Now that we have two seasons a year when people can come stay in the encampment here at A-Z West, our composting toilets have been outputting at peak capacity. The toilets are made out of simple- five gallon buckets where poop and sawdust accumulate, and every few days they are emptied into contained concrete composting bins. (A great book to check out on the subject is the Humanure Handbook – Our friend and former intern Ari recommended it a few years back, and we now stock it on the bookshelves at the HDTS HQ.) The Humanure has to compost for a full year before it is used on edibles like vegetables, so our composting bin has two sides that are used on alternating years. (The left side in the photo above has been sitting for full year and the right side is fresh “in progress” compost)
In January we pull out the finished compost, sift it, and put it on the garden – and seal up the newest compost batch so that it can continue to do it’s thing for the upcoming year. Kelly and Dean got to spend a gloriously warm winter day outside this week sifting the compost – which surprised both of them with it’s dirt like qualities. (Though I believe I heard them comment that they found a few pieces of compost that harked back to their earlier formal composition.)
I know there isn’t much point in having a secret spot of you don’t keep it secret – but the location is secret even if the pictures aren’t. Over the last 14 years AZ West has transformed from functioning as something of a monastic retreat to a bourgeoning community. It’s an amazing place to work, and to meet an incredible group of people who are constantly passing through – but for someone with slightly anti-social tendencies, such a public life can at times be a bit rough.
Hence the secret spot which will hopefully set things in balance. Eventually I’ll get to spend time here in isolation, but like all big life improvement projects, it’s going to take a while to get there. Elgin helped me haul everything out of the cabin this week – getting ready for a big cleaning, a new roof and bigger windows to let in more of the view. We are keeping as much as the original siding as possible (interior and exterior) and I’m going to try to not drive myself crazy obsessing about making every single thing that goes in the space. (I always say this – and always end up getting carried away anyway)
After Sunday brunch at the Palms Brad, Brooks, Dan, Travis, Jack, Bob and I went deep into Wonder Valley to move Bob Dornberger’s Secret Restaurant which had been accidentally installed on Mojave Land Trust Land instead of our 40 Acre HDTS parcel off of Iron Age Road. Figuring out parcel boundaries is a tricky affair at best, and the original placement of the restaurant had been off by several yards causing visits from BLM and a lot of consternation trying to figure out exactly who’s land we were on. (Sorting this stuff out is crazy difficult – because we are miles from any sort of physical marker or visible boundary)
Bob decided to move the restaurant onto our HDTS parcel this weekend – He, Brooks and Brad dug up and disassembled the structure on Saturday, and on Sunday a larger group of us came out to transport and reinstall it. I coaxed Travis and Jack out there after brunch for what I loosely referred to as “an hour or two of digging” – but once we got into the project they super graciously stuck around to see it through. Bob had made an “off road” cart to move the steel panels with and things went fairly smoothly until the very end of the day when we were starting to lose the light and realized that the bottom of the hole needs widening in order to fit the panels together. (one of the panels torqued when we tried to slide it into place) I think I may have overheard a few sad sighs from Bob about not being able to finish what we had begun, but it made the most sense to all of us to return when we were fresh and had more daylight and less stress. (Don’t miss the next incarnation of Secret Restaurant: “Full Moon Ramen” on March 15th!)
Kelly initiated Formal Fridays in the studio when she came to work in an amazing royal blue velvet dress with huge gold jewelry. This week Kelly, Eden and Dean pulled it off – I had big plans for formalism, but got caught up cleaning the chicken coop this morning and haven’t managed to to clean up since…
Back in uniform. For the last few years I’ve been making my clothes out of panels – with a few similar panel options for each season. But I’ve been missing the more stringent “one garment at a time – all the time” dictate – it’s just easier, and it’s also so much more challenging to make a garment that you know you are going to have to wear a LOT. The leather skirt is second hand and works great with wool thermals layered underneath… really warm when the desert gets cold. And I crocheted the sweater out of really beautiful variegated grey merino wool. Also worth mentioning is that in summer of 2013 I finished two decades of uniforms. So its now going into the 21st year of this project… amazing!