Sunday, November 25, 2012

Progress report: 2011 vs. 2012

Just a quick post to give folks an idea of how productive the 2012 building season was. 

In a word: freakin' productive!

Keep in mind, we didn't use any machinery but our bodies to build or dig anything.  (We did used a station wagon/van to haul stuff from civilization to the back of beyond.)  Other than that, it was all old fashioned, back-breaking manual labor. So, it's okay if you want to be impressed :)

Dome 2011

Not Dome 2012

 Interior of Domestead, facing East 2011

Interior of Domestead, facing NorthEast 2012
Interior of Domestead, facing SouthEast 2012


Domestead from the road 2011
  Domestead of the road 2012

Parking area 2011
Parking area 2012


Bathroom 2011
Bathroom 2012
Here's a walk thru video made on the last official day of building season. 
You'll want to have the sound on for this one : )
Stay tuned for 2013 building plans, pictures and progress!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wrapping up for winter

Sadly, trip # 33 was the last building trip of the season - the weather isn't going to hold much longer.  Even this time, the wind on the drive up was consistently over 30mph and gusting at over 50mph at times.  Gas mileage was abysmal.  (Lucky us - we had a tail wind on the way home - used less than a half tank!)

All told, we spent about 4 hours finishing up a few concreting projects and making sure the whole domestead was secure for winter. 
  • We reinforced the top of the bern and kitchen walls.  We didn't want to leave exposed cans for months on end - we've had a few blow away over just a few weeks.  
  • We also straightened up the interior of the courtyard, stacking and moving a lot of stuff out of the "flood zone" that will become the garden area in the future.

  • With the last of the concrete mix, we made a handful of new hexagonal and rectangular bricks - they're so much heavier than the papercrete bricks we've been working with! 
  • In preparation for next year's shoring-up work on the culvert, we reloaded the penta-corral with larger sized bottles and containers. (Many thanks to the lady on FreeCycle who gave us her huge supply of empty wine bottles!)

  • Boxed up and corralled the beer bottles for the bathroom - I think there's enough to finish it next year!  (And Jeff's already got the roof staged at home :)

Before we headed home, the wife shot a set of comparison photos and a video so that we can really show how much we got done this building season.  Then we went home, showered, had a snack and went to bed!

(We couldn't figure out at first why we woke up sore the next morning - until it dawned on us that we drove for 5 hours, did hard labor in heavy wind for 4 hours without breaks and then drove another 5 hours....)
Stay tuned for a 2011 to 2012 pictorial
and probably video progress report! 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

End of season...

As the weather cools we're winding down for the Winter.  Each trip we've been taking as much stuff up as the van will carry; partially to get stuff out of the house, but also to get stuff staged up North so we can jump right in next Spring.
Any time the roof leaks at work, the accoustic ceiling tiles have to get changed out, and rather than throwing them away, we keep them and soak them and grind 'em up to add to our "crete" mix.  Here's the stack we brought up this time.  There's still more at work .  We're bringing them up next trip.
We left at 3:00am Saturday morning and hauled ass for the border, got up there around 8:00am and got right to work. This time the weather was cool enough that we managed to get a lot done in a short amout of time.  Got the arch done:
And we started to wall up the inside of the bottle wall with Hexagons. 
And we managed to plaster over the earthbags before we do the same thing on that wall: 
 That's A LOT of plaster!
(Our hands, arms and shoulders were *sore* the next day!)
We also took up another couple of hundred bottles, giving us another row on the interior wall:
We got so much done in such a short amout of time that when we were headed into town to get dinner we decided just to head all the way home.  It was 6:45 PM.  We were both still awake despite a hard day's work with a really early start, so we just said "To hell with it!" and got back on the road.
We made it home at Midnight, totally exhausted but satisfied with what we had accomplished.  Our next few trips will probably be "drop and go", but if we can get stuff done, we'll try to take pics.  We've got a bunch of stuff planned for next year, and now that we've managed to pick up some steam it will be interesting to see how much we can do when building season starts again!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

31 The Subaru doesn't like Wyoming anymore : (

We tried a new thing this weekend:  going up separately, in two different cars, on two different days.

We had work schedules this week that wouldn't let both of us off on Friday afternoon, so Jeff opted to run for the border on Friday right after work with the van.  I would follow super-early Saturday morning with the Subi.  The prospect of 26 hours apart with no way to communicate was daunting.  If anything went wrong for either of us there would be no way of knowing what, where, etc.  It was also unusual for us as we've only been apart for something like 20 nights over the course of almost 17 years together. 

