Sunday, September 1, 2013

SSS - Scoop, Slap & Smooth - a Family Affair

June a year ago when my son and his family came for a visit we had just finished putting up the roof trusses. This year we are working on finishing the outside plastering. Oh what difference a year makes!

But first we moved all the rest of the bales that were stacked in the office outside and made a fort for our grandsons - ages 4 & 5. They loved it!
Mom showing the boys the secret doorway.

Having fun!

Wow! What a nice space this is without the bales! This is going to be a wonderful place for an office.

I think Rick and Dylan wanted to avoid plastering as long as they could so they decided to install our great 8' French doors first. These go into the office. The plywood to the right is Rick's painting wall in the studio.

Scoop, Slap & Smooth - Finally it was on to plastering.

We spent the week focusing on getting plaster on the rest of the house as far up as we could reach. This way if it rains the house is more protected. We decided to continue applying the plaster by hand for a few reasons: 1) it's much easier - for me, at least - to spread by hand than to use a trowel and hawk; 2) we're able to scoop up the plaster, slap it on to make sure it gets in all the nooks and crannies and smooth it out in one movement.  Traditionally this was a job for the women of the pueblos. The plaster was always applied by hand in large sweeping half circles. After the job was done the hand prints were visible as were the overlapping arches. Part of me wants that for our house. Once this first coat of plaster is done, I'll experiment using a trowel and applying by hand to see what we like better. Our house is very "rustic" so I'm currently leaning toward continuing the plastering with our hands.

My son, Dylan, mixing his first batch of plaster. We just about wore him out <g>

Dylan and Rick applying plaster to the west wall.

The week wasn't all work, though. We took the family on a drive up to Mesa Alta - the large mesa just to the NW of us. The boys had fun finding pine cones and we enjoyed a lovely afternoon doing something other than working on the house.
Kyler, Riley and Dylan up on Mesa Alta with the house in the background.
I wish it had been just a little less hazy but we could still see the house from up there.

Then they were all gone!  Dylan and family back to their home and Rick to California for a convention. Boy is it quiet! I'm here with the dogs and the plastering, working on the top 3 feet left of the first coat.

One afternoon the weather turned blowy and rainy so I decided to finish the glass block and bottle section above the picture window in the sun space. We sort of mis-calculated the size of space needed in the adobe wall for the window which left us with the opportunity to be creative. We had 5 glass blocks we had collected from here and there (one from my friend Lorraine's studio when she moved from San Diego - I've been carrying that one around for about 15 years!) They filled most of the space and the rest of the space we decided to fill with beer bottles.
Bottles washed and labels removed.
Glass blocks in place.

From the outside

From the inside - this was a hard picture to take because it was so bright outside but you get the idea.

I like the way the bottles look from the outside but wasn't real happy with the way they looked from the inside. Just not to fond of the open bottles sticking out. So I decided to look for glass stoppers - something to give the bottles a little more finished look. I found some offered on e-bay. Really cool antique glass bottle stoppers - just what I was looking for!

Just the thing!

I'm hoping to finish the first coat of plaster by the end of the week so we can start on the second coat. This is really taking some time but hope to be working inside by the middle of September.


Labor Intensive!

We are building this house ourselves because it's the only way we can have the house we want. We are committed to doing our best to build this house without a mortgage and doing it ourselves is the only way! But I have a whole new respect for the term "labor intensive"!!! Yes, stacking straw bales is not very hard and yes, plastering with earth is pretty easy and kind of fun but it is VERY labor intensive! We are going to have a wonderful home, one that feels warm and inviting but doing it ourselves is the only way we could have that home. I now know why quotes from contractors to build straw bale homes are so high. There is nothing conventional about building this way and no matter how you do it, it's going to be labor intensive! Maybe we'll win the Lotto and can hire a crew to finish the plastering.

Nah - probably not......


  1. Could you explain how you round your windows and doors? I assume you have to cut the inside string to accomplish that. If so, how do you control a whole stack of bales with the inside strings cut?

  2. If you look at the October post you can see the landscape reed matting I used to cove the openings. I used landscape pins to attach the matting and stuffed the holes behind the matting it with straw and straw mixed mud. Hope this helps. I think ther are better pictures in later posts.