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New projects

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

We’ve been working on some new things. First, we have caged in part of the back garden to try to keep the quail out of the asparagus once and for all. (And this new structure, big enough for Brad to stand up inside, has stood up admirably to the 60+ mph winds here the last couple of weeks.)


And we built a new adobe cold frame for growing during the winter with its own little bench:


Best of all and not unrelated, for the first time in several years, we no longer have a pile of adobe bricks in front of our house!


In case you were wondering…

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

How do you finish dry wall that butts up to an adobe wall?

(That’s an Internet search we’d don!)

We found this J-corner bead to work well.



Adobe is done

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

In the ongoing push on the house, we’ve finished the interior adobe. Here are some pics.

This is a heavy lot of brick. And much of it pretty high up.

December brick work

Friday, December 28th, 2012

We have been putting the time this month to use, laying lots and lots of adobe brick. We’ve also got a couple lintels (big wood beams over the windows) up now. And we have the fireplace done (and working). We designed the brick arrangement ourselves and I’m really happy with how it turned out.

We put in a new half stepped wall in the main entryway. Here is a picture with that with the wall into which we incorporated some wine rack spaces.

And here are Brad and I, demonstrating that the lintel is indeed quite strong. (It will be holding up brick to the ceiling.)

These bricks weigh close to 40 pounds each. By now, we have moved several thousand pounds of brick each. (And the higher we get up the wall, the more exercise this provides.)

This week

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

We finished the adobe wall in the back room. I think it came out great.

We also finally finished the last bit of stucco around the outside doors, and Brad dug lots of trenching and water into the house and sewer lines out. We have started prepping the big walls that will get adobe and will start on those next week.

The weather here has been lovely; monsoons are in full force with big storms rolling through almost every day. We don’t always get the rain here, but have had several long showers. The sprinklers on the outside garden beds have been off for a couple weeks, and as you can see, everything is thriving.

Today in masonry school

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Today, we put some rebar into the wall, anchoring it to the OSB backing and adding strength.

We also put in the first electrical outlet in the adobe wall….

…and began experiments for the adobe wall wine rack concept.

Last night, we made a lovely cold soup from a giant cucumber from the garden. The tomatoes are starting to come in nicely as well.

Laying bricks

Monday, July 16th, 2012

We began building the first adobe wall today. As with most things, we “practiced” in an inconspicuous place. This time it was the back laundry room. (The adobe there will help warm our bedroom in the winter.)

First, we mixed the mud. It’s pretty much like stucco, except we added some color to try to make the mortar look less gray and more like the adobe bricks.

The actual bricklaying went faster than I expected. Brad said these bricks are much more stable and solid than others he’s worked with.

Here is the first day’s work. And things always go faster after the first day.

And on the weather front, we’ve gotten an inch of rain in the past 24 hours. We also had pretty big hail this afternoon. Exciting.

46,000 pounds

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

For about two years, we have been searching for a supplier of adobe bricks.

Mostly, I love doing everything ourselves, but fencing 40 acres and making our own adobe were two things I’d rather not do.

So we pursued numerous avenues. There was a guy who would come make bricks right on our property that we were excited about. Except that he never seemed to be able to come out here and the price kept going up. Then rumor had it that there were a couple local suppliers. None seemed to be in business anymore. Of course, there was the route that several people we knew took of getting bricks in little batches from Mexico, but the stories of how that went were too terrible to recount here.

Finally, about a month ago, Brad found New Mexico Earth Adobes in Albuquerque who said they’d make and deliver bricks. Delivery is always a big problem here, and especially with adobe which is very, very heavy and not economical to ship. Just a few weeks ago, this place had a “sale” on bricks, and so we jumped on it. Delivery was all set, and we upped our order to a whole truckload.

The driver was scheduled to arrive at 6am this morning.

At 5am, our alarm went off. A minute or two later, Brad said, “I hear the truck.” It was pitch black.

We dressed hurriedly and got ready to receive. Our friend who helped us forklift the vigas had also agreed to help unload this truck, because the driver wasn’t permitted to bring a forklift into AZ (the many-eth time we’ve had cross-state permit issues.) He wasn’t scheduled to be there until 6 so Brad went out to see the driver.

