The 57 acres that comprise Cedar Ridge Farm are located in the beautiful rolling hills of South Central Kentucky. My wife, our four children, and I are on a homesteading adventure as we work toward increased self-sufficiency. We grow much of our own food and enjoy being in touch with the agrarian roots of our lives.

One of the major projects we have undertaken is the building of our own home. The house we're building has three major distinguishing features: 1. we're building it without incurring any debt; 2. it is a timber frame structure; and 3. the exterior walls will be plastered straw bales. We live debt and mortgage free, and building our house with that approach makes perfect sense. Large timbers in a home possess a beauty and project a sense of strength, stability, and warmth that we want in our home. Straw bale walls provide insulation and make ecological sense. This blog is a record of our home-building project.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Digging out the cellar a second time

I should have completed the work on the root cellar last spring or summer, but other things interrupted my plans to do so – things like growing food and making hay. All was well until a couple of months ago after we received a couple of inches of rain in a short while. 095The amount of rain accelerated the erosion process around the perimeter of the excavation. I expected some of this to happen, but it was more than I wanted to see. Much of the back wall sloughed off into the cellar hole.

Today was a nice 70 degree winter day with pleasant sunshine and a gentle breeze (actually, not much like winter, but we get this days sometimes). So, I spent a couple hours working in the cellar, beginning the process of excavating the extra dirt. I’ll probably have a few sore muscles tomorrow, but even so I plan to continue with the process. I’d like to get it done so that I can proceed to the other tasks associated with completing the cellar. 094The first one of those after excavating will be forming and pouring a footer for the block wall.

I began today’s work by driving some boards into the sloughed off dirt, hoping they will help hold it and keep more from falling into the hole. I drove them down to the original bottom of excavation and am placing boards horizontally behind them. Then, I began shoveling dirt out, working from one corner across the back. The vertical edge of dirt I’m leaving ought to work as the back side of the form I’ll build for the footer. I’ll have to arrange something to keep more dirt from falling into the area I’ve excavated.

I’ve thought a lot about how to complete the cellar. My plan right now is to dig out the extra, unwanted dirt. Then, I’ll build a form for a footer under the block wall I’ll lay. I’ll mix concrete by hand for the footer. Once it’s set, I’ll lay the block wall. My idea is that once the wall is up, I’ll have the local ready mix company bring out enough concrete to pour the floor (leveled off from the edges of the footer) and to fill several of the voids in the block wall along the back of the cellar. This will will experience most of the stress of all the walls, and I would like it to be reinforced.

Once it is warm enough and the ground is dry enough to allow a concrete truck down the hill and next to the house, I hope to have everything done so that the cellar can be finished.

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