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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

If I don’t blog, did it really get done?

Well, the winter is over, although spring tried to drag it closer to summer. During the winter, I built a fire in the highly inefficient wood stove in the house occasionally. I would say once a week on average I would get a fire going, stuff the stove with as much wood as possible (mostly dried sycamore – not something that would burn for long, but it’s what I had), and close it down. After we stopped work on the house last fall, the indoor temperature was about 60-65 degrees. Adding only a little heat inside, the temperature bottomed out in the house at around 45 degrees. I’m looking forward to seeing what it will be like with a continuous fire when we’re living in it.

I did a few things but not much on the house over winter. Without keeping a lot more heat in there, plaster wasn’t going to dry well. And, without a more efficient stove, that was going to be problematic. Wintertime seems to have other things to commit my time to, anyway. Also, the day light period seems to be shorter for some reason.

I was able to accumulate a few things for the house (I’m still accumulating, actually). I bought interior doors. They are 3’ by 7’ solid core doors that were intended for a doctor’s office, but they had too many. I’ll have to cut them down 016to the right size and face the edges, but I think they’ll work well (they’re heavy, too). We also bought a kitchen sink. We wanted a stainless steel double sink with double drain-boards. To get what we wanted, we ended up buying a commercial sink.

In march I bought plumbing supplies for running the water lines. I decided to use PEX tubing which I had never worked with before. A friend lent me crimping tools, and I bought all the supplies locally. 015All the water supply lines are in. I still have to plumb the range boiler for the hot water (heated by the wood stove), but the lines are stubbed out for doing so. I’m actually going to plumb a similar tank on the summer kitchen with the wood stove we’ll use out there for hot water in the summer time. Because of the location for the two stoves, these will be two separate systems with valves to manually select which one to use.

After completing the water lines, I started on the drain lines in April. These are now completed, too. I still have to arrange for a septic system to be installed. We were going to just have a gray water system, but we decided to go ahead and do a full septic system. If gray water isn’t handled properly, it turns into black water. As long as we have water in the cisterns, we’ll be able to use flush toilets. If water gets low, we will use sawdust (composting) toilets.

In addition to the pressurized water system, we will also have pitcher pumps in the house. The plan is to have four: one in the kitchen, one in the mudroom, 019and one in each bathroom. I just ordered an Oasis Pump – the description of it online looks quite good for our purposes. If it meets expectations, we’ll get more.

On Friday of last week, I decided to mix up some plaster. We quit a few batches shy of having the 2nd coat done last fall. I put one batch on in the morning, and then the 3 younger children joined me in the afternoon. We put 3 more batches on the walls in the afternoon. Two more batches will finish the 2nd coat. That means, the first and second coats will amount to more than 19,000 pounds of plaster – and that’s only counting dry ingredients. 004By the time the finish coat is completed, we’ll have somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 tons of plaster on the interior walls! That should be a good thermal mass.

Yesterday and today, we mixed and applied 4 batches of finish coat. These batches are about 100 pounds of dry ingredients each, half what the batches for the other coats. These batches have gone on the walls in the master bedroom. The process involves applying the mix to the walls by hand. I then trowel it smooth. After it begins to dry, I buff it with a piece of yogurt container lid. This helps to smooth it out and close up the pores by pushing the sand into the plaster.

We’ll keep working on things. The objective is to get this house done so that we can move in. We’re getting closer.