Sunday, April 30, 2006

It's a HOUSE! (well, sort of...)

The decking is complete. It appears unfinished because we like the look of the rafter tails against metal roofing. Again, this is the south face and that large opening is not the garage. That will be a wall of windows which will be shaded by a patio roof. On the gable ends will be overhangs something like this. Next time I'll get some photos of the north side.

We begin to see the silhouette of the house and I love the compactness of it. I think my fascination with living in small spaces goes back to childhood, but then, doesn't everything? I grew up in a very "Leave It to Beaver" neighborhood in southcentral Ohio, where the Scioto River joins the Ohio on its journey to the Mississippi, "Where Southern Hospitality Begins" in the foothills of Appalachia. These were golden years for the Portsmouth (widely pronounced Porchmith) area as Detroit Steel was in high production and Goodyear Atomic (A-plant) had put a lot of people to work after the war. The mighty N&W was still mighty, hauling coal from West Virginia mines to the river along with passengers and other freight. Portsmouth even had a great Art Deco train station. Many people were making the Rt 23 trek to jobs in the North but many were still able to be employed in the area. In just over a decade, Detroit Steel would become a miles long skeleton forever emitting the smell of steel being made and the coming years would see the Goodyear plant change hands and missions and take years to clean up. N&W would become N&S, the passenger lines closed and the beautiful station eventually demolished to build a jail. But the fact that jobs were available in the 60s helped make my childhood what it was. In my little neighborhood of Coles Park most Dads went to work (at the A-plant, the steel mill or N&W) and most Moms stayed home. There were no fences, everyone knew everyone and in the summer and after school all the kids just traveled from yard to yard playing baseball, kickball, tag, tetherball. Around 5 pm you could hear Moms calling children home to dinner. After dinner we would all rush outside accompanied by the admonition "You be in before dark!" I'm not sure why because those who had parents working at the A-plant probably glowed.

The family who lived behind us had 2 girls about my age and we were great friends, spending lots of time together. They had a playhouse. It was the greatest thing I had ever seen. Probably about 6x8, it had a front door, a window and a gable roof. Even then I would think of ways to "fix it up"; put curtains in the window, a little paint, just the right light fixture, plant a few flowers. I would imagine myself living there. Growing up in a big rangy house, with 2 parents, 3 brothers and one bathroom I was probably craving peace and quiet and privacy. The object of my desire sat on the lot line between our houses under a big old sycamore tree, a perfect setting and far enough from their house and my house that it seemed private. Yes, I think that must be when I became so fascinated with small spaces and have been attracted to them since.

"It's the friends you can call at 4 am that matter." Marlena Dietrich

Robin, Me, Olga, Amy

These wonderful women are in that group! (With Amy it wouldn't matter, she'd sleep through the call). On the day of the wall-raising they presented me with "blessings" to squirrel away in the walls of the house. Charms, a small edition of Shakespeare, a cross and lots of good thoughts. It's the little things that make a house a home. Thanks for being a part of this.

Building Stage:

Finish interior framing, fix a bump in the roof and work on the gable ends. The windows are ordered. And then we have to find the utilities. Sounds like a lot of digging.

Until next time...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Truss Day (in more ways than one)

And the trusses go up!

After much shifting, sweating, coaxing, pounding, cursing, grunting, groaning, straining and just plain hard work, the RBA was squarelevelplumb and the trusses made their debut. Wow, what a difference that makes! You can also see from this picture that much of the interior framing is completed. Now I can actually get a "feel" for the rooms-and it feels great. We like to say it's "simple, efficient and elegant." No starter castle here. Maybe it should be called the SEE house-SEE you don't need 3000 sq ft and a 3 bay garage to live a happy life.

This house is going to exceed our expectations due to the skill and dedication of Gumbatti Construction. Chris and Nick have worked their behinds off and lent great advice and vision to the project. And now for something really different: They return calls and show up when they say they will!!!

