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.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Perimeter wall footer forms started

I set out this morning to get the concrete forms for the footer that will support the perimeter block wall completed today. The first task was to get the bottom of the trench leveled off at the right depth. Because the house is on a slope, I’m not putting all of the footers on the same level. In fact, thleveling the bottom of the trenchere will be four different levels. The front of the house is about 2 feet higher above the ground than the back of the house.

Using a shovel, a grub hoe, and a grape hoe (the latter two are wonderful tools I bought from, I removed some dirt from the bottom of the trench where needed and added some in other places where needed. I had my boys tamp the loose dirt firmly into place. By lunch time I had made it all the way around the house.

After lunch, I started putting wooden forms in place. I drove stakes I cut into the bottom of the trench, measuring from the string I had previously strung to get the tops of them to the proper level. Then, I screwed some 2x3s onto the stakes, mforms at back of houseaking sure they were level and the proper distance below the string. The string gives me the final height for the block wall.

I was able to get the forms in the back of the house and along one side mostly completed. Along the side, I had to step down almost 8 inches in two places because of the slope. Malchiah forms on side of housejoined me after I had started working, and I put him to work tamping dirt on the outside of the forms.

Across the front of the house, there will be six courses of blocks. There are footer levels for five courses and four courses on the side while there will be only three courses on the back. I’m trying to make all of the different levels match up so that blocks could be laid continuously around the house. However, I may treat each level separately, laying blocks for each one independent of the others. They will all be surface bonded later and won’t be visible. As far as structural integrity, there should be no problem considering their purpose.

We’ll continue work tomorrow and Friday. It’ll be next week before we have the concrete delivered for the footers.  

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