Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Deluge, and other adventures

 Making straw-clay

Well, it’s been quite some time since I’ve written, and I blame the rain.  Yes, it’s all the rain’s fault.  No, but really, it sort of is.  It has been raining on the daily for the past two weeks.  First week it was pouring all day every day, then last week we got epic thunderstorms every afternoon around 4pm that turned the whole building site into a giant mud puddle and sent us scurrying to cover the building in tarps and protect all tools, belongings, and precious building materials (fully coated slip-straw is just straw when it gets rained on).  Also let I remind you, I live in a tent.

So how has this stopped me from writing blog posts?  Well, it hasn’t, but it’s a good excuse.  Let’s just say I’ve been preoccupied trying to keep myself and my belongings dry and free of mold (the belongings, that is).  I have only partially succeeded (damn you mold on my clothes!)

But the rain has certainly not stopped us from getting a ton done on the cottage!  Since timber framing week we have:

Put up the rafters:


Made an earthbag (well, gravel bag) stem wall for our building, complete with sill plate on top, drip edge, and fencing material along the sides to stick plaster to later in the future:

Put cleats (parallel strips on the rafters to hold the lath) and lath (small wood strips that go perpendicular to rafters and hold up the insulation and also form the ceiling structure that we will plaster later) on the rafters:

Filled in most of our earthen floor.  Lots of dirt first to bring in up to grade, then gravel layer for drainage, then foam insulation (boo, our perlite and foam peanuts idea didn’t work), then vapor barrier (to keep moisture from the ground from soaking into our earthen floor), then sifted dirt with a little sand in it, tamped with a weighted tamper.  We’ll FINISH finish the floor at the very end!

Put up the framing for our walls.  Put in studs to hold door and window bucks, and future shelves.  These also break up the spans of wall into smaller strips so the straw-clay walls don’t have to span so far.

Made formwork for holding the straw-clay materials as they are tamped into the walls.  The formwork is pieces of 2x8 ft plywood that is screwed onto the framing temporarily and then the straw-clay is tamped into these forms to create walls.  As we move up the wall, we move the formwork up with us.

Are half way done with our stray-clay walls!

AND in addition to all of that successful work, we have also made time to:
·      Try and use foam peanuts as floor insulation only to find they were too springy and have to take all the bags of them back out.
·      Not leave enough give in the vapor barrier for all the heavy dirt and have to re-tape all the edges.
·      Have the edge of the earthen floor get rained on heavily and have to remove all the wet mud in buckets
·      Make clay slip with too many clay chunks in it
·      Slip a bunch of hay before realizing it had seeds and was not the promised straw
·      Have rain wash dirt and mud into a lot of our prepared straw-clay
·      Over tamp the straw-clay walls
·      Under tamp the straw-clay walls

So you can see we’ve been busy.  Hooray for learning curves!  But despite all the rain and setbacks the building is looking awesome, the group has managed to get along throughout and maintain a positive attitude, and we are learning a ton.  And hey, the more mistakes we make, the more we will learn to never make those mistakes again.  Ah, perspective.

PS. i realize these photos don't make it look very rainy, but believe me when it was raining it was not the kind of weather to pull out a camera in!

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