Reflections on October, 2014

October Evenings

October Evenings

Welcome, October!  How I love the cooler temperatures, the receding of the grasshoppers, and the tranquility of light.  When the sun begins to lower its passage across the sky, its intensity seems to lessen, and its light embellishes the landscape in a softer glow.  The leaves have just barely begun to change hues.  I am excited to watch them as we continue work on the house.

Thank you to those who participated in last month’s survey.  I’ll keep it up for another month for anyone who may have missed it but still wants to partake.  It’s Here.  According to that survey, the general consensus is that you all enjoy the blogs and would like to see more photos.  I’ll work on that.  Also per the survey, I learned that only one of my readers was offended by my blog posts.  I’ll have to try harder to offend more of you, as writers who offend no one are typically sub-par.  I write because I enjoy it, because I have the right, being a citizen of a free-speech country and because, as an artist of sorts, it is my job to challenge the reader to think beyond the “known” realm.  Two quotes sum up my thoughts on this matter:

“The power to question is the basis of all human progress.” ~ Indira Ghandi

“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

That being said, the rest of this blog is probably not going to offend anyone, because it reflects on the truly positive and progressive things that have been happening at our little H.O.M.E. Farm.

First, our guineas and chicks are doing marvelously.  The grasshopper population has diminished due to the weather, but I think the guineas have helped too.  They like to climb up on things, I’ve noticed.  They don’t care weather its the tractor, the trailer, or the clubhouse, they get up there and start calling out across the landscape.  When they hear other birds calling, they get real quiet and listen, trying to be as safe as possible.  They are fairly flighty around us humans, running the other direction if any attempt is made to pet or pick them up.  They mostly stick to themselves, save for one rooster who either leads or follows them around, I can’t tell which, but he is often left all by his lonesome when the guineas take flight.  Then he runs after them, as if to say, “wait up guys!”

Guineas and "Little Roo" dirt bathing in the compost pile

Guineas and their rooster buddy (golden feathers) dirt-bathing in the compost pile

The guineas have come over to check out the building a time or two, often to look for bugs near the piles of dirt.  If they go inside, its not for long.  I think they realize this is human territory.

3 little birds sit on my doorstep

3 little birds sit on my doorstep

Due to the cooler weather, we have made tremendous progress on the house this month!  Our EBBs (Earthbag Buddies) came to help us with a fairly arduous task.  We got our walls on the west room all the way up to the top of the window forms, so we were ready to lay the continuous fortified bag over all the forms to lock the walls between the forms together.  This bag was 53 feet long!  I didn’t think Aaron would be able to get it all scrunched up enough to fit onto the dispenser tube.  With some rolling and folding, he managed.  We purchased a cement mixer for this job and others that may present themselves in this, and future buildings.  We also purchased a few too many bags of Portland cement.  To the dry dirt, we mixed a ratio of 1:9 Portland Cement and then added water to that mix.  It was curious how the cement mixer turned in such a way to ball up the dirt, making it look like Dippin’ Dots, that novelty ice cream seemingly only available at shopping malls.

Dippin' Dots (fortified cement balls)

Dippin’ Dots (fortified cement balls)

Our buddies got to try their hand at tossing the cans of dirt up to Aaron.  We worked steadily all day long, mixing dirt and cement, moving wheelbarrows to and from the wall where Aaron shuffled the dirt into the tube, making sure to lay it evenly over the arched window forms.

Tossing cans

Tossing cans

I followed with my tamper and smacked down the dense dirt medium to a hard snake of earthbag.

Tamping the snake bag

Tamping the snake bag

They did an amazing job, one which we quite literally, could not have accomplished without them.

EBBs (Earthbag Buddies) helping and learning

EBBs (Earthbag Buddies) helping and learning

After that continuous bag was laid and cured, a 4 foot bag was laid between each window arch.  Aaron got some help from Julius in cutting and making points on some lengths of rebar.  The rebar was then driven into the new bag, through the fortified bag, and into the bag beneath it, totaling 18 inches of vertical stabilizing rods on either side of each window form.  Aaron and I worked tirelessly, with baby watching curiously as the cans were tossed up and the bags laid down.  Then, it was time to remove a form!!

