30 July 2008

New Camera, and some progress

The ceiling is coming nicely. James has been working on it, and should finish up soon. He really has gotten to the point he HATES stucco, so I'm taking on a lot more of that, and he's doing the other work. (Plus hauling the 80 lb bags for me and helping mix sometime.) He heads off to school in 3 weeks (WHHAAAA!!!!) So we really need to get a move on out here. 

On the other hand, I wasn't feeling great yesterday, so we stayed in and played scrabble. 
By the end of the last game we were giggling so much we got 3 triple word score and then some with "Sir Cod I say I am El Quackie" (Yes, I know we'd broken every rule, but it's only a game, and if the objective was to have a good time, we absolutely accomplished that!)

Now back to the office. This lovely . . . is the east side of the office. Definitely getting the organic lines there. 

This is the dried stucco inside from Saturday. . .

This is the first 80 lbs of stucco up today.

This is the second and third bags up. 

The black PVC is for ventilation. The exposed square in the dry section is the "truth widow" which will be covered with a small door and framed. So that I can show folks - yes it is really made of straw.

It was a long haul but I enjoyed it today. I even mowed part of the back yard and did some good stretching afterwards. It's slow, but it's progress!

27 July 2008

Moving to the inside and some great help!!

Gentle Readers,
Please don't worry, I will be getting a new camera soon. It's absolutely necessary.
In the meantime this weekend we had a visit from my mother. 
Bless her heart, she came down to get her computer worked on, and offered to pitch in on the office build! For a 74 year old woman she did some pretty amazing work! Actually she's in great shape, and I'm proud of her!

Here she is in the loft with James.
(Kudos to Mom for climbing in the loft!!) Over James's left shoulder, you can see the top wall he's put in. We're thinking of building in book shelves up there - with the books as insulation.

Friday, James and I put the ceiling up inside. Miraculously 2 4 ft x 8 ft particle board pieces fit there perfectly. We'll get the top (over the loft) done this week. I'm planning on putting yellow pine tongue and groove from Barberitoes on the ceiling to finish it. It will be SOOOO pretty!

This is what the office looked like Saturday morning... 
This is what I do. I haul, lift, and mix 80 lb bags of stucco. 
This is what James does :
Hangs out of a window about 12 ft. up. and screws in plywood. The ab work out he got from doing this was excellent he said! Mom held his feet while he did this.

It was insane!
This is the stuccoing that Mom and I got done. It's 3 bags worth. It's not a HUGE amount, but we were working in fits and starts. AND Mom was most comfortable doing the area that was roughly between her waist and her shoulders. I didn't want her to over do it. She did a GREAT job! Yeah Mom!
Oh, and this shelf - which will be under the loft next to the ladder so I have a place to put things as I'm climbing up... has one of the most important things - the speakers. James plays DJ - with his iPod, and it's great!! The music keeps up moving, and James has introduced me to lots of music. How cool is that?

This thing has been going on forever now. I'm glad I am enjoying it so much. 

Honestly, I'm looking forward to being done.

James goes to school in a month. We need to have a lot more done by then. Tim has gone to Bishkek, so I am ramping it up a notch to do more. And of course, you'll be kept posted as it develops!!

Camera on the 31st (Tax holiday!) if not sooner!

And Thanks to Mom for this posts photos!!

23 July 2008

Unintended Bonus?

Well, Gentle Readers, it turns out that one of unanticipated benefits of using stucco and getting covered in it on a regular basis is that when you take a shower, you already have your exfoliant pre-applied!!

Who'd a thunk?

22 July 2008


Maybe it's the heat that's getting to me?

Today after writing pithy project prose, I found myself dabbling in Haiku's about work.

This is what I sent off to Tim:

River water flows  
summer aquifers run dry
toxins eat parched earth


New frogs croak in spring
singing praises for the year
climate changes that


Tired consultant 
writes more words with other words
It's that time of year

Oops. Too late. 

Heat Wave

At 5:00 it's 94 degrees outside, with a 104 heat index

In my office the temperature is the low 80's. With a fan, it's quite comfortable. 

And I haven't even finished the insulation, walls etc. Having a tarp up over the porch keeps it quite comfortable here. 

Also last night we had a WICKED storm - with hail, very strong winds and harsh downpours. 

My office is fine.

I'm a happy camper. :-)

21 July 2008


Hello All!

First, don't despair, we're still here working away.

After a weekend of family reunions, it was great to see everyone and great to get back to the construction. Some of my cousins are thrilled with this, proving that insanity may in fact be hereditary. :-)

Speaking of kin folk, my darling nephew Joe got carried away with my camera (or rather it got carried away with him!) yesterday. He took loads of photos, but now I am getting the dreaded E18 error message which is akin to the canon sureshot Blue screen of death. Bill thinks he can fix it. Now worries, Gentle Readers, if it is not beyond repair I think I can justify buying another on my business account. Maybe. And No, Joe is not in hot water, the camera was gitchy before it got into his little paws.

Today, James wanted a break from stucco. So he fastened down decking and did a super job getting insulation up in the ceiling. I'm so impressed.

And I, well, noting the insanity remark above, carried mixed and applied 2 80 lb bags of stucco. In 98 degree heat, in the middle of the day, alone, on a ladder, on top of the scaffolding, on uneven ground. Let's just say, I've found my zen. 

I'm now ready to take a hot shower so that my skin will be able to breathe, and figure out what to make for dinner tonight. 

