Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Need I say more? I found the Gypsy Girl's Guide through a comment on My Marrakesh (ahhhh Rumi). I was feeling like the proverbial bridesmaid, not getting something that I didn't even know I wanted. But, life is truly awe-inspring at times. Those moments when the universe speaks make me happy to be alive.

Those who came of age in the 70's will surely remember Desiderata
The line that comes to mind now: No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

I leave you with this by Rumi,

Two Kinds of Intelligence

There are two kinds of intelligence: One acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid,
and it doesn't move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.

Mathnawi IV:1960-1968
photo by tinou bao

Monday, February 26, 2007

Here's looking at you, kid.

I'll keep the commentary brief, lots of pics to post.

NaNan (Rick's mom) cleaning...and cleaning...and cleaning. She's a whirlwind and such attention to detail. Can't thank her enough because at this stage neither of us have the gusto for cleaning.

Final (for now)clay paint on the hearth wall. This is Lincoln Fireclay (thank you
MarJon Ceramics, nice, nice people). Recipe 1.5 parts clay 1.5 parts 60 grit silica sand mixed with 1 sm pkg wheat paste in 1 gallon water (approx). Mix and add just enough powdered milk to get the consistency you want. Go slow-the reaction is amazingly fast.

This is the corner of our bedroom. The wall to the left is the bale wall with final clay paint (2 coats) over earthen plaster. The clay is Lincoln Fireclay with some yellow ochre pigment. You MUST experiment to get what you want as there are no absolutes. The wall on the right is EPK (same recipe, no pigment); more of a gray. This is over dry wall. If you have a ceramic shop nearby call and see if they have broken bags they will sell. However, we spent less than $20 on 100# of clay and about $8 on 100# of sand. Wheat paste can be really inexpensive if you make your own but we opted to buy (arrrgh the guilt). Still, the total is less than a gallon of "good" paint.

I plastered the window seats in the living room with an earthen/lime and they looked great but cracked like crazy. I think 2 factors came into play-I didn't wet the substrate before applying the plaster and they dried too quickly. Lime is weird. I like the way they look but will have to redo.

Transom (fixed) above the hall bath. This bath has a SolarTube so will have lots of daylighting. The transoms are Plexiglass painted with frosted glass spray paint with a tape stencil and have yet to be trimmed out. They will help to share light in these small interior rooms. This idea came to me after we had framed and I saw those very regular openings above the doors. Hmmmmm.....

This is the door from our bedroom into the WC. Pocket doors allow more light sharing and easy access for a wheel
chair if ever needed in the future.

Tiled shower floor.

Poor Woman's Tadelakt

Now I in no way do I think this is authentic tadelakt; my lime didn't come from Marrakech, far from it. But it has the "stone" look I wanted and it's not bad for a beginner. These are the shower walls, a mixture of type S lime putty with 60 grit sand (1:1) laid on in 2 layers and then polished and polished and polished then stained. Next will comemore burnishing with black soap to make it waterproof. You can see the sheen in the photos-it is quite smooth. This is a very tactile finish that just begs to be touched. I believe I read somewhere that the word tadelakt means to "massage".

For my Canelo workshop buddies-remember the first night when we all said what we came to learn-this was it for me. Now to go to one of those tadelakt workshops in Marrakech or Provence or Italy.

Maryam in Marrakesh has a beautiful blog for those who have ever yearned to travel to exotic locales. I so wanted to be a 1930's foreign correspondant, with the Ingrid Bergman look in the airport scene in Casablanca.

Her blog is filled with photos and snippets of her life in Marrakesh.

A lot accomplished again this week. Just a bathroom vanity to build and trim work to complete. Fussy stuff. The patios to build. I can see the light!

Sweeping cobwebs from the edges of my mind
Had to get away to see what we could find
Hope the days that lie ahead
Bring us back to where they've led
Listen up to what's been said to you

They're taking me to Marrakesh

~Graham Nash

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Journey Continues
Painting is almost finished and the clay paint has been a joy to use. The most difficult part of painting is the clean up and with this you just hose the brushes and buckets off with a little water and call it good.The recipe we settled on is a cross between paint and plaster and is looking beautiful. (pictures later) While looking for more information on clay paint, I stumbled upon a Nova program about restoring ancient clay paintings in Tibet. It's fascinating to think people have been doing something similar for hundreds of years and to learn more about the possibilities.

