March 26 , 2001
to Day Creek
Well, it's been months since I have been able to return to our house-in-the-making. December brought significant snowfall to the Midwest, both in the La Crosse area and in Northern Illinois. Besides the weather, my mother went through open heart surgery and then suffered a stroke after the operation. This left her in a semi-comatose state and after months of not fully understanding her wishes, she was able to communicate to the doctors that she no longer wanted to continue artificial life-support. Although my mother had a living will she never had given the power of attorney to anyone in our family. If you or your family loved ones do not have power of attorney, I highly recommend that you get it. It's a form(s) that gives someone else the power to make medical or financial decisions upon your behalf in case you are unable to express your own wishes. Modern medicine has done wonders in prolonging human life. In some cases, this is a good thing while in other cases it's not.
On behalf of my family, I would like to thank everyone who sent their thoughts and prayers. I cannot tell you how much this has meant to our family. Thank You.
Snow Slowly Retreats
With the warmer late March sun, my father and I decided to take a trip to the house to drop off a load of supplies and check out the house. When we arrived, we found that one of the panels was missing on the lower level of the house. My first impression was that someone had pried off the panel, but after further inspection it was clear that a strong arctic wind had probably loosened and subsequently blown off the panel. Everything was in good order and the whirring of the solar powered pumps reassured me that the solar heating system was working since last November. Whew! That was a load off of my mind.
Without any insulation from the cold, it was hard to tell how well the heating system was working. The system pressure had dropped a bit, and I quickly discovered the culprit -- a leaky pressure relief valve. I also noticed that one set of panels was running hotter than the other. Sometime over the next few weeks, I'll have to drain the system and make a few repairs. It's not too big of a deal, but it will take a couple of days to get the system recharged and functional.
Besides a few enhancements for the solar heating system, the next project on the agenda is installing a lightening rod and grounding system for the house. After last year's brush with lightening, installing a lightening protection system is a must.
These few projects, along with re-inhabiting the premises will keep me busy for the next few weeks. I am also wrapping up some web design work that I have been doing for NEXT STEP ENERGY SYSTEMS. The new site will be up and running by mid April for those who wish to take a look. If you or someone you know is looking for someone to design a web site -- look me up! I do good work at reasonable prices.
This is THE YEAR!
This is the year that the cordwood walls will go up. The plan is to build a double cordwood wall, starting with the exterior wall first. I had considered building both walls at the same time, but my goal is to have the house enclosed by next winter. This means that the walls have to be up as well as the ceiling and attic insulation. I feel I can get this accomplished if I do the exterior wall first, but I'm not so sure I can get both double walls done by then. So the exterior wall will get done before the interior wall.
There are some pluses and minuses to doing the exterior wall first.
- The walls will go up faster. There's only one side of the wall that needs to be pointed and pointing takes time. (Big Plus)
- Air infiltration will be minimized. Building the outside wall first will give me a chance to add a vapor retarder before building the inside wall.
- Window and door frames are easier to make and install. If I was to build both walls simultaneously, the frames would have to be 24" wide -- that's a lot of weight to be shifting and leveling into place.
- Wider range of wall insulation options. The verdict is still out as to what I will use for insulation. It could be sawdust and lime, or cellulose, fiberglass batts or spray-on insulation. (I know, I know some of what I just mentioned is not entirely eco-friendly material. Still weighing energy savings vs. eco-friendly materials. Stay tuned...)
- It's a pain to do bottle ends when you do one wall at a time. I've had friends and relatives saving me a bunch of bottles for the house. Maybe I'll use them on the garage.
- Interior wall stability. I'll probably need to build a post and beam frame for the interior to hold the wall sections in place. Since the walls will be 17 feet tall, I'll have to come up with a way to either tie the interior wall to the exterior or build another post and beam frame.
Why the Double Wall and not a Single Wall?
To reiterate what I have commented on throughout this project, my goal is to make this house as energy self-sufficient as possible so that in later years we will not have to worry about high energy bills. A double wall will give us a wall with about an R-40 insulative factor and it should reduce air infiltration to a minimum.
The journal should become quite active now that spring is here. Stay tuned...