Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rocks Rocks and a few more Rocks

      This part of the project has been delayed a bit due to extreme cold weather.    We have been unable to lay a lot of stones because the weather has been too cold or wet for the mortar to set.    However, we have had a few nice days here and there and we try to get a lot done when we can.
      The first step has been finding suitable rocks.   There are many many rocks that we dug out of the hill, but some of them must be custom cut to fit certain areas.    There is no shortage of rocks here, so the guys have just been finding a good outcrop of rocks on the bluff and going to work.   

     Once the rocks are cut they are brought to the site and then we can all get to work.  The rocks must be cleaned off ( a good job for the girls and I) and then they must be wet.   The mortar will adhere better to rocks when they are not too dry.    Then Sy and Ron and Aesa are setting the rocks in place and the wall comes up slowly! I think one of the hardest jobs is mixing the mortar and keeping that in constant supply.   Phoebe has been on water duty and hauling all the water up to the site for the mortar. 

       After a few hours, the mortar begins to set.  At this point, the rocks must be cleaned and the mortar must be pressed into the stones  ( also know as "striking the joints").   This is a very important step because it really gives the stonework a professional appearance.    We have several tools for this part; I think the most important one has been a good stiff brush. 

Lastly, Sy and Aesa milled some cedar and made this frame.   The rocks will go around the framework to form the door. Sometime later, the door can be fit onto the stonework and a stone floor will be laid in the root cellar.    I think overall, the project is coming along nicely.   This has been the first stone building  that Sy and Aesa have made, so it has definitely been a learning process.   We checked a bunch of books out of the library and went to see several stone projects in the area, and then we jumped right in.   So far, everything seems to be successful.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Construction begins

      This year our family project will be to build Sy's parents a house here on their property next to the Buffalo River in Arkansas.  We began work on this project this week.  
     For Ron and Eileen Jarvis, however, we are not just building a house.    They want their home to be a living demonstration of  how we can all walk a little bit more gently and use a little bit less to still live warm and comfortably in our homes.  They want to show the world that by utilizing the local resources you have right out your backdoor, and by cooperating with the sun and the earth, you can cool and heat your house with a minimal amount of energy.   They want the world to notice that a home does not have to be costly and use tons of foreign-made materials to be beautiful and cozy.   Finally, when they are done, they want their home to return to the earth and nourish it.    They want it to disappear as  unobtrusively as it arrived and not be an eyesore of toxic materials that is left for others to dispose of.   And so the project begins... 
     One of the greatest resources here is rocks.    So, we are digging out the side of the hill and removing lots and lots of rocks.   The rocks will later be used to build and face the foundation of the house.    The bottom floor of the home will be dug into the ground.   This will keep the house cool in the summer and allow for food storage on the first floor.  This bottom floor area will have a root cellar for cool food storage, a breezeway for grain storage, and a kitchen/dining room area for food preparation.    

         However, for now, we have lots and lots of dirt to dig and rocks to move.    The process is slow, but there are lots of hands and willing helpers.   Sy and Aesa are chipping  and cousin Eric is hauling away the rocks.    Our dear friends, Garrett and Lauren and Brother Garrett Jr. have also been working hard and jumping in to make this project happen.   This home will be a project for many folks over the next few months.    I am so excited to see it finally becoming a reality for Sy's parents.  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Setting up Camp....


          Well everyone, it has been a while since I have been blogging.   Sometimes I feel guilty, then I try to remember that this is a FUN thing and if I am stressing trying to complete the latest blog post perhaps I am defeating the purpose of blogging.    So, here is my attempt to jump back into blogger world.   I have progressed into the modern world and now own a laptop.  However, the winter months find us in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas with little modern technology ( including no internet service).   So, Here I am, happily typing away in the laundry mat.   I have a few extra minutes here and will try to make good use of them!     Hope all the folks back east will be able to catch a glimpse of our  lives here, and I will make good use of the free internet at the laundry mat....

   Our caravan left Virginia just before the end of December.   I say caravan because our group consisted of 4 cars and 11 people heading west this year.   (Not to mention the 2 parrots,one dog,  one cat, one wood stove and a host of bikes, kayaks, climbing gear and cast iron skillets)    We had our truck and family and  Aesa was returning to Arkansas in his jeep with cousin Eric.  Then we bought a Nissan X-Terra for Sy's parents for Christmas.   So our friends, Garrett and Lauren drove the Nissan out for us, and Lauren's son and dog drove behind them in another jeep to return them home east later...  Whew....!   Did ya get all that?  It all adds up to quite a full adventure.    Travels went well, though, and everyone arrived safely. 

    So, now we have arrived and begun to set up camp.     Arkansas is full of useful rocks.   We have been building rock walls, fire pits, walk ways,  and a lovely set of stairs up to the camper.   The kids have been clearing and burning underbrush and making paths around the camp.    Sy installed a solar panel on the top of the camper which will be great for charging the lights and running the heater, refrigerator, and charging batteries.   

We have moved our campsite this year.  Last year we were up high on the hillside.  This year we moved down by the creek.  We will get less warm sun here, but we are very close to a spring.   The kids are thrilled to have less water hauling duties.   I love looking at the creek and hearing the water directly out the back door of the camper.    It will be really nice as the weather warms.   If I can keep the kids out of the creek and focused on schoolwork, it will be a complete miracle!    But, life is short and sometimes those romps in the creek are really important, too.