With the experience we now have I've thought it would be interesting to look for volunteer positions restoring lime and clay plasters. Some options I've found:
National Trust, Passport in Time, Heritage Conservation Network (this one looks especially interesting). If you know of any, please leave a comment. Maybe next year we could be helping to restore a chapel in Italy!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Of Clay Paint and Chocolate Pudding

Another busy weekend with much accomplished, there's just never enough time! Rick finished the bamboo floors in the boys' bedrooms and they are beautiful. We bought this spur of the moment at the evil empire-Home Depot. Spur of the moment except we stood in the isle of HD and discussed it for about 30 minutes. It was a close-out, it was beautiful and seemed easy enough to install (although not as easy as we thought) so we went for it. So far we are very happy with the purchase. A bit dusty but so worth the effort. We then got started on clay paint for the walls we want to remain the original clay color. So tell me, doesn't this look good enough to eat? Finely sifted clay and sand (sifted by me through a kitchen strainer) with wheat paste, a bit of powdered milk and some straw-Yummo!! I think all food groups are represented and talk about your fiber... Me selecting only the finest straw sort of like a Brewmaster selecting only the finest hops. And we're off! The west wall drying-looks like it has some type of dermatitis. And the hearth with it's coat of paint, not quite dry and looking a little one dimensional. When dry I think there will be more variation and depth. We also finished the final plaster coat in our bedroom and what a relief. I thought it would never dry. All in all a very productive 4 days. Of course dilemmas did arise over the weekend. I had decided to clay paint the rest of the drywall-the drywall that I had requested be hung brown side out and not taped. That would have been great for my original plan to plaster (back when I was full of energy) but for clay paint maybe not so good. So now I have to decide if I want to plaster or come up with a solution for the taping and use clay paint. I have a feeling it will be plaster but you never know. Sometimes you just have to step away and let the answer come to you. But not much can compete with surfaces like this.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Little Egypt

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I went and bought myself a ticket and I sat down in the very first row
They pulled the curtain but then when they turned the spotlight way down low
Little egypt came out a-struttin wearin nothin but a button and a bow
Singing, ying-ying, ying-ying, ying-ying, ying-ying

She had a ruby on her tummy and a diamond big as texas on her toe
She let her hair down and she did the hoochie-coochie real slow
When she did her special number on the zebra skin I thought shed stop the show
Singing, ying-ying, ying-ying, ying-ying, ying-ying~Leiber & Stoller

I remember this Elvis Presley song and most of the words even after not hearing it in probably 30 years. To a kid growing up in smalltown Bible belt southern Ohio it was bordering on scandalous. Enough to make you wonder just what this Little Egypt did and you knew it had to be good when adults would look uncomfortable when asked. I recall my Greatuncle Bill, he of the checkered and well-travelled past (he was into horseracing, also somewhat scandalous because of the gambling) talking about seeing Little Egypt and getting stern looks from my mother when he brought it up. Wow, this must be good!

Fast forward-My sister-in-law began studying Middle Eastern dance in the from of Tribal Bellydance several years ago and was here this weekend to do a performance at the University of Arizona. Through her I've learned some of the history of bellydance and the importance of dance in many cultures. Having been a labor and delivery nurse for almost 30 years I'm intrigued by the origin of the dance, or Raqs Sharqi , as a dance by women for women to prepare young women for childbirth. What an empowering ritual that must have been for women facing the rigors of bringing forth new life. Bellydance also brings women a better awareness of their bodies and the beauty of the female form.

The dance was introduced to the US at the 1893 Chicago Exposition by a dancer known as Little Egypt. But America was scandalized and the dance became sleazy sideshow or nightclub "cootchie-cootchie" act as immortalized in the Leiber & Stoller tune.

Dancing looks fun-that's probably why so many people are against it. There's that great scene in the movie "Monsoon Wedding" with the women sharing dance and song, it made me want to get up and join them. Those people looked so happy, how could that not be a good thing? I wish I was part of a dancing culture.

What does this have to do with strawbale building? Not much but we all have art in us, it's up to us to find it and lose ourselves in it.

Now, pictures from the weekend. Lots of painting accomplished and little details that have to be done.
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Hearth finished-check!

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Joe's room painted-check!

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Sam's room painted-check! The green boxes contain bamboo flooring "acclimating".

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Shower painted-check!

The End Is Near!

Thursday, February 01, 2007


"They're coming outta the walls. They're coming outta the bleep walls, we're bleep!"

After a short battle with the alien creatures, the planet is again safe.

(This is a little green sprout searching out the light.)

The west wall-this one is staying brown

Truth window/niche in process. (photo taken in low light so a little grainy)

First coat of lime paint on the kitchen walls. I like it. The recipe I settled on is: 1 cup nonfat dry milk rehydrated, about 1/2 cup lime putty mixed with a bit of water to make it the consistency of sour cream, approx 4 tbls yellow ochre pigment. This is very watery and flips everywhere when you brush it on. Cover everything if you ever use lime paint. I found another recipe that uses plaster of paris to make a thicker consistency and I want to try that this weekend.
I'm anxious to see it when I go back tomorrow after it's had a chance to carbonate. When looking closely at the painted wall you can see the crystals catching the light. I've done a lot of faux painting with latex but this is the REAL thing-what I was aiming for with the faux.

Beginnings of the hearth and adobe wall. The blue lines show the planned shape of the wall.
The 2 blocks that look more brown than gray are painted with clay paint-that gray has got to go!

Hearth day 2.