Timber-frame Raising Day! May 21 (rain date May 22)!
Our straw bale workshop is sold out, wow! We have a very cool group of people coming – the straw bale brought out folks with creative, innovative, independent lifestyles and interests. We are really looking forward to meeting everyone, including of course, our intrepid instructor, Michael McDonough (and his family!). I am very excited about this build – it is alive. It started just because I really wanted to try out straw but has turned into more. It is a testing ground for Mark to practice timber framing and will influence our next, larger build (to add a workshop barn to our house). And it has become an important part of our landing in this community and saying something to the community about who we are. It is also keeping us busy.
Before you put up a single straw bale, there is, well, a bit of work to do. It turns out a straw bale building is not just a pile of straw with some plaster thrown on it. It requires a foundation, to give the building sound footing and keep the straw dry. It needs a good roof that will not leak and will preferably have some decent insulation properties. And on our case, it will have a timber frame structure to hold up the roof. Before the workshop and the straw bale piling starts, we need to have all those things finished: the foundation, the timber frame, and the roof at least enclosed. So in February, we drew a deep breath and ordered 53 enormous pieces of rough sawn timber. Mark downloaded plans for a small timber frame, and we acquired one more set of tools: chisels, sharpening stones, and special Japanese saws (ryoba and miter). Each weekend since early March, we have spent two good working days on the frame. It is a lot, but we like working quietly next to each other on a joint project. Every now and then we’ll have a brief exchange on how to do this or that, or to move another large piece of wood together. I change the music hourly, and Mark is patient about it. It is a slow, steady progress with a lot of repetition. Draw lines on beam very carefully and precisely. Saw tenon out. Chisel to precise thickness. Use mortice saw for a mortice, use chisel for precise width. Next tenon, mortice, beam.
We now have almost all the pieces finished, oiled, and lying in the hoop house (there is one last good burst of work coming this weekend for the rafters). It is oh so satisfying to see these large pieces of wood with their elegant puzzle cut-outs. They are beautiful. Once we have finished all the pieces, we’ll test-assemble some of the parts and drill holes for the pegs that will pull everything together tightly. Cross our fingers everything fits!!!! Then we will be ready for …. Timber-frame Raising Day! May 22 (rain date May 29)! I have also started work on the foundation with two hard-working and cool Workaway guests, Paul and Hermine from Europe. They have a permaculture project similar to ours going on in Central Spain and want to build a straw bale house. Today, we marked the corners of the foundation and started to dig out the rubble trench for the straw bales. In the coming week we will finish the trench, the concrete piers for the timber frame, and start to put up the stem wall for the bales. Hopefully, this will all progress reasonably well! I hope that by the end of next week, there will be photos to share of a finished little concrete wall with some stucco on it!