Thursday, September 28, 2006

Honeymoon: Cork to Cobh to Kinsale

We landed in Cork to a brilliant sunset, seemingly boding well for cycling, yes? We had a lovely stay with a German expat named Marion, via and met her Dubliner friend, Emma, and another couchsurfer from Australia, Amber. Late night chat and good food. Next morning the sun greeted us as we packed up and made our way into Cork, a vibrant sprawling town. We polished off some errands and some delicious lunch from the English Market (an indoor market of many vendors) and made haste to leave town due to some weather moving in.

Val at James Fort, Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland (edited)

We zipped 15 miles to Cobh (pronounced Cove) and though a bit damp and wind whipped, found an affordable B&B right on the harbor. A light dinner at Mimmo's restaurant and a walk along the harbor. Cobh was the main point of millions of Irish leave from the time before the British imposed-famine (1840s) until 1970. Today there is a decent museum we visited tracing the history.

Kinsale harbor near sunset

From Cobh we headed into a rainy gale 20 miles to Kinsale and the welcoming confines of Mary Minihane, a charming Irish woman who is a serious raw-foodist. After a day of beautiful though windy cycling, she fixed us up with tea and a light supper and tales of Ireland and raw foods. We finished the evening watching the light film "Michael Collins".

Village across from Kinsale harbor

That brings us to today, with a day off to explore the chic town of Kinsale full of boutiques and wine bars and such. At a bookstore we found a fine book on wild plants of Ireland which we bought for our kind host (our attempt to proselytize her raw food sensibilities). We took several walks, including out to James Fort, built in the late 1680s when former King James the 2nd mounted an uprising against the British in Ireland. It failed, unfortunately. Another walk found us into The Spanish Pub for a half-pint of Murphy's the local Guiness of sorts. Live music and laughs (and no smoke, forbidden in all pubs!). Hundreds of years ago the British navy destroyed a Spanish armada, the remnants found their way into Kinsale and never left. Part of the reason why folks in south are called "Black Irish".

Mark in front of James Fort

Monday, September 25, 2006

Manchester, England: Flush Blair Down the Disposal!

Our first five days of honeymoon finds us in Manchester, England, visiting Val's longtime friend, Daniel Burton, she met (and had a crush on!) in Palestine, some 17 years ago. At a lively anti-war demonstration of about 50,000 people in Manchester, we heard the righteous rhetoric from George Galloway and others (at least 25% of we could not understand because of the accent), had a lengthy march around the city center, a 5-minute symbolic die-in, followed by, you guessed it, more speeches. We ducked out of the latter, wiggling our way over to a hip joint that served amazing rissoto with bison mozzerella. Here a sampling of photos..

Daniel, Val, Mark. Note the sign on the right of a hand pushing Tony Blair's head down a garbage disposal (called a 'disposer' here in England). George Galloway, kicked out of the Labour Party for calling Blair and Bush "Wolves" created a new party, 'Respect' of which he is the only member elected.

Val and Mark, center, at the symbolic die-in during the march. Note the chap next to Val looking up. He's taking in a brand new-high rise apartment building, the tallest in Europe, which has a hilarious fence like feature on top, said to blend the building and sky together!

Flags of Lebanon and something you probably won't see at a demo in Denver: a flag for Hezbollah! A huge turnout of Arabs and Muslims, many in traditional dress, lots of signs in solidarity with Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon. One flyer handed out said, "Israel, an army with a country".

Val and Mark and a peace sign from the local troublemaking Quakers. They had quite a turnout, several dozen marching from their main Meeting House, just a block from City Hall, the center of the anti-war rally.

John, Val and Mark. John is Daniel's partner, a lovely charming fellow and a self-admitted "defeated socialist" but very much in the hunt for a better world.

George Bush made an appearance, marketing imperial U.S.'s latest triumph.

Daniel and Val over the Bollion River. On a lighter note, we had a lovely 6-mile walk through the English countryside, visiting a few villages, a farm (homemade ice cream, cheese and eggs procured) and, of course, a pub.

Val and Mark, walking along a canal tow-path. Lots of blackberries along here, and stinging nettles! Canals were built at great cost ($ and human) in the 18th century and only used briefly because of the advent of rail lines. Several folks were fishing and a long flat enclosed tourist boat rambled along as we walked.

Monday, September 18, 2006

How to make a strawbale doghouse

The weekend after our wedding we participated in a strawbale building workshop in Ft. Collins at the Sustainable Living Fair. When people found out we just were married they laughed at our supposed honeymoon choice.

Mostly finished strawbale doghouse with friendly earthen bone molded into the earthen plaster wall.

