Things built

“Before and After”

September 19, 2016

This weekend, on a cloud free morning, I photographed the Peace Bus as it sat all pretty in the landscape surrounded by spring flowering beauty. The wattle tree with its masses of tiny yellows has certainly grown up since planted some ten years ago.

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The “older” Peace Bus looks a bit haggard to the eye. The stove pipe sticking out the side of my home for eight years, at least promises some warmth within the narrow confines of the inner space.

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And, on the inside….

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The older bus… well, what can I say? It was basic and functional. For the first four years, before I installed a couple of solar panels, I had nine candles opposite me on the dining table for light (and company). No phone, no radio; certainly, no internet.

The silence of those evenings was a felt presence on my journey into a philosophical, deep ecological connection to the land called Windgrove. So very important to where I stand today.

I might add that during the first four years I also had no running water. Nor, even a proper “out house”; just a hole in the ground. Not many city visitors during this time.

But now….

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All the lights work. Lace curtains. A gas heater for instant warmth (city people had trouble with the wood heater). Fully functioning stove and fridge. Top-of-the-line queen size mattress. Even the floor has been sanded and varnished.

Now, there are lots of city visitors clamouring to stay.

Goodnight Dan Bailey

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Look closely at this microscope and you’ll see that the cobweb I was looking at six months ago has taken over. A fairly good indication of it not being used.

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Bad house keeping? Possibly, but more likely that I just haven’t had the time to pursue indoor activities, much as I would like.

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My studio is also a mess, but no cobwebs here. Instead, there are three projects on the go: the carving of ‘Present Time’, 29 more Gaia Evolution Walk posts to be sanded and drilled out before placement, and, a green basketball backboard being prepped for the neighbour kids.

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Speaking of kids, in the past few months I’ve had constructed a bus turnaround for school trips coming to Windgrove.

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And, school trips mean a place to pee. So, two new outdoor toilets. Nothing flash, but the view into the bushes is pleasant enough.

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Then there’s the resident artists who stay in the Peace Bus. To make their stay “slightly” more comfortable, I finally got around to installing a gas heater in the bus and an outdoor shower.

Hopefully, the electrical conduit and water pipes are attached correctly to their respective operational units and not crossed up.

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Well, Steve seems happy enough with the result of his handiwork.

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And this weekend I covered up the trench with pavers all the way to the toilet. Looking good, I think.

Maybe now, time to dust the house? Oh, I forgot. The veggies need watering.

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The (good) blues of summer

January 19, 2015

Between the house and the tennis court I have two blueberry domes totally enclosed to keep the possums out and the blueberries safe.

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Today, and for the next few weeks, whenever I walk past these domes I will peek through the protective wire netting and check on the progress of their ripening.

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These aren’t the same sort of berries I picked as a kid in northern Michigan during those lazy days of late July, early August. Those were huckleberries.

But a berry is a berry. And a handful picked of either berry is a handful of deliciousness none-the-less.

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I’m fully aware that these berries are somewhat “tame” berries as they grow in cages; cages that, like any cage, offer protection but nowhere near the “wildness” of berries grown in the wild.

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Still….. when I crouch down inside the dome and nibble on a few of the riper ones — even those that have fallen to the ground — I can close my eyes and find myself, once again, in the pine forests, on my knees, putting one huckleberry in the bucket for every three eaten.

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Blueberries

I’m living in a warm place now, where
you can purchase fresh blueberries all
year long. Labor free. From various
countries in South America. They’re
as sweet as any, and compared with the
berries I used to pick in the fields
outside Provincetown, they’re
enormous. But berries are berries. They
don’t speak any language I can’t
understand. Neither do I find ticks or
small spiders crawling among them. So,
generally speaking, I’m very satisfied.

There are limits, however. What they
don’t have is the field. The field they
belonged to and through the years I
began to feel I belonged to. Well,
there’s life, and then there’s later.
Maybe it’s myself that I miss. The
field, and the sparrow singing at the
edge of the woods. And the doe that one
morning came upon me unaware, all
tense and gorgeous. She stamped her hoof
as you would to any intruder. Then gave
me a long look, as if to say, Okay, you
stay in your patch, I’ll stay in mine.
Which is what we did. Try packing that
up, South America.

Mary Oliver

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Solar warmth

September 1, 2014

Who doesn’t like having the early morning sun cascading over their shoulder and spilling upon one’s lap. I certainly do.

