August 15 , 2002
Patience is a Virtue
The house still needs a front door , window trim and a railing for the wraparound deck, but other than that the exterior is complete.
The last exterior wall is finished! Tom and I celebrate with a beer toast. (Champagne is faux pas.) Notice the bottles and up/down arrows above the door frame? This could be a first for a cordwood houseAn elevator!
It seems like it took years to get to this point...hmmm...I guess it did. On August 15th at 15:53 CDT, wall number 32 was completed. This is a major milestone for the project with all of the exterior walls now in place.
Things went pretty much as planned this year completing one wall per week. Some of the weeks it seemed easy to meet this goal, but other weeks it was a stretch. Besides building the walls, there were other things that had to be done: trips to town for supplies and groceries (always remembering to make a list but then forgetting to bring the list), cutting and beveling wood, slurrying paper, making glass bottle tubes, preparing meals, mowing, traveling to and from Illinois (about once per week), writing this journal and attending to poison ivy rashes / insect bites and stings.
My brother Jim and his two sons came up for a few days to help out, watch the Perseids (a bust this year) and enjoy the fine attractions that SE Minnesota has to offer. (Pictured left to right are: J.J., Jim and Mark)
It took a lot of hours of labor and as a bonus, I had the help of my friends Tom and Nick. I say the word "bonus" for a reasonI did not expect their help, but it was always welcome. Tom usually comes out once a week to mix cement and help with various tasks such as beveling logs, cleaning completed walls and lending a hand when I got near the tops of the walls. (There's a real art to mortar stuffing when you get to the last course of wood.)
Nick on the other hand, has kept me supplied with paper bales and glass bottles. (He keeps an eye out especially for red bottles and so far, has found three. These are quite rare.) Nick also has loaned me his cement mixer for the last two seasons, which has been a great time saver. Although it is made for mixing cement, I have found it to be quite effective for mixing PEM (Paper Enhanced Mortar). (Tilting the drum a bit further to the horizontal plane seems to work best. Just be careful not to lose any mortar.)
So what did it take to build the exterior 32 walls? Quite a few long days of work to be sure. The fact that the sun sets up here after 8:30 during the summer months was a big help. This is not to say that I worked 12 hour days consistently, but if the weather was "mortar-friendly" I would take advantage of those days and work as long as I could. I'm not sure how many hours I worked to complete those 32 walls, but I'm sure it was over 1000 hours of labor. Besides the man-hours, here's an estimation of what it took to build these walls:
6,327 blocks of wood
- 2,000 lb. of recycled newspaper (~1 ton)
- 19,586 lb. of sand (~9.8 tons)
- 133 bags of type N masonry cement
- 555 batches of PEM (Paper Enhanced Mortar) mixed in a cement mixer
- 89 deer fly bites
- 192 midge bites
- 131 mosquito bites
- 3 wasp stings
- 13 bee stings
Would I do it again? Sure! That's what the plans are... 32 more interior walls! Am I nuts? Absolutely. It's either that or the rest of the world is nuts and I'm the only one sane. (It's all relative I guess.)
There's a bunch of "next" things to do before I start the interior walls. Here's a list of things that have to get done this fall season:
- Install a ceiling with vapor retarder
- Insulate the attic space
- Insulate the walls (spray foam)
- Caulk around windows and door frames
- Route electric line to house, install circuit panel and meet with electrical inspector
- Route phone line to house
- Install LP gas tank and run line to house
- Install tankless water heater
- Install backup heating system / boiler
- Install solar hot water tank
I think I will be busy for a while, so stay tuned for the next exciting journal entry soon to follow within the next week or so.
Say "Hi" to Annette the Slurry Mouse
Who's the leader
of the club
See ya real soon...