Vertical Rebar going into the bags

Vertical Rebar going into the bags

This was really exciting stuff, because it was the ultimate test of our fortified bag stability.  The forms had to be taken apart, as was planned for in my husband’s pallet carpentry.  As we pulled out the last edge of form, there not even a tinge of worry.  This wall is solid!  This arch isn’t going anywhere.  To climb up into the window and feel the arch overhead, with its massive hundreds of pounds of weight was such an accomplishment.  Thrilling, to say the least.

Removing forms

Removing forms

Accomplishment

Accomplishment

When looking out from within our future bedroom, I noticed I could see out onto the garden a great deal but also, I could see a lot of sky.  This room will receive so much light in winter!  I was instantly gratified by our choice of window sizes.  In Michael Pollan’s A Place of My Own, he spends some time reflecting on the differences between tall thin windows and picture windows.  “As painters understand, the horizontal dimension is the eye’s natural field of play, the axis along which it ordinarily takes in the world.  Compared to a vertical format, which is more likely to engage the whole body, inviting the viewer into the picture as if through a door, the horizontal somehow seems cooler, disembodied, more cerebral.”

Looking out from within

Looking out from within

We completed another arch, this one with fan bags, between the bedroom and kitchen.  Each bag was filled, sewed, and tamped in a box form to the right wedge shape and then placed into the arch.

Wedge box

Wedge box

Using the string line to line up the arch bags

Using the string line to line up the arch bags

Adding more bags to the arch

Adding more bags to the arch

The bags use only compression forces to hold them up in their arch shape.  All the bags except the three in the top middle have barbed wire in between them, acting as Velcro, and giving the bag that will lay over the top something to grab onto.  We will not remove this form until we have laid 2 locking bags over the top of it.  Actually, there will be 4 bags, because this is the connection of 2 round walls.

Intersection of 2 round rooms top view

Intersection of 2 round rooms with an arch

Arch bag filling

Arch bag filling

Tamping the arch bags into place.

Tamping the arch bags into place.

Completing this arch gave us quite a sense of achievement as well.

We are contemplating a temporary roof over the bedroom as a place to shelter in the winter.  We have heard predictions, including one from the 90-year-old rancher who’s land is adjacent to us, that because the trees are greening out so much and have retained their green through October, that this is going to be a hard winter.

Finally, between bagging and tamping, I was able to get some cover crop mix on the garden beds, the VERY least we could possibly do to help the soil while we are busy with the house.  Its a mix from High Mowing seed company of field peas and oats.  We set up the electro-net fence around the garden to keep the chickens out.  I used a rake to loosen the hardened brick-like soil on the kitchen garden and the 2 keyhole gardens and broadcast some seed.  I used an innoculant from the same seed company first.  I planted them too late of course, but now that its the end of October, there are very sparse little seedlings popping up.  Next year, we’ll need much more.

Don’t forget!  If you’re interested in seeing and/or taking part in our home construction, send us a message!  Also, check our facebook page.  We’d love company, especially if you are in the planning phase of building your own earthbag structure.

Baby H.O.M.E. Farm watches progress on the house

Baby H.O.M.E. Farm watches progress on the house

 

3 comments to Reflections on October, 2014

  • gail

    thank you for your dedication! I look forward to more of your adventures. I am in SW Virginia. floyd county.

  • Aunt Glenda

    Hi Guys, Found the blog by doing a little searching. Thanks for the tour when we were there. I’ll be watching your progress via the blog. It’s alot of work, but coming along. Please email me the eggnog recipe when you get a chance. Don’t work too hard. Love, Aunt Glenda

    • Hi Aunt Glenda! Glad you found the blog. I just e-mailed you the eggnog recipe. We are taking a break from hard work for these couple of winter months, thank goodness. Although we do still have to help out with cows/fences. One of these days, we’ll have a rockin’ house!! Take care, and keep in touch.

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