The goal of the 2-day workshop was to teach the basics of strawbale building: floor/footing, strawbale selection, resizing and shaping bales, stacking bales, plastering, roof and tightening bales, scoring plaster, and lime wash paint. Left out of the class due to time and location were how to make a foundation and insulate the roof.

Curtis, president of Eco-Builders of Boulder, demonstrates two means to stack and hold bales in place: metal rods with threads for nuts, and, bamboo poles.

We helped make two strawbale doghouses which were auctioned off at the end of the festival.

Strawbale is a great insulator because cold or warm air molecules have a hard time wiggling their way up and around and over tiny pieces of straw. In cool arid climates like Colorado strawbale is ideal for east and west facing walls, leaving the south wall for passive solar collection (via large windows). The north wall, which collects the least sun and the most cold wind, would be ideally built out of a material with greater thermal mass like adobe, cob or rocks. Thermal mass slowly transfers warm or cold air.

Floor footing of 2x4s with 3/4 plywood top. Threaded rods are placed strategically around the sides of the floor for the strawbales.

Val holding up underside of floor showing nuts tightened to hold the metal rods in place.

Metal rods now in place around the edges of the floor.

Our instructor made a small error by having the rods placed too close to the edge; ideally you'd want to center the rods more over where the strawbales will be placed.

Strawbales should be dense and consistent size. Ideally you want the largest straw packed tightly, instead of tiny pieces of straw that easily fall apart in a bale. Strawbales of good quality retail for about $2.50 for each bale. The doghouses (6' x 5') required about 12 bales each.

Raised floor/footing of 2x4s of the approximate width of strawbales.

This raised area was filled with loose straw. Normally the footing for a home would be filled with rock or styrofoam blocks to keep a water barrier from the straw. If snowmelt and rain water pools would well around straw, the whole of a wall would soak it up and you'd have mold, rot and worse. Because it was a doghouse, we were told, we'd cut this corner.

Val hammering top of stacked strawbales for density and tightness.

An instructor using a trimmer to carefully shape bales.

Unless you want curvy walls with some dubious structural integrity issues, having flat walls aids in the construction.

Stacked bales with the home for the dog in the middle. Note the metal rod sticking up on the right. Soon a 2x4 roof will be placed over the bales and rods and nuts affixed to tighten down the whole shindig.

Val resizing a corner that stuck out.

This only works on ends of bales. To avoid lumps and to help ease construction, areas where the bales are sticking out or bulging can be resized by carefully pulling out straw and then using a small 4" piece of bamboo and tightening down the loose baling twine. For side sections of bulging (in or out) strawbales, we used chicken wire stapled in, then filled in loose straw and used homemade nail clasps (from snipped barb-wire twisty-rods).

Threaded metal rods and twisty rods usually used in creating barb-wire cattle fences.

Slanted 2x4 in place. Note the metal rod sticking out with a nut tightened down over it.

Our plaster instructor beginning to use trowel and lime plaster on strawbale walls.

For one of the doghouses we used an earthen plaster first coat and a lime plaster second coat. Lime is caustic to the skin (can cause burns to exposed skin). We wore latex gloves (use good ones). Earthen is cheaper but more time consuming for companies paid by the hour. As it was, a thin wet earthen plaster coat was sprayed on the create more adhesion for the lime plaster. The earthen sprayed plaster needed an overnight to dry and set-up before the lime paster could be applied.

For the other doghouse we used an earthen plaster, which was funner because it could be shaped easily and it was not caustic (though the mix we used had sizable sharp pebbles -- better for cohesion -- which made us want to use latex gloves to shield our baby soft hands).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Wedding Thank You Photos

We are indebted to the many many friends and family who made our wedding happen from months before, during and work after. The following is a small sample of these rock stars of our community.

Sean, Heather and Jen, caterers and companeros extraordinaire!

Danielle and David. In addition to teaching all of us to salsa, Danielle served as wedding coordinator par excellence and made Val's skirt and Camila's dress. David co-managed beverages with Imogene and taste tested our wine!

Mom (Marilyn) and Mark. Thanks to mom for all her moral and financial support, and for her beautiful sketches.

Brian (aka "BBBBBWOOOOOOOOOOOOD!") co-photographer, set-up and break-down specialist and non-stop all-around helper who we nearly totally exhausted!

Remy and son Felix. Paparazzo fantastico along with Bwood, Remy also played guitar and sang In this Heart during the ceremony.

More to come....

Bailando por Lago Sylvan

Slow and Salsa Dancing!!!

Val and Mark, first dance, "Come Away With Me" by Norah Jones

Bob and Val

D'Ann and Lowell

Rebecca and Libby

Mikayla and Camila

Will and Mica

Danielle and David

Mark and Val learning the basic salsa steps from David

Nancy and Remy

Salsa Class

Sean and Val