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Today We Baled - Part One: Saturday

What a great day. A chaotic whirlwind of a great day. From 8am to 9:30 we did prep work, by which time the majority of our volunteers had arrived. Also in attendence were the building inspector (Andy Van Hoof) and Paul Dowsett (the architect). Then we gathered round for a quick demo on how to tie half and part bales. We moved to the other side and had a small ceremony when we placed the first bale. We wanted my parents to be there helping do that because without them this house would not be where it is now, and there is as much of their sweat and effort in this house as ours.

Then they stacked.

I say they stacked because when we placed the first bale Tina (from Camel’s Back Construction) explained that the owners place the first bale because frequently they end up so busy during the day with little details that they never get to place another one. Boy was that true. Every time I tried to place a bale or do some ‘real’ work I’d hear, “Glen, could you come over here and answer a question?” My father said the whole day was like that for him as well. I figure over the course of the day I got to place about 6 bales, grind one, whack one, and stuff a bunch of gaps. But I tell you few things can top seeing your friends and family all with huge smiles on their faces building up the walls and all saying how totally cool they thought the whole experience was. I’m sad that my cousin Phil had to miss it (due to serious hockey accident) and that Ian and Tiffany couldn’t be there (they’re coming Sunday).

The east wall was the Jason, Kimmy, Chrissy wall, with a bunch of help from Aunt Joan, and my mom. Two Camel’s Back volunteers, Vince and Dave, also helped with the back portion and corner.

The north wall was the Karen, Jay (yes, a Jay and a Jason), Jenn and Neil wall, with lots of help from Steve, another Camel’s Backer. Neil took to the grinder like he was born with one in his hand - a mental image that would surprise no-one who knows him.

Paul and I started the west wall. Then both of us got diverted, I mostly saw Jay, Dana, my Mom, and Joanne. It was the real pot-luck wall, everybody threw in a bale.

We got tons of work done, and as an added bonus Dave McCracken came out and he and my father got the last corner finished. Rene and Dave quickly had the west side planked and later in the afternoon Mike showed up and they got started on the ice and water shield. They got 2/3 of the roof done before they ran out of shield. We’ve bought the rest and if the rain holds off we’ll get that done tomorrow.

All in all an incredible, fantastic, fun, exciting day. I am so thankful to all of our friends and family who came out to help. I’ve had fun building this house, I’ve learned alot, but this is the first day that I can say that I’ve really had fun. The first day building the house that I’ve felt really happy.

We took tons of pictures, here’s a bunch - two pages!



Tomorrow we bale!

Another long day today. In attendance today we had: Mom and Dad, Pete (the strawbale fella), Dana (a coworker), Leslie, Andrew, Andy, (three more straw baler’s), Rene, Joanne and myself.

We got one corner finished and covered over, we’ll have the other one done tomorrow (or die trying!) Pete, Lesley, Andrew and Andy showed up to help prep for the bales tomorrow, they helped hang the soffit boards that sit above the bales and they hung the mesh that sits in front of and behind the bales. The mesh is stitched to the bales and helps hold the stucco onto the bales.

Rene got most of the roof boards up and he’ll be done tomorrow no problem (or so he tells me).

We also had a visit from two officers from the conservation authority, they noticed all of the tracks into the land and came in to make sure that we hadn’t been having any trouble with trespassing hunters. Nice to know the right people are watching out for us.

Tomorrow we actually start laying bales. Pete said that he has a hemp bale that we’ll use as our first bale. Pretty cool. They’ll also be mixing hemp fibres into the stucco to give it strength and to help it cure.

We took a bunch of pictures. Don’t we always?



What a day.

We worked all day today, and still didn’t get done. So some of our volunteers are going to be doing some carpentry tomorrow. Early morning tomorrow, 8am. Gotta get more done.

We had lots of other stuff going on as well. Bob Coulter, the welder, showed up to attach the extra saddles to the front posts. These are necessary to hold the beam that ties the front part of the house to the back part.

Pete (the straw bale fella) showed up to drop off the mesh and check things out. I don’t think he was pleased with our lack of progress but he remained in good spirits.

The scaffolding, cement, and sand all got dropped off. Dad picked up the flashing, and we bought a generator.



Preparing for Straw - Part One

We have two days to get ready for the straw bale raising on Friday. We have to finish the purlins, plywood and corners so that we can get the Ice and Water shield down. We have to put plywood under the trusses around the outside edge. The straw bales sit on the curb, and they rest against the plywood at the top.

Hopefully Jerry and the boys will be back for a couple of days of work this week, with their help we could get it all done. Without them it’s going to be tricky.

Today we had Mom and Dad, Rene, Joanne and myself.



