Sunday, July 29, 2007

Construction Begins

Straw Bale Update: Wednesday we began (in earnest) construction of the house. This picture shows the grade beams which will be poured tomorrow. The small shed in the right corner will act as a tool shed during construction and eventually will be home to the generator and well pressure tank. It has been great having Etienne on site to work with. He modestly calls himself the co-designer as he is very interested in the research I've done regarding straw bale construction and welcomes my input. Ultimately, he draws the structural details and engineers the challenges. We've been starting at 7:00 a.m. and the plan has been to quit before the heat of the day. The 7 minute commute to work is a killer!
The grade beam is quite shallow, (only six inches) as we're using the least amount of concrete possible. The posts which will be concrete filled insulated forms will be built later in the week and if all goes well, our second pour will be Thursday or Friday.
It'll be interesting to see how much we can get done before Etienne goes home next Wednesday.... He's already hinting he may be up for a return trip before the end of summer. BTW, he lives in Smithers, BC.

Saturday Evening, we went to the annual Firefighter's picnic, hosted by a husband and wife that are both members of the department. It was an enjoyable time with endless amounts of food and libation.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How about a 3-way

Denman Island has no traffic lights and no 4-way stops.... come to think of it, we have no 4-way intersections. All the intersections on the island are 3-way ... and some do include a stop sign... well OK, not stop so much as... slow down just a little.

Straw Bale Update: After clearing for the slab foundation, we decided that there were a few trees too close to where the house will be. We want to save all the trees... but remembering last winter's storms brought out the reasoning in us. This picture is of Dusty dropping the trees in question, with remarkable accuracy onto the building site. The trees were then cut into usable lengths and will be milled on site over the next couple of weeks. We'll use the lumber for the outbuildings etc. The table set up in the forefront of the picture is where Kari was slapping a coat of oil stain on the floor joists of the "power shed" that I'm currently building next to the house. The oil stain will discourage the bugs.... we're doing our best not to use any pressure treated materials. The shed will be home for the new generator and well pressure tank etc. Last week, I placed an ad in the local Buy-Sell-Trade newspaper in an effort to find the nearest straw bales. It seems there will be straw available from Vancouver Island, as I've had a couple of answers to my ad. This is great news and I hope the straw will turn out to be acceptable quality.

Little known Fact: one tonne of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere for every tonne of cement produced. Manufacturing concrete creates about 7% of all made-made carbon dioxide. Imaging the contribution of Yaletown alone. This is one of the reasons we switched out of our Insulated Concrete Form house plan. We'll make every effort to reduce the amount of concrete used in our home.... no, we haven't committed to earthen floors....yet.

Last week's fire practise exercise was to re-fill the large (reserve) tank at the fire hall. Two tankers were to run shuttles back and forth from the marsh which runs through the centre of the island. One tanker, which is due to be replaced after reaching it's 30th birthday was driven by yours truly. On the very first trip she died on the bridge spanning the marsh and had to be towed (by the second tanker) to the top of the hill where she could coast back to the hall. This was a little tricky as both the steering and brakes are power assisted. As we're coming into the dry season, (with a fire ban in effect) it's a lousy time to be down one truck. It may be some incentive to secure a new truck, (which has been promised but has failed to materialize.)

Cheap Dave's Wine Corner: Goundrey Homestead Chardonnay Unwooded 2005 ($14.99) I've been meaning to try this wine for quite some time. It's been hyped on several wine websites. It placed first in it's category with a score of "90" at the 2006 Wine Access. I found it crisp and clean. It reminded me of a dry Bacchus wine. Just a little citrus refreshment. Gismondi: (89) "This is a terrific value white wine that delivers on all accounts without the use of any oak. The fruit comes from south Western Australia, including the cooler Mount Barker region where Homestead is located. We love the cool minerality and tight nervous palate that shows just enough fruit to balance it all out. Not your typical fruit bomb as one judge remarked. Killer value."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The grey Area

Only in the real world could there be Anti-freeze in toothpaste, snow in Buenos Aires and The Simpson's Kwik-E-Mart takes over 7-11.
It could be time to raise the drawbridge on this island.