(For the peanut gallery: no, we're not codependent, we just really enjoy being together - that's why we got married.  If you're with someone you don't want to be around, you're {BOTH} doing it wrong.)

By taking two cars we were able to get two full loads of junk up north - like 100+ beer and 50+ wine bottles for building, shredded paper, old ceiling tiles and cement for the walls.  (We have a craft room again! The wife promptly set up her sewing table in there.)

Anyway, Husband got up Friday evening without a hitch, and early enough to get some stuff done, like set up our water tank!  Now we have means of storing water on site and not having to make as many runs to town.  We can bring water in with us and store it for more long-term usage. 

And speaking of water - there appears to have been a flood some time in the last few days.  The southern third of the courtyard was soaked and there were water marks on the walls 4"-5" off the ground. 

As you can see from the above pic, we also got more rows added to the interior bottle wall and we sealed the roof of the hexebo.  (The wife's Pocahontas braids + roof sealant = bad.  Just saying.)  We've figured out that by the time the inner wall is done we'll have placed approx. 2000 bottles and cans just for that section.  The outer berm-wall comes in at around 2000 bottles as well, even though it's longer; we used bigger bottles and started with a bit more elevation on that part.  Still not bad, and really we're not even trying all that hard with our collecting.  If we grabbed every bottle and can we saw we'd never get anywhere.  It would be a full time job just collecting and storing them.  We're not "that guy" yet. 

After a long night of solitude in the desert, Jeff got up early and got right back to work while waiting for the Wife to show up.

The Wife's trip was a bit more eventful and a bit more of a concern.  Apparently the Subaru doesn't like Wyoming anymore; it spent a great deal of the trip from Laramie to Rawtown with the thermostat needle jumping up to the red zone.  At Zero Dark and Early it shouldn't have been overheating... The same happened on the way home, but only between Rawlins and Laramie - yet again. The drive to Ft. Collins was fine, and again I-25 to Denver was no problem.  Must be Sunspots or Ghosts or Government conspiracy in that part of Wyoming that only affects Subaru Outbacks owned by Erkharts.  I'm not saying it's Aliens, but it's probably Aliens.

Anyway, back to work:

We also brought up our Hexagon molds for bricks so now we can manufacture a bunch every trip and just leave them up there to cure.  Got our garage cleared out of a lot of stuff this trip!  Maybe we can actually park in there this winter??

Husband also got to work on making the arch pretty and more structurally sound:

 Also saw this Sunday morning in the neighborhood in Rawlins:
Apparently, the Buck stops here.
(The wife was thinking that it was a heck of a realistic lawn ornament!)
Here's a better-ish picture:
This was just before he decided to "hop" over a 6' fence like it wasn't even there.  Impressive.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Trip # 30 - Two years and counting!

Wow, time goes pretty fast when it's building season.  This was our 30th trip up to the property.  It was also the 2nd anniversary of the 1st building weekend we had there.  For reference, two years ago we were building the ill-fated pyramid and camping in a tent that didn't survive the weekend because of the wind!
What a difference a couple of years and a ton of practical experience make.  Now, we sleep very comfortably in a nice van that we use to store stuff, haul stuff and shelter stuff (including us).  We build awesome walls out of more durable material and we have a bit more of a plan for what we want the whole domestead to look like in the future.
On the last trip, there was progress, but like we mentioned, most of it wasn't visible.  Mostly, we shored up some walls and did some cosmetic stuff - and moved the firepit (again.)
Work this weekend is a bit more - and yet less - visible. 
Newly added arch to the kitchen door
(and since we moved the firepit out of this space, we're not sure that this is really a kitchen anymore.  Looking for a new label - salon? courtyard? suggestions?)
The view of the domestead from two points on the road.
We blend in much better now!
Close up of the outer wall. 
All of the bottles and earthbags are covered with homemade bricks and concrete.  This will all be plastered over and will blend in nicely. 
We used about 250 pounds of cement on this trip (thanks Grandma!) - and all this water!  The bottles have been collected over the last two weeks from wherever we find them, work, jiu-jitsu, parking lots and people saving them for us when they're done.  Instead of throwing them away, we re-use them for transporting water up to the property and then using them for the mud / cement mix for the walls.  Re-use and Recycle!
 On the way up, we bought a 65 gallon cistern to store all the water so we can use the bottles without wasting any.  Pic of that next time.
Part of the work lately has been shoring up the inside of the wall.  The original earthbags from late 2010/early 2011 are eroding at an alarming rate because of the wind and rain, threatening the structural integrity.  (The bottle wall is layered on top of the earthbags.)  Jeff's masonry projects have been installing hexagonal bricks as a retaining fixture to stop the erosion.  You can see through the door (*yay arch*) where he started working.  He's also gotten the interior wall up another foot, you can see what is newly added below because I didn't get to do any stucco-ing this trip. (I was mostly working on the outside walls.)
And here, a detail of what the retention piece looks like right after being installed:

