Thursday, November 12, 2009

A little nicer now

There comes that moment when preparation and patience pay off. This week was it for this building. Finishing the floor allowed me to install permanently the benches and bring in the things that make a space nice to be in. Kappy has been decorating the space and has already used it for her breathwork practice. She even dug out her sewing machine to hem the curtains.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Two coats of linseed oil

After sanding we put two coats of boiled linseed oil cut with mineral spirits on the floor. I also built a little rooflet to keep water off the sill.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Finishing the Floor

Finally getting to the floor, I have been finishing things from the top down, ceiling, walls, windows and now the floor. It was donated by Stan Fowler, former park ranger at Glen Echo here in DC. Old oak of different origins and conditions. Some of it sat outside , somewhat exposed to the elements. A lot of the boards were beyond recovery but most were still good. They sanded down with a fair amount of work. I think I hauled away two full wheelbarrow loads of sawdust. Next step will be to give the floor a coat of linseed oil.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gable Windows

Thanks again to Rob Roy for helping us cut and install windows for the gable ends. We purchased 3'x7' lights of glass and are cutting them to fit. Unless my cutting improves I'll be visiting the glass store soon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Benches and Windows

We have built two benches with storage space and one has a leaf to turn it into a bed. Also we purchased 3'x 7' lights of double strength glass which with the help of Rob Roy Mackey we will turn into gable windows. The plan is to make them double pane which while not thermo pane will be a bit better than single pane.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Kitchen Sink Episode

The stud wall has a slip straw infill and lath strips for plaster adhesion. On the outside I painted the strips with a sanded primer. Inside plaster was clay, sand, cellulose and straw. Outside I decided to include just about everything I had used to date in the mix. That would be: clay,lime,sand,brick dust,blow in cellulose paper,shredded paper,straw, horse manure and prickly pear cactus juice. I wanted an even wall so I tacked up 3/8" screed strips over the studs. There has been a little cracking right along the spaces left after removing the screed strips. I have been filling those as it dries. The weather is perfect, about 70 degrees, light mist, cloudy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Plaster Experimentation

We have been playing around with various permutations of natural ingredients like pure powdered clay which we got from near here and processed, blow in cellulose,horse poop,shredded paper a la Ed Raduazo,mica from Philadelphia,wheat paste, sand with nice little mica bits from across the river at a sand pit, prickly pear cactus juice, chopped straw and probably a couple other things. I am trying to get a handle on the properties of these ingredients and come up with an idiot proof mix. Not quite there yet but getting close. My latest plaything is clay paint, I am using just the colored clay we have and wheat paste along with a bit of mica. I paint it on then while it is just leather tough I give it a wipe with an almost dry sponge to smooth it. Otherwise it dries kind of rough and airy. Thanks to Carole Crews who has been a sounding board for some of my ideas. No need to re-invent gunpowder as they say. Georgie Donais was down to help a couple weeks ago, she had some good ideas also, along with a nice touch with a trowel. With some luck she'll be back. Next plaster will have shredded paper, horse crap , clay and sand. Perhaps more blow in cellulose which is awful nice to work with.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ceiling is Done

Today we finished the ceiling. The boards are from a Silver Maple cut down on site a couple years ago so it had some nice spalting in parts. It is very nice wood to work with. We dried it inside Kappy and Sam´s house over the winter. Thanks to Rob Roy Mackey we got the big table saw working. Rob has a method to make three phase motors work on standard home 220 volt current. It involves another three phase motor that you spin by hand to get it going, it then adds the third phase. Not sure exactly how it works but it does. The saw is a Delta Unisaw. We used a wobble dado to cut the rabbets. The wood was coated with boiled Linseed oil. It really brings out the grain features. We are also doing lots of plaster color samples . Next week the floor will go in. We have a lot of recovered oak T&G from an old amusement park here in DC called Glen Echo.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Plastering a Cob bench and wood heater in Alexandria,VA