Loving the work. Trying not to push it too hard so that I can't do it again tomorrow.  

I think I'll get some aspirin on my way.

Be well, do good. "til then. 

19 July 2008


We're on the last section of the exterior wall.  It's on a fairly steep hillside and the scaffolding still doesn't quite enable us to reach the top section we need to be able to reach. I think we'll actually end up with one of us holding up a hawk (the tray) full of stucco while the other climbs up into the loft, leans way out the window and schmers the stucco on to the straw like heavy cream cheese onto a vertical bagel.

BUT this weekend is absorbed by family reunions and such. So next week.

And that video about skooshing the stucco on the wall for the Lowe's guys. . . that'll be done then too.

Until then, 

Take care Dear Readers, and remember your comments are always welcome!

17 July 2008

Still at it. . .

Dear Friends,

No worries! we are still at it, though the going is slow. 

A few things. . . the guys at Lowe's were getting some serious belly laughs when I describe my method for applying stucco. They've asked for a video. I'll see what I can do.

All I have to say is the Quikrete Stucco guy makes it look WAY easier than it really is!! I need to have a word with him.

More photos soon!

But for tonight, I'm out!

06 July 2008

Moving forward with room for creativity

One of the interesting lessons in building my own office is that I'm getting to figure things out for myself for the very first time. A professional, by virtue of experience, should know these things.

For example, I have some lovely glass blocks. They were my brother's and he didn't want them
 (evidently his son was putting them in the drive way and they were getting run over...?)

So I have a space for them over the windows - like this:

I think it looks pretty cool - especially now that the tarp is down. (THE TARP IS DOWN!!)

See, really quite pretty.... and they bring more light into the space.

But I'm not sure how to seal them in there.

And of course, in putting on the second coat of stucco, I was stranded on top of the scaffolding while the boys mixed another bag. The whole thing taking on a very organic form. Coating the bales with the stucco makes curves and forms fill out. 

I found it needed a little something. . . 

It's like my own Easter Island statue!!

This will be the view from where my desk will be: 
With the tarp off the West side (it's sealed up enough now) it looks oddly smaller than before. . .

But I like it!!
And from the house, if one looks closely, one can see the office watching!

(look for it!)

It's not fast work and we do get tired, but I'm learning to appreciate the limits of what can realistically be done in a day.  

But more on that another day. I'm tired. . . 

04 July 2008

A good Day's work - and PROGRESS!!!

This morning we started out with a straw building, good weather and the help of a good friend!
Edwige is awesome! Here she's donning a pair of vintage coveralls. Love those!
We got the stucco mixed and got started...
Ed and James were very good with the trowels...

I found that the contours of the building were more organic and decided to use my hands to smear it on...
James got innovative and put on goggles to deal with splatter...
Ed was well camouflaged while mixing the stucco...
She got the camera and got all artsy on us...

I ended up wearing the stucco. That was fun.
more mixing...
and more mixing
And then we got scaffolding!!

And voila (Eds French)


Remember this is the only the first coat....

And the day was done...

Article of interest....

Click here

For a nice article on Straw Bale homes as an affordable green means to have a house!!

More coming soon!

Plastering party starts tomorrow morning!! All welcome!!

03 July 2008

Hiring it out...

Of course, there was the question of "wouldn't it just make sense to hire the stuccoing out to a professional crew?" from the husband and mother. 

It sort of ruins the whole "do it yourself" vibe of the place.

Doesn't it?

Besides, where would the fun be in that?

Not gonna happen.

02 July 2008

Gearing up for the next phase...

It's been a week filled with busy things that did not include working on my office. Such is life. 
I did spend some very productive and peaceful time out there Sunday. It's been the impetus for everything else I've been up to. No worries, it's all good. 

And now we're gearing up for what is ominously known as . . . 

"The Next Phase"

I've been getting the proverbial ducks in a proverbial row.

Tomorrow James and I go to Lowes to see my buddy Mr. Smith for a Stucco Lesson.

Mr. Smith knows a lot about stucco and the fine techniques needed to do a good job of getting stucco onto a surface. I spent some time there today chatting with him about how exactly to do this. Mr. Smith was so very patient and helpful, as always. He and I agreed that using a stucco sprayer would be our best bet, especially since I'm a complete novice at working with stucco (or plaster).  But alas, after calling ALL equipment rental agencies in the phone book, no one had a stucco sprayer for rent. 

He suggested our next option would be using a shovel to sling stucco at the wall!
Having spent my youth cleaning out horse stalls, let me tell you, I am an accomplished slinger of stuff with a shover. Seriously. 

But then I realized he didn't quite mean it so literally. We can sling it up there, but then we'll need to smear it on the surface. Hence the lessons tomorrow.

And we have stucco. Granted at the moment we only have 7 of the estimated 48  80lb bags we'll need to put a 3/4 inch base coat on 600 square feet - but I didn't want to get too carried away - and since Dad's stuff is taking up the garage, I'm limited on dry storage space. 

This Friday we'll start on it!! (and likely buy much more stucco too!) We've got some friends who have volunteered to join us for the "plaster party .01" If anyone else would like to join, please let me know!!

Also, Thanks to the wisdom of Mr. Smith, We'll be building some sort of scaffolding around the outside, because in the wise words of Mr. Smith, "This isn't just climbing a ladder with a power drill."

So stand by for photos, observations, and probably a whole list of really dumb mistakes I'll make, but those will be fewer thanks to Mr. Smith. So maybe there will be something impressive?