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November 2010

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Well, it’s moving along towards winter. I just checked the outside highs and lows for the last month or so: 90f-27f. What about inside you ask? The high was 80f and the low 69f. That is very very livable. This is with no heat at all. So far, I’d say that SIPS are a great way to build and the results are excellent.

The fireplace is working now, but other than using it a couple of times for fun, it’s off. I have noticed the floors are getting colder. This slab has no insulation so it’s going to get colder and colder as the ground outside cools. I ordered some moccasins as my feet are naturally cold to begin with. (Since I was a small child I wanted moccasins… it’s never too late. :)  One thing (temperature-wise) about this house is that the south most room is clearly the warmest and it gets colder the more you are to the north–not a surprise. So, here we are headed into our first winter with no concerns.

Karen has gotten us into something new:  Fil mjolk… or just fil (phil) as we call it. Basically, it’s a bacteria that does interesting things with milk products. It’s also like sourdough in that you keep it around as a starter. I have a friend who lives in Sweden where it’s very common and very popular. He gave us a few tips, but mostly it’s been Karen figuring out what to do with it. Most simply you put it in some milk and let it sit out for 12-24 hours, until it thickens. The longer you let it set the thinker it gets. Also, half and half produces a thicker fil. When it’s on the thin side, it’s nice on cereal and particularly granola. When it’s thicker and it’s more like sour cream or yogurt. (Unlike making yogurt, there’s no heat needed… other than what is in your house.) Yesterday Karen made fil into cream cheese. Wow! It’s so good. That was a little harder. You take fil that’s ready to eat and then heat it. Once it’s reached the proper temperature you let it cool and then put it into cheesecloth. The whey drips out and there it is… cream cheese – amazing! Karen’s using goats milk too. This gives you a thicker fil and is not recommended as a starter. We’ve even made it from soy milk — I was surprised it worked, but it was tasty.

We are off to work on the farm in a bit. Pleasantly, we are still surprised with the things we are learning there. The lettuce is as lovely as it has ever been right now. Apparently it can freeze without obvious side effects. The basil (on the other hand) died and turned black after the first really cold night; a total loss. The tomatoes too died off, we are now learning all the things to do with green tomatoes. I used to think green tomatoes were just a local thing to do in certain parts of the country… now I know it’s what you do when you have tomatoes that got green that you can’t bear see go to waste. It’s also interesting to see that the propagation house is being planted now for stuff that will go in the ground in January / February. Also, things like garlic and onions are in the ground now.

A small update on the solar power… I did adjust our panels for winter on the first of November. Karen’s dad was here and gave me a hand. I can do it by myself, but it’s easier and less risky and certainly more fun with help. I noticed some gain in power, but not a ton. I think our panels are pretty forgiving as far as positioning goes. Also, we are seeing a lot more sun than I was lead to expect. All the people I talked to and all I read said to count on 6 1/2 hours a sun a day in the winter-even where we are located. (Yes, we have not reached the solstice yet.) Right now, we are getting measurable sun (.5 KWH or better) for 10 hours a day.

I have picked out a generator. We’re going with a model from Generac. I’m waiting a bit because I need to get one of the newest versions because they have a 2-wire kit that can be added on so it’ll work with our solar equipment.

That’s it for now except for a bit on the weather here… It very much seems that here there is almost always a time of day that is lovely. During the summer we often hide out when it’s hottest, but the evenings outside are always awesome. Right now, the nights are a little cold, but the middle of the day is sunny and warm (75ish). In the middle of winter it’s a lot colder, but it’ll be warm inside and there’s lots of sun in our office. Living the life…

Wall are coming

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

KC Panels is going to deliver our SIP walls tomorrow. The roof panels will be delivered a day later.

We’ve spent the last week preparing for the walls.

  • We finished up the staining and sealing of the slab.
  • We drilled holes in the slab for anchor bolts to hold down the 2×6 sill.
  • We put down sill-seal and the 2×6 sill.
  • We put down plastic to protect the slab while we work on the house.
  • We ordered miscellaneous materials from the lumber company.

Drilling the holes for the anchor bolts was a much bigger deal that I thought. Years ago when I was doing this kind of work we bought a hammer drill that was amazing. When I saw a hammer drill for sale (cheap) at Lowes, I bought it. It was a lot smaller than the one I remembered, but technology moves forward while you’re not looking… err maybe not. It’s a fair hammer drill, but it would never have done the job. It took many minutes to drill one hole; sixty holes would have taken ages. It also started coughing up grease chunks within a few minutes. We had to go clear to Sierra Vista to rent a serious hammer drill. We got a big old Hilti hammer drill (about 15 seconds per hole). It was as just as a remembered.

Here Jonathon drills through the sill plate before drilling into the concrete.

Here Harrison mans the big old Hilti while Jonathon helps keeps it aimed straight.

Karen and I cut the bolts down to make it easier to put up the walls

Karen really took to the grinder!

Here is the slab prepped, covered and ready for walls!

The first order of business tomorrow will be to unload the truck, then we should start putting the walls up! How far we’ll get, I don’t know.

Once the walls are up, we will put hangers for the IJoists followed by the IJpoists and a row of blocking between the Ijoists to firm it up. As soon as this is done, we will schedule a crane/boom to come out and lift the roof panels onto the IJoists. At this point, we’ll have walls and a roof. After this comes details like parapet walls, stucco, metal roofing, etc.


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.