Almost finished, plants are growing

FINALLY an update, I can’t believe it’s been two months.

I got done with the walls about a month ago, but have been so busy with work and litigation, had very little time to work outside.

I’ll definitely wash the windows before I take the next pictures.  No point to doing that now since I have to put a second mud coat over the windows and then finally the lime coat.

The little window on the west side was supposed to go from my office to the addition.  I’ll have to order another window when I got more cash.

With a window on each side I’ll hopefully be able to quickly get the hot air out in summer.

This little 5 x 24  is the “test” for my east 32 x 20 greenhouse / living room addition. 

And here are the plants I started in September. 

I took this picture from the kitchen.

The greens germinated and then apparently went into hibernation.  Since I didn’t have heat in the house it was just too cold. 

They didn’t start growing until I finished the last wall and it stayed so much warmer at night.  Truly amazing how the adobe holds the heat and then gives it off at night.  Just like they said in the books.

It also does NOT get hot during the day — yet.  Can’t wait to see what happens in summer.  I hadn’t planned on having plants inside by May or so.  We’ll see.

The first little tomato is growing, I’ve been cutting some of the onions and actually had a salad last week.

Some of the plants are in my homemade terra preta / bio char and seem to be doing quite well. 

And you can see the grape cuttings.   In the big pot is a grape that actually grew roots.  Last fall I took some of the vines and buried them.   This was the only one that grew roots.   And in the jars are the cuttings from pruning.  I was stunned when “all of a sudden” the grapes were growing leaves and I quickly pruned a few days ago. 

Since I was too busy with litigation, I just stuck them in jars with some B-1.   It’s a beautiful day today, time to get outside and start planting.

On the south side of the addition I want to have a grape fence at the property line.  I only have 5 feet, so I suppose I’ll have a 4 ft walkway and then the grapes.  Shade in summer, sun light in winter.

Finally an update

I’ve been promising new pics for quite a few weeks, just been so busy.

Had a major snow storm before Xmas before I got the roof done.  The walls washed out since half the building roof drains on this addition and the roof became a priority.

I had never worked with sheet metal before and tried to keep the cuts in the single digits.   I don’t think I was successful and seemed to be bleeding constantly.  So I hope I don’t have to do this again any time soon.

Fortunately I still have LOTS of fabric and I had the elastomeric. While it was VERY cold at night (low 20s), it was sunny during the day and actually got quite warm up there.

One time I was COLD inside and went up on the roof and I stretched out in the sun right next to the wall and it was like taking a warm bath. NICE!

In January it warmed up and I’m almost done with the mud coat.  This pic is probably from mid Jan. 

So that’s where I’ve been stuck for at least a week. Had a little rain, this time only very minor wall damage where the water hits the ground. Forgot to lean a board against the wall.

Since it’s been freezing, I haven’t been able to make bricks and it’s been too cold and windy to do mud work even in the afternoon.

You can see the black plastic bottle, I have several bottles that I fill in the evening so I have WARM water the next afternoon for mud. I found that the plastic only lasts a few weeks outside, have to ask neighbors to save up bottles for me.

Hopefully it’ll warm up again soon. I’ve had little tomato seedlings on the window sills for weeks. Thought the mice or chipmunks would eat them, but I suppose they don’t know they’re there. One time a bunch of tomato seedlings froze, but a few survived. I got tired of carrying them inside every night.

Today I planted some more green onion seeds. I’m ready for spring.

Sure hope I’ll get the last wall done soon. Still have to do a lot of work inside too. Mud coat and then put in the insulation. It’ll probably be summer then.

I bought “fresh” lime probably 6 weeks ago for the outside lime coat, right before we got all that bad weather.

Building update: getting there SLOWLY

I got both windows (commercial glass doors) installed. 

The guy who sold the doors to me helped load them in my truck.  They still had the metal frames and it took me a while to figure out how to remove the frame.  Sliding them out of the truck was pretty easy, getting them to the addition was hard.  Mostly pushing while trying not to lose balance.

I unloaded the first door and leaned it against a shelf.  The next morning I found it on the ground, the wind had blown it over.  I couldn’t believe that it didn’t break!  Very strong glass.   But it’s also amazing to see how it bends.

