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Tuesday, December 20, 2011


We're dreaming of a white Christmas . . .

Cause' that's what we're gonna have. We got 7" of snow from a big storm that blew through here yesterday (we were forecast to get 1 to 3"!) It's probably going to be a couple of months before we see dirt again - and can work on the house. Oh well. I guess I'll rest up!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Update
We had our first significant snow storm on December 3rd with more on the 5th. Not only are things under 4 to 5 inches of snow, it has been insanely cold. Today is the first day in the last 4 or 5 that the temperature has gotten above freezing. At least it's sunny!!! All this has pretty much shut down building operations - however I'm hopeful that it will warm up by the weekend so I can get back to work soon. (I even went out and swept off the foundation in the hopes that it would dry out quicker). This is the first stretch of time since June (other than a trip to NC in September) I've had where I haven't been out working at least a little each day and I'm starting to feel my shoveling/lifting muscles melt away :-( I have gotten pretty used to and addicted to the work !!!

So I'm practicing patience and thinking about the next steps and what we need to get together to proceed so I'll be ready when the weather warms.

Some Thoughts
The many hours I've spent shoveling dirt and gravel and lifting adobes over the last six months have afforded me a lot of time to muse on things. I realize that there are many, many things I've done in my life over the years that have prepared me for and brought me to this point. It's very interesting.

I spent many hours watching my dad and brother build things when I was a kid. Some of my most vivid memories are of building projects that took place at our home or in my dad's workshop. The smell of wet cement and fresh lumber are perfume to me - due in large part, I'm sure, to those wonderful memories. (I now add the smell of wet mud to the list).

I also spent many hours watching my mom sew. She taught me how to sew when I was about 6 (to keep me occupied while I was recovering from chicken pox). For most of my junior high and high school years, I made most of my clothes. I got pretty good at figuring out complex patterns.

Then, five years ago I spent a year taking some wonderful adobe building classes where I learned that I really love slinging mud! AND am pretty good at it!

I've been around building and construction of one sort or another for a good part of my life and I now feel like all the pieces of the puzzle that is me are finally coming together to form a pretty clear picture. I have always loved to make things: jewelry, yarn, clothing, knitwear, etc. But I have now discovered that I LOVE building things!

I'm really enjoying this adventure!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Another Milestone!

The big adobe wall is finally done! This part of the project took a lot more time than I'd anticipated - there were a lot of adobe bricks to lay! The most number of courses we did in a day was five, and that was really pushing it. More often than not, we only got 2 to 2 1/2 done. It's pretty amazing to see it! You can now see our emerging house from the highway, which is pretty cool.

I had really hoped to have the roof up this year but since the adobe wall took so long, it's looking like that probably won't happen. Oh well, one has to be flexible! We have decide to keep going with the adobes. We have two trombe walls that need to be laid so I will start on them later this week. We are expecting possible winter weather this weekend so we shall see how far we get. At least these walls are only 8 courses high (as a posed to 20!) and only one adobe wide so they should go faster. I will really have muscles by the time they are done!

So my new goal is to have the roof up by spring. If the weather cooperates, maybe that will happen.
This shot shows the adobe wall with the foundation for the studio/office in the foreground.
Here's the wall from inside the house. It will be a wonderful place to hang out with plants in the windows.

You can now see our "house" from our road.

Whew!!!!!




Sunday, November 20, 2011


Progress
We are making slow but steady progress on our adobe wall. With just two of us working we are only able to get 2 or 3 courses done a day - especially since they're double width. We finished the banco part today so the rest should go a lot faster. It's hard work but fun to see part of our dream take shape!

This is how much we got done after 2 days work.

Day 3 - banco is looking good.

Day 4 - window bucks are in. Should be faster going from here to the top.

Here's the banco at the end of day 4
I finally have a window seat!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Going Up!
After 5 months spent in or on the foundation ditch we are finally starting to go UP!
Here are the first two posts up where the adobe wall will be.
We can finally see something above ground!

Playing With Mud
Now it's time to play in the mud! Story polls are marked (those are the two posts on either side of the adobe wall marked where each course of adobes will go), gringo blocks (those are the wooden boxes that will replace adobes on either side of the windows to give something to attach the window bucks to) and window bucks are made - we are ready to go! Since we are laying adobes in November we only have about 4 hours of working time each day. We can work until 2 but then have to stop to give the mud a chance to dry out some before the cold night. (If truth be known, I'm not sure my body would make it lifting adobes - 30+ pounds each - for more than four hours at a stretch!) Fortunately it looks like we are going to have good weather the next 4 or 5 days so hopefully we can get the whole wall up.

Gringo blocks

Window bucks. The wall they are going in is in the foreground.

Here is the footing that the adobes will be stacked on. The black is asphalt to help protect the first course of adobes.

Here is Rick mixing our first batch of mud.
It's been a while since I took my adobe classes and I was not sure how much I'd remember but as we worked it all came back to me. Sort of like riding a bike!

Here I am laying the first adobes in mud.

Here's the first course done! The first 4 courses will be double wide for the banco (seat for those of you outside of NM) that will be in the sunspace. Once those 4 courses are done, the wall will become one adobe wide and the adobe laying should go much faster.

Two courses done! Time to stop for the day.

Pretty exciting to see this wall going up!







Wednesday, November 9, 2011


We Have Cement!

Today dawned bright and cold. I'm happy to say that I managed to get some sleep last night but was pretty excited this am. Our helpers, Henry and Keno, showed up at 9:30 and the first cement truck was here by 10. Then it was off to the races. Thanks to Ramey, Bob and Kennedy, things went very smoothly and quickly! Nary a hitch! I guess all my hard work finally paid off. Four and a half hours later, all the cement was poured, J bolts and rebar installed and tools cleaned. In three days we can remove the forms and start laying adobes!!!

