Junk in the pipes – before/after

In previous posts I described the process (and hassle) of cleaning out the pipes which the crossing is built on. Since doing that, the pictures nearby represent the highest the creek has gotten since then. In point of fact, in spite of all the rain, the crossing itself has never been covered. PTL! Hopefully, this record will continue as we build the house … unless we really get some rain.

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Beth and Ginny

The lady of our future home has been a vital part of everything from the beginning … even when Ted was musing about building a rammed earth home (another story) back in the mid-80s! Now that we’re on our way, Beth’s new assistant is Ginny, our faithful Australian shepherd mix. Here’s Ginny explaining to Beth how to pound in a corner stake just the right way … 🙂

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We have a construction loan :-)

So do most people who build a house, so … what’s the big deal? Here it is: most people who build a natural core (strawbale) house do it on a credit card or with cash — they don’t get a mortgage. Our finances are complicated, and it took us 4 tries. With the help of Drew Butler, our UBuildIt guy, we finally found a bank who would work with us. Now, a request: if you are the praying type, say a prayer that we will get this thing built as quickly as possible, because:

  1. It involves applying thousands of pounds of rock (lime plaster) to both sides of the exterior walls
  2. There are no machines which can do it well – it must be done by hand
  3. The labor market is very tight around here
  4. A construction loan has a deadline

Are we scared? A little bit… Will the Lord provide? Yes, if we ask. We’re asking!

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Found a claw

After roughly 10 tries last week, we found an excavator with a claw (the grabber thing above the bucket in the picture). It got the crossing cleaned out! Since then, the creek has been happy, and we’re moving forward… Notice the large rocks in the picture of the crossing. Some of them are too big for 2 men to lift! Hopefully, the creek will go around them now and will stay off the far edges of the concrete. We will eventually need to modify the intake pipes so less debris will be caught in them, and more will flow over the top. In the meantime, you-know-who (aka, the builder – aka, not the builder’s wife) will be getting down in the creek and cleaning out debris by hand so as to avoid renting another Bobcat.

UPDATE on 4/24

The creek did get over the crossing, and the riprap in the picture did it’s job. There are a few logs here and there, but TT just got a new chainsaw so … [sound of chainsaw revving … 😀 ]

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Highlift, meet dead oak

A friend recently asked me, “What’s a highlift?” Behold…

Our driveway, it turns out, needed to go right through a place where this huge, dead oak tree was standing. We got a bid of $800 to drop it, but then Drew, our UBuildIt guru, said one of his operators could just push it over. So — that’s what happened! Note the size of the trunk. Wish I had been there at the time, because it must have been quite a show.

Highlifts can do some amazing things…

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We Need a Claw!

…with a backhoe attached to it. That’s because the creek keeps cutting the ends of our crossing out every time the water gets high, and before we can fix it we need the culverts cleared of debris. See? We think a claw on a backhoe for an hour or so will get all the logs & stumps picked up and dumped on the other side, where the creek itself will wash them away. Here are the stumps and things that need to be moved.  Know anyone with a claw on the end of a backhoe? If so, leave a comment on this post… thanks!

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Dig ready? – not – yet…

Weather (wet) and paperwork (govt.) have combined, and we have missed our goal… but we’ll keep at it. In the meantime, here’s our site plan. Notice the shaded area around the creek at the upper part of the diagram – it’s a big floodplain. That means the Army Corp of Engineers is very interested in what happens there. I had a friend tell me he built a dam across the same creek (further upstream) and the ACOE apparently saw it on an aerial map and paid him a visit. It worked out, but … we don’t really own that land – the Army Corp. does. But we pay the taxes. Sigh…

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After 35 years of dreaming…

…here we go! As one might note from previous posts, our progress since 2007 has been somewhat uncertain. The 2008 financial meltdown, family and business issues and the general rush of life have meant that now, finally, we’re on the way! Won’t you join us? Please subscribe (send a note to Help@ChenowethEast.com), or just check back periodically to see the progress. Our next goal is coming right up — to be “dig ready” (foundation) by March 15th.

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Back on Track

After almost 3 years of delay (due to the recession and financing issues) we are back on track to begin building our new strawbale home in Chenoweth East- front viewthe summer of 2012.  It’s going to be beautiful, and we’re excited!  As you can see from this rendering, it will have a Mediterranean look with simple lines, large roof overhangs and awnings over the windows.  It will be about 2200 sq. ft., with 3 floors, 2 baths, 3 bedrooms and lots of window seats.  Both floors & the basement will be connected via spiral staircase, and every room will have natural light.  Check back soon for pictures of the site it will be on, which overlooks a creek in 27 acres of woods.

VOLUNTEERS: thanks for stopping by.  Please check back for details on how to sign up after June 1.  If you just can’t wait, send an e-mail to Help@ChenowethEast.com for further information.

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Crossing is finished!

We are very pleased; Paul Clifford Construction did an excellent job, at a reasonable price.
Finished crossing

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Crossing and driveway

We finally have a picture:

Our 50+ ton crossing

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Hay is food

If you grew up on a farm, thoughts about hay are second nature. By “hay” I don’t necessarily mean “square grassy thingys you see in the field” but rather food for animals in various forms. Alfalfa, fescue and other grasses are baled in this way, and may be fed to farm stock during the winter or a drought to keep them going. Such animals have multiple stomachs and can digest the stuff. In fact, their digestive system depends on it’s presence. Quite a few bugs like it, too, and for good reason- it is often high in nutritional value. If you like bugs, build you’re house with hay, and they’ll figure out a way to take advantage of your generosity. If you don’t, then use some form of straw, which is the residue left from harvesting such crops as wheat, rice and some other grains. In the case of straw, all the nutritional value is found in the grain, and what’s left isn’t digestible. As you will readily agree, digestible houses might have a few drawbacks! 😉

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Fire? What fire?

Since “The Three Little Pigs” is the story everyone conjures up when told “we’re building a house out of straw”, it’s only appropriate to cover that subject right up front. Here are some facts to keep in mind:

  • Yes- loose straw around a construction site is extremely dangerous, and there have been SB structures which burned down because a cigarette or torch got things started. The first rule, then, it not to leave straw lying around as you build!
  • A SB (strawbale) wall, when properly built, is actually a stressed panel. This means it is two strong durable layers of some kind of plaster held together by the strawbales in the middle. This kind of panel is so strong that a house can be built using load bearing strawbale walls. For a variety of reasons we are using strawbale infill (and a post & beam frame) instead.
  • I have read that in one fire rating test, a blowtorch was placed on one side of a SB wall, pointed at the plaster. As it ran for two hours, the thermometer placed on the other side of the wall rose exactly zero degrees. Would you put a torch on your wall for hours? 😮 Actually, we won’t either, but this test blows the fire safety myth right out of the water.

Hope this helps! In our next post, we’ll answer the “but what about bugs in the walls?” question…

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