Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays!!!

The holidays are here once again and work continues at a slow but steady pace. This time last year we had just started putting up the straw walls! My, what a difference a year makes!

We still have inside plumbing stuff that needs to happen but in the meantime we are doing what we can. More drywall has been installed.
We finished the wall between the living room and studio. That's a lot of wall!

This is the wall in the sun space.

And this is my pantry! (Oh what dreams I have for this space!)

The drywall is really starting to give a sense of "house" to the place and while there's still drywall that we can do, we decided to focus on the tongue & groove ceiling because once that is done, we will be able to blow in the insulation which will make the house a lot more comfortable!

The T&G is Aspen and is really beautiful!  We have 10' lengths and with the help of the handy, dandy BoWrench that Rick found online we are able to put up full 10' lengths. This tool is the greatest thing since sliced bread and has really made this phase of the building project pretty easy. It's definitely easier than putting up the roof!!!
This is the office ceiling.  This end of the house has a hip roof which is going to make the ceiling a bit challenging. We've installed all the T&G up to the hip part. We still have to figure out how we're going to do the rest.

Until we do, we have moved into the rest of the house. As I mentioned above, there is still some plumbing venting that needs to be installed so we're working around those areas.

This is looking down the hall towards the office and studio.

The ceiling in the sun space is done up to within a foot or two of the peak. The space that is left will allow us to get up there to blow in the insulation. The picture doesn't do the wood justice - it is really beautiful.

We are currently working in the living room.

Now that winter and the holidays are upon us, it's good to take time to reflect on the past year and all our many blessings.  Most of our blessings are in the form of friends. We are so blessed to be living in a place that is not only beautiful but where we are surrounded by wonderful people. Their support - both moral and physical - has made this project a joy. From the loaning of tools to the hands-on help, we wouldn't be this far along without them!!!

So - to all of our friends and family near and far we wish you all the best this holiday season and for the New Year. We hope to see you all out here soon!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Winter is Here!

Winter arrived this week with a vengeance! While we didn't have a ton of snow (maybe 3 inches) we had horrible wind and now it's bitterly cold! Needless to say, we are grateful for the wood burning stove. While the lack of insulation in the ceiling allows heat loss, the fire does provide warmth enabling us to continue work - which we're doing. (I keep reminding myself - and Rick - that this time last year we were stacking bales and all we had for protection was plastic!)

Tongue & Groove, "Lintels" and Drywall

We've got two major tasks ahead of us: installing the tongue and groove ceiling and drywall on the framed walls.

Slip had to be applied to the top of the bales before we could start on the T&G. Once the slip was done baffles had to be installed between the trusses to allow air flow.

With baffles done we could finally start on the T&G BUT we could only do two courses because cob had to be stuffed in the crack between the T&G and the wall. Our walls aren't very even so there were gaps of varying sizes. If we didn't stuff cob in the cracks we would risk losing a lot of insulation once we start blowing it in. Thankfully I was able to get the cob work done before the bitter cold hit us.
Here you can see where the cob was stuffed in the cracks.

This is looking from above. The T&G is on the bottom right.

Tongue & Groove

In order to make sure the first course of T&G was level all around the whole house, we used a water level to mark all the trusses.
Rick using the water level

A test.


First piece nailed up!

First two courses.

Three courses in the living room!


We didn't have to install lintels above all the doors and windows - we used boxes attached to the trusses to hold the bales instead - but we decided we did want the "look" of lintels so we got some rough cut 2 x 6s and cut them to fit. We're very happy with the way they look.


Before we did all the rest of T&G we decided we wanted to put up the drywall first. That way the T&G will butt up to the drywall instead of the other way around. We figured it would be easier that way.

We are total novices at drywall (as we have been with most of the tasks involved in building this house!) so we started in the studio. The studio walls will be mostly covered by model train layout and shelves so we could practice here without worrying too much about the way it looks.

Studio wall from the living room.

Bottom half of the wall done!

The high today is supposed to be in the mid 20s but there's a fire in the stove and it's sunny so after lunch we will be back out there putting up more drywall. Things are moving along.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wood, Stone & Mud

Winter approaches and the days are cooler and shorter but work continues.


