Tuesday, August 28, 2007

straw up

daisy and a bale

the first corner

testing clay plaster

tim and jay

nearly to the top

we've been workin' our butts off getting the straw walls up. lots of lessons. first, measure your bale height not by the height of a single bale but a stack of five or six. they seem to gain a few inches in stacking. second, make all your openings a modulus of bale dimension. third, figure out connection details in advance, preferably in three dimensions.

we also had a day and a half of excavation work during which the water lines, gas lines and the porch foundation piers were installed and a pit for our root cellar was dug. so, we now have pressurized water. we'll be shocking the well and submitting water for testing and hopefully all will pass so we can drink the water, finally! it's been great having the water handy for construction, but to drink it will ice the cake.

plaster tests have been ongoing. masonry sand is recommended for plaster and having tried out two different sands i have to report that masonry sand creates a much better, tougher plaster. it would appear that our connecticut river valley clay is about a clay-ish soil, not pure clay. a 1:1 mix with sand or 1.5:1 mix seems to dry to a durable finish. we've tried adding a bit of lime putty to the mix and this really helps bind the mix. i expect we'll go with some lime, though it means we can't apply the plaster with bare hands. i wouldn't recommend it anyway--i've peeled a good deal of skin off my hands in the last week!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

some new pix

sips arrive
sips arrive

straw stacked
straw arrives

puffy little clouds
puffy little clouds

sipping the roof
sipping the roof

grace of underlayment
gracing the roof

not much time to write, but here are some pix of our roof going on and the straw all nicely stacked.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

roof's watertight & we're testin' clay

straw clay

last weekend we received and installed the 6-1/2" insulating panels (structural insulated panels, R38) on the kitchen roof and installed a drainage plane made of roofing paper over the top as a temporary roof which will also act as a backup roof after the finish roof goes on. thanks to the small crew that did so much and braved standing so close to the edge!

next weekend (starting thursday) we will begin framing windows and doors in anticipation of straw bale stacking. i'll be giving mini straw bale workshops over the weekend describing how it all goes together and works as, essentially, a structural insulated panel. we'll cover how straw bales are made, the way they lay in a wall, how to re-shape a bale with moss's groovy giant sewing needles, how to stack, pin and attach the bales to the frame.

i'll also be showing people how to mix clay based plaster (using local connecticut river valley clay) and how to apply it to straw bales. michel and i performed experiments yesterday with various ratios of clay and sand to determine a good mix for our walls (one is pictured).

we're planning to delay the installation of the metal roof until the straw process is rolling so as to give ourselves as much plastering time as possible before freezing weather sets in. the roof paper we used is rated for six months of exposure. the metal roof is scheduled to be delivered this friday.

thus far we've received a good deal of the kitchen equipment. thanks to rick cole who has donated a three bay sink with wings and a cook top for the snack area as well as restaurant grade stainless pots. we also have stainless sinks for hand washing and the snack area. but, we still need a stove! so if you're privy to restaurant auctions or know someone who's looking to offload a restaurant stove, please let us know. we'd like an eight-burner with two ovens ideally. we're also looking for restaurant grade stainless prep counters.

next monday and tuesday we'll have thaddeus, the exacavator, up on the land, installing the water and gas lines and the 500-gallon propane tank. if i can get them up to the site, the final well connection will be made as well, leading the way to potable water from the well (after we shock and test it).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

frame raising movie

here's a movie by man of the frame raising. thanks, man!

roof deckin'

deck on

ragged ends

morning circle
morning circle

wonder roofer
neth on the roof deck

the roof deck is on...in one day! much praise is due to everyone who helped pull this one off, especially since we didn't really get started until 2pm. by 7:30pm we had the main roof finished with just a small section of the shower area to complete the next day. we had a midnight tea dance deejayed by steve sandberg to celebrate.