Lower Walls Up

Here’s our new house at the end of the day. We have finished the last bit of mortared course in the back along the north wall in the morning. This afternoon we did the dry stacking of the next two courses of concrete block and some of the cores are now poured. That all went very smoothly. It is starting to feel like a space, a place to be. Tomorrow we’ll pour the rest of the cores in these first three masonry courses and then do the course of channel block that goes just below the windows. That bond beam will lock the wall together. Then we’ll be able to start on the upper walls that will define the windows – Tuesday perhaps, weather permitting?

After we got done this evening we insulated the walls to protect the fresh mortar from frost damage. It is supposed to be cloudy and warm, in the 40’s, but I didn’t want to take a chance of the fresh cement getting frosted. We were supposed to have received accelerant ad-mix with our concrete block shipment on Friday but that was one of the errors on that order. Hopefully it will come on Monday when we get the corrected cube of blocks.

There is a bit of a funny story to this photo. Kia, one of our dogs, was up on the hill overlooking the work site with her sister Kita when I climbed up to take this picture. As I setup to do it I heard her zip by me without even saying hello – very unusual for her. She turned back to look at me as I took the first photo. Then she ran down and stood up on her hind legs next to Holly over in the right of the photo. This is unusual in and of itself because she isn’t all that snugly with Holly.

Was she making sure she got into the photo? She, like her grandfather Coy, has always been interested in the camera. I used to think that dogs couldn’t see flat images like that, or didn’t process them or something. After all, that is what it said in the research. But maybe the experts aren’t. Both Kia and Coy have actively been aware of the camera and posed for photos. So have some of the other dogs. With the digital cameras they will come and look at the image on the back. Can they see it? Can they understand it?

Kia and Coy are also the only dogs I’ve ever known who watch movies and appear to follow what is going on. Kia growls at the bad guys and relaxes when things are going well in the flick. In the other dogs’ defense, Kia’s the only one allowed to watch a movie so perhaps they would also understand the films if they were exposed to them.

Still, it is quite curious that she saw me about to take a photo and ran down, through a convoluted maze of construction materials and posed for the photo in a position and way that she was clearly visible. How much does she understand about the strange things we do?

No, Hope’s not playing tic-tac-toe on the walls. This is my youngest assistant marking the cement block cores that have rebar in them with an X so we’ll be able to find those blocks and avoid them easily in the future. The O signifies a open core that is not getting poured so that should I wish to drill through it for utilities in the future it will be easy. Hammer drills don’t like rebar. Concrete blocks on the other hand are like butter to the masonry bit.

Each noon and evening we cleanup everything. When working with cement this is especially important or pretty soon you’ll end up with useless, thickly encrusted and rusted tools. Ben here is cleaning the mortar mixer by running it in a bucket of water. This gets most of the cement off of the bucket and the mixer although both still need a quick sponging down after to get them fully cleaned.

That is 12 cubic yards of ‘state approved septic sand’ behind Ben under the sheet of plastic. It was the best material I could find for doing the mortar. It is a clean, sharp sifted sand with no particles larger than 1/4″ that I have seen to date. It was not as dry as I would like. I have heard that there is a supply of true masonry sand in the area but every quarry and pit I called did not have it. This came from Chief Bogies pit in Ryegate, Vermont. At only $9.50 per ton it was actually cheaper than the prices I had heard for the unobtainable masonry sand even though it is a ‘state approved’ product. I’m pleased with it.

The secondary purpose of this pile of sand is to use for spreading on the driveway so whey deliveries for the pigs this winter can get up to the tank. We have studs on our van tires and the tractor has big spiked chains so I don’t bother with sand for ourselves but the truck that delivers the whey for the pigs every two days or so needs better traction. He has both an issue of much greater weight and typical smoother road tires. He should be able to make it up the driveway between the sand and the base of well packed inch and a half minus for the driveway.

I have looked into a 3-pt hitch spreader for the tractor but will probably forgo it for this year. They’re a tad dear at about $1,500. There may be cheaper ones but will they last? Right now I don’t have time to investigate. If you have any suggestions for a tractor (PTO/3ptHitch) sand spreader give a holler in comments!

For now Will & Ben have said they would rather just spread the sand by hand. We’ll see how that goes. It may be fine depending on the winter and how often we actually need sand on ice. Some years are ice free here. We tend to get a lot of snow and very little rain or ice in the winter. If necessary we’ll bring buckets of it in the house to dry by the fire. The pile is under cover and I hope that will keep it dry enough to dig into in the winter. Any thoughts are appreciated as this is our first year sanding.

One thing I will not do is use our existing cone spreader/seeder for the sand. I had thought of doing that but have now talked with three different people who did. They all broke the agitator shafts in their seeders. I would rather not do that. At worse I’ll order the spreader and it will take ten days to two weeks to get it.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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6 Responses to Lower Walls Up

  1. Cheryl says:

    Wow, that is really coming along great. Looks like Miss Hope is growing a mile a minute. Lay off the miracle grow there, Walter. ;)

    Tacoma, WA
    PS- Would it be alright to post comments on Will and Ben’s blogs? (for myself or my 10 y.o. son, Wyatt, who has been reading Ben’s blog.. we didn’t want to post without asking you first)

  2. Sure thing, Cheryl. Ben and Will would love to have comments on their blogs. It’s always fun hearing from people that read what you write!



  3. jessie says:

    You’re moving right along.

    I’m fascinated with the dog story. She seems to be saying, “I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille.”

  4. pablo says:

    I thought someone was putting “hugs and kisses” on your block walls. I guess the real reason is a bit more prosaic, but I love the fact that your daughter took part. In fact, I think you’re raising some excellent kids by giving this much experience and participation. If I could go back and do it all again . . . I’d have you raise my kids.

  5. Thank you, Pablo. That’s a complement, I think. :) You also told me at one point you wished I was your dad, although that would have created a bit of a time paradox…

    One of the things we do is teach the phrases “What can I do to help?” and “What else can I do to help?” It is interesting how teaching certain phrases from a young age helps with ways of thinking.

    This creates a certain obligation for Holly and I to be able to find things that all ages can help with. It means we must have tasks that they can do and succeed at. Challenge is a good thing but it also needs success most of the time to help reinforce the behavior.

    In the marking Hope had come up to me and asked “What can I do to help?” in that sweet voice of hers. Marking the walls was something I came up with that she was able to do with a bit of instruction and minimal supervision. She takes great pride in how she helps to build our new home. That is an invaluable life experience.

  6. Several people have asked by email about the mixer. It is a Husky Mortar Mixer. Pretty light weight but it does the job. It does about 4 gallons per batch in a 5 gallon plastic pail. About 6 minutes per batch. One person could keep two of them going producing on batch every 3 minutes.

    We got it at Home Depot in Williston, Vermont for $200. So far it seems to be fine. I don’t have great expectations for its longevity – it is light weight equipment. As of 11/22/06 we have mixed about 40 bags of cement so far making about 240 pails (batches) of concrete. Some of that has been mortar, some for ferrocement, recently a few self-leveling batches (easier for the machine than a stiff mix). I plan to get another one to double our speed and to have a backup incase of failure.

    With our working pace it is a very good machine. If we were going a lot faster it would not be enough. I saw an interesting little pumper for only $5 grand. But sans-pumper we tote a lot of buckets. It builds strong muscles! :)

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