Granite and Berm

Today we did more wiring of lath and WWM for the roof of our tiny cottage. We had just barely started to do some cement when the rains came and we had to stop for the day. I’m hoping tomorrow will be good weather so we can continue.

Someone emailed me asking if we had abandoned the idea of making the cottage underground. Not at all. The ‘tiny cottage’ that we’re building this year is actually one small section of the final house. It gives us something we can move into this year, test out ideas on,etc. Next year we’ll continue extending the house. Eventually I plan three vaults that will project further to the north. The back half of the house will be bermed to give earth sheltering from the cold wind and winter environment. The front will have insulation and then stone work outside that for double walls.

We can’t actually go ‘underground’ but must berm up because we’re on ledge. You can’t go down from here. :) On the other hand, the ledge is great for grabbing onto so the house will never slide down the mountain!

The same reader also mentioned: I just love rock work. The one thing I envy about Vermont, is all the quarry granite you can get, free for the taking.

Granite is our largest crop after maple syrup and the local town of Barre claims to be the Granite Capital of the World – pretty audacious. But they may have something to it. Each spring we go out in the fields and toss handfuls of 3/8″ crushed stone on the ground. By fall the stones are the size of basketballs or larger and ready for picking. This is why Vermont men _and_ women are so strong as well as good looking.

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The problem is when we miss one in the fall harvest – granite can over winter and by the time you notice it next year it will be the size of a small car. If you don’t quickly harvest it then things really get out of control with some rocks growing as large as houses. I’ve heard they can get as big as a whole mountain but I doubt that. Surely nobody would be as irresponsible as to let one grow that long.

The other thing I’ve read about is that in some parts of the country they actually don’t have good rock growing conditions so people resort to taking chicken wire and coating it with a mixture of powdered ‘seamint’, sand, water and other ingredients to make faux stone. Seems hard to believe. :)

By the way, on a more serious note, one load of granite ‘waste’, about 10 tons or about 12 cubic yards, costs $35 _delivered_. No kidding! You can also go the pick-your-own route. We use it for fill and as each load arrives I pull out the more interesting pieces and sort them aside for projects like the house, benches, fence posts, steps, animal waterers, etc. Most of it is the local grey granite with some green, blue, red, black (from Africa – that’s a long shipping trip!) as well as the occasional marble. Size varies from fist size up to slabs that are 14’x7’x8″ thick – those are called skins.

A delivery of skins arriving from the local stone quarries or sheds.

Hagrid on his stone kennel – where I was storing a particularly nice skin.

Ben helping me put in a gate post – 14″x14″x108″. It is deeply embedded so it stays put – don’t mess with the rock!

47째F/34째F 2″ Rain, Thunder & Lightning

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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3 Responses to Granite and Berm

  1. pablo says:

    Fascinating! I absolutely love this series of posts you’ve had about the home construction.

  2. Farmerbob1 says:

    Walter, will an expansion for the tiny cottage come before more major work on the butcher shop?

    With three children, two being young men, I imagine you have to be feeling a bit cramped on days when the weather is really bad and you aren’t forced outdoors by the needs of the animals. Or is there unused space in the Butcher shop that will be used for extra living space?

    I could imagine one, two, or even three adult people living in a place that small, but four or five? I need my space from other people, even if I don’t mind living in a small place. Your family must get along remarkably well, with strongly defined boundaries and personal space that gets respected.

    Also, Chinese characters in the temperature line.

    • The next major construction project is FCB. That is all ready for us to finish off the interior so that we will have walk-in freezer, cooler, brine room and be able to build the initial smokehouse. Holly is very much looking forward to not having to keep things in chest freezers. We don’t carry a lot of inventory – most of our meat is out in the field on the hoof. The chest freezers are simply difficult to deal with despite their advantage of efficiency. The FCB will be easier for Holly to work with and it will be even more efficient – the freezer portion has R-120. So everyone has agreed we’ll do this next for Holly.

      This year we have been working on a lot of fencing and some road building.[1] We plan to more of both next year. This will make rotational grazing, moving pigs, sorting and such easier.

      For building construction maybe next year or maybe the following year we may do either the mid-level construction – a project I haven’t talked about – or the tower and the next wing of our castle. The east wing will be similar to the cottage providing more family space so that as the next generation has kids they will have space. That construction will incorporate all the techniques and materials we have learned from our other projects. You might notice that what we do is refine and explore techniques with each project, building skills.

      We do have very well defined social structure and expectations such as wearing headphones to listen to music, quiet time in the evening, etc that all helps with living in a small space. But that would be the same in a yacht, space ship or even a larger home. Respect, Responsibility and appReciation – the first three R’s.

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