Friday, September 29, 2006

Mud love

Mudding can inspire a certain amount of mischief, we've discovered. It tends to meld the old with the young and the mud with the tongue (or the back, or the cheek)!

It's not unusual to see hand-shaped mud imprints on the back of a fellow mudder - not self-imposed!
And, lately, we've even noticed muddy hand prints on a few faces...

We're putting up our interior partitions this week, putting cedar shakes on the dormer (the roof splashes too much to put plaster up there) and plastering, plastering, plastering....

Mark the Excavator returns to install our septic system, backfill the foundation and dig trenches for the water line and electrical service. I might snag him into moving some of the beautiful lime boulders around while he's here...(I'm so my mother's daughter).

The roof metal should be complete, the soffits and fascia should be done, and our doors will hopefully be installed!

With a little help from my friends

It has been an intense week with weird issues arising with our bank, our insurer and contractors - but they're all resolved now (what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right????). All of the issues were unrelated, but all incredibly frustrating).

The bright side is our friends - some old, some new. Here are a few of the great folks who've joined our straw bale hall of fame this month:

Carolyn & Erroll Hatfield, Carol Ann Taylor, Frank & Kathy Rutherford, The Young Family (Dave, Brenda, Callum, Ben, Maris - and Julien - an exchange student), Marty White, Janine Van Winssen, Kerry Jo Parker,Debbie & JP Maillet, Derrian Smith and her friend Kathleen, Phil Savage, Ali Murhpy and her partner Lee, Kyle Whittaker, ...

I know I've forgotten someone (and I don't have photos of everyone, but know that we're so incredibly thankful to you.

I estimate that we have a week's worth of plastering to finish the 2nd coat (aka the "fill coat") on the exteriour.
This will protect us for the winter. We will likely wait until Spring to apply the beautiful, smooth plaster finish since this one probably won't be dry in time before the temperature drops. This mean our neighbours have to live with our mud hut look for the next six months or so, but we'll do our best...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Room With A View and Bale Friends

We're delighted that our site and design enable us to view trees from every window. What could be better?

Post workshop, we were relieved that some of our straw bale crew from Straw Bale Projects in NS could stay on with us for varying lengths of time. Kim departed on Monday eve to head back to begin teaching at Dalhousie University again. Zak went back Wednesday to prepare for a workshop on Living Roofs. We were lucky enough to keep Jeffrey on until Sunday and Rob, Meg and their beautiful new puppy, Bayla until Wednesday.

This crew works like dogs for *way* past an eight hour work day. More important, they made this project possible for us. There would have been tears and screaming, I'm certain, if they had not been there to help us solve problems and tackle areas that might have been impossible for us to handle. We had a ball together, and each time one of them left, it felt like a dear old friend was leaving us, even though we'd only recently become acquainted. I'd recommend Straw Bale Projects to anyone.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

All in the Family

Ah, but blood is thick! There's no way to ever repay the amount of support and help we've received from family during the planning and construction of our house.

Mom has kept us fuelled throughout the project with amazing meals. Feeding and cleaning up after 25 people during the workshop with limited kitchen tools was an amazing feat, and her support continues.

Dad has worked tirelessly to ensure things keep moving, tools are in place, windows are installed and proper materials are purchased. His commitment hasn't stopped at the electrical installation, that's for certain.

Jozef, Krista and the kids keep popping in here and there despite heavy family and volunteer commitments.

Joe has even been engineering new straw bale tools. He built two PERSUADERS (the giant wooden hammers to beat bales into place) and designed a cobber's tool - though he's still at work on that one, and the finest pair of bale needs I've seen yet.

The Nyenhuis' have also sourced a number of free materials like steel barrels and palettes.

And the boys...well, boys will be boys....

Special thanks to my Aunt Jeanie for the surprise treats and meals and to my niece Val for cookies!

Workshop Day III

The final day of the workshop was dedicated to mud. It brings back good memories of mud pies and dinky toys in puddles. I find the plaster work meditative (except running a 9 cu-ft mortar mixer - the sound of that puppy isn't so!).

The beautiful thing about bringing a dozen or so people together who were previously unacquainted is that you'll always have this unique experience to share. We came from very different backgrounds with various goals, but we all had a common element and that's part of what made the group jive together amazingly well.