Chris (L)

The Flying Gumbatis

You need something built in Tucson, call these guys!

Gumbati Construction 520.907.0099

Nick (R)

Rick (L)

Master of All He Surveys and Honorary Gumbati

Get to work, Rick!

It couldn't have gone this fast without the continued help and support of Sam and Bill who came and sweated with the guys on truss day! Thanks!

Gumbatis in action-illustrating why construction is a young man's job.

Building Stage: Next it's the roof decking and then on to some clean-up details, window ordering, finishing interior framing, etc. It feels great!

Until next time, Judy

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Getting a good hat.
Before RBA

One of the most important aspects of building any home but especially straw bale is the integrity of the roof. If the roof leaks and the straw gets wet it can be bad news. But then a leaky roof is bad news no matter. And getting that roof right means getting the roof bearing assembly or tip plate right. That starts by getting the walls square, then the RBA square, th
en the trusses go on and you have a much better chance of having a good roof. Here are a few shots of the almost completed RBA. Interior framing starts today and then the trusses go up tomorrow. Wow, I could move in!

Roof bearing assembly almost completed.

I had mistakenly turned comments off, that function is back on.

Friday, April 14, 2006

I can be changed by what happens to me but I refuse to be reduced by it~Maya Angelou

Seeing this house take shape has been exciting but brings back memories of our first strawbale home. Because it's been so much on my mind of late, I thought I'd write a little about that experience, maybe exorcise some ghosts.

About 10 years ago we bought an acre of beautiful desert just east of Tucson in an area known as Vail. Our acre was in the middle of a plat of land which had been subdivided in the 60's but because there were no utilities only a few hardy souls had built on
their lots. We studied the possiblities. We knew we could do solar and solve the water problem, the C,C&Rs were reasonable and so we jumped at the opportunity and purchsed the land. We started planning our home and soon started building. We lived in a 5th wheel with 2 little boys (about 5 and 8 when we started) for 14 months while we built and then for about 5 years, lived a great life.

We built a strawbale studio and helped other friends with their strawbale houses.

The boys had the run of over100 acres of desert, named all the washes and brought home a never ending supply of treasures. We were visited by rattlesnakes, javelina and illegals searching for water. We were completely "beyond the sidewalks"-off-grid and had water hauled, living with the land not trying to bend it to our will. We harvested water from the roof for landscaping needs and learned to conserve. For many it would have been "living without". But we gained so much: great friends, silence, stars, long walks, watching the summer rains approach from all directions, the smell of creosote, the delight of driving to the Roadrunner Market for ice cream (ice cream is a big deal when you only have a small propane refrig/freezer). Life was good.

Then it happened (cue foreboding music: dummm-de-dum-dum). The
BIG BAD DEVELOPER ,ITC Homes, Ron Amiran, Moshe Gedalia, came into town and began buying up property around us. Then came the blading and grading, changing washes and destroying protected Pima pineapple cactus. McMansions sprung up around us, the kind that take 2 air-conditioners to cool. Black asphalt roads and driveways, grass lawns, swimming pools. It was painful to watch. It wasn't that we thought all that land was ours or that no one should ever build there it was the fact that the BBD came in, changed the rules under which we had purchased and then wanted to charge us for the privilege of continuing to live on our land and assess us 10s of thousands of dollars for the "amenities" he brought to us. And was rude, nasty and condescending . We told him we didn't need his amenities, he responded that he didn't care if we "used candles for lighting and had no heat, we would pay anyway". He now has the audacity to claim his homes are energy efficient but doesn't state on what planet. But, it is what it is. This was a dark time for us but eventually we decided that we needed to leave there and so we did. Arizona is a developer friendly state, they (developers) get what they want. We sought legal counsel, spent money, went to the newspaper and could have continued to spend money and fight but were not willing to bet everything we had on winning, not in Arizona. This was not the life we had planned.

