Re-Grow Roots

Learning to live harmoniously in Missouri.


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Cob Oven Workshop at OM

Spring is here again!! Flowers blooming in the fields, cherries growing plump on the trees, strawberries ripening, bees buzzing, greens growing everywhere… and we have been busy busy planning, growing, and BUILDING! Our most recent build is our beautiful, brand new, earthen cob oven.  Lots of local folks came out to help us with the project, friends from East Wind Community, folks from the Ava Growers Market, and some good friends from down the road. Most of the materials were sourced from the land we call home. We dug the clay from a hole next to the Outdoor Kitchen, shoveled creek sand into buckets and hauled it up here, and the platform the cob oven sits upon is built from beautiful large rocks from the creek bed. We used firebrick that we salvaged from here and there, tiles for a lovely countertop also laying around on the property… this land is just full to the brim with useful supplies!

timberframe

The structure on the left was built over the Winter and finished this Spring using roundwood Cedar timbers from our beautiful forest. It is primarily timber framed and we attached it to the timber frame building on the right side which was built several years ago by a former Communard. That beautiful structure on the left side there surrounded by river rocks is our cob oven platform. There are pallets on top of old metal barrels that act as the real structure, all sourced from our scrap piles, and the rocks serve as beauty and form. We filled the pallets with a simple clay and sand cob mixture to insulate the cob oven.

We began the build by first setting up fire bricks where we wanted the cob oven. Then we made a form by putting some salvaged cinder block and a bucket full of bricks to take up space within our sand form. The sand form was made from sifted creek sand and water, basically like building a sand castle, but a sand igloo! This is just to make the shape of the cob oven. You build the middle to be the size that you want the interior of the oven. When the oven is dry, we will dig out the sand castle and remove the blocks and bucket. Once the form was complete, we covered it in wet phone book paper. This is to insure that the sand igloo doesn’t mix with the cob and making it easier to dig out.Without this you could easily dig out extra or have sand falling onto your first pizzas.

Cob cob COB!!! The mixture we ended up using was one bucket of clay to two buckets of sand, give or take some handfuls. With every batch we mixed, we did a drop test to check the consistency. After stomping and mixing the clay and sand and water thoroughly, we took a handful of it and kneaded it about 50 times, then dropped it from chest height onto the tarp we mixed it on. If it crumbles and breaks apart, there is too much sand. We always veered on the side of too much sand and gradually added more clay until we could drop it without crumbling. Too much clay in the mixture will cause more cracking as the oven dries. The ration of sand to clay in cob will vary a lot from place to place depending on the amount of silt and soil in your clay.

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First layer of cob is complete, about 4 inches thick… now for the second layer!!

After a firey Beltane and cob celebration, we went to bed, woke up the next day, and went wild with more mud for layer two of the oven! We didn’t get as many photos of the beginning stages of this layer but it went on the same way, from the bottom up. This layer is made from the same clay and sand mixture with added straw this time for extra insulative properties. This layer was intended to be about 3 inches thick but is between and 4 and  6 inches in many places. We decided when the oven is dry we are going to chisel out the door a bit and make it wider so we can fit up to 14 inch pizzas in there!  During this awesome workshop, we splurged on loads of yummy pizzas from our small cob oven that we completed a couple years ago. Wish I would have snapped some shots of our scrumptious yummies! I promise they were beautiful. So now we are letting the cob oven dry out for a while. We may add some sculpting to the oven to make her super awesome and one of a kind and we will add a plaster and mosaic once she’s dry.

cob-oven

This is our mini cob oven, built long before the Outdoor Kitchen extension. We still use it once a week for pizza nights!

Hope you found this inspirational and educational! Let me know if you have any questions and get out there to play in the mud…

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Living in Intentional Community

In March of this year our little family made the move from small town to intentional community at last! We had dreams of living amongst a group of like-minded, radically sustainable, egalitarian kinfolk for the past few years and when the perfect space made itself clear to us, we moved on in. So here we are at Oran Mór going on our fourth month and we absolutely love it! Building a life and raising our sweet Kalani Rain here with these beautiful people is a wonderful experience and we grow more each day.

Our values are very in sync with our fellow community members and they are based around love and respect for each other, the plants, the animals, and the earth by being sustainable and thoughtful in everything that we do. We hold daily meetings to discuss anything that might be on our minds and so we can coordinate projects, plans, and goals together. This keeps an open stream of communication flowing, an incredibly important aspect of communal living.

In four months we have achieved many goals and added many more to the ever-growing long-term and short-term lists. In hopes of inspiring and educating, I’m going to share with you some aspects of life here at the homestead. Enjoy!

Housing

the Catbox

the Catbox

Currently we are living in the main communal house, nicknamed “the Catbox”… Before Bunny and Pearl (Oran Mór founders) moved to this land, the Catbox was a large garage. They converted the space into a home with mostly salvaged materials about a decade ago. The electricity comes from two solar panels outside which provide light, a radio, and a minimal amount of other luxuries. It stays cool during the Summer because it is downslope in a riparian zone with trees providing shade. In the Winter we heat with a cozy wood stove. Water is brought in from the hand-pump well for drinking and we also have a rain water catchment on the building that we use for plants, animals, and other tasks. This is a multi-family dwelling which currently houses two families.

I’m so excited about our new housing project! We ordered a tipi from a pretty big, reputable company called Nomadic Tipis which is on it’s way to us as I write. This coming week we will be cutting down Cedars to make the tipi poles so we can set up our new tipi home! Our dream is to build a straw bale cob house, so this tipi will be a temporary dwelling. It will allow us to move up to La Lomah where we will set up more gardens, raise more chickens, and set up the vision of radically sustainable permaculture community that we share.

