Saturday, December 29, 2007

Diagram of ...progress?


Well, if nothing else, you can see that the grass is growing on our new slope, holding in the dirt during the rains.

This photo was taken from the south side of 'the meadow', looking north at the house site. The Green line circles the area that will be under the patio, which is in-fill from when we dug into the hillside above it.

The red arrow points to the foundation wall that you can just see poking above the grass (it's at least knee high in this photo)

The thin green arrows point to the outside (west and east) edges of the house, showing how wide it will be.

The blue tarp (which covers our not yet mixed mortar bags) is approximately over the second (middle) bedroom area.

How to relieve yourself on the mountain.

If you need to sit down, see below. Otherwise, you can choose:

Right on the Compost pile
near the blueberries
near any other bush or tree
ladies can use the above list if they feel capable, or in the composting toilet.

How to use the composting toilet:

sit down and go.
make sure everything is pointing into the bucket (there's a small gap under the seat)
instead of flushing, use the sawdust in the bin and cover enough so that the next user can't tell you've been there. Like a litterbox...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lister in the Trailer

Got it in a trailer (of my neighbor's, who wants it back now, sheesh) and it's a pretty handy place to work on it... but of course I don't really know what I'm doing anyway. It's a good way to move it around though.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Proud of my garbage can.

Actually, my home-made garbage can isn't that big of a deal, but the fact that it's 50 gallons, and we've lived up here 17 months, (owned two years!) and only taken it to the dump to empty twice. I believe that's a bunch better than the average household. Now that I think about it though, that's 68 weeks of living, and (since it's pretty full right now) 150 gallons of trash... 2.2 gallons of trash every week. hmm.. I bet I can get it lower than that (without burning trash that shouldn't be). And, hey, this is a construction site as well... usually at a house building site, there's a whole dumpster, so I'm not doing that bad.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Looking for a solution...

So. I've got some options due to a lack of foresight on my part. As stated in the previous post, we're bringing up the floor -- the gravel under the floor -- from where it is in this photo, to above the rim of this bucket.
When we poured the bond beam, I put J bolts in for brackets to hold the door frame (for the back door). Now I realize that since the wall has to come up so much, the door 'threshold' will be at least 2 feet higher than the concrete the bucket is now sitting on... what to do?

I could build a door frame that's 10 feet tall, and have some sort of box under the door... a storage spot? something for the sub-floor heating system?

Or, I could just brick this part up and put in new J bolts at the normal floor line...

Anyone got ideas?

A bit of progress, drains

The wall is crawling up. it's not hard work, but it's hard to just do the same thing all day... we can see the end of this part of the project though. here is the 'SW corner' of the house with the kitchen sink drain popping out. The inside end of this pipe will be well below the floor line, and possibly below the outside patio line as well. You can sort of make out a stick in the middle of this picture, right above the drainpipe. that's our rough floor marker... well, about two inches down from the top of that stick is where the floor will be. We want to have the stone wall go above that line.


Here's the shower drain, right below that floor mat on the wall. This too, will be well below the floor level. You also get a good shot of the solar trailer here... the trailer is nearest the NW corner of the house.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Correction: Northern Pygmy Owl.

Melissa the birdwatcher has decided that it's actually a Northern Pygmy Owl we found. So, we got that going for us, which is nice.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Northern Saw-whet owl!

I was kicking around the compost pile today, and thought a bit of avacodo pit had gotten away (it was pretty dark) and then I realized there was a small (I think baby) owl sitting there on the ground while I was standing right next to it.





The full-sized adults only get to be like 8 inches tall, and this guy is about 5... I think he fell out of the nest and is waiting for a mommy round-up. we left him there tonight, and will do something about him if he's there in the morning.




Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Slow, but steady, progress....


One of the reasons we don't have too many posts lately is all we seem to be doing is building the wall. It is coming along though. The east side, where Melissa is now standing (as though we're looking in the 'front' door [looking north]) is almost done. Once we mortar in that layer by Melissa's knee, we'll be done with rock on this side.




we do still have a bunch (like 2 feet of height) to go on the west wall though.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

New Washing Machine in Place!