And so another chapter opened. Our friend/realtor (but always friend first) Casey knew of some lots becoming available in Civano. We thought and thought and thought. Would we build again? Could we build again? What about all those Civano rules? Did we have the stuff to pour our hearts and souls into another project? Finally, we decided that yes, this was what we wanted to do. We had much more experience now, the boys were older, we would build smaller, more efficient. And so it began.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The First Little Pig

Despite some early disorganization, we now have walls. (Note to self, next time designate someone, other than us, to project manage.) That's usually my job but due to my other commitments over the last couple of months, I hadn't been as involved in the planning for this event and it it much more than one person can do. Thanks to some very organized friends who also have bale experience (Karen, Cheryl, Robin, we love you guys), and Terri our Custom Bale Crew Chief, and the help of many more friends and some volunteers, it happened. Some people who just stopped by to "Check it out" got into the act! We got started a little after 0800 and were finished by 1130-amazing!

We can't say enough about the response of our Civano neighbors. People brought cold drinks and fresh-baked cookies. Our neighbors, the Simms, gave up their drive-way and the cool shade of their house to a bunch of straw-covered strangers. Jeff hoisted bales and stuffed window boxes all morning. And many just came by to lend encouragement. There's a core of people within Civano who are building community, people who are going that extra step to be a part of something bigger than themselves. We definitely felt that yesterday and hope to be able to return the kindness in the near future. There was a group of about 8-10 school-aged kids who toured by a couple of times-now they have seen a different kind of house building.

That's Casey, our friend and realtor and soon to be neighbor (in the bibs). Without her we wouldn't have known about this great lot.

The Last Bale!

Rick and Cheryl lay in the last bale. Monumental occasion.

That's Bill (Southwest Solar) on the phone selling another energy efficient evaporative cooler from atop our strawbale wall.

All work finished in time for a delicious lunch supplied by Rick's Mom, Betty and our long-time friends Connie, Charlie and Lori. What a treat!

Thanks to Bill and Lucy for staying late and helping with the clean-up. What a help that was.

Building Stage:

Now comes the completion of the roof bearing assembly which affixes to the all-thread and attaches the roof to the foundation. Pretty important piece. The trusses are scheduled to arrive on 4/13 from L&L Truss.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Finishing the Window Bucks
The picture on the right shows the
window bucks completed. The large one far left is a 6 ft slider with 2 smaller windows on either side. This will take advantage of the solar gain in the winter. We expect not to use any other heat source in the winter. The windows will be shaded in the summer to cut down on heat gain which is the bigger challenge in the Sonoran desert.

This is the sill plate moisture barrier built to code. Pea gravel will fill in the space between the 2x4s. Jutting up from the slab are the rebar stabbers onto which the first course of bales will be placed.

This is headless Sam.

The Bales Arrive

The truck arrived and unloaded the 260 bales in about 20 minutes! They are unloaded by the "Squeeze"; no manual labor involved at this point. The bales originated in
Tacna, AZ just east of Yuma in the Mohawk Valley.

The Squeeze

A load of bales. All of these bales won't be used in our house. Haywagon Livestock Supply 4450 S Houghton Rd had their complete order delivered to our house. They will come and get their bales. Worked out great for us.

Somewhere in there is a house--

"In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it." Michelangelo

Your home should be an artistic expression of you. It should reflect your dreams and be the place where you are most YOU. Where you feel safe, happy, surrounded by things that please you. It should be...home.

Until next time..Keep those bales dry! (Especially now!)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Windows boxes in the making. The windows will sit inside these boxes but won't necessarily be as big as the boxes. The box on the far right in this picture (R) will hold a 3X4 slider with a window seat/storage underneath. The box to the left (behind Sam) will be a French door.

Same boxes from the SE corner (that's Sam again). That's the N MBR window Sam is standing in front of. It will also have a storage box underneath.

And, a view form the SW corner.

Well, the bales come tomorrow so will have more pictures of that and then on Saturday it's the wall-raising. By Monday there will be walls-what a difference that will make.

Until then, keep your bales dry!