Order Tara's Bicycle Touring Cookbook Today!

This is Kevin & Joy: Part One

by Guest

Kevin and I spent the weekend at Tyler and Tara's homestead ostensibly to help plaster (which we did do), but mostly to ask approximately a million questions.



Visiting Tara and Tyler on their land is something Joy and I have discussed a few times since stumbling across their blog a year or so ago. We’ve gotten to know them in person ever since, over the winter, they dropped off a decent amount of milled ash for me to use to build them a farmhouse table. This past weekend, the opportunity to head out their way arose.

So, we hitched our new-to-us pop-up camper to my tired Ford pickup truck and made the drive from rural Massachusetts to rural Vermont on a beautiful summer morning. The engine rumbled and coughed its way up and down the spine of the Green Mountains as we threaded through a dozen or so little towns, making our way to their homestead. I’m a native Yankee, Joy one by choice, and we both feel Vermont’s pull whenever we spend time there.

We arrived at the homestead in early afternoon, having barely missed their drive and gotten an unintended tour of the neighborhood while looking for a place to turn our rig around. Tara and Tyler came to greet us, bounding down the exposed granite outcropping to the driveway. We exchanged hugs and then set up camp near the tent they'd stayed in over the past few days while Tyler’s father was visiting.


It was so great to see T&T's land and buildings up close and in person—they're real, solid, and not just pictures! The land itself is beautiful, and what you can't appreciate from the photos is that it's multi-tiered, with the home, camper, workshop and solar shed each on their own separate wooded levels. Building on this terrain is made even more challenging by the fact that it's mostly all on bedrock!

Tara and Tyler's home looks very cozy, just like it does in the pictures. What we saw is a mostly completed structure with a door and windows installed, straw bales in place with wire mesh over them, and windows installed with curving wire around the edges. The light coming through the windows was blue from the tarps hanging over each wall, but I imagine it will be beautifully sunny when the tarps are removed.


After we got settled, we spent the rest of our Saturday in preparation for plastering. Huddled in their cool (both literally and figuratively) house, we watched a video on how to make and apply lime plaster, and then we set to work. Tyler and I jury-rigged the mixer’s starter (whose recoil spring snapped with defiance at the start of the job), while Joy and Tara took the truck on a trip to the local feed store to purchase a few extra bales we'd need to use in the plaster mix.

Plastering Day One: Broken Recoil on Plaster Mixer Tyler Starting Mortar Mixer w/ Tie Down Strap Tyler Starting Mortar Mixer w/ Tie Down Strap


When we were all assembled once more, and the mixer was working, we set about mixing our first batch of plaster. This was a very laborious process, not unlike making gravy, where you're trying to get the texture and balance the components JUST SO, only you have no idea what exactly you're looking for as an end result. There are very specific ratios, but then you add a little more water, or a couple of handfuls of sand, or a pinch of nutmeg to get it just right.

Kevin Chopping Straw w/ Weed Whacker Kevin Pouring Sand into Mortar Mixer [|14698675960,slideshow]] Joy Chopping Straw w/ Weed Whacker Plastering Work Site