annie asked me to hold up Tomas while she spoke.  He doesn’t mind being held, because again, goats like to be higher than other goats.  (In my absurdity, I imagined him looking down from his ivory tower laughing maniacally at his inferiors.)  The longer I held him the heavier he became.  I’m not sure how much he weighs but 50lbs is close.  Additionally, those 50lbs are around 103 degrees so between the sun, humidity, and a goat’s regular body temperature, I started sweating heavily.  Etta Mae, the second youngest goat (Tomas being the first), tried climbing my leg to join him.  Eventually, Tomas began to fidget to I let him down and he peed and peed and peed.  I hadn’t seen him pee before and I couldn’t believe how long he sustained.

During evening chores he amazed me again.  He was in a playful mood and was acting silly.  Either his leg is feeling a lot better or he is too young to care and will probably make it worse by accident, but he reared up onto his two back legs, one with the recovering sprained ankle, and bunny hopped three times.  It was awesome.  It may soon be time to start training again.


Posted by: anniewarmke | September 3, 2012


Friday, I milked Tuti.  She is by far the easiest goat for me to milk.  She has no quirks to her teats and they are symmetrical and large enough for my whole hand. (Conversely, Pinky has an extra hole in one teat, and a teat so small I can barely pinch it with two fingers.)  I kept a pretty good rhythm with Tuti and was rewarded with a lot of milk.  The goal is always to finish milking before the goat is done eating; otherwise they become restless and try to move around.  I was successful and quite satisfied with her, and my, performance.

Between the four goats we get about a half-gallon of milk per day, which is more milk than we can drink.  We always drink the freshest milk first because, well, it’s the freshest and there will always be more milk coming.  When the fridge is full of milk, Annie makes cheese.  Apparently you can make any kind of cheese but Annie usually makes something that tastes like bleu cheese, which I don’t like very much at all.  Perhaps on the next round, I’ll take part in the process and lobby for a different variety.

Well, the deck to the Dogwood Chalet looks good with its coat of stain.  We will either do a second coat and then a sealant or just seal it.  But, in the meantime, we need a step.  The deck is on a pretty steep slope and currently there is about a three-foot gap between the ground and deck.  So, step one of our step-building process was to build a small retaining wall along the slope with three rammed-earth tires.

First, we leveled the area where the tires were to lay, placed the tires and filled the tires with clay.  It’s necessary to pound the clay into the walls of the tire as fully as possible, to the point of weighing between 300 and 350lbs. Aaron showed me how to do the first tire and then I did the second and third.  By the end, I was out of breath and sweating profusely.  It’s hard work for sure, being hunched over, swinging sledgehammer.  I can’t imagine pounding the 2200 tires in Annie and Jay’s Earthship… not yet anyway.
It was a sweaty, sweltering, humid day and the night was going to be worse, so at 10pm I took a cool peaceful shower by the full blue moonlight.

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