Straw Bale House Update: With excavation plan in hand, we had the initial "scrape" done for the slab foundation. Now we can actually take measurements without clambering through the bush. We did have to take down one large cedar tree, which we had wanted to save. But after last winter's storms, we know it isn't worth having a large tree hanging directly over the house. While the excavator plucked trees and stacked them, it gave me the opportunity to limb them and buck them into usable lengths. It reminded me of (when much younger), when I used to do this for a living. (It also gave me a chance to break-in my new toy.... a 365 Husqvarana chainsaw.... I'm glad we have a tool budget for this project). The next step is to dig the perimeter foundation; we should have the foundation plan within the next ten days or so. The slab will be poured late to avoid damage, (as it will be our finished floor). We have the (precious) topsoil piled up for future use and enough firewood (in log form) to keep me busy until we can proceed with the foundation work. There's still no power on site and it may be a few weeks yet before we can trench the lines to the house site.... which brings me to our second toy purchase... a new generator. I had my heart set on diesel, however they were simply too expensive.... so a gas model Honda is now ready for action. Oh, and we found out that we we'll have access to high-speed Internet via Telus, (a luxury for islanders). We will not have access to cable TV!!
Research continues on a "greywater" system. Such systems are illegal but much safer and environmental, if done properly, than to dump it into a septic system. Our plan is to have no unusable effluent. Our shower and laundry water will irrigate fruit trees and berries. California has published a brochure on greywater systems, that explains that they are illiegal and do not meet code. The brochure then explains how to make a system and offers a $500 grant to do so. Go Arnold!

Our local farm shack opened for business last week. Now we can walk over to see what's for sale and plan dinner accordingly. (it changes daily) All the organic veggies are picked in the morning and sold the same afternoon. In other good Island news, our cafe is now open for dinner until 7:00 p.m., and the store is open during the week until 9:00. It is well justified as the island appears to double in population in July and August. This is evident at the ferries where there is often a one sailing wait during the week and two at peak times on the weekends.

The weather has been warm and sunny. This week it is expected to be in the mid 30's, which is a little unusual for Denman. Compared to surrounding areas, we're usually a little cooler in summer and warmer in winter. We have found that the temperature on the new lot is considerably warmer than at our current house near the water. We're thinking that straw bale will be very useful on hot summer days as it will stay considerably cooler than a conventionally constructed house.
A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups--porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain, some expensive, some exquisite--telling them to help themselves to the coffee. When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases, it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups . . .and then you began eyeing each other's cups. Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define nor change the quality of Life we live. The happiest people don't HAVE the best of everything. They just MAKE the best of everything they have.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Canada Day, Breakfast & Other Crap

Although rain had been forecast the night before, we woke up Sunday Morning to a warm sunny morning. Just perfect for Canada Day and a Denman Island Fire Fighter's Pancake Breakfast. It was a record year, with over 500 breakfasts served up (approximately half of the island's population).... Pancakes, bacon, strawberries and whipped cream, coffee and juice. At some point in the morning, the line stretched down the street. The fundraiser finances a high school bursary award and firefighting equipment that is not funded through the district. I have to admit that what seemed like mass disorganization, came together like clockwork. A pager wake-up call came at 6:30 and by 8:30 everything was ready to go. The breakfast ended at noon and by 1:30 everything was cleaned up and it was over for another year.

Work on the power through the property continues. The end is finally in sight. Original completion date for this project was mid-May. The trenching on the driveway was the last thing to be done. The driveway needs to be "groomed" with lots of shale type rocks so that cement mixers and other heavy machinery can use it. We've salvaged lots of huge boulders for landscaping purposes. Some are so large, that it will take a large excavator to move them into place. Hopefully once the scrape has been done for the foundation, we'll have an idea where they should go. It will be better to place them while the machine is on site, than to have to bring it back in later.

I just finished reading "The Humanure Handbook". It may just as well have been called the Human Handbook . It details how our inability to deal with our own crap has cost mankind millions of lives. It approaches a topic (that we'd rather not discuss), with humour and some startling facts. It asks the question.... If only 1% of the world's water is drinkable, why are we pooping in it? It's well worth the read and is available FREE online at THIS LINK. We found out it was free online after we bought a copy :(
It's certainly made us re-think what is means to build "green". If we choose a septic alternative then we will need a greywater system... (so more books were ordered from Amazon last night). I also recently read an article that Victoria is actually making some headway in planning for a sewage disposal system... Victoria currently pumps 120 million litres of raw sewage into the ocean every day! I'm glad I live upstream!

I'm spending some time each day bucking up the dead-fall on the lot. The wood shed is filling up rapidly. I'm a little behind in filling it, as firewood should "season" for six months or more before burning. I'm hoping that by cutting it smaller, it will accelerate the drying process.

Valdy Update: Valdy's booking agent's website has posted an October 12th date for the Denman Island Hall. It's a Friday Night.