A brief recap of the day in photos: You can see Kim giving a tarp dance demo (that's the manual way of mixing the fill coat - FAR too much twist & shout action required to build a house...hence the mortar mixer rental...but it would be a great weight loss plan!).
My nephew Ethan quite liked getting into the mud - he's seen above preparing clay slurry by hand in a bucket (it can also be done in the masterful mortar mixer - but you end up with mud splashed on you from head to toe!). Here also is Annabelle using our texture sprayer with an air compressor attached to it to apply the first coat to the wall (the other two coats are applied manually). Who needs to pay for a spa! We can offer clay baths anytime!

Alas, at the end of the day, we were incredibly pleased with the results of the workshop. You can see in the picture at the top that our home had advanced significantly in three days, and we had a blast doing it. It was a lot of work to prepare for the workshop, but I would recommend it to anyone.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Workshop Day II

Day II began again with breakfast in the sunshine, and bale raising to complete the rest of the main floor wall. At the end of the day, the group worked together to raise the top plate (the wood structure that sits on top of the wall to serve as a key compression point). An exciting milestone to hit!

These are just a few of the photos. I'll add more to my file later so that workshop friends can download them (since it takes so long to upload them to the main blog). Mitchell is seen crouching high on top of the portion of wall that he and Charles masterfully assembled. Annabelle is seen looking like some sort of urban-meets-rural super hero with a chainsaw. She's cutting channels in the walls so that we can add external pins to provide additional support to the wall. Dave M. is seen using THE PERSUADER to beat bales back into place.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Workshop Day I

We had ten newbies stay on to participate in the full three-day workshop - a wonderfully diverse mix of hard workers. Workshop participants were joined by professional straw balers - Zak Miller, Rob McLean, Meghan MacCulloch, Jeffrey Ponsford and presenter, Kim Thompson.

Participants came from various parts of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia - and all are keen to build or renovate with straw bale in the future.

We kicked off each day with breakfast together as a group. Meals together made for great bonding and information sharing time - one of my favourite parts (well, food and fun are always a priority!). After breakfast on Day One, we spent a few hours learning about each other's straw bale plans and discussing straw bale principles and techniques. Before lunch, we began laying bales in a running bond around the perimeter of the house. Much time was spent on notching bales to fit around window and door openings and tying them to one another for additional security.
By the end of the day (as you can see in the photo of the house), we had most of the main floor wall up and the group was in a fine groove. I'm amazed at how quickly everyone caught on and how much they accomplished in a short period of time. Wunderbar!

Friday Talk

Our workshop weekend began with a warm crowd of folks attending a public lecture by Kim Thompson of Straw Bale Projects in Halifax and Nader Naderi of Atlantic Post & Beam in Fredericton. This part was free and open to the public. We're keen to see more people involved in natural building, so Dave & I jumped on the idea when Kim Thompson suggested a public talk.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pre-Workshop Work

My three week vacation is over, so I'm back in my cave at a computer. It's a good job, but I *so* loved being outdoors working on the house every day. Over the coming days, I'll attempt to bring the blog up to date during my lunch break to share the progress of our home. Here is our home, just before the workshop.

Here also you can see my Mom & Dad working on installing the curb on which the straw bales will be placed. Jeffrey Ponsford is in the orange shirt. He hails from Ontario, but we definitely consider him to be an honorary Maritimer. Jeffrey is a professional straw baler, and came a few days in advance to help us prepare the house for the workshop. His sense of humour and hard work ethic are amazing - it made tough times seem easy for us. Jeffrey was later joined by other professional balers, but I'll get to that in another posting.

It was a hectic week preparing for our workshop, but it all came together in time for Friday (Sept 1) night's kick off and public lecture.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Pause in Posting

A quick note to say that all is well in our straw bale world. We'll update the blog next week with photos and tidbits when we have access to high speed internet again. In the mean time, know that we're having the time of our lives! The walls are up and the plaster is going full tilt.

I have to take this opportunity to send our thanks to Derrian Smith of Dressed to Sell Inc. (a brilliant business that helps you dress your house to achieve your goals in the real estate market). Derrian has kept us from going off the deep end with boosts of enthusiasm, tonnes of volunteer work on the house and AMAZING meals prepared by her chef friend, Linda (Derrian, We MUST have her number). Thank you!

Here we are two Saturdays ago during the ceremonial laying of the first bale. Back to the mud!

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