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DayCreek Journal

July 19, 2003

"Cordobe"

The wall looks a bit dark, but as the wall dries the mortar/plaster should dry to a cream color.

Is it a cordwood wall or is it an adobe wall? Well...it's kinda both—It's Cordobe!

Building the house has been quite an experiment, so why stop now? I've had great success up to this point with PEM (Paper Enhanced Mortar) and with PEP(Paper Enhanced Plaster) and it seemed worth a try to marry the two in a single wall.

Before I get into the details, I must mention that I've tried various mixes and have settled on a mix that can be used as mortar and/or plaster. I've now added a bit of clay to the mix and the mix is stickier than ever— almost too sticky to mix in a cement mixer. (Speaking of which, the old cement mixer bit the dust this week...more on that later.)

There are a total of six downstairs windows that are 6'(h) x 4'(w) and are 18" off the floor. Besides being a window, they also serve as a great place to sit and watch the world go by. I'm not sure if we will utilize all of them as seating areas, but when designing the window wells, it made sense to incorporate some form of base that would blend in with the plaster and be quite durable. At one point I had considered using wood to finish off the wells, but with lots of sun streaming in through the windows, I felt that some form of tile might be a better option for the base of the window.

As it ends up, I had three boxes of terra-cotta clay tile stashed away that was leftover tile from a bathroom project. Those three boxes are just enough to do all the downstairs window sills in our new house and will blend nicely with the look and feel of the window wells.

So after deciding on using tile, the next course of action was to start mudding up the window well. I started with the ceiling and knew this might be a bit of a challenge. I was confident that it would adhere to vertical surfaces, but applying it to a ceiling would be a whole new ball game. I didn't know what to expect.

It ended up being a somewhat sloppy experience but after a while I got the hang of it and more plaster was sticking to the ceiling rather than my hair. I found that applying the mud with a wide putty knife worked the best. It went slowly, but by applying heavy pressure with the knife, the mud (surprisingly) stuck quite well to the lath.

Once the ceiling was done, the sides followed and finally the bottom sill inlayed with the tile. It took me about 2 1/2 wheelbarrows of plaster to complete, but by the end of the day the entire window frame was covered with about a half-inch of plaster.

The one-coat plaster defies all plastering logic. Typically, plaster is applied in three coats: scratch, brown and finish. This slower process provides time to level out uneven spots in the wall and the finish coat covers up any cracks that might occur. I feel confident that the paper in the mix will prevent cracking from occurring and since I'm after a handmade look to the wall, there's no need for perfectly flat walls. Of course, the verdict is still out on how the final product will look. It will be a good 4 - 6 weeks before the wall cures and dries. I am happy to report though, that the closet wall that was plastered three weeks ago is doing just fine and leads me to believe that this wall will follow suit.

With the window well completed, it was time to build the cordwood wall up around the plastered window frame. The cordwood mortar mix used was identical to the window well and hopefully there won't be too much color variation between any of the mixes. Unfortunately, the cement mixer that I've been using since the beginning of the project wore out and it required mixing the mortar by hand. Luckily, a visit from a fellow cordwood enthusiast from Brainerd, MN helped me mix mortar. (Thank you Pat!) If I was building the walls with an assistant, I would probably forgo the mixer and just mix by hand. It's a lot easier when two people are mixing mortar in a wheelbarrow.

On Wednesday it was back to mortaring by myself and after a few batches, I decided to scrap the rest of the afternoon and use parts from the old mixer to fix a "newer" old mixer that I recently bought for $50. By late afternoon I was back in business again using a mixer! I was very glad that I had this mixer on reserve in case of a breakdown.

We don't have a guest book, but we do have lots of logs

Some of our log signers have quite an artistic flare and are willing to show off their artistry for "Peanuts".

It has become a custom that anyone who comes to visit and help build the house gets to sign a log in their honor. Our first logs to be signed were from Bernice and David Fraser (Bunny and Bear) of Bancroft, Ontario back in 1997. At that time, they ran a bed and breakfast named "Hutchnden House." I first learned of Hutchnden house when I attended Rob Roy's cordwood workshop and our visit to their cordwood bed and breakfast was quite memorable. We had such a great time and when we were ready to leave I asked if they would be so kind to sign a few logs to be mortared into our own home. Not only did they sign the logs, but provided us with two logs from their own cordwood housebuilding adventure. I plan on installing their logs in a special location.

I felt that our master bedroom should contain our family's logs, so the first wall (the wall on the left) contains signed logs from Jo's family, while the center wall will contain only two logs signed by our parents, and finally the third wall (the wall on the right) will have signed logs from my family.

There are plenty of other signed logs from friends and workers that will go into other walls as I build. I kind of feel like I'm planning our wedding all over again making sure that we "seat" people at the appropriate walls and that no one has hurt feelings as to where their logs end up.

 

Here's a photograph of crepuscular rays at sunset.