On our way to Modesto to pick up the old generator, we made a side trip to Hollister and picked up a used washing machine (off Craigslist). It's a super efficient, low water-use, low power use, Italian design small-ish washer. I've set it up underneath the bathhouse right now, and when the house is done we'll have it up closer.
Of course, when I got it set up, I discovered a leak, so we have to order a new part. Still, we've saved a bunch of money getting a used one. And, hey, what's a little more frustration on top of everything else?

More Visitors!

Jason and Vanessa came up on the coldness day yet this year and stayed overnight. We ate a whole bunch, managed to drink two bottles of wine, and hot tub! Not too shabby.


New Bread recipe

I can't believe it, but I saw a recipe in a magazine (Mother Earth News) and thought I'd try it... and it was great! Really nice bread, good crust, nice 'crump' (inside), and really easy. Guess I'm doing that again.

Visitors to the Mountain!

Leora and Eric and Snoop and Ollie came up for a day trip... drove their VW toreg (sp?) all the way up, and it barely rained while they were here. We did have fun sitting in the yurt picking burrs off the dogs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Not much productivity....

Because I'm sick (still have a cold from Japan, going on two weeks now) I don't really have the energy to do too much... so I'm doing little projects, and goofing off.

Painted the first coat on an old rocking chair that will eventually sit out on the patio



set up the 'cold air intake' for our living room. This is pretty cool. We intend to have a wood burning stove in our living room, and while I doubt our house will get to the 'air tight' stage, I've read about having a place where outside, cool air can be used to stoke the fire, instead of already warmed air from the room going into the fire and up the chimney. This tube goes through the foundation to the outside, then will go through the gravel under the floor and pop out right below the door of the fireplace. I'll work on some cool looking way to have it come out of the floor... in other words, it won't be a plastic pipe sticking out of the floor.






Fixed the hose by putting a new end on it. that'd been bugging me for a couple months. Notice I needed two clamps. cheap stuff.






And, even when I'm not working, the compost pile is working away. I'm really happy with my 'speed composting' bin, where I've been working the kitchen scraps, horse manure, and leaves from around here. All this will go right into the garden, and I'll be making another batch or two before next spring.
Holiday Decorations?


before we went off for Thanksgiving, we peeled and hung 82 persimmons from Melissa's folk's tree. They should be great candy by Valentines Day. In the meantime, they're our winter decorations.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sorry for the lack of posts....

we were in Japan for two weeks, and now we're on our way out of town for Thanksgiving. Here we are in Nagasaki having lunch at a tempura spot.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Neighbor Cat

This cat saw me on the road yesterday and followed me back to the yurt. We've seen him down by our new neighbors' place, but I think he came with the land anyway. i.e. he was there before they bought the place. Of course Melissa pet him, and he stayed around overnight.

If he sticks around, he'd better be good at catching gophers.
Rocks, piled.

Looks like we've got a lock on all the rest of the 'rock' we need for the house... but we're going to have to make a bunch of trips to do it. (anyone want to come and drive back and forth to Felton for us?) Melissa has started making runs, while I do who-knows-what around here. Here's two loads, somewhat organized by size and shape. 10 more to go!

"Green" logs

So, last April or so, I cut a few redwoods down to prep them for use as posts and beams in our house. I had done a batch the winter before (chronicled here) and after peeling the bark off, those looked great. However, the ones I took down in April, I peeled the bark off right away, as I had discovered that it comes off really easy in the first week... like peeling a banana.

Well, over the summer, when they should have been drying out, they developed a weird green mold. It's not the end of the world, but it means that each one is going to have to be sanded/scraped/washed to get it off.


I just added another log yesterday, one that Surfer Mike cut down amost 2 years ago. I peeled the bark off and put it with these others... it's the third from right in this picture. (the other white-ish ones are logs I just turned over) Now I can really see how green these others are:


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Veggie Power Tower In Action!



People were asking what the heck the whole veggie power tower was about, so here's the first photo. I pour the used veg oil from the 'cubies' (the square jugs) that I get from the restaurants, into the filters in the top barrel. Then it drains into the second barrel, for more settling. Then, when I need fuel, I can now drive right up to the tower and use gravity to fill the tank.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Party Ridge, Skview Lane.

About a 10 minute walk from our place, the neighbor guys have set up a couch on 'party ridge', where they often go to watch the sunset. Nice view, huh?