Food

We have two kitchen spaces. One is a communal space that utilizes electricity coming from the grid so this is where I’m plugged in typing up this blog. This is also where we have a few stove burners and do some of our cooking and where we have a refrigerator and freezer. The electricity is purchased from a renewable source, but is not produced on-site. We also cook using a cob oven in our Summer Kitchen several times a week. We bake pizzas, bread, make soups, turnovers, etc. Our extended community will be coming together next month to build Bio-Char stoves so that will be an added addition to the Summer Kitchen.

the Cob Oven

the Cob Oven

Our gardening style is primarily no-till and many of our beliefs stem from the permaculture philosophy. We grow as much as we can and supplement with local and organic foods. We believe that our food should be full circle, as in we grow food, eat food, and poop food so we use composting toilets and pee on trees. Every year we plant hundreds of native trees on the property, many nut and fruit-bearing varieties that we or the resident wildlife forage.

Currently all the residents here are meat eaters, but we tend to eat only what we raise and sometimes we get meat from friends and neighbors who we know raise their animals with love, respect, and freedom to roam. We live amongst dairy goats, hens, guineas, ducks, and geese (also dogs and cats, but we don’t eat those). The goats have a special place in my heart. Most mornings I tend to feeding and milking those lovely gals and making sure all the boys and kids have what they need. It’s a beautiful, nurturing way to start each day. When we decide that it’s time to kill one of our own, it is a ritual practice that we put much thought into and it normally occurs around a solstice, equinox, or other seasonal celebration. We have the utmost respect for various eating practices so all are welcome. Vegan, vegetarian, paleo, it’s all good!

Our Values

The word sustainable can be used in a variety of ways, so I’ll clue you into our philosophies on sustainability. We believe that it is best for the planet and our co-inhabitants of planet Earth to step lightly and be minimal in our lives. We don’t have air conditioning, we only use hand tools, firearms are not permitted, there are no tractors or tillers, and we don’t watch television. Most of our days are spent outdoors living life, doing and being. Don’t be fooled though, we have plenty of fun here! We play music, tell stories, work together as a group, spend time watching lightning bugs, garden in the nude if you feel like it, swim in the creek, eat together, and play together. We have parties, celebrate the seasons, and rejoice in life. We do believe in working hard for our livelihood and we balance that with a very laid back approach and lots of down time.

The Vision Statement from our website:

“We envision and work for a community which embraces the following values:

  • Living simply in harmony with our environment, producing a healthy human habitat while enhancing biodiversity and honoring the wild beings that share our land;
  • Living with a positive, loving focus, resolving our differences non-violently, valuing cooperation and sharing, and fostering respect, honesty and responsibility in all relationships;
  • Encouraging and supporting individual creative expression and spiritual development, enjoying each other and celebrating each person’s unique contribution to community.”

Living in an intentional community is a dream come true for us. There are ups and downs just like anything, but we are here for each other through thick and thin. Open communication in a respectful and loving manner is the foundation because it creates a safe space where everyone is equal. Our dream is to become egalitarian in the coming months so everything will be shared equally amongst all here at Oran Mor. We have many dreams and one by one, we are checking them off the list.

For more information, check out our website.

Other Intentional Communities

If you are at all interested in living in an intentional community or have thought about starting your own, my advice is that you check out some of the many communities and farms around the country. Before moving into this community, I traveled for 3-4 years living and working at several farms and communities. This allowed me to realize the aspects I love and the aspects I don’t are for and figure out a clear idea of what I’m looking for in community. To get started, here are some links to communities around the USA:

Have you though about living in an intentional community? Please share your experiences and questions!


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Spring on the Farm at Oran Mor

Good morning! We just finished up all the morning chores… chickens, ducks, and geese are out. Guinea keets have been tended, fed their organic starter grains and probiotic supplements. They are so cute, those little tiny baby guineas. The guinea eggs we are incubating have been turned and my favorite chore – the goats have been milked! Pearl is making breakfast of fresh turnips and eggs for community breakfast and I thought it would be nice to share some photos of the garden.

Motherwort in bloom, will soon be harvested for tincture.

Motherwort in bloom, will soon be harvested for tincture.

Squash, Tomatoes, Peppers, Okra, Sweet Potatoes, & Cukes ready for the ground.

Squash, Tomatoes, Peppers, Okra, Sweet Potatoes, & Cukes ready for the ground.

The rock bench below our Bradford Terrace gardens where we are growing greens, potatoes, bergamot, and elderberries.

The rock bench below our Bradford Terrace gardens where we are growing greens, potatoes, bergamot, and elderberries.

Dale Gardens - growing tomatoes, basil, onions, kale, cilantro, and other greens.

Dale Gardens – growing tomatoes, basil, onions, kale, cilantro, and other greens.

Arugula flowers in another green bed.

Arugula flowers in another green bed.

A greens bed growing lettuces, mustard, and arugula.

A greens bed growing lettuces, mustard, and arugula.

Our many, many elderberry bushes are blooming!

Our many, many elderberry bushes are blooming!

We have been using our cob oven a lot this Spring, delicious pizzas!

We have been using our cob oven a lot this Spring, delicious pizzas!

There you have it.. hope you enjoyed a small taste of what’s going on here at the farm. I will update soon with some photos of our animals and more of the gardens once things get a little bigger. We have lots of corn, squash, and cukes in the ground and so much more to be done! Fun on the farm never ends.

What are you growing this year?