Next problem — this was the 2nd truck that couldn’t get in our driveway. (Perhaps not coincidentally, they were two of our largest and heaviest deliveries.) The 70+ foot truck wasn’t a problem, but he had an enormous sleeper cab that wouldn’t make the turn into the gate without taking out a post.


So….we adjusted plans and decided to unload all the bricks at the front gate and then to transfer them up to the house.

Another issue, but one we already knew about, was that our friend’s forklift couldn’t lift the 2500 pounds that each pallet would normally weigh. The company agreed to pack them at 2000  pounds (at no charge beyond the extra pallets – much appreciated), but even that seemed a little heavy, so Brad and I transferred about 12 bricks from each pallet to some extra pallets we had. They weigh about 30 pounds each. That is  a lot of weight to move by hand, and as we did it, I knew that this was only the first of many times we’d undoubtedly be moving these by hand. (Who needs a gym?)


All went well. Here’s the truck before and after:


And here’s the staging area at the front gate.


And finally in their temporary storage spot (where our lovely patio will one day be). This picture also gives a good idea of the proximity of the two houses.


The bricks are lovely, very uniform and durable. We broke almost none in the various moves today (and we’ve seen adobe bricks that broke if you sneezed and melted in the rain — these are stabilized though.)

It will likely be some time before we start building with this. We have to get the whole house covered and electrical in first. It’s great to have this looming procurement challenge behind us though.

Always something new

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011


My baby plants outside to start “hardening”


Current state of the houses

Spring is in full swing here. It has been warm and lovely all week. The wind has finally died down, and the garden is thriving. We ate our first spinach of the year. Brad’s garlic are shooting up in height and doing great (under some cover now being protected from the quails). Peas, lettuce, and arugula are all doing well outside. The tomatoes and eggplants are outgrowing their pots and have started venturing outside in preparation for transplant, which I hope will be within a week or so.

We are moving ahead with building but having a few fairly major reconsiderations. One is that the on-going pursuit of someone to make adobe bricks for us is resulting in no good options. The price to have bricks made on-site here is escalating, in part because it is not a huge order. (We are only doing a few walls in adobe.) We have talked to several folks about making bricks for us elsewhere, but shipping 36,000 pounds of bricks isn’t very feasible. The project seems simultaneously not big enough and too big. So we are considering (and I am taking a deep breath as I write this) making our own bricks. We’ll see. I am still hoping for another solution, but as Brad says, we are always happier with work we can do ourselves.

Along that same line, as we were getting ready to place the final order for the SIPs for the roof, we had a second thought about that. They are quite expensive and the contract from the supplier was onerous. I wondered out loud about other options. Several phone calls and emails later, we are now considering i-joists with the same spray-in insulation we’ll use between the two external walls. The potential advantages are: 1) cost (and no contract risk) and 2) easier to do the work ourselves. If the R-value is comparable (which we are investigating), we may go this route.

Not much else going on here. We have some visitors coming this week and are also planning a very small neighborhood party for late in the month. The birds are singing, and life is good!

Construction decisions

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

We’ve made some decisions on how we’re proceeding with construction.

A big one is that we are going to use SIPs (structural insulated panels) for the guest house (which we’re now calling Tumbleweed). You send the manufacturing facility your plans and they crank out these panels. They are very energy efficient, relatively inexpensive, and easy and fast from a construction standpoint. Amazingly, there is a manufacturing facility (KC Panels) for this just a few miles from us. Brad visited and was impressed.

For the main house (no name yet; any ideas?), we’re going with a combination of adobe and wood frame walls. The adobe will be in places that catch sunlight to add thermal mass. The wood frame walls will be double 2×4 with plaster on the outside, 10″ thickness. The style will be eclectic southwestern, with Moroccan styling. Small and simple.

Hopefully, we’ll be submitting our plans for permitting very soon. In the meantime, we’re doing some excavation on the existing slab since everyone involved in it seems to have either vanished or forgotten everything about it.