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Dan and Wiley come to visit!




my good buddy Dan from nursery school ---yes, that's 35 years I've known this guy--- (he's so old) and his dog Wiley are doing a west coast tour. We got a bunch of stuff done while he was here. One would have to say he set a record for helping with projects. It helps that he was here for 4 or 5 days... we got to have a bunch of fun, but had time to work too.


We fired up the earthen oven and of course baked some pizzas:



we built the "Veggie Power Tower" to hold my filtration system up above the truck tank....
here's the victory dance when we finished:


and we did find time to practice our throwing knife skills.

Evidence of work:

So, while often there isn't much to show for the work we do around here, since a few more inches on the wall or more oil filtered doesn't exactly make for exciting photos, here's some solid evidence that we are actually working.

Below is a shot of all the leather gloves I could find around the place that I've basically had to stop using because I wore them out. I think I've purchased 9 pair, but I'm not sure. I decided to spend the big money and am now going to see how long a pair of $30 gloves last.










You may recall this photo from July. That's a shot of 22 or so tons of gravel just delivered.




well, guess what? it's gone! well, it's put in the house foundation. what's amazing is that we're going to need another load.




Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh Deer.

For the second time, the deer have stomped my light fencing and chomped the heck out of the strawberries. You can see from this picture that I had stakes in the ground with deer fencing stretched across them (also keeps birds out, but not slugs) but the deer just went crazy and chewed on the fencing, stomped everything, and kicked stuff over. these were full grown strawberry plants.










here's a close up of what's left of one:



Thursday, September 27, 2007

Each bit of wall

Every time we go down off the mountain, we plan our trips so that we get groceries, mail, and do whatever errands we need. Every time, that includes a load of broken concrete to go into the wall... unless it's bags of mortar, which are too heavy to include with a load of 'urbanite'.

here you can see what one smallish load looks like before I toss it onto the ground to be sorted and stacked onto the wall. Yep, these rocks get touched a minimum of three times. One to get them into the truck, one to get them out, and one to get them onto the wall. Each load is about 1000 to 1500 pounds.


You can also see used veggie oil containers that I picked up, ready to get filtered for fuel.




The wall continues...

I'm getting flack because I haven't posted in a week. well, besides being under-the-weather (not that stops much around here) there really isn't much to show. This wall building stuff is darn slow work. I took some pictures though. Here you can see the outside (what will eventually be waterproofed and buried) of the north wall. There's still a ways to go.










I took a minute in photoshop and drew in the area that the north wall (here seen from 'the front door') still has to cover. it's just chunks of old concrete and mortar mix until that pink section is filled in.







Here you can see a happy spot. This is the lower north wall, about where the bathroom sink will be, and the stone wall has come up as far as it needs to. We put in the tooth rocks to help connect the stone wall to the future 'cob', that is, adobe-like, wall. Seeing the 'teeth' means that wall is high enough.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Steps update:

Most (maybe all?) of the interior walls and steps are done. The mortaring part, I mean. it's a bit difficult to show perspectives, but here is the steps to the middle (2nd) bedroom. They'll have some nice piece of wood glued and bolted onto them, (I tossed some scrap lumber on there so you can get the idea) and then two all-wood steps built below these, where the milk crate is now. The plan is to have double/french doors on this bedroom.










In what will be the hallway between the 2nd bedroom and the bathroom area, there's going to be a storage spot, with doors on it... and then open shelves above it. I put the wine bottle there for perspective. This spot will have cob (mud walls) all around and above it, and so will be a pretty good constant-cool-tempature spot.








Here you can see the living room steps. I suppose you could say the camera is a bit to the left of what will be the kitchen island... looking up (east) to the living room and the front door. Again, the steps will have wood on them, with two wooden steps built in front. Further up, on the far side of the living room, there'll be one step, again with wood. (the wine bottle is on that step now) In this picture, you can see a post (holding up an unseen tarp) to the right of the wine bottle. One could imagine that post being right in front of the 'front' door.

You can also see from this picture that there's going to be a bunch more gravel put in for the floor, and then the earthen floor on top of that will hold the radiant heating tubes. You can see a milk jug in the living room area... the gravel will be deep enough to bury that milk jug.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Nice stuff around the yurt



Here's a nice scene: my second round of cheese with a bowl of arugala, earthen-oven-baked sourdough bread, and a small glass of wine.








Did I mention I'm all proud of the little pot lid handle I made when the store one fell off?



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.




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