Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hitting the Roof

I'm starting to wonder about the state of our policing (or police state). If tasering people as they back away in a nonthreatening manor is acceptable police action, then mowing down a fleeing criminal with an SUV could only be the next logical step. Is this standard police action? Is on-the-spot police punishment a way to assure some justice is carried out before the courts release criminals unscathed? I'm sure that police are frustrated by the lack of penalties that criminals receive, but running them over as they flee the scene.... why not just shoot them, the results will often be the same.

Straw Bale House Update: Next week, the building crew will be back to two. This week the roofing felt was nailed on to the front of the house (roof). There are three major threats to straw bale building.... water, water and water. To that end we are using Feltex roofing underlayment... an extremely durable water-proof membrane that will be under a "standing seam" Galvalume roof. The standing seam roof has no exposed screws... therefore no water gets in. The Galvalume material is somewhat commercial looking, but has superior heat reflective properties. This will help keep the house cool in summer. Our mantra when picking products has been ... function over fashion. The metal roof can now be bent on site and installation will begin shortly after.

The hummingbird chicks are fledging... This week, while I was standing on a ladder and holding a red spray-can, a chick flew up and landed on my hand to check out the red can..... these little guys are a little slow in more ways than one. When young, they seem to have no fear of anything.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Last evening, we went to a free stress relieving acupuncture session. About a dozen students were here training on a new technique and "volunteers" were needed to be the guinea pigs. Now that my chi is centered, (thanks to thirteen needles in my ears and forehead), I can get on with the 100TH BLOG"

Straw Bale House Update:

Things to research:

1- Humanure Hacienda location. I can start on building the humanure bins anytime, but the perfect location must be found.... sun or shade... near or away from the house.

2- Lime Plaster: Sounds simple, but there are multiple options for lime plastering.

3- Greywater System: Drain grades must be determined and basic layout mapped.

4- Rainwater Collection: Collection pond and/or cisterns locations have to be planned.

5- Hot water Heating: System planning for domestic hot water and radiant in-floor heating.

6- Generator feed system for power outages.

7- Mason Heater facing material: Rock, brick or plaster? We like this one.....

Here's a short YouTube of a Humanure Hacienda.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Building Bedlam

building bedlam
Denman Island Wildlife: Well, the mason bees are doing their thing and making use of the mason bee condo. We've also noticed at our house, that the mason bees are making use of the tubular rubber bumper on our patio door. One busy bee has completely sealed off the hole in the bumper, (which, I estimate to be about 8 baby bees worth).
The Denman Island cougar has finally met his demise. After minding his own bisiness for the better part of a year, the venison-loving cat had a craving for lamb chops. Thursday afternoon, the tracking hounds, (followed by the tracker) passed by the building site. A few minutes later and a few hundred yards away, the hounds had him treed. I'm not sure that one slip-up was worthy of ending his life.....

Straw Bale Building:
Monday, the construction class arrived, eight strong, plus the teacher. Tents were set up and the crew went to work for the next three days. By the time they left, the garage was beginning to look like.... well, a garage. Aside from a few "mishaps" it was a positive experience. For three days, there were twelve people on site, (including 3 working on the house). The eave supports, (on the house) by the living room are now complete and the roof (over the living room) has been sheathed. The track material for the twenty foot skylight, (that runs down the north-east side of the house) has been ordered and should be in next week. The beam-work that will be constructed over the front entry is being planed, sanded and stained. I'll loose my crew soon, as Charlie has his own house to finish. Hopefully, I can squeeze out another week or two of expertise before he leaves. Basically the house is now ready for the roof. For logistical reasons, we may wait and roof both the garage and the house at the same time.

Much of the land adjacent to our property is crown land or land held for the community by the local conservancy group. On Saturday there was an organized walk through part of these lands led by local experts. It was a great way to spend a beautiful, warm, sunny morning.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Oil & Money

It's all about oil and money. The Alberta tar sands expansion is destroying a Boreal forest the size of Vancouver Island. Wildlife is displaced with no place to go, or just simply killed like the ducks that try to land in the tailings ponds. Canada's biggest polluter is a legacy for it's richest Province. Soon Albertans will no longer have to pay health insurance premiums, courtesy of the tar sands. I guess that's a fair trade.
Have you noticed that our government isn't doing anything about gas prices? You can argue that they don't have anything to do with the increase in price, but then again they collect gas tax based on a percentage of the price.... the higher the price, the more tax you pay.
PetroCanada just announced their first quarter profits are up 82%.... something just over a billion dollars. Hmmmm.

Straw Bale House Update: The garage foundation has been poured and the forms were stripped today. The base for the masonry heater has been poured. The venting system turned out great. Fresh air will be drawn in from outside directly into the firebox. Another 8 inch pour will bring the shadow of the fireplace core up to slab height and the core can be assembled.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Garage Band

Straw Bale House Update: It's been a busy week! Late last week, we had the the materials delivered for our (single) car garage.... wait a sec, I'd better start at the beginning.... Kari had the inside scoop on a local trade school program where training carpenters take on projects (like a garage) as part of their training. Two students were interested in working here and the wage scale is appropriately low. The course teacher is also on site for one day a week... and there are tentative plans for the current class (of eight) to work on the garage week after next. They will camp out on the property and and learn how to build during the day. Monday and Tuesday, the footings (for the garage) were formed and poured on Wednesday. At the same time, we were also able to pour the foundation for the mason heater. The base for the heater will be about 20 inches of concrete once complete. On the house itself, we've finished the living room beam rafters and the pine decking, (which will be the ceiling). Now we can finish the last part of the rafter work. Eave supports and a roof can follow. At the house, 4 truckloads of sand have been delivered and compacted. (Thank goodness for little tractors.) Last fall the first two truckloads went in shovel by shovel... a tractor with a front end loader does the work in a fraction of the time. The crew on site is higher (in numbers) than it's ever been. Often only one, it's currently at five. Although maybe only coincidence, I've noticed the amount of work accomplished is directly proportionate to the amount paid in extra labour. I ran into the farmer, (who's storing my straw) at the fireman's auction.... He has graciously extended my (free) barn storage, as the first cut of hay is delayed this year because of cold weather. The extra few weeks will take some of the pressure off!

The semi-annual Fireman's auction was on Sunday. What can I say.... weed-wackers went for more that automobiles and couches sold for a dollar. There was everything up for auction including a few kitchen sinks. Every two years, islanders donate their unwanted stuff to the fire department, who then auction it off as a fund raiser (to buy new equipment). This years auction netted about eleven thousand dollars. I managed to resist spending a lot of money, but was high bidder on a truckload of sand., (which I needed anyway) as fill for the garage.

Friday night, I headed over to the "Backhall" to see the "Randy Duncan Band". When not on stage, Randy is a builder on the island that builds unique and beautiful homes.

Well, anyone watching the news has seen the forecasts of $2.50/ liter gas and $10 loaf 0f bread. Rice has tripled in price in the last 6 months and a trip to the pump now costs me about $100 (for a truck tank and generator fuel). I believe more than ever, our efforts to be self-sufficient are more important than ever. As soon as the house is complete, the gardens and greenhouse will be a priority.