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.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Root cellar: concrete forms in place

Although it was overcast this morning, it didn’t rain today. The sun finally came out from behind the clouds around noon. I worked in the hole all day. This morning the damp clay in and around the work area stuck to my shoes all the time. With the sun out this afternoon, I didn’t have any stick. Either the sunshine dried things just enough or this clay is allergic to sunshine.

I didn’t use the backhoe today. I moved a fair bit of dirt with a shovel and a grape hoe, though, in order to get make sure the bottom of the Salvaged boards for formshole was level. It was close, thankfully. There was some dirt along the edges that needed moved so I could set the forms.

For the forms, I used some boards Danny salvaged from an old mobile home he helped demolish. They are fat 2x4s, measuring about 1-3/4” x 4-1/4”. I had to pull some old staples out of them, and then I was ready to set them in place. I also cut some stakes from some scrap boards I had near the house.

I started in one corner and leveled the forms from there. One end formed by lunch timeBy lunch time I had one end and over half of both of the long sides done. Since it’s important to put the outside corner of the root cellar walls in the right place, I had to take some measurements from the west side of the house. Determining the precise location of this corner is somewhat difficult. However, using a ladder strapped to the floor joists in the house, I was able to measure eleven feet out from that side of the house and set a stake at the inside corner of the root cellar.

To figure the outside corner, I measured from the stakes I had set previously. It soon became apparent that I didn’t have things laid out square. It was time for lunch at that point, so I left it till this afternoon. Armed with an exact measure of the hypotenuse of a right triangle with two eleven foot sides and a framing square, I adjusted one of the corners on the forms I had already set. Once I did that, the diagonal measurements came out correct – things were square.

It didn’t take long this afternoon to finish the forms. I built a small box to go around the floor drain. I’m not sure exactly what the usual way is for pouring a floor with a drain. I figure that I can pour everything around and up to the form around the drain with enough slope for water that ends up on the floor to head for the drain. Later, I’ll cut the drain pipe at the right level, mix and pour some concrete, and fill the last section of the floor around it.

Forms in place

The next step is to dig a couple inches deeper near the forms for the footer and lay out some rebar in the footers and floor. I don’t think that will take too long. Once that’s done, we can have the ready mix truck come out. The only thing that may interrupt the timing of things is rain. If we get too much rain, I’ll have to wait for things to dry out before the concrete truck can get close enough to the hole. I hope the weather cooperates so we can pour the concrete next Tuesday or Wednesday.

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