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.

Monday, October 4, 2010

More plastering

After taking last week off from work on the house, I got back into it yesterday and today. On the agenda was more mud work.

A week and a half ago, my boys and I examined a possible source for clay on our property. The sample we collected looked promising, but I wasn’t convinced that it was what we needed or wanted. It certainly pile of dirtwasn’t as sticky and nice as what we’ve been working with. Then, we checked out another source that seemed more promising.

I spent a little time on Sunday morning excavating a bit of this soil which I deposited near the house. I was anxious to see how it would do. So, I screened a little and mixed up a batch of plaster. test patchI put it on a small section of one of the kitchen bale walls. I’ll test it after it’s fully dried. It’s a different color than what I’ve been working with and seemed to have less clay content. We’ll see.

After applying the test patch, I screened some wet clay I had in a bucket. Before taking off last week, I put some of the dirt we discarded after screening into a bucket and added water to let it rehydrate. 2nd coat of plaster below windowA lot of this material was little balls of clay that didn’t break up to go through the screen. Since it was well-hydrated, I worked it through the screen into the wheel barrow.

I mixed it with some sand and chopped straw and some wheat paste to make a small batch of plaster. I mixed it with a greater proportion of sand than the previous plasters and thicker. My intention was to apply the second coat on part of an already plastered wall. I wanted to try out the mix and see how it went on. I put it under the mudroom window, troweling it smooth. It went on nicely and looks good as it is drying.

newly plastered wallmore newly plastered wallToday, I started by pinning the wall along the eating area on the west side of the house. Danny and Jon joined me after I had started and worked with me. Danny filled voids while Jon helped with the pinning. We were able to apply two batches of plaster to the wall before lunch. After lunch, we screened some more dirt and did some more plastering. By the time we quit, there were only a couple small areas left without plaster.

plastered walls and plastic

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