Journey in the Woods

Monday, August 31, 2009

Jason and Vanessa come to visit!

and of course we talked them into working on the house! Actually, Jason came up for 4 days and worked the whole time, during what I hope was our last heat wave of the summer. It was 94 in the shade for about 2 days.

That didn't stop us from sculpting cob onto the walls. Here's Jason working on the interior wall between the bedrooms:



As soon as Vanessa was here, she jumped right in, starting with wetting down the wall where we were going to put a fresh batch:


And they got right into mixing and making cobs:


Melissa does make it fun, what with all the gossiping and laughing as they work:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Digging in the woods

I decided it was time to get on the flat spot for one of the water tanks that will hold the rainwater from the roof. So, in between plumbing nightmares (more on that later) and cobbing, I decided to dig out a spot in the woods for the tank. It's about 10 feet in diameter.

This is me, deciding (with Melissa's help) on where to put it.





This is me, two days later, a little more tired.



The photo isn't from exactly the same spot, but you can see the stump in both photos for comparison.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Melissa is back in tiling gear




Because of the way we have to plan on building the cob walls, sometimes we have to stop and build in things before we continue with the walls, or it would be much to difficult to do later. In this instance, Melissa decided to tile in the 'cold box' floor before we built the wall up around it.

So she got on her safety gear and mixed up some thinset for the granite tile.

Brian comes to work!

Brian from Minnesota came out for the weekend, and of course we put him to work. He did a great job sculpting the liquor cabinet and some of the wall between the bedrooms:


And, since he was interested in the sawmill, we got him geared up


and he sliced what I hope will be a bathroom shelf.


we did manage to kill a bunch of tin cans in between all the hard work

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Various little points of progress:
In this picture, you can see the first shelf is in for the magazine nook in the toilet area, and you can see the back of the shower shelf, which is actually bigger than the nook will be, but we're planning ahead so as to be able to match the tiles with the edges... whatever needs to be filled in on the inside will be, so that the nook fits properly in the pattern.


Here you can see the deadmen - bits of wood - buried in the bathroom (east) wall that will be anchor points for the future shelves.

Here's a strange view of our future 'cold box' -- a sort of cooler in the wall, with air flow vents to the outside - Melissa has just added some more cob mix to the bottom to flatten it out, after we got the door frame in place, as well as the first, lower vent. You can just make out the notches that will hold the shelf, making this a two level cold box.


Here you can see a strip of cardboard laying out where we intend to put book shelves in the main bedroom. I love putting in stuff like this, as it means less cob that needs lifting onto the walls.







Sunday, August 09, 2009

More Progress to report:

The liquor cabinet is in! The door frame is solid, and the countertop plywood and hardibacker is level and secure. (3/4 inch ply with thin-setted 1/4 hardi Karl). I'm not sure yet how I'll build the door, whether it will go inside the hole, or outside and cover it all.


We started around the east side! This is the first batch on the east of the front door. We've been working mostly on the west so as to bring all the walls up at the same time to the same level. Finally, we've reached high enough to justify going over to the east side.

100th Batch!

Of course I've been keeping track. We put our 100th batch on the walls the other day; it got worked into the west kitchen wall and buttress. Here's Melissa thumbing it in. (she does all the the thumbing, I do all the sculpting)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Continuing process

As we've moved to soaking the clay in small containers, Melissa spends time fishing out the organics - weeds, bark, roots, etc - so they don't end up in the walls, and tempt bugs who might find them nutritious


Everyday I should spend time checking the plumb of the walls, which I do with some regularity,


and when I find it off, I shave off the leaning bits with my 'mud saw' made from an old band-saw blade. I really like how the walls look after shaving; the surface, not just the plumb line.

Wooden Comb

When Lisa was here, she talked about how great her Japanese wooden comb was, and suggested that I make one for Melissa, so I did. It's made from madrone, wrapped up for presentation.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Bathroom window goes in!

well, the frame anyway. Finally! You can also see another rock I threw in the wall.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

New Clay Process

As we are working away on our mixing process, we decided to try a different way to prep the clay. We had been dumping the 1 &3/4th buckets of clay out on the tarp dry, and stepping and smashing the clumps until they were quite fine, pulling out the organic material as we went. Then adding it to the sand, then adding water, etc.

Other folks soak their clay first, so we decided to try that as well. We're still not sure if it's a better way to go, as we do end up using more water (that ever-precious resource) but we've at least got a new system going.




We separate the clay into three containers (per cob batch) and add the correct amount of total water to the clay - that way we already know how much water is in the mix. Leaving them sit overnight allows all or most of the clumps to break up, and most of the organic junk - sticks, roots, wood chips - float to the top, where we can skim them off pretty easy.

I didn't have enough 5 gallon buckets for this process, but then I had the idea of using old veg oil 'cubies' with the tops cut off. they aren't as handy as the buckets, but they work, and hold the right amount.

Varnishing Act



Melissa does most of the varnishing around here. While I don't particularly like the 'philosophy' of varnish, with it's high chemical content and non-naturalness, I really like the look, feel, and durability of it. With all the mud and moisture of our house (the earth walls sort of 'breathe' so there's always some humidity in them) varnishing seems to be the best solution to still be able to enjoy the look of the wood.



Here's Melissa working on the window frames that are already in the south wall:




And below are some door frames: both sides of the 2nd bedroom closet door, and the 1st bedroom doorway frame. I'm planning a pocket sliding door, so there's only one side for that.





You can also see the door frame of the 'cold box' on the left side of this photo. That will be basically a hole in the wall with ventilation that will be like a small fridge or root cellar. Also notice the interior wall going up!