December 18, 2002
A Winter Solstice Greeting
On December 22nd the sun will be directly overhead at noon along the Tropic of Capricorn, on which lie such places as Sao Paulo, Brazil, southern Madagascar, and areas north of Brisbane, Australia. Solstice means "standing still sun" and here in the northern hemisphere the sun arcs across the lowest point in the sky. But fear not, for the days will begin to (gradually) get longer.
This is a good time of the year for anyone considering a solar heating or solar electric system to take a few photographs of the sun's shadows at various times of day. This way when it comes time to put up those panels, you'll know what are good locations and bad locations. Don't fret if it's cloudy, the sun's arc won't change much over the next few weeks.
All this talk about the sun makes me yearn for those days earlier in the month. The string of sunny days ended on December 11th and since then, there's been only one good solar day. The floor over the sand bed had been as warm as 81°F but now has slipped into the 60's (F). This will be a good test to see how long it takes for the house to cool off. The cloudy weather appears to be well established for the next week or so, so I'm sure the backup heat will be called into service. Much to the chagrin of the local electric co-op, the backup heat has yet to come on (other than for testing), but I fear the day is soon upon us that the electric meter will go whirring around. I don't particularly care for electric heat, but gas isn't much better when it comes to using nonrenewable energy. Such is life.
The last few days have found me back at work on the first inside wall. If anyone one hundred years from now takes a look at this wall, they're going to wonder what the heck I was attempting to do. This wall is comprised of various mixes using some of the following ingredients: masonry cement, hydrated lime, portland cement, sand, paper, sawdust and cement retarder. There's notes scribbled on various parts of the wall along with a few cracks. Structurally, these cracks are not a problem but ugly nonetheless. Of course, there are other sections without cracks and those are the keepers.
There is a method to my mortar madness. Five samples of various mortar mixes are going off to a lab for durability testing. There certainly is a lack of technical data regarding the mortar mixes used for cordwood construction and these tests will hopefully add some reinforcement to those who are faced with "cordwood-challenged" zoning commissions. The tests will last a number of months, so don't expect to see any results for a while. Hopefully, the samples will pass the tests. Time will tell.
After the holidays, I plan on finishing up the rest of the wall (just a few days of work left) and then it's on to putting in a bathroom, complete with a shower and toilet. As crazy as it sounds, sitting down on a rather cold outhouse toilet seat is not that bad. What's bad is the outhouse is behind the pole shed out in left field. A long walk is required to get there and it's rather inconvenient when nature calls. (As winter drags on, the trip seems to be getting longer.) So maybe by the end of January, I'll be experiencing the conveniences of indoor plumbing.
I've been patiently waiting for a sunny day to replace and test the new solar heating pumps, but this warm weather has brought nothing but clouds. Considering that the "C" clamps are holding, I might just wait until next spring to replace them. Next spring I plan to install a holding tank for domestic hot water. This holding tank will be used to preheat water using a heat exchanger tied into the solar heating system. We'll see how it goes.
Paul Pioneer Press
Just in case you don't get the St. Paul Pioneer newspaper, they recently ran an article on our house-in-the-making. It was on the front page of last Saturday's (Dec. 14th) Express section -- Section E. The title is: the house THAT Stankevitz built. They really did a nice job on the article. I was very pleased with the way it turned out.
During the interview process, they asked for Jo's phone number so she could give her side of the story. (A chill ran up my spine.) I thought about it for a minute and decided to give them her real phone number. (Just kidding dear.) Jo never really did say much about how the interview went which I found to be a bit unnerving. (The suspense was killing me.)
So when I got the message that the article was going to be run, I rushed onto the Internet to read the article. I scanned the article for fear of phrases like "The guy is a raving lunatic", "Do you remember the TV show Green Acres?", or "Alan who?" but instead found none of that. Whew! Maybe I'll let Jo watch TV tonight without riding a bike. Click here to view the article.
Have a great holiday season full of laughter and cheer I'll be writing again come next year!
Happy holidays from Jo and Alan.