Getting the glass in the frame was the most difficult part and that blue plastic chair played a crucial role. That it didn’t break was a miracle.  I leaned the glass against the window sill, then lifted it up and somehow got the chair under it.  The hardest part was then lifting it up. 

I still have to finish framing the 2nd window and I have to wash it. It seriously impairs my view from the kitchen.

And that post by the 2nd window got rid of the sag, it’s looking a lot better now. 

The satellite dish has to go too, on a slow day I’ll take that off. 

I’m actually almost to the top on the right side, over the window I’ll put double insulation and old OSB.

At the bottom is the drain in case of some flood inside.  Wish I’d thought about putting it in the foundation.

I’ll add a 2nd coat of mud and then I’d like to try lime for the finish coat so it’s waterproof. I’d like to color the lime so it looks like the dirt, still have to research to see whether/how I can do that.  Need to find my “natural plaster” book too.

I also forgot to add a pipe for the temporary washer drain. I’ll have a real sewer hookup, but until I know exactly what goes where, I’ll just use that blue water barrel outside and run the washer drain through the wall.

Since my longest drill bit was WAY too short to get through the wall, I finally used 2 ft. rebar.  It felt like running a jackhammer, but did a wonderful job.

Amazingly, there are NO cracks from the drilling.

Here’s my wonderwasher.  For some reason I had two, the other one just finally had the handle break.  This one is a different model and isn’t going to last long.

I bought them when I was camping full-time and used them off and on when I didn’t have a washer to use, as right now.  Washing jeans and towels is hard, so I’m hoping to have my washing machine hooked up again soon.

My brick making system. 

The 10″ straight shovel fits perfect in the forms. I try to make 5 bricks every day and that’s a VERY full wheelbarrow.  Usually I mix more mud for the 5th brick, since I need more to work on the wall anyway.

The next day I take the forms off, the following day I carefully lift the bricks up and move them out of the way so I have the space to make more bricks. After 3 to 4 days I can currently use them.

And that saw works great to score bricks to break them to size.

I was hoping to be done by Thanksgiving and that obviously won’t happen.  It usually freezes Thanksgiving and the weather turns crappy.  I may have to use OSB to temporarily close off that small west wall.

I wish I had another door to put there.  Am considering ordering another double hung window.  Really need the light for the plants and ventilation in summer.

And, I need some plexiglass for the roof. That’s expensive and I’ll have to check my notes on that.

So far I did everything myself except for the foundation, did that with my nephew.   But now I really need help to push the wind generator up on TOP of the roof.  I still have the wires going through the kitchen (former garage) to the batteries.

Hopefully I can get someone soon to spend a few hours MOVING heavy stuff around, got to prepare a list.

And I’ll need a backhoe for a few hours for some serious grading and dirt moving on the other side.  Am going to have a little dry wash along the sides of my property and driveway instead of having the driveway wash out every time it rains.

But before I can get a backhoe over, I need to move all that heavy crap out of the way and move a bunch of old lumber and palettes.


I’d rather make bricks.

Construction update

I’ve been so busy with all kinds of other stuff, gave up on getting done before winter.  But then we had wonderful weather in October and it’s still sunny and warm during the day.   So I’m hopeful again.  Just have to get all the bricks made.   Once it’s cold and cloudy, they’ll take forever to dry and I can only make 5 per day.

I can’t believe all that crap laying around.  I haven’t used the dog house in 7 years.  But I bet I need it as soon as I throw it away.  Wish I knew someone who could use it.   I should ask Butch, maybe he’d like it since he’s often outside at night in the cold.

You can see all the bricks I’ve made, at least two rows.  I couldn’t use them yet since I just finished the roof today.   And I noticed that the horno bricks were 10″ long, so I made a bunch of those little bricks.  They’re perfect to finish up the wall next to the window.

Today I set the 2 x 12 for the first sliding glass door window.  Decided to put it in horizontal.   I won’t put bricks on top since they’re too heavy, so I’ll double up R-19 insulation.   Hopefully I can get the glass this weekend.  Am not quite sure yet how to frame it.  Should have bought some 2 x 4s.

