Sunday, September 13, 2015

Our 15 Minutes. Tiny Homes on the Move by Lloyd Kahn

This post is a LONG time coming.  In 2013, our friend, Martha Latta, passed on a Mother Earth News magazine that had a "call for entries" posted in the back.  Lloyd Kahn was looking for submission for his new book Tiny Homes on the Move.  I thought what the heck...I can submit some pictures.  I did and months later we were notified that we would be included in the book!  How cool is that, right?  Here is a link to the book on Amazon or maybe your local library has it?  Check it out.

We are on page 62!

The book is full of amazing people living in fantastic homes.  I enjoyed having the contact information on the bottom of the person's page that led me to a lot of links where I could check out stories and such of all the cool folks.  If you are interested in tiny living or alternative housing, this would be a great addition to your library!     

Monday, September 7, 2015

Naked Goats!

On July 23rd, we took our 4 sweet angora goats back to Speck Farms in Kerrville so we could have them sheared.  It was a fantastic experience.  The shearer, Keeno, has been shearing goats since he was 17.  He said that he would travel from ranch to ranch throughout Texas and Mexico helping his dad shear 1,000's of goats.  I'll tell you, he made it looks so effortless and easy.  I was SO impressed.  He was gentle with the animals and I only saw one tiny nick, after dozens and dozens of goats.  Truly a craft!
This is Mo.  He was so tame and chill.  He just laid there.  I asked Keeno if all of the goats were like this and he said, "No way!  I wish!"  Later, I saw goats trying to bite his pants!  It was pretty funny.

The mohair came off of Mo like butter.   I bet he felt SO good.

This was one of our girls.  I got a quick shot of before....

and then after.

They bagged all of our mohair up in separate bags so we can keep the fleeces separate from one another.  I have been washing the mohair and I started taking a spinning class through Hill Country Weavers in Austin.  I'm excited about it all!

But I do sell the mohair!  If you are interested, email me at

Angoras on the Farm!

We have recently, in July, added more goats to our herd!  I am very excited about having these Angora Goats from Speck Angoras.  We attended the HLRS annual auction and brought home 3 lovely ladies and one fabulous male.  Mo, the buck, is pictured above checking out Lena Marie.  He is such an awesome goat!  No aggression, easy going and ready for a head scratch anytime.  I'm really enjoying him.  You can spot Mo because of his horns.  They are growing like motorcycle handles.  

Here are our sweet goats checking out the new pasture.  When they arrived they were pretty spooked and couldn't see a darn thing because of their beautiful mohair locks hanging in their eyes.  I wanted to give them a trim so badly but they wouldn't let me get close.  

Here they all are!

They slowly warmed up to me but it took lots of treats and s-l-o-w movements.

One of the the girls...very majestic!

Yes, these are the SAME goats!  We took them back to Mr. Speck's and while he was having his 1500 goats sheared, we snuck our 4 in there too.  He was so very kind to let us do that or I'm not sure what I would have done.  Cutting them with a pair of scissors didn't sound so good.

Here is Mo!  He looks so naked!   

Interested in mohair or Mo's hair?  I sell it!  Contact me at and I will get'cha some.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Olla

“What the heck is that?”
We get that question a lot at art fairs across Texas.  The folks are usually pointing at an Olla (oy-yah) sitting on the ground.  It’s not quite a vase, parts are unglazed and it has a lid - weird looking thing.

After seasons of watering my vegetable garden every morning and still seeing that pitiful limp tomato plant by 3:00 pm in the Texas heat, I knew I had to change something for the sake of our water supply.  We are on 100% rainwater catchment – every single drop counts.  I would cringe when I saw the water just roll off the surface and not even penetrate into the soil, definitely not to the roots where the plant needed it.  I felt like I was just watering my weeds! 
So, I did some research.  I found some cool gardens like key-holes (tried that…it was going good until I stuffed grass into the chamber and suffocated everything…don’t do that), aquaponics (can’t afford that), container gardening (didn’t work for me…they dried out too fast), sack gardening (what the heck is that?)  and, of course, there is drip irrigation systems. They work great for the folks that can afford the upkeep and the time to design the system but I have neither of those.  What I do have is a husband that is a potter and a shovel.  Could this poor girl find a way to grow a tomato?
Jim Bob made me some ollas!
Yes!  I discovered the olla.
Alright, alright.  What is an olla?

