Friday, August 31, 2007

Cool Cool Cool

I've been frustrated by how our purified drinking water, that we put into bottles to have ready to drink, gets too warm sitting out on the counter in the yurt these hot days. (it was 100 in the yurt before lunch yesterday) and I've tried a few different things.

Our fridge is too small to have 4 or 5 liters of water in it, so I decided to tap into the cool underground. Not too far from the yurt,

I dug a hole and made a small lid for it, and filled it with drinks. They're not frosty, but they are nice and cool.

Hot Hot Hot!

Since it's been really hot these last days, I decided it'd be a perfect time to work on building really hot fires! Actually, I could argue that by cooking outside, I'm not heating up the yurt, so I'm really being thoughtful.

Anyway, here's me being excited about how hot my fire is burning inside my earthen oven.

and here's a direct shot. As you know, after about 3 hours of hot fire, I pull out the coals (no, I haven't yet used them to grill stuff with, but I will) and clean off the brick floor of the oven, and put the pizzas and breads right on the brick. Then I cook up granola, casseroles, etc.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A nice 'straight from the garden' scene.

We've had mild success with our garden this year... the soil isn't as good as I thought, we probably weren't watering enough, and it's already challenged for light, as we have the big trees blocking morning sun. Still we get some good stuff from it.
Tonight Melissa picked some small yellow beats, some swiss chard, and the handful of tomatoes that were ripe. Makes a nice picture... and a nice dinner.

Did I show you my 'patio' stairs?

These go down from the patio of the future house towards the yurt. (they go down to the west)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Update on Stairs and levels work:

We're now building mini-retaining walls for each level, which in some cases will have walls on them, and some spots will be stairs (probably with wooden tops for the 'tread' of the stair.)

Here you can see how we used some rebar to tie the bond beam into the stairs (not that it needed it)

Here you can see how well Melissa works at stacking the urbanite and filling in the mortar lines as we're working along. You can see the 3 bags of mason's mortar in the back of this photo... we've probably already used 60 of those, mostly on the retaining wall.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Concrete Review and Report:

As many 'green' builders know, concrete is actually a very toxic building material, with the horrible environmental impacts of it's creation at the top of the list. Add the big truck, and the lye/lime chemicals, the dust, and the fact that when people are done with it, they break it up and put it in a landfill... it's not that great. However, it is a very solid substance that is highly recommended for stability in earthquake zones, and to work against moisture issues. Thus, we had to use some. We got one trucks worth (yes, the whole nine yards, where the saying comes from) for the 'bond beam', the bottom rim of our little house. Of course, we're also using masons mortar for the retaining wall (mortaring together chunks of 'used' concrete, "urbanite") and we will mortar in another foot or so of urbanite on top of our bond beam.

Here you can see the bond beam after we took the forms off. We didn't have to worry about the smoothness of the top, as we need to mortar in the next row of urbanite, and a rough surface is better than a smooth one.
You can also see the overlap 'step' going from one level to the next in this photo. We wanted a couple of feet of overlap to help deal with the change in levels.

The one 'not perfect' situation of our concrete pour was there was more concrete in the truck than we needed. We had the pump guy go around and fill up our forms to the level we wanted, and we helped settle that in with plungers, etc. Then he said he had a batch more, and since it was paid for, we told him to add it to the top, to give us more height on the wall... Well, it was coming out of the truck drier than the rest, and we had a hard time keeping up with the pump working the harder mix. Thus, in a lot of places, we got this result:

It's not a big deal, as the entire bond beam will be covered with exterior plaster (along with the rest of the wall, or we may put some decorative stones on the front of the house, and the interior will have insulation and plaster over it... still, it would have been nice to feel that we had a perfect pour.

We got right back to business and started the little 'mini' retaining wall for the steps inside the house. This is the first 'course'. None of these will be seen inside the house either.

We're ready for the vampire wars after pulling out all the stakes that were holding up the forms. These are just some of the sharpened ones.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Concrete Day!

They got here bright and early; I biked down and met the pump guy, and the concrete truck was right behind us. Art (Melissa's Dad) got here just in time to do some serious helping out. Here you can see the guy pumping the stuff into our forms, and Art doing a two-handed plunging to make sure there aren't any air bubbles.

It started to harden up really fast. Since it was in the truck for an hour before it got to us, it was already to go when it got here. We had to work really fast to get the J bolts in and the stuff smoothed out. Here's me and the pump guy putting the J bolts in with a hammer.

This is the east wall, looking good. You can just see a bit of rebar sticking up out of the bond beam in the front of this picture. We'll now put a couple of rows of 'urbanite' on top of this bond beam, and use those rebar bits to tie in the mortared 'stone' wall to the whole thing.

Here's one of the footings filled up and smoothed out. None of it will be showing when we're done, but it doesn't look too bad now. The J-bolts are off to the side like that because they'll be hooking into an L bracket that will bolt to the side of the post.

Forms are ready for concrete

Here you can see how we've prepared the forms for the concrete pour. As said before, we're using 'masonite', a sort of reinforced cardboard... also called 'hardboard siding'. It's bendable, and slippery on one side. You can see how we've made a blue mark to show how high the concrete should be poured into the form. Since it's not important to have a smooth or perfectly level surface, we're able to have those supports (redwood branches) go across the top.

Here's one of the footing forms, with the J bolts ready to go in. They'll be holding a bracket that will be bolted into the wooden post that will be holding up the roof.

Here's our plan for the different levels. The end board will hold up the extra stuff on top (it's extra thick at the 'steps' so we've got a good overlap)

Here you can see how we've propped up the rebar so that it's up off the bottom of the form. it's higher in some places than others.

This is looking down on one of the steps. Hope this works!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Foundation forms starting to go in

Working with 'masonite' (a sort of pressboard cardboard stuff that comes in 8x4 sheets), spacers cut from redwood branches, and redwood stakes, the form for the concrete bond beam is starting to take shape.

it's harder than you'd think to get the rebar and the form to follow the curves Melissa has ascribed to the house plans.
Pizza's Done!

Well, I got the earthern oven up and running, baked four loaves of bread and a cassarole, but first I did two pizzas. Notice my oak 'peel' (the paddle) that I made from a board I milled from a tree I cut down. Ah, country life.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Rebar goes down.

So, after doing some trading with my neighbor, I got 20 pieces of 1/2 inch rebar from him and dragged it home behind my truck. Yes, dragged.

Then we spent about two days (not the whole day, as it was necessary to take breaks) to bend two sets to the outline of the house, so they'll be tensile strength for the 'bond beam' that goes around the entire perimeter of the house. Here you can see it laying on top of the gravel trench.

sometimes it was hard to keep them parallel, but I'll now have to wire in some small cross pieces, and that will keep them in place.

(this is the East, highest, side of the house)

(this is the North side)

I also did some more digging today; I moved all the topsoil that was piled up between the 'driveway' and the patio area. I spread most of it on the hillside below the patio, but also made piles on the 'road to nowhere' for later use. here you can see the new 'walkway' so one doesn't have to scramble over the gravel pile.

After cutting the grass around the meadow, leaving it's seed head on, I spread out the straw/hay on the hillside below the patio, hoping to help hold the dirt on the hill, and promote native grass growing. I'll probably also buy a bunch of grass seed and spread it around before the rains.

$1 tool rescue

Had a moment last week, so we strolled the flea market. A woman had a pile of rusty tools "anything $1!" and so I dug through it ...