Today was the first gorgeous blue sky day in quite a while. The snow is melting quickly – We’re down to about mid-shin depth in the fields, maybe 8″ or so? – and we can now see a few bare patches near the house and where we had previously spread wood ash to darken the snow so it would melt. The driveway is completely devoid of snow and there is spring melt running down the ditch. The ponds are full and the soil is spongy with water.
Today we went to a birthday party in Wellsriver / Ryegate, Vermont (Happy Birthday, Nathaniel and Madeleine!) and they had no snow at all. Their pastures were greening up. It was so very encouraging to see! Spring is here and it doesn’t look like we’re due for any more snow storms. My seedlings and I can’t wait for the ground to warm. I love winter – it kills the mosquitoes and the snow is fun – but I’m ready for the growing season.
On the cottage we’ve been working on getting ready to grind the surface of the library desk. Will spackled it with a neat mix of cement with a iron-oxide black pigment. This filled all the little bubbles and voids. After we grind and polish that should give the desk a stone like appearance. I could have simply hauled in a 600 lb sheet, called a skin, of granite in from our waste granite piles and used that for the desk but that would not have given me to the chance to practice building ceilings. I’m glad I did it the way I did. The more experience we have creating molded concrete arches the better as that is the method we’re using for the ceiling. So far we’ve done five. I’m looking around the tiny cottage for more places I can build arches…
To spackle the concrete desktop Will made up a mix of pigmented concrete with about the consistency of smooth peanut butter. He then used a a spatula to spread the mixture and work it into the small pits in the surface of the concrete. This desk will be Will and Ben’s work space for homeschooling indoor work. As he was getting started Will commented that the surface was already almost smooth enough for writing. We had done a good job of floating it when the concrete was soft. At each step we try to get it as good as we can – that makes the next step easier.
Behind Will you can see the woodstove in it’s place. Below the wood stove is a cubby for drying firewood. Above the woodstove will go an oven and then the masonry heating portion of the system. I’ve almost finished with the design for that.
Behind the wood stove are air ducts that will draw fresh outdoor air up past the warm chimney masonry and circulate it through the house. This is a non-mechanical, non-electrical blower fan discussed in last Saturday’s post.
These are some of my practice segmented arches done with a plaster bottom and a concrete top like we’ll have for the ceilings of the dry rooms. The lower bathroom shelf has already been stripped of it’s forms and came out beautifully.
The top shelf, with the unfinished form work, will be the tank stand for my coral reef marine aquarium. The sump for the tank will go behind the sink and mirror reaching up into the utility room space above the bathroom. This will allow for a very tall foam fractionating skimmer as well as space for a surge device and general sump plumbing.
When dry stacking concrete block the normal way to get the wall to stabilize is to parge the surface with a fiber cement mix. This photo demonstrates the start of that process. The parge creates a tensile skin on both sides of the wall for strength. In addition to that we core poured all the blocks, except for a few utility passages, and we did poured bond beams like has been formed at the top of this wall with the extruded pink foam form. The result is very easy to make and extremely strong. At one point I wanted to remove a block – silly me. I did not succeed with a rubber mallet. I did not succeed with a sledge hammer. It took a jack hammer and even then the PVA fiber reinforced concrete made the work very difficult. I’m glad to know we’ll have such strong walls!
Satureday: Outdoors: 65°F/29°F Sunny
Farm House: 64°F/54°F no fire
Tiny Cottage: 58°F/49°F
Friday: Outdoors: 57°F/31°F Sunny
Farm House: 61°F/53°F no fire
Tiny Cottage: 57°F/48°F
Thursday: Outdoors: 57°F/31°F First gorgeous, clear blue sunny skies in a while
Farm House: 60°F/53°F no fire
Tiny Cottage: 57°F/45°F