Mollie Curry and Steve Kemble invited me to help them plaster a piece of cob art they produced. The plaster was an American Clay product called Marittima. It was colored with a special blend also American Clay products. It went on nicely , thickness about like a credit card.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Play time

Now we get to play with clay, plaster mixes, horse poop, hammer mills and roto-tillers. Made another trip to the excavation site to get as much clay as possible before it goes away which may be real soon. Romey Pittman went and spoke with the men on site at the dig and they may send the pile to her place. That would mean there would be enough clay to do a whole lot of natural type building! Romey is building her new home now and plans to use a lot of clay plaster inside.
From cricket crawl

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Plaster Party

We had a very nice and well attended plaster party on Saturday. Got the whole house plastered with the scratch coat. We used sandy soil from the foundation dig and some pure clay Sam found on the way to work. We dried and ground up the clay and mixed it with the sand. Bomber. Check out the video! Major thanks to Ed Raduazo, he brought us a hammer mill, a ton of buckets, some tools and a batch of his famous shredded paper cob to make faces on trees . Thanks, Ed!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Plaster Preparation

A niche

We are almost ready to put on the scratch coat of plaster. Walls have been weed whacked to flatten them out (but not too much).
Some people think a strawbale wall has to be a little wonky otherwise it just looks like drywall. We decided to spray on some boric acid and Borax solution to prevent mold, bugs and fire. We nailed double layers of 15# building paper over the wood to bridge it. You can get cracks at these junctions. Over that we put plastic mesh. A niche or three was carved into the wall, some wood blocks were also put in at the site of a shelf. Some casing bead was placed around the bottom of the plaster so it might end in an organized fashion. Plaster stop was put around the top of the wall for the same reason. I know I'm forgetting something important but I don't want to anger Dios by trying to equal her. Plaster will be three parts of the stuff we dug out of the ground ( mostly sand with a little clay) and one part pure clay Sam found by chance at an excavation site on his way to work. It is an amazing pile of clay of various hues. We chopped it up with the roto tiller and let it dry for a day and a half, grinding it several times during this time . It dried up pretty quick. Ed Raduazo is going to bring his hammer mill over on Saturday and we can grind it finer. So there you go. Exciting stuff, no?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Down to Solid Ground

We finally got the foundation done, since we weren't sure how it was going to happen the best path seemed to be patience. We wanted something simple and not too resource intensive. Rob Roy gave us some more creosoted 10x12s from the old Matapeake Ferry docks. The next step was to somehow have the rubble trench rise up to the beams. We got the house in the best configuration on blocks, the floor was never going to be level since it was built on a slanted surface so plumbing doors and window was the way to go. The house was still way up on blocks but at least we had a reference to measure down from all the way around. Then the beams were hoisted up and tied in place over their ultimate resting places as a combination of fast setting concrete and filler such as old bricks and pieces of broken concrete were placed in rough forms. The beams were then lowered and jiggled into place in the wet cement. After a day and a half of setting time the mix was hard enough. All went well, down jacking the house proved to be tricky, especially since two of the high lift jacks were acting up.They were the new ones, the old ones were perfect. Guess they don't make 'em like they used to. We had to use all of our tricks to get the house close enough to call it good. Then came disassembly of the support structures and threaded rods, installation of doors and window and voila. I am going home for a month or so and will take up the project upon my return so stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Roof is On

Today was a hot, sunny day. Perfect for putting the roof panels on. With help from Sam we got the four panels up and joined well enough for tomorrow's predicted rain.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Progress Update

Today was one of those glory work days. Added the windows to the healing space and with the help of Shawn and Sam we put the trusses in place and even got one roof panel up. The bales went into the walls over the weekend . Pretty darn quick when everything is ready and there isn't any notching to do. We seem to have a several day window of good weather so tomorrow we'll finish with the roof.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

New Digs or "All over but the Shouting"

Yesterday we jacked the building up and blocked it to remove the trailer. It took a fair amount of jockeying to get the trailer back through the soft ground. Fortunately we had the Pole Truck, a 1958 Ford truck that someone installed a boom and winch on. It is ugly but inside its heart is pure gold. We set up a snatch block on a stump behind the new site and pulled the works back into place. With a little persuasion we got the building situated directly over the previously constructed rubble trench foundation. A quick tarp job and "Bob's your uncle".