It is a pot that is made out of earthenware clay (terra cotta), it is sometimes glazed at the neck of the pot, leaving the body of the pot unglazed, and comes with a lid.  Ollas have been around since ancient times.  I believe the first ollas were discovered in Northern Africa but have been used in China for 4000 years.  So, I was pretty slow on the discovery but I was still super excited about it.  Folks in countries all over the world are using ollas today – India, Iran and Brazil are well known for the olla usage.

How does it work?

Since the body of the olla is unglazed, it is porous.  A porous surface will allow water to seep through it.  In this case, the olla is allowing the water to seep from its body into the soil, since the olla is planted in the ground up to its glazed neck and then filled with water.   The plants are planted around the olla.  That means the roots are in the right spot to grow towards the olla and only suck up the moisture from the olla when it is needed.   Yes, that is right…no run off, no over-irrigation and no limp plants.  The water is EXACTLY where it is needed: the roots.  There is, of course, some science behind ollas: suction force, water/root tension, etc.  That is all very fascinating but, honestly, I just want some nice plump tomatoes. 

So I mentioned my husband was a potter and that I had a shovel.  I felt like ollas were invented just for me.  My next hurdle:  getting him to actually make the ollas.  After a season of harassment, he made me 10 ollas.  Yay!  I had them in my hands and I was ready to plant. 

I had my beds ready.  I just laid some cinder blocks in a rectangle and added some soil.  I guess they are “raised” beds but not very high.  They were about 4’ long and 2.5’ wide.  I dug two holes in each bed that were deep enough for the ollas to sit in up to its glazed neck.   I filled in the space around the olla with dirt.  I basically “planted” the olla and then I filled it with water and put the lid back on.   I planted my vegetable around my ollas and waited.  I was waiting for many things:

1.  A limp plant:  the ollas seemed pretty awesome but would they really work?  Too good to be   true?  Would my veggies suffer from LVD (Limp Vegetable Disorder)?
2.  Tomatoes:  Ollas had to work!  They have been around for 1000's of years!  They wouldn’t last that long if they were fads, right?  A healthy tomato would prove it. 
3.  Weeds:  Weeds would always come when I watered the surface.  Where are those pesky water-sucking things? 
4.  An empty olla:  I had my doubts that the water would just seep from the olla.  The soil seemed so dry and I thought it would be empty in a day.

So what happened?

Ollas are fantastic.  No wonder they have been around so long!  I planted veggies about 12” from the olla and had new growth in days and it hasn’t stopped yet.  I do a little dance when I pick a yummy tomato from the garden.

Here is a list of my pros and cons:

The pros:
- The plants seem to be doing great and producing delicious veggies.
- I can leave town and not worry about LVD!
- I have noticed a huge decline in the weeds.  It makes sense.  I am not watering the surface and giving the weed seeds a chance to sprout. Awesome.
- I have saved SO much water by just watering the ollas and not dumping water on the soil.  
- I have less pests walking around on the soil.  I don't know what this is about but I haven't had all the bugs that I usually have.  Maybe when I watered the surface they liked the moisture too?  I still have those poopy pill bugs.  I feed them to the frogs at night.  It makes me smile. 

The cons:  
- I don't know how they would do with seedlings.  I think you would have to water the surface until the plant was mature.  I planted green beans, kale and turnip seeds recently.  They are all growing fine but it has been raining.  Anybody have any experience with this?
-The soil looks dry to me.  I dig deeper and it has moisture but the surface looks dry.  Sometimes that makes me worry.  The plants look I guess that is what matters. Mulch! Mulch! Mulch!
- We have had a super wet spring.  When August rolls around there will be no escaping the brutal sun.  I see LVD in my future.  Maybe I will get some little shade tarps for each of my beds?  Any thoughts?

-Fill the olla all the way up until it overflows.  This gets all the debris, bugs, and stuff floating on the surface out of the olla. 
-The higher the water level in the olla the better.  I have noticed that if I let the level go down that the surface soil looks WAY dry.  
-Always keep the lid on.  That will keep the water from evaporating and bugs, frogs and creatures from living/dying in your olla.

