I have a lot to say about where I am, about what I’m doing, about what I’m feeling and about bricks. And no pictures to say it with. So, please be persistent and listen to what I have to say and perhaps we’ll all be the wiser for it.
After two years of homesteading, the floors of our two small huts are still laid with dusty gravel. As a result, a thin layer of dust hangs on everything. The walls are dusty, the sheets are dusty, the shelves are dusty. On exceptionally dry days, when the dust causes Marcin to sneeze and makes his eyes water, he sprinkles water on the floors, bringing temporary relief to his ailments.
The floors aren’t the only unfinished parts of the living space at Factor E Farm. Mice scurry between the abundant holes in the walls, floor and ceiling. A light sleeper can hear them scratching as they search for bedding and crumbs. The one-person kitchen houses more mice than the rest of the farm combined. They do not care that there is no heat in the kitchen. They don’t care because they love the crumbs. The crumbs that accumulate because there is no water to wash them away. The sink in the kitchen doesn’t work and the crumbs sit where they are dropped along side piles of dirty dishes, pots, and pans.
Only one small sink on the farm has running water. A bucket catches the water, which is then carried outside and returned to the earth. Some of the time. Most of the time, it overflows, watering the dusty floor of the humble hut. Keeping the dust down in a ring around the sink.
When the pipes freeze on cold days, there is no running water. We store it in barrels, hoping it will last until the next thaw.
Since ice floats to the top, the solar shower (which drains water from the bottom of a barrel) doesn’t freeze. But it certainly doesn’t warm up much either. Even if the electric heater element is working, the surrounding air is too cold to make a shower feasible. Time to move the shower into the humble hut.
The bedroom is also in the humble hut, which doubles as a computer room, which doubles as a meditation space, which doubles as storage space, which doubles as a hand washing- drinking water space (when the water is running) which has no space for anything else. The cordwood room is attached to the humble hut and is a common room. Except when people are visiting. Then it is also the guest bedroom. And when its too cold to eat outside, it doubles as the dinning room. And when the stove is going and isn’t strong enough to reach through the thick cordwood and earthbag walls to warm up the humble hut, it doubles as back up meditation and computer space. Privacy is a luxury.
I am reminded of a story of a refuge family that was given an apartment in the USA to live in. The eight person family moved themselves into one bedroom of the apartment, leaving the rest vacant. When their host came to check on them, worried that the three bedroom apartment would be too small for their needs, he was shocked to find that they were all in one room. He discovers that they assumed such a large space would be for several families. Personal space is a previledge.
There are four stoves at Factor E. And only one is lit. It takes too much wood; too much time and energy to keep any more fueled up regularly.
Plants, faithfully watered all summer, line the greenhouse, asking to be put into the fields. Plant me, plant me. They call. The Wild Woman hears. But the Compressed Earth Block Press has begun to move its jaws. It crushes the voices of the earth into bricks. The men heed its call.
But the Wild Woman can still hear the voices calling. She hears the animals and plants. She hears the water and the dust. Loudest of all she hears the Cracks in the walls of the huts opening up to the howling winds of winter.
The machine screams for attention. The Rototiller whirls and the Tractor purrs. But through all the noise, the Cracks speak clearly: “We cannot deny the winter wind entrance to this room. Winter Wind knows the password and will take the heat of your fire one day when your back is turned.”
So, I make it clear that I cannot make bricks. For the song that fills my soul to be answered, I need to fill the cracks in the walls before winter comes.Â The dust, the water, the mice, the bricks will wait. That’s the art of Pioneering: patience, prioritizing and listening to the heart. I follow my heart and mud the cracks.Â Marcin follows his heart and makes bricks.Â
ButÂ the machine pleads, it begs, it twists the psyche until the subtle voices of the land and cracks are drowned.
So, I help make bricks. Five gallon buckets of dirt dumped into steel chambers. Bucket after bucket. Into the chamber and out the other end. Bucket after bucket. Arms, shoulders, back, neck, wrists asking for a different rhythm. But the machine has a rhythm of its own. Bucket after bucket, it asks for more and more until the monotony is broken only by the rhythm that creates the monotony.
I think of the humble hut, built humbly by three. The tractor, Marcin and me. At our pace and at times, even without me. By Marcin alone the structure could still be erected.
I think of the Earth Bricks built to an unfaltering rhythm. The Press asks for more and more people and more and more machinery at a faster and faster pace. When is enough? Enough is when there is a village or a building company full of people ready with equipment and energy. Compressed Earth Bricks have a place, but are not for low equipment or low people-power operations.
Enough is when the Cracks call again louder than the Machine. And I stop after a week of bucket after bucket. More bricks are needed, will always be needed. But the Wild Woman must listen to the voices of the wind, the stiffness of her neck, the garlic asking to be planted,Â and the Cracks.
I welcome your comments and questions publicly below through “comments”. I also invite you to contact me directly through email: brittany.gill [at] gmail.comÂ
edited by Brittany December 15, 2008