Getting closer

We didn’t get a whole lot done on the structure this weekend but there was lots of work none-the-less. We had a meeting with Paul and Mike Saturday morning and discussed various aspects of the structure as it stands now and going forward. It should be noted that Paul and Mike have remained remarkably congenial over the course of this endeavour, any disagreements have been smoothed over quickly, and neither has lost sight that the end goal is to get our house built. For those who don’t know disagreements, and even outright warfare between builders and architects is, while not exactly legend, certainly very well documented in the annals of home building.

We met with Pete Mack in the afternoon, he’s going to be our contractor for the straw bale portion. We chatted with him for nearly three hours, he’s a great guy and we’re looking forward to the raising. The raising will now be on the weekend of November 9th. I have every confidence that we will be able to make this deadline.

The post and beam should be done this week, there’s only five short posts and one beam to go. We have to get some more custom boots made, so they can’t raise the rest until we have those. Until then Jerry and his guys will be working on the trusses.

There’s about a million little details that have to be in place before straw bale can go up, we have to take care of all of those over the next couple of weeks.

We took some pictures of the house with almost all of the posts and beams in place. The front sure looks tall.



Window and Door Bucks

We did some work on the door and window bucks today but got rained out. I also replaced the inside portion of the straw bale curbs - I had made a mistake and didn’t leave enough space for the weight of the outer layer of stucco. The curbs are now 16” wide, that should do the trick. Next week they continue with the post and beam, I’m hoping to get up the for at least one day. I hate just getting the daily report from my Dad, I want to get up there and participate a bit more, the weekend just isn’t enough.

As has happened several times over the course of this project a subcontractor has gone AWOL, this time it’s the roofer. This always leaves me in an uncomfortable position, they might be off on another job and just temporarily out of contact, but ready to do your job as soon as they get beck, which has happened before. Or they might be busy with some other large job and they have no intention of doing yours, nor are they going to call you to let you know, which has also happened before. So what do you do?


Some Reflections on Building

We’ve come a long way this summer: excavations, footings, bracing, foundation walls, bracing, the slab, more bracing, and now the posts. We’ve done a lot more of this ourselves than we expected, and in some ways we’ve done less than we hoped. We’ve had the normal problems with (sub) contractors that don’t return calls or that cancel with little or no notice, and with materials suppliers that sit on cheques but don’t fill orders. And the scheduling! Oh man, the nightmare that is scheduling. The whole experience so far has been frustrating and exhilarating and maddening and exciting. We’ve learned so much, and really, we’re only about half way done.

I’m reflecting on this because we came up this morning and we got to see (in person) the posts standing (this week, like everyone else, we only got to see them in my Dad’s pictures). Now with the posts going up it’s starting to look like a house, you can see were rooms might go, and you can start to get a real sense of scale about the whole thing. But it’s a little depressing at the same time, this is the part of the process that I had hoped to be able to participate in, but my work is very busy right now and I’m just not going to be able to spare much time.

I’ve said before that we got lucky with our choice of builder, even if we got unlucky with his schedule, well we also got lucky with the guy doing our post and beam and truss installation. Jerry and his crew seem to be excellent. They know their stuff, they’re taking the time to do everything right, and I hope we can get enough of their time to take it right up to the steel roof.

This weekend we’re fixing a problem with our straw bale curbs, and we’re building the door and window bucks. These bucks are inserted into the bale walls as they are built and provide the openings for the windows and doors.



First Posts!

After several weeks of trouble and problems we finally have our first posts standing. My father deserves all of the credit for getting us to this point. He has had to do an incredible juggling act with the lumber suppliers and the post and beam guys, but that all seems to be settled and we’re moving forward.

Dad took three of the nicest pictures I’ve seen in a long time.

We might even make our new revised straw bale raising date of November 2.



Curb it

We put the curbs in place for the straw bale. The curbs are made of 2x6’s, 5” of rigid foam and 2x4’s, for a total of 14”. They support the straw bale from beneath, and protect them from any water that might get under the walls (floods, spills etc.)

Jerry showed up to work on the post and beam but we discovered that we really need more information before we can tackle that. It looks like the lumber place may not have supplied all of the right wood. They also did not supply a schedule for the metal fittings so Dad and I sat down when we were done and tried to figure out where they go. There are a bunch of fittings all of various shapes and sizes. They are meant to fit on top of the posts so that they can support the beams and hold them in place. Anyway Dad and Jerry are going to go in to the lumber place in the morning to try and straighten things out.

This weekend: Nothing to report

There’s not much to report this weekend. We went up to our cottage to take in the boats and docks for the winter. We did stop by the land and the posts, beams, and fittings are all there. The slab has some cracks in it already. We were warned but you always hope that it won’t crack.

Monday they start putting up the post and beam. I’ll post pictures if my dad sends me any. Next week we’ll be putting wood around the perimeter of the house for the bales to sit on. The week after next is the straw bale raising. Time’s moving fast.