All the Work Updates Fit to Print

by ziggy on March 26, 2011 -- 2 comments -- Follow

It’s spring, and the building season has officially begun. I’ve been a bit consumed with thinking about building lately — between doing some work around the house, planning for the next building season for the cooperative kitchen, thinking about a new home design, and serving on Dancing Rabbit’s new Common House design committee (we are a group of five tasked with designing a new common house intended to serve a population of 150 people), I have plenty to think about in the building arena. Sometimes it’s exhausting.

But as soon as I am able to actually do work, and not just think about it, it feels a lot better.

Digging a curtain drain for Gobcobatron

Last week I began digging a curtain drain around Gobcobatron, taking advantage of the warm and dry weather. Of course it’s back down to 30ยบ now and wet (grrr), but I got a good head start on digging anyway. The trench is about two feet deep, dug basically directly underneath the eaves. It will ultimately meet up with the original daylight drain. Unfortunately, I will have to dig up the daylight pipe, and then mate up the curtain drain to flow into a single daylight exit. About 75% of the trench is already dug. Once it’s dug to two feet, I will backfill it with gravel and install 4″ perforated drain pipe.

I think the curtain drain is going to significantly relieve drainage issues around the house. If you haven’t heard me say it already, our soil has absolutely terrible drainage. It’s straight clay less than a foot down — if you dig a hole here, expect that it will fill up with water almost immediately, and at almost any time of year, too. The trench has already been filling up with water (which makes it annoying to continue digging without emptying it), despite little recent precipitation.

Kitchen design and planning

Although we have yet to actually get outside and do actual work on the kitchen, we have been doing a fair amount of planning and design work. We have a work exchanger lined up (thanks to all applicants!), and are planning a timber frame workshop with a professional timber framer in May. I think we’re going to benefit greatly from some experienced guidance. We’ve taken on a pretty ambitious construction and could use some better footing. We’ve chosen a fairly difficult way to go about building with this kitchen.

Deconstruction work

This week, April and I spent a couple of days with other Dancing Rabbit friends taking apart a local home. We’ve been slowly chipping away and getting at the guts of the house, exposing the lumber, carefully removing flooring, collecting metal roofing, etc. The only other demo work that I did was last year, and this latest opportunity has been very good practice. Thanks to our fearless leader, Papa Bear, I’m getting a better handle on the art of what it takes to slowly (and safely) take apart a house. Check out Bear’s excellent article on acquiring building materials through deconstruction. I think we’re going to come away from this house with a pretty good stash of materials to use for future building projects.

The new house

Conversations have naturally continued about the new house design. We have a pretty clear image of what we want, and even some pretty reasonable initial floorplans. Actual drawings are still a ways off. But I think that April and I are on the same page about the features we want to include and the materials we plan to use. Here’s a little preview of what we’re thinking: two room + loft, passive solar with greenhouse, hybrid square and round wood timber frame with straw bale infill, osage orange wood pier foundation, light clay straw floor insulation, super insulated living roof, mud room and screened-in north porch with summer hangout space (maybe even an outdoor bed, or at least a hammock), and no electricity. Masonry heater – maybe.

The design will progress over time, and hopefully by fall we’ll be building a foundation.



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  • Jacques

    Cool stuff can’t wait to see the new house’s construction!

  • SoulmatesNlove

    We have also been planning on be self efficient, living off the grid and have made a few attempts to practice our reliance. We moved to my sisters property in Northern Ontario, where she has given us an acre to start our small cob home. The floor plan has been laid with tape in the basement of my sisters place, we pretty much have made our life to live within the boundary. Now that the snow is melting, we are outside testing the soil; as we are anxious to get going. We have clay in the first two feet, which is nice, but after reading your blog we’re going to have to set our foundation accordingly.
    Can’t wait to see how your progression is going to go! How exciting!!! Good Luck!

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