If you are interested in ollas, you should check them out.  The earth's water supply will thank you! Search the internet to see if they are right for you. This was a great article: Ollas: Unglazed Clay Pots  There are some folks who are making them:  Diana KerseyCeramics and Dripping Springs Ollas are two that I am familiar with.  Diana is a fabulous potter and person.  I would recommend her in a heartbeat.   I came across Dripping Springs Ollas in an internet search and thought it was cool that they were a Texas Company.  Or…

My wonderful potter husband, Jim Bob Salazar, can make some just for you too!  What colors do you want? We will be at the Rockport Art Festival on July 4 – 5th, 2015.  Come by and check out his awesome pots and look at the ollas in person.  I will be there and LOVE to chat about them too.  Not lucky enough to be in Texas?  Check out his blog:   Just send us an email and we will hook you up with the most efficient watering system ever!

Two months later!  The ollas are in there somewhere.

Close up of tomato plants.

Cucumber plants.

Bell pepper bush.

Herb garden.

Green bean seedlings, kale seedlings and bell pepper bush.

Maybe you can help me figure out how to get those pills bugs from eating my zucchini!  
Help!  Any tips?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rainwater Collection

A few months ago, we used the last of the "city water" from our tank and pumped in 100% rainwater.  We were having water trucked in 2000 gallons at a time.  When our last tank of purchased water went dry it was time for the big switch to rainwater.  It is a wonderful feeling to know that the water we are drinking is pure and clean.  Our four year old daughter would tell me the water tasted funny when I served her a glass of city water.  That is scary!  

This is how we are catching the water falling from the sky:
Our studio building is corrugated - super corrugated -which made putting a gutter on it rather difficult.   

So Jim Bob made a template to bring the inner corrugation out to the gutter.

He used the template to cut and bend the flashing to fit up into the building.

There were 20 pieces of flashing to cut and bend.

Once it starts raining, the water flows off the building into the gutter then into the 4" PVC.  

There are three drains along 40 foot gutter.

This is the far left drain.

The center drain.

Then the right side drain that sends all the water to the roof washer and then into the 55 gallon drum.    

This is a good shot of the bent flashing, the pvc and the drain holes.

Since our gutter is so close to the ground, we had to let the water collect into a drum that was buried in the ground. The screened box stops debris from entering into the 55 gallon drum - just another part of the filtration system.

In order to get the water out of the drum, we are using a transfer pump with a float switch.  

When it rains the water flows into the drum, makes the switch float float which turns on the pump and transfers the water out of the drum, through the pump, down the 1 1/2" poly pipe and all the way over to the tank. Viola!

We also have a cover that catches water.

When it rains the water flows into the gutter, out the drain and into the roof washer.

This is a screen over the PVC to stop the big debris from entering into our tanks.  The roof washer catches the first 15 gallons or so - probably not enough but it's a start - of dirty water off of the roof.  

This was a really cool trick.  JB wishes he had come up with it but he didn't.  While researching roof washers he came across a guy who had done it but could never find the site again.   He bought a 1/2" NPT tap on ebay for about $4.50.  He drilled a hole in the PVC and then tapped it, put a little teflon tape on the boiler valve and screwed it in.  Simple and clean and works like a dream.  We use the water out of the roof washer to water plants and to wet down sand for sand castles in the sand box.

Once the roof washer fills up, the water overflows into the 4" PVC pipe and flows into the tank.  Once this tank is full, we are pumping the water into the tank by the bus.  Soon, we will have a cover over the bus and will be able to catch that water into those tanks and won't need to transfer water from tank to tank.  That will be AWESOME.

We are storing our water for long periods of time.  With that in mind, we knew we needed to filter the rainwater.  So after the screens and roof washer, the water goes through a sediment filter and then a carbon block filter.

It then flows through a UV light that kills any harmful pathogens that are remaining in the water.  It is then pumped into the bus for us to enjoy!  The water is crazy soft.  You can actually feel the water on your skin - it has substance or something.  It tastes so clean and yummy too.  It is Lena Marie approved!