Sunday, July 28, 2013

Leave no rock . . .

For weeks I have looked at every rock on our property - oh, there's a beautiful one! - and carted many of them to the house for inclusion in the splash-back.

On the afternoon of Sunday, July 21st, 2013 I laid the LAST rock! I can not begin to tell you how happy that made me! That was a job that, frankly, I thought would go on forever when in truth it only took three weeks! But now it's done! (So I can stop looking at rocks, right?)

As you can see in these pictures, most of the doors and windows are also installed! The difference this makes is amazing. All of a sudden we can see our views, open doors and windows for ventilation and start to get a feel for what our house is going to be like.
This is the living room.  The big window has blinds inside the glass! No dusting! And they make the room really dark. Too cool! (One of our great auction finds.)

There are still two windows left to install. They're windows I got at Habitat and need some restoration so that's what Rick is currently working on. We lucked out and found what we think is the right weather stripping to replace what's on the windows now and once that arrives, the windows will go in and THAT phase will be done!


In the meantime, it's on to plastering for me.  I've spent the last couple of days doing prep work: holes that need filling with straw, etc. I also had to go around the whole house and make sure the chicken wire right under the roof was well attached. I discovered when I did my first plastering under the roof line at the battery shed that if the wire wasn't attached to the soffits it sagged really badly so armed with hammer and nails and loose straw for filling in holes I worked my way around the house. Nasty job! Got almost as much straw in my mouth and ears as I did behind the chicken wire! But it finally got done!

To the left and right of a couple of windows were spaces that needed filling. Lose straw would just fall out and the spaces were not big enough to actually tie up straw so I'm using burlap to hold it all together.
This is a shot from outside. I stapled a piece of burlap to the post.

Then pulled the burlap to the inside of the window. I was then able to stuff flakes of straw into the space. The burlap kept it from falling to the outside.

I could then wrap the burlap over the straw flakes . . .

and attach it to the bales with landscape stakes. The hope is that the slip will adhere to the burlap making for a good base onto which I can plaster. It also helps me to cove the window. 

This is the view from outside. I can now stuff cob and slip over the burlap, thus filling the gap. 

I was e-mailing a friend yesterday and telling her about our progress and all of a sudden I realized that I really LOVE our house! It's even starting to feel like a home! One of the main reasons I have always wanted to build our own home is that I had this fantasy we could build a place that would be warm and welcoming and would give one a sense of peace and tranquility upon entering.  Well, guess what! It has worked! Even at this stage - with exposed straw and framed walls - there is a quiet and calmness present. Sometimes I go over just to walk around. We've taken some folding chairs over so we can spend some time just sitting and looking out at our views.

The realization that our vision is being manifested is incentive to work to get it livable!

So - once I've figured out the steps to the plastering process I will put out the word for help. This is a fun job and with the help of friends it will be more fun!

* * *
NOTE: In the last post I wrote about plastering the battery shed. I got the slip and one coat (the discovery cote) on with the hope that it would be enough to protect the walls from any rain we might get. Since then, the monsoon season has begun and we've had a couple of good storms.  Most of the rain has come from the NE which is not the usual direction, and hit the east side of the shed. I can report that even though the plaster isn't very thick it has held up well! Thank Goodness!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Work Continues

Summer is here, the weather has been warm - some days hot - and work continues on our house. The phases we are on now seem to be taking a lot longer to do than I anticipated but progress is being made.

With the plastering done above the roof on the battery shed, straw bales were stacked.

There will be a rock and cement splash-back all around the perimeter of the house to help keep any rain from getting to the earthen plaster and bales.  I had never really worked with cement, except when we poured the footings for the inside walls. And I certainly have never done any rock work! There wasn't a lot on YouTube so I visited my friend Pat who builds a lot of rock covered homes to see how they do it. Armed with a little knowledge and NO experience I started.

Rock for the first course. All rocks are coming from on the property.

Not bad for a days work!

Splash-back done, it was time to experiment with the earthen plaster recipe I've come up with.
The first coat is a slip of just earth and water. Think chocolate mousse.  This goes on pretty easy and makes the first coat of plaster easier to apply. It goes on by hand so that it can be pushed deeply into the straw. I was pretty much covered in mud! Fun!!!

Here are the ingredients for the plaster: earth, sand, horse manure and straw. Just add water and mix!

Burlap is used to cover the wood parts. I dipped it into the slip and then applied to the posts. I also found that it worked really well over loose straw. I'm sure I'll be using a lot of this as plastering continues.

Here's the battery shed with the first coat of plaster. The first coat is called the "discovery" coat as it shows all the lumps and bumps that will need to be evened out with the next - or fill - coat. But for now, the bales are covered so it's on to more rock work.
The first step was to collect more rocks.

Then I started on the south-facing wall.

Wall done and corner turned! This is very slow work and I find that I really have to focus on one rock at a time and not think about how long it's taking me!

Windows & Doors

While I've been working on the rock wall, Rick has been working on installing the windows and doors we have. The first door he installed was the door to the battery shed. (See picture above) It's a really cool hand-made door that we got at the Habitat Re-Store in Santa Fe. Quite a find!
The next door was this one which leads into the garage. It, too, is hand-made. We bought it a few years ago from some friends in Abiquiu. We're really happy with the way it looks.

This is one of the really nice French doors we got at the auction last winter. It was quite challenging to install but we got it done - despite the rain that started about half way through! It is really cool to see how this door looks installed. We are going to have a lovely space in the studio on the other side of this door!

This is the picture window over the banco in the sun space. Rick had to build the frame. I think it looks great! We plan on installing square glass blocks with beer bottles in between in the space above the window. I will be able to see the Pedernal (reflected in the window) from the comfort of my window seat inside.  Sun will stream in these windows in the winter making for a warm and lovely space.

These are the windows in the garage. I picked them up a number of years ago with the idea of building a little studio. That never happened so they are being put to good use here. More Habitat finds!

Often you can find new windows at the Habitat Re-Store. This is one I picked up - oh, maybe 10 or 11 years ago! We've been storing it all that time and now it's installed! This is the window where my work space will be. Here again I will have a view of the Pedernal from my desk.

Yet another Habitat window. This is by Rick's work space.

Now we're ready to install the big window in the office. This is one of the great windows we got in the auction. Brand new and still in it's packaging.  Here Rick is preparing the opening.

I'm not quite sure how we did this as the window weighed in at about 200 pounds (according to a sticker on the window) but we managed to get it in - square and plumb!

All of a sudden we have space inside the house where we've been storing all of these doors and windows AND we have doors that open and close beautifully, that we can walk through and windows where there has been plastic for the last 9 months or so.  It's starting to really look cool!

We have a friend coming over tomorrow to help us with the last French door and the big window in the living room. We have ordered all the rest of the doors and windows and they should arrive in another couple of weeks.

In the mean time, I will continue my rock work and at some point soon the major plastering will start! Anyone want to come help?