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Apothecary of the Move

Bone tired
Outside like wisdom master
Inside strong like bear
Venerable tire

As Good as it Gets

The move went off very smoothly this am except for a no-show by the inspection cops. The crane crew was there before 5:30 the crane shortly after. As you can see in the photos it was a very big crane this time. We scrambled to prepare the trailer when it finally got screened and released, the placing of the house was impeccable, we cinched it down and with the help of our friend Luis Garabay made it to the edge of DC where he left us and we crossed into Maryland and proceeded with no problems to Sam and Kappy's house. The road in was still muddy from Sunday's snow but today was actually in the 70s if you can believe it so things were drying out fast. We jiggled and joggled and got the house within 10 feet of perfect and left if for tomorrow. A couple of Yuenglings and some deserved rest. Yay!!!!!!!! By the way, this crane had a scale and the weight of the the building , deck and tackle was 7.5 tons.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Date March 7 for ecohouse move

breathwork studio March 2 '09
After last week's practice run we are ready to do it for real now. A one hundred ton crane will be there, hopefully with a way to measure the weight of the building. I haven't been able to get solid figures on weight for a strawbale structure. Chris Magwood has weighed plastered walls and we based our guess on his information. Still there is some finger crossing involved. The ground is damp and snowy in places after the big storm last Sunday. Thursday and Friday should help dry things out. Here is a photo of the breathwork studio. The ecohouse will placed just to the left of it and then connected with an entry area.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Why it was Good That we Didn't Bring the EcoHouse Back

Sam Here:

Eric kindly invited me to blog a bit and so I shall. Actually today wasn't that disappointing as I think all the team members (Rob Roy, Mike, Eric, Kappy, Randy and myself) felt happy that we actually pulled off getting all the permits, vehicles, inspections (bomb-sniffing dog and all), and times down without a hitch. We even had all the parts, tools, gas, doughnuts, and coffee we needed.

So when the building didn't load, it was something that was easy to accept and we had fun putting things back together. We were friends, everyone worked well together, and nobody got their ego or their body hurt.

Usefully, when we got done we did a dry run trying to back Rob Roys '57 trailer and '75 dump truck at the house and worked out some problems that would surely befall us when loaded for house.

Mike, former ballet star, attaching ball to spreader bar.

Eric Hempstead waiting for his crane to arrive

Kappy, on camera.

Rob Roy, waiting to ride off with a strawbale house

Saturday morning Feb.28

Maybe next time... or...The little crane that couldn't

The big day came, we did the mandatory last minute , hair on fire stuff fixing the truck last night, got up at 3:45 am made it downtown on time, waited for the crane then watched as it became clear that them little strawbale houses be HEAVY. The crane sank a pad into the grass, creaked ominously with the weight of the building and the boss man said "Put 'er back down, crane's not big enough". So now back to square one, set another date and do it again. The Capitol Police were helpful and seemed to have a good time watching . They led us out of downtown with lights flashing ,running right through red lights up Capitol East and out of DC.Thanks guys! And thank you Ray and John at the Botanic Gardens. We'll get it right soon. Thanks to Mike and Randy who showed up to help and to Pat McCardle who came down to film the event. Eileen and Tommy came by the house to help on that end. We had a good lunch and talked of things natural.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Off with the Roof!

Only two days left until the move so off with the lid. It was built to come apart in four sections. Thank you Steve Kemble , all that thought is paying off. There were a few hidden fasteners that had to be dealt with, otherwise it all came apart as planned. Rain is planned for tomorrow so we tarped it up and crossed our fingers.