Cement truck arrives!

Rick hitches a ride.

Ready . . .

set . . .

go . . . . .!

And we're off!

Rick setting J bolts.

Done!!!!

and done!!!!!


Finishing touch - the rocks are from Pine Gables in Lake Lure, NM. One of my favorite places owned by one of my favorite cousins.




Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Inspection - Done!
We had our footing inspection last week and passed! Then my friend/teacher/mentor Quentin Wilson came by for his "inspection". I was just as nervous about that one as the "real" one!!! He gave us his stamp of approval but suggested we add more bracing. So - it was back to work for me. I doubled the number of braces and then spent a couple of days back-filling. Also had to add a 20' length of rebar bent and attached to the footing rebar to act as a ground.

Here's Quentin

Here's Quentin performing an "inspection" with the help of Tex.

With the inspection passed it has been time to give serious thought to the next step. Because we have one long adobe wall, we realized that has to go up before the trusses can go up so in conjunction with putting up the posts and beam, we will also be stacking an adobe wall - and hopefully the weather will cooperate so we can start on that next week. We ordered adobes and they arrived last week. Five or six years ago I took a number of adobe classes with the above mentioned Quentin which were wonderful and helped me to realize that building a house is not rocket science. It gave me the confidence to take on this huge task. I helped on a number of projects for other folks so to finally get our own adobes was a real trip. This is really happening!!!

The adobe truck arrives!
Adobes with Pedernal

Yesterday our friend Ramey came over with his tractor (we don't know what we'd do without you, Ramey!!!) and smoothed out all the dirt mounds in preparation for the arrival of the cement trucks TOMORROW!

Ready for cement!

Yesterday was the 7th anniversary of our moving up here to Otra Banda. Tomorrow will see the pouring of the footings - a huge step and one that brings us closer to realizing our dream of living in our own hand-built house! It all feels a bit surreal.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Ready for Inspection!!!!

We've spent the last few weeks finishing the forms and installing rebar. Even though I THOUGHT I was done with the gravel I found that after the forms were in another inch or so of it had to be added - so I spent a day doing that. Once that was done I realized that I had to take some of it out! I was starting to feel like Sisyphus! But at long last it was done! All the forms are made, rebar and chairs are in and we've called for the footing inspection!!! Hopefully that will happen tomorrow. It's very exciting to see the shape of the house and both Rick and I are getting excited about seeing walls go up. That's next!

Once the inspection has happened (and approved) we will start making plans for the cement pour. With the cement goes J bolts to which the posts will be attached so 4 x 4s need to be ordered. Once the posts are up, the bond beam will go up so 2 x 8s need to be ordered. THEN it will be time to order trusses! Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we can get this done before heavy winter weather sets in!!!


This is an "arial" view taken from the top of a ladder. Rebar is set out for installation.

Rebar in place with chairs.

I had to be very watchful of Tex as he thought the chairs were his "toys"! He managed to snatch one and ate it!!! He threw it up two days later!!!!


After getting the forms finished, we decided to mark off the rooms to see how they felt. What fun to see our house take shape!!!
Onward and UPWARD!!!!!

PS. If all goes well, we should be able to start framing in a couple of weeks so anyone out there who is interested in helping, mark your calendars!



Thursday, September 29, 2011

Since last I wrote:

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last posted! How time flies. Getting the gravel done was a huge accomplishment. However it was pretty strange to finally be done with it! I spent most of the summer shoveling the stuff and it was pretty anticlimactic to have it done. We took a much needed vacation to North Carolina the week after Labor Day and when we returned I found I had picked up a nasty bug on the trip so spent most of the next week recovering. What a drag. I could feel my shoveling muscles dwindling away.

It felt a little like momentum had been lost but each day I went out and did something. The next task was to make sure everything was straight and square. (I woke up in the middle of the night worrying about this!) We spent a day re-measuring and fixing a few places that had gotten out of whack. That done, we felt better and moved to the next step – cutting the insulation to the right height.

I’ve been dreaming a lot about form building – no really I have! This is a task neither Rick or I had ever done and while we looked at every book we have, each one showed something different and none of them really showed a grade beam over rubble. So I spent a couple of days ‘sperminting: what kind of stake works best (smaller one); how hard is it to drive stakes into the gravel (not too); will leveling be a problem (not really). This week we started. Didn’t get very far the first day and a few things had to be re-done (really frustrating) but finally got the hang of it and it’s moving pretty nicely now. We are using 2 x 6s that we bought 7 years ago. They’ve been sitting on the property of the friends we bought them from and we were sort of surprised that they were still there after all this time. We got them all moved – finally – and they are coming in handy. They are making fine forms which should hold up to the cement pour.

Wood pile with dog (Tex).

It’s pretty exciting to get the forms up and start to see just what shape the house is taking. The walls are more defined now and it’s looking like it will be a huge space. It’s funny how each stage looks different visually. The house is exactly the same size it was when we first set the corners and put up stakes but at each stage it takes on a different feel. For a while there, while I was shoveling gravel, it looked sort of small. Now that the forms are taking shape, it’s looking huge! Can’t wait to start putting up posts! Really ready to have something start growing above ground that can be seen from the drive.

First day of form building.

Second day of form building. Made good progress!

Rick at work.

This is the view looking toward the office and studio. What a wonderful space it's going to be!

This weekend is the Taos Wool Festival and next weekend is the Abiquiu Studio Tour so my house building time may be limited for the next week or so but we are still pretty much on schedule to maybe get the roof up before heavy winter weather sets in. Fingers are crossed!