With a wood burning stove comes the need for wood. Out here in the wilds of northern New Mexico a wood gathering permit can be had for $20 which will allow you to cut 5 cords. Recovering city folk that we are, we had no idea where to go or how to go about getting the wood. Luckily we have friends who have been doing this for a few years. We joined up with them a month ago or so and spent the day cutting down-and-dead pine and aspen.  It's hard work made so much easier and more fun with a group of good friends! (We have since gotten another load for them.) Cutting and hauling are just the first two steps. It all has to be split! Here again, friends helped with the loan of a wood splitter. Rick spent a few afternoons splitting our 2.3 cords of wood.
Wood splitting

This is less than 1/3 of our total haul. We now have three racks just like this one full. It will be interesting to see how much we use this winter as the ceiling insulation is yet to be installed. So far, though, it is really helping to keep the house cozy - and helping to dry out the mud plaster.


Rick has always said he wanted flagstone for the floor in the sun space but we felt we just couldn't afford it. Then we heard of a couple of guys who work with our friend Pat who do really good work at a price we COULD afford! Bring it on!
First the floor needed to be cleared and leveled. They also wetted it down.

Then the flagstone arrived!

Miguel and his father-in-law Philipe - master stone masons at work.

This is quite a process. It's a lot like making a jig saw puzzle. Each piece had to be cut to fit and the pieces chosen so that the final would be beautiful to look at. Hard work but they were good at it!

Almost done with the cutting and fitting.

Now time for the mortar.

We are soooo pleased with the way this turned out! We can't stop looking at it.


With the outside plastered done enough for the winter it is now time to start on the inside mudding. There's a bit of a race against the weather here as once it starts snowing and the ground (and hose) freezes, all mudding will stop until spring so I have focused on getting a coat of slip on the top three courses. Somewhere in all my reading and researching I came across someone who recommended that the bales be completely covered. For us this means the top of the top course which will be behind the T & G. I took this to heart and have been madly mudding that top course. But as I mud it occurs to me that these bales will be totally covered with blown in cellulose which will have borax in it so I'm now questioning the wisdom of spending all this time mudding this course. Well, it's now done regardless. I'm not sure it's thick enough to actually do anything but it's all that's going to be done!
The wall above the bedroom between the house and garage.

Living room.


Now that the top courses are mudded we can start installing the T&G. We will probably have to go back and add cob at the edge where the T&G meets the wall before we blow in the insulation but that should be a relatively small job.

I have covered a large section of the yard where I am digging the dirt with plastic and will continue to mud as long as the ground - and the hose - stay unfrozen. T&G is coming today so work on the ceiling should start soon. Another big step!

Thanks again to all our friends who have helped us along this journey!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Comforts of Home

We FINALLY got the last bit of outside plaster done - until spring. Now we can focus on the inside of our house.

The first order of business was to get the hearth ready for the instillation of our wood burning stove. We have had amazing luck when it comes to finding things for the house at great prices. Our stove was no exception. We lucked into a really good used Pacific Energy stove and a great person to install it - thanks Justin of Bailey's Chimney Sweep!
First we decided on the location. Then we installed adobe bricks at the finished floor height where we wanted the hearth to go.

We collected large stones from the old foundation of Jack Young's home and general store. Mr. Young named Youngsville and had the first PO in his general store which was on one corner of our property. These stones are HEAVY!
This picture was taken in 1917. For those of you who have visited us, those trees are now the huge cottonwoods at the NE corner of our property. Little bits of foundation are all that's left of the store and home and now some of them are part of OUR home.

Had to also do some plastering.

Stones in place and ready for the stove.

Bailey's Chimney Sweep arrives to get it done.

First fire - comforts of home!

Stove installed means we now have HEAT. We have been making fires each day - just 'cause we can - and to make sure the stove works. It works beautifully and will make it very pleasant to work inside through the winter. Good thing we got a couple of cords of wood this summer!

The next major phase is to get a coat of mud slip all over the bales inside. I have covered a pile of dirt with plastic to keep it dry so that, hopefully, it won't freeze any time soon. Once the slip is on we will then start installing T&G for the ceiling and sheetrock for the framed walls. The finished plaster (and floor) will be done in the spring once things warm up and we are able to dig dirt again.

While I've been working on the slip, Rick has been sealing the wood on the doors and windows.

It feels really good to be working inside. There is still a lot to do but I'm beginning to see an end to it.