Too busy to post here

I have recently posted pictures to our FB page, The Darfield Earthship. Both Chris and I have been busy working in Kamloops and also on the house with James Hornett’s help.  Very little time to sit down and do more than click buttons to upload photos.  Chris has especially been wanting to post, but now that we are working on the planters, I think it will still be awhile before he gets around to it.  We are noticing that this component is the most taxing on the mind and on us!  See you on FB for the next little while.  Sandra.

Moving forward

After much discussion Chris and I have come up with a plan to get the house jump-started again.

As many know, we have been consulting in Kamloops for several months. I’ve been almost full-time and Chris 2-3 times a week. It’s been lucrative work.  We didn’t NEED to earn this money to finish the house, but while we were taking a “break” from the house it felt right to earn some money.  It’s been great.  This week, though, I will begin training somebody to take over most of my duties at one of my clients’ place of business and Chris’ hours are also beginning to stabilize.  We hope to work no more than two days a week in Kamloops and we hope to make them the same day to maximize fuel costs.

Having EXTRA cash has given us some options.  And we’ve been throwing around ideas for several weeks.  We’ve watched our friends, the Robinsons, finish their cob home on Vancouver Island in exactly a year.  They did it by hiring some of the work out.  The downside to this, is that they have a small mortgage. The upside is…they are now living in their house!

We have always stuck to our guns and did all the work ourselves to avoid taking on debt. Downside?  We are still not in the house.  Upside?  No debt. 

So we have been thinking about what work we would be prepared to hire out, if we were to do it.  How much could we spend on outside labour without taking on debt?  It came down not to which jobs we were prepared to hire out, but who would we be prepared to employ to move a few of those jobs along.

To that end, James Hornett, is going to become our paid employee for the three weeks leading up to August, when he flies to Japan, to hopefully bring back his wife, Asami, who has been waiting out the immigration process there since February.  (Fortunately, she was 400 kms away from the tsunami.)

James was one of our very first volunteers in 2009, when he stayed nearly two weeks to help us.  He’s since come back several times to help out and we’ve found him thoughtful, helpful and a great worker.  Since coming to BC from Newfoundland in 2009, James has been working in conventional construction in Vancouver.  With his interest in sustainable building he is continually questioning conventional construction practices.  James has also become a great friend of ours, and of my brother Tom and sister-in-law Stephanie, who have been luring him into Vancouver poker games and divesting him of small change.  Check out our FB page, The Darfield Earthship, for James, who we recently added as an administrator (so that he could upload pics).

We’re looking forward to having him back again starting next week.  He was only just here last week getting us started on skylights and it was this that prompted us to think our plan just might work.

It’s meant Chris and I have been scrambling to figure out the order of events, prepare for each job and accumulate materials.  We have some cleaning to do, both in the shop (to organize tools) and the earthship (so that we can move around better in it).  Not to mention (but I will) cleaning the house as we will all share one tiny bathroom, eating facilities and a tiny living room. 

Jobs that we will start/finish include the rough-in of electrical.  We will also start thinking about plumbing, including the planters.  We have lists started and questions to answer before we move forward.

These include setting the floor height.  We need to figure out how much space radiant floor heating will take up so that we can set finished floor height so we can set the electrical outlet heights and the planter heights. This will allow us to set the plumbing heights.  We are madly researching in floor heating and perusing all new information on building planters on the many excellent earthship blogs out there.  We expect to spend a whack of money in the next two weeks to accomplish all of this.

Anybody with any knowledge of these areas is welcome to wade into the discussion ASAP!  Chris plans on posting a sketch of what we think the radiant floor heating might look like, so that we can set height.  We will send an email out to a few of our friends who have recently installed such a floor (and covered it with an earthen floor).

Our plan coincided with the arrival of summer weather.  As most of our work will be in the nice, cool earthship, I think this is pretty GOOD planning!

Where Did All the Pop Cans Go?

We’ve been robbed!

After months of collecting pop cans we had BAGS of cans squirreled away in our storage shed.  When I popped my head in the shed yesterday to admire our collection I realized most of the cans were gone and there were just a few lonely bags left …

The culprit was not very far away. We finished the pop can form for the concrete bond beam on the front wall today. We estimate there are around 1600 cans in this form. Compared to pounding tires this is fairly easy work; it only took us a few days to lay this form, and it was not particularly strenuous. We used nine 40kg bags of portland cement to make the 80 foot long form. I am not convinced of the value of making the form this way instead of using lumber. In this case I did not want to use lumber and leave it in place due to proximity to the planters.

The concrete (or mortar) used for these pop can walls cannot have coarse aggregates (read rocks) as any rocks larger than about 1/2″ in diameter starts to get thicker than the mortar laid between the cans and weakens the wall. Consequently, we re-screened our aggregate using a mesh with 1/4″ spacing. We will have this same problem when plastering the walls … I see a lot of screened gravel in our future! The good news is that we started saving the rocks as we screened and we are now collecting rocks for the planters.

Before we finished the can form we had to lay the last twelve tires of the front wall. We did not lay these tires earlier as we needed to be able to drive the backhoe into the building. For the last two days we have been digging a trench inside the building along the front wall. Talk about a bull in a china shop! With the front wall built there was not a lot of room to manouever the backhoe and digging was a challenge. Fortunately I only struck walls with the bucket a couple of times and thank god they are earth filled tires … nothing broke! I have no idea why there are cracks in the pop can form though … maybe the kids were playing too close to it? Regardless, no serious damage and with the last tires in place we will not be getting the backhoe back into the building.

The trench is for the gray water planters along the front wall. We dug the trench in the approximate shape of the planters to a depth of two feet. The planters do not take up the entire front wall, but we wanted to lay pipes between them so that ultimately the planters all have the same level of gray water. Once we laid the connecting pipes (2″ black ABS) we buried the pipes so now only the planters are dug down. The pipes will enter the planters right near the bottom and guarantee that the level of water in all the planters is identical. In other words the pipes should prevent overly dry or swampy planters. Hopefully it will not rain significantly until the roof is on as I hope to leave these trenches until we start the gray water planters after the building is closed in.

Tomorrow we are getting more gravel … we’ve run out. Hopefully on Friday we will pour the bond beam on the front wall. After that we move on to the roof and framing the front wall.

NO MORE TIRES!  It was hot the last couple of days we finished the front tire wall … the outside thermometer read over 30 degrees celcius yesterday.  I am happy not to be pounding tires this summer!

We have 861 tires in the building … but who is counting?

I’ve added photos to the front wall gallery and created a planters gallery.