I’m happy to report that the door closes well.  It was hard to install, since it was used and the frame was a bit warped.  But for $20 it’s a good steel door.  Can’t wait to paint it, I’ll definitely go for the Mexican look.  Something bright and colorful.

The window opens and closes well!   I’m very glad I didn’t break it during installation.  I’ll have to move the ladder to finish the wall.   Fortunately I’m almost done with the roof now, just have to get a few sheets OSB to double up since that’s the access to the solar panels and the cooler will be on the addition roof, and who knows what else.  Want to get that wall finished ASAP, the interior of the window is wood I don’t want it to get wet.

And there’s Butch, lounging on the OSB while I didn’t get around to cut it for the roof.

Wish me luck getting the glass and installing it without breaking it … And with lots of luck, I’ll get done by Thanksgiving.

Finally back to making adobe bricks and building

It was one of those few PERFECT days today after wind, clouds and rain since Friday. 

Blue sky with no cloud anywhere, a slight breeze, warm but not hot – absolutely PERFECT.  

I finally started on the first wall for my little  5 x 24 addition that’s the test for my greenhouse addition.  Unfortunately, I’m only 10 ft from the property line and I have a 5 ft setback.

I’ve been very happy with how well the horno held up since last year even without finish coat, so now it’s time to test my bricks in a building.  Today I’ve used about half the bricks I made in spring for the first three rows.  

It’s so cool to be out there and CREATE something out of the dirt on your property.    

This is the South wall of my gargage/house and the primary purpose of this addition is to make it warmer in winter and cooler in summer and to function as a laundry room, storage and hopefully as a little greenhouse this winter.  Got several grapefruit and lime trees to keep warm too.

Even though only half the addition is framed, I was finally able to get up on the roof.  My nephew did all the solar work on the roof last summer.  I had somehow hurt my leg and I was certain I would fall trying to get over the parapet. 

Now I can just go up on the addition and it’s easy to do the next 4 feet.  I raised the solar panels last week as the sun is quite low now and I finished the elastomeric roofing over the boards for the solar panels.  You can see the rope I used to pull up buckets with tools and materials.

As you can see, my washer isn’t usable right now. I got out the “wonder washer” from my camping days a few weeks ago when I started framing and the washer turned into a table.  Also, I haven’t finished the plumbing yet and my setup with the grey water drum isn’t working so well since I moved the drum out.

When my nephew was here in summer we built the block foundation and it’s a bit odd to have the bricks wider than the foundation.  For the greenhouse, the top of the foundation will be 10″ like the bricks.  I framed the addition to hold a solar water tank and the swamp cooler and the adobe bricks are just “fill” to retain heat.

I bought sliding glass doors from a neighbor last year and I already got a used entry door and have a leftover window from the house.  To install the glass, I’ll definitely need help.  I recently measured and the glass is 90″ high and I got 90.5″, a close fit.

Those will be partial bricks, since I ran out of breakage already.

The corn grew from bird food and I’m surprised the rabbits aren’t eating it.  Maybe it’s GM corn, checked the bag but it didn’t say what was in it.  It also isn’t producing any corn, but hummingbirds and some other small birds like it.

I just started to grade the area around the corn.  2 years ago I had a ditch dug for the ground wire and a lot of the dirt/rock washed down.  This is the most efficient operation I’ve had going yet.  Take the dirt that has to be moved anyway and make it into bricks 20 ft away.  Very convenient.

I screen the dirt/rocks through 3/4″ hardware cloth and then screen the dirt again for the small rocks that I can throw right on the ground.  They’re perfect to keep the shoes clean when it rains.  The large rocks go down to the horno as fill and the bright white color of the caliche looks nice.

Been “mining” clay from the abundant caliche on my lot and I add it to the adobe mix.  Did have to buy straw, but everything else is right here.

I’m sure glad I have many ladders.  When you don’t have human help, ladders go a long way.  I still have to frame the 2nd half of the addition, but it should go a lot faster now that I know what I’m doing.  I hope.

And I hope we’ll have a few more perfect days like today before winter.