Sunday, March 28, 2010

It was a long winter. The house and I had grown tense and distant. In the beginning I admired her from afar, longing for us to be back together while replaying the good times in my mind. But it did not last. I became resentful of the cold and our inability to spend time together, so I looked for distractions. Seed catalogs seduced me, and I started a consuming and passionate affair with the garden.

I'm still seeing the garden, but after a long weekend with the house, I think we will be able to work things out. I assured the house that she is my primary partner, and that she was there reason that I even have a garden. I might be falling back in love her.

Monday, March 8, 2010


The snow has finally melted, spring is springing, and progress has been made on the house.
The yard is in a slightly different configuration since my last post. I took in the laundry that had been on the line through three snow storms, and moved the wood pile. The home/yard owner wants to plant some apple trees in the far right corner of the yard, and the time has come for planting, so the wood had to move. It was a good exercise to get back into the swing of things.

Yesterday was the first day of any real progress. I worked on the foundation and got about 3/4 of the way through the last course of dirt filled sand bags.

Getting them level has been an exercise in patience and dedication. Tamping is one of the less satisfying activities that I've done for the house. Perhaps because the progress is really slow, and hard to see. Also, I'm not in house building shape anymore so it is exhausting.

The plan for today is to finish up the last stretch of the foundation bags and make a decision about my next step. I need to put down a wood frame over the bags. It will be the base for the door and window frames, and also lift the bales up away from the bags which could potentially wick moisture into them. I have a few options for this. The bales are going to be 18 inches wide, and ideally the wood frame would be the same width. The sandbags are about 2 ft wide, maybe more like 28". I have 8 2 x 12s left and I could just lay them out double wide over the bags, or I could cut them in half lengthwise and put them 18" apart and fill in the intermediate space with gravel, or I could see if I have enough other wood scrapes to do that, or I could buy more wood. I don't particularly want to buy anymore wood since I have a big pile of it in the back yard, and putting down the 2x12 double wide would be the least amount of work, so maybe that is the best option. I don't love the idea of adding more foundation that is wider then the bales, but maybe that just needs to be what it is.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow days

This is what the house looks like today:

The weather has thwarted any progress. It drains the joy from my heart a little. The house and I had been getting especially closes, spending our days together from early morning until sunset. The end was in sight, I was imagining the bales walls, window boxes with flowers, a double dutch door, and blueberry bushes. My backyard cottage retreat. But now, there is just snow.

Perhaps it is for the best. It looks now like I won't be moving in until the winter is waning, and to be honest I'm glad to not have to deal with freezing temperatures my first nights in the bale house. By next winter I'll have time to properly prepare for the snow and cold, and I imagine it will be a more pleasant experience then moving in right now, were I ready.

For now I have a garden to plan, and maybe if the weather is going to continue being like this I should get my generator stand out of storage and start working on making it work.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sand bags

Today was a delight of a building day. I got all of ground ready for the first course of the foundation, and when I finished that I discovered that the sandbags had arrived in the mail!

Here is the porch picture. Not a lot of difference.

In finishing the ground prep work I needed to expand the dry well, which looked like this this morning:

I don't know how clear it is between these two pictures, but the diameter of the dry well is about doubled.
After digging it out I lined it with landscaping fabric

Then filled that with large rocks/concrete chunks, from the sidewalk excavation in the beginning of the summer.

After that, the top was covered with landscaping fabric, and it was covered over with dirt. I also finished leveling the floor of the house and the french drain.

and then I came in and discovered my sand bag delivery and I got started on the very baby begin of getting the sandbag foundation in place.

So the plan is to get two or three courses of sandbags stacked up tamped level, then the bales will go on top of that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

more trenches

Monday, January 11, 2010


Good morning, good morning. Yesterday was fairly productive. I got nearly half of the trenching work done. That means that I might be able to finish today. Here are the pictures:

The view from the back porch (this probably looks exactly the same as yesterday, but I want to have this picture everyday)

Here are the trenches. It is still difficult to understand what is going on. The trench in the foreground is the new one. The old trench runs right through the middle of the house, so I am digging gravel out of the old trench and putting it in the new one, and digging dirt out of the ground to make the new trench, and filling it into the old one.

That might all be easier to understand from this side. This is a picture of the trenches from the other side of the house

In the picture above, the trench in the middle is the old one that has most of the gravel out and is being filled in with dirt.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I am doing a bad job of keeping up with this blog. Since my last post, I've built the roof and shingled it. The plan from here on out is to update daily with pictures. I need some better photo documentation of the house progress, and perhaps I will start actually doing it.

So here is what the house looks like today:

This is the house from the back steps of the main house. here you can see my messy/dangerous work site. Some tidying is in order.

Here is the back side of the house. All of the cross supports are new as of two days ago. those big diagonal pieces are what is allowing the house to stand on its own. Before that there were all kinds of wood bits nailed to stakes in the ground holding everything up.

Here is a shot of the state of the foundation trench. This picture is a little confusing, but the trenches are a hot mess right now. This is the job for today. Getting them in the right place, and then moving the gravel.
Here are another two view of the trenches.

Here is the roof, complete with sealed skylights and shingles.

So that is it. I'm hoping to make some good progress in the trenches today. Winter digging has a different set of challenges then summer digging. Getting over heated is not a problem. But the first foot or so of dirt is frozen. Good thing I figured out the pick axe --> shovel method in the summer.