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Aside from sitting in my cushioned red chair sipping morning coffee, the more delicious awakening to the day actually comes with the warming touch of the sun. In its gentle bathing, it is a reminder that the world — despite what is in the TV news — can be a wondrous place.

But my sun’s rays aren’t coming directly into the house. They first must pass through the atrium and, in so doing, leave behind some of their heat for the cactus, the aloe plants and the air itself.

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The photo shows the division between the atrium and the house itself. Running down the middle are the three sets of French doors that, when closed, keep the heat in the atrium, or when open, allow the sun’s winter beneficence into the house.

In the summer the interior French doors are kept closed and the bamboo curtains dropped down from ceiling to floor. The exterior green windows and door of the atrium are then opened to allow the heat to escape to the outside. Thereby, keeping the house cool. Well, in theory anyway.

Whenever I open the interior doors in winter, what always feels me with a certain childish delight is to see the hanging Peace flags flap upwards with the strength of the incoming heat. Passive solar design made visible.

Here is a one minute video of this process. Notice the unintentional ascetic of the longer flag flying at the same angle as the incoming sun.

solar sun from Peter Adams on Vimeo.

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Progress

August 24, 2014

At the age of 90, the famous cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice.

His reply: “Because I think I’m making progress”.

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Twenty five wheelbarrow loads of top soil later and four exotic African proteas planted out in hollowed out sections from the tree that fell two weeks ago, a friend’s motorhome is now able to enter through the gate without too much of a hassle and park it trouble free in the newly created wallaby proof lawned and flowered area next to the veggie patch.

It doesn’t look like much, this new area, as the progress in building it is incremental, but it is, even if small, a new addition to Windgrove.

In many ways, it is hard to stop doing the work around here — even though my body aches for a rest — because I think I’m “always” making progress with the garden, with my sculpture, with my grumpiness, with my ability to talk convincingly about climate change, even with my tennis.

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Come to think of it, even plants never give up practicing. Hence, evolution.

What would have happened, if 600 million years ago the Ediacarans in the ancient oceans decided that they didn’t need to keep practicing and improving their form. You and I certainly wouldn’t be writing or reading this blog, that’s for sure.

So, we can safely say that: Evolution is a process that never doubts for a moment that it isn’t making progress. What Pablo Casals said, therefore, has been ingrained in our DNA since time first began.

Nothing ever stops wanting to improve. Even if it takes a million years.

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That’s what my tennis coach keeps saying to me: “It’ll be a million years before that serve gets any good.”

Guess, I’ll just keep practicing.

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For “better or worse”, the house I designed has 126 windows. Forty eight of these double paned windows are in the six floor-to-ceiling French doors that line the north and west sides of the house.

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“Better” in the sense that even on the most overcast day there is sufficient light within the house to keep the light bulbs turned off, thereby, saving on the storage of electricity in the house’s batteries. This electricity being gained through roof top solar panels on sunny days. And, also, who doesn’t like the viewed expanse of nature to be so present within one’s home?

“Worse” in the sense that these windows have to be hand washed twice a year. Counting both sides of these windows, the total is 252 panes of glass that have to be cleaned of accumulated grit, salt spray and greasy fingerprints from tiny hands that just love pressing into glass.

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Last week, over three days, I got stuck into doing 80 of the windows.

What never fails to impress me is this: Looking out of these windows before washing them, everything seems okay because the clouding up of the windows is such a gradual dimming of the view, that I don’t notice the change. But after the washing, wow. Such clarity. Such intensity. The fine detail of life that was hidden now pops out — once again.

I say, “once again” because it happens every year, twice a year, this re-enchantment of clarity that comes only after one takes the time to clean up the fine layer of film clouding one’s vision.

As it happened, yesterday a group of Buddhist’s came to visit me with the intention of walking slowly — with focus and intention — Windgrove’s 2 kilometer Peace Path.

Before the walk and after the walk, these ten people were in the house sharing small talk and large talk.

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As I sat with them around the dining table, I couldn’t help but see within the window washing an analogy to life: Slow down, walk with radical presence, observe the minutia of life. This will clear the mind of all those little bits of gritty stress that can slowly build up and dull the intense beauty that is so readily available to all of us. It takes a little bit of elbow grease, but the results will astound.

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