(Looks a little rough, but we'll make it pretty after we're sure it won't fall on us!)
The wife's been continuing on her wall building on the outside of the berm wall, extending it from the Qbert wall, past the firewood storage box and over to the next part of the berm that we haven't touched since 2010. 
The view of both projects, wife's front left, husband's back right. 

 And the wife's again, from the outside and from the inside. 
(The wall is about 5 feet high and 10 feet long at this point.)


The view of the entire kitchen space from the north-west at sunset.

Other notes of note:  Sunday we went into town to get food and drinks and to take a break.  While we were there, the City Market (only grocery store in town) was "evacuated" for reasons unclear.  Gotta find out what that was all about.
And... we earned us some Karma: Saw a couple who were obviously cycling across the landscape to and from points unknown, so we asked where they were coming from (Banff, Alberta, Canada) and where to (US, Mexico border).  We wished them luck, and safe riding, and then bought them a couple of bottles of Gatorade.  It wasn't much, but it seemed to make their day.  We often hear about the kindness of strangers, and we wanted to be a part of that.  We hope they make it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

WTF!!! (Wonderful Treasure Find!) #29

What a weekend!

Thursday night  we loaded the van with a gazillion water bottles filled with water that we salvaged/saved/recycled from various places.  (Thanks Darlene, Janet, Bill and all the other nice folks who have been giving us their bottles!!!) 

We left early on Friday to beat rush hour through Denver and got up to the land by about 6:00pm. It's a nice easy drive when you don't have to fight traffic!  Getting an early start let us actually start work that evening. So we built this:

 A nice little Hexayurt / Gazebo (Hexebo?) for shade.


Another benefit of leaving early:

Unfortunately the fires are still raging somewhere over the horizon, but the upside is awesome sunsets.  Silver lining and all that. 

After assembling our shade, we made a campfire, had a beer and went to bed.  (Note from the wife: don't bother trying the Budweiser Lima-a-rita - tastes nasty, though it does have a high alcohol content....)

 The next morning, we got busy.  The result:

 We connected more of the door to the outer wall
(The darker brown is what we accomplished on Saturday.)

 We also plastered some more on the outer wall and added some papercrete bricks to hide the wood box that holds our firewood.  The wife's been having fun experimenting with being an amature bricklayer  :)

The kitchen from the top of the berm in front of the van:

And from on top of the opposing wall:

We had to paint part of the Hexebo so it wouldn't be quite so visible from the road - a big, white, floating roof would invite too many rubberneckers. 
Now, it blends in soooo much better!

We got so much done that for the first time, we ran out of cement for the wall long before we ran out of water and bottles.  Thankfully, we'll never run out of dirt.  (Psst - wanna buy some genuine Wyoming dirt?  Have I got a deal for you!)

Since we were so focused on work, we didn't finish the cement we had onsite until after the hardware store was closed for the weekend.   So.... we organized our stuff, made another (BIG!) fire to protect the wife from coyotes, had some more beers and went to bed at dark.  Tired, sore and a little chilly - the nights are starting to cool down again - yay!

Sunday morning, the sun woke us up way early.  Since we were up, we camoflage painted the hexayurt.  After that, we didn't have much else that could get done in the little time we had left, so we packed up the last few things and left early.  Since we had time, we decided to come back the long way through the Mountains.  That drive's got some beautiful scenery and along the way we had some WTFs:

Cute tiny house in Saratoga, Wyoming

Cool Geodesic Dome house just outside of Cowdry, Colorado

Rand Colorado Population: 7 or 8 (probably)  
There are no large bodies of water within 1500 miles....

Sign on the Yacht Club window

Sign on the house next to the Yacht Club.

The folks of Rand (all 5 of them) have a sense of humor...or something.

Rand's local constabulary?

Side note:
Traffic on I-70 is stupid just after you get on past Empire, CO because people have never seen a zip line before.  It totally slows things down, so be warned.  Also, the bathrooms at the Safeway in Idaho Springs are in serious need of repair and cleaning.  The store itself is nice and looks to be recently remodeled.  Now their facilities are in need of some TLC.  Just saying.  (The wife here:  they still have nothing on the bathrooms in the train station in Prague!)