Trouble with our Gers and storm winds...
This is the first of a new series we intend to post of things that don't go well on the farm. Life here at Ridgedale is amazing, establishing a pioneering project in this beautiful land with incredible folks coming from around the world to contribute their unique gifts, strengths and talents in an intensive & caring learning environment. As with any farm or project of this nature, things are not always smooth. In todays world of image saturated social media its mostly polished images and what is going well for folks that is shared. We're here to serve as a unique and potent learning site as well as a productive farm and so we feel it is our responsibility to share the sides often hidden from the public eye as well as all the rest. This is where learning really happens, this is where the creative solutions swell up so naturally in everyone committed to be of benefit and frankly we need more of it. When things die or get sick, break or cause shocking unintended consequences, this is where deep learning can occur. The challenges and failures are equally meaningful and stimulating as the frequent triumphs and amazement that goes on in this place. We just love it. The total openness with which we run this place, from sharing our business, decisions, perspectives and personal lives with out Interns and training participants is one very clear aspect of what makes this place so special. We hope sharing these experiences will be of benefit to those of you who follow our activities from around the world. We also hope it inspires more to write up and share their challenges & failures; it's a great way we can serve each other...
Today was the windiest day of the year by far. We began the day with the Interns planting up a windbreak with alternate coppiced willow followed by Spruce on 3m centers (for winter protection) with Alder on 1m centers inside this. Over time this will give us a dense ramp to send wind up over the pasture and tree lanes in Front Field. Effectively organized this awesome team were blitzing it for the first day of our Perennial Cropping portion of the Internship program when the winds picked up. Insane kind of wind that blows roofing off broiler pens and sends mini polytunnels tumbling up the neighbors field. The last time this happened it took the canvas roof off one of the yurts, requiring a quick fix in the rain.
Normally storms pass either side of us here because of our valley setting and the lake directly below us to the south where prevailing winds hail from. When they do hit they tend to hit real hard. In a humbling way.
Our 9m Gers are a real treat; great spaces which we use for our dining room and another for a classroom. Yohanna and I built them both in 2 weeks using the awesome calculators at https://simplydifferently.org/Yurt_Notes?page=1#Yurt Calculator a bit of basic carpentry and a 100 year old sewing machine (The only error I have found is the roof overlap is always 30cm too short, so check that carefully if you're building one!)
These are big structures, we've had over 50 people in one on one of our farm open days. That means they are also heavy, several hundred KG of wood & canvas up above your head. After a cover being ripped off last year in a similar storm we had begun the year by adding a 30cm overhang all around, which has been working great. We set these up in April each season and leave them up until everyone leaves in October. However today the winds were just so intense that with a good cover the pressure started twisting the Gers centre ring on its support posts. Naturally as it moves very slightly the length of the roof poles effectively changes and the entire structural integrity changes. Seeing the storm winds were increasing we decided to take off the covers, and none too soon. The metal L brackets which pin the roof poles in place to the center ring were all bent up and given more time this would have ended in a lot more structural damage. All hands sprung into action and tasks divvied out as people naturally saw solutions and participated in an awesomely effective overhaul of the spaces, now standing proud and stronger than ever....
Running a farm is essentially about planning a lot, remembering to carry things with you all the time and responding with a solutions focus moment to moment. We spend a lot of time "reality checking" with our Interns, often undoing myths perpetuated from books and ideas that just aren't grounded in the reality of what it takes to work and live in this way. It's a healthy thing, a real healthy thing, and one thing we like to demonstrate is that ever present willingness to go the extra mile and do what needs to be done to get a job done. Thats what it takes to create a place like this. So it was amazing to just see how naturally and skillfully the Intern group responded to this situation. Without further thought tree planting was put aside for the day, tools away and all attention went into coming up with a clear plan and workflow to deal with the situation. Gers down and brackets being created out of scrap to join the roof beams to the center wheel to eliminate the possibility of them revolving at the same time as upgrading the support beams and spending the the rest of the day reassembling the spaces. I just love working effectively with groups of people. It's incredible what people can do together when focused on how they can contribute to the whole, have a clear understanding of the task and the role they can play to support its fruition. Effective communication. It's one of the aspects of experiential learning we really try to instill with our Interns here. I often reflect how design is the relatively easy bit. It's often the concepts and strategies that folks coming to us are excited by, but it's consistently the project management, organizing work flows, organizing finances & holistic decision making that represent the log jams in places I've visited.
Thankfully the Egg Mobile 350 seems undaunted by the winds. With a good overall shape and most of weight down low there seems to be little risk of any big problems with wind we hope. And with the Interns farm hacked double wheels we're not even sinking despite the wettest spring in decades here....
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