Jan-Feb 2005
trees harvested and stacked on eastern edge of meadow, conceptual design in progress
March '05
design development, Kindra in Taos, several meetings with Ned Cherry (architect of record) and Mark Goldman (mentor and consultant)
April '05

2-10 April - Kindra at Cob Cottage Workshop in southern California, meets and invites Chris

15 - 25 April - finalizing design development with Bob and Raylene in Texas and finishing drawings for permit application

29 April - Drawings signed by Ned and submitted for permit

May '05 (click on YELLOW text for pictures)

Kindra in Taos with high speed internet! puts together her first web page ever (this one) meetings, meetings, meetings.

11 May - Building Permit Approved!

23 May - Breaking Ground! - H Excavation brings their giant tonka toys on site to push aside the top soil, dig the basement and trench to elecrtic pole, puppy Sy who considers himself an accomplished digger couldn't help but admire the hole and the HUGE pile of sand and rock that came out of it.

27-31 May - Kindra back to Texas for cousin's wedding

31 May - Kindra, Kerri, Raylene and puppies Sy and Panda drive green truck and trailer from TX to NM


June '05 (click on YELLOW text for picutures)

1 June - Kindra picks Chris up at the airport, Bob arrives from the north

2 June - Kindra, Bob, Chris and Ollie set up forms, tie re-bar , while Raylene and Kerri peel logs and more logs

3-6 June - peeling logs, moving logs, keeping entertained by our puppies antics, teaching puppy Panda to walk logs, and waiting for inspector (turns out message was lost) finally inspected on the 8th

6 June - Kerri back to San Francisco, Bob and Raylene to Texas

9 June - footing poured, a little tip: instead of toxic stinky form oil we greased our forms with Crisco and it worked perfectly.

10 - 17 June - Chris and Kindra set up eco-block (insulated concrete form - think foam sandwich with concrete poured in the middle - we believe the "eco" is relative to other products, styrofoam is itself not an ecological product) while Ollie lays the curve in concrete block, Christina and Nature drop by for an all too brief visit.

18 June - Kindra in Texas for Cob Forum hosted by Gayle Borst. a few pictures at this page.

22-23 June - inspection and pour of basement walls - one blowout, thank goodness for all the extra hands on site that day! Here is the basement all braced up just after the pour. Bob heads off for well drilling adventures with John Mahoney the well driller.

24 June - 4 July - Denise arrives and leans her power towards log peeling. We all amuse ourselves while waiting for the next round of trenching: many logs peeled, two compost bins constructed, huge stacks of firewood cut, chainsaws and mini-mills ordered, adobe cooking area constructed, and napps taken. Kindra and Chris tested the bed location as we were finalizing the house layout.

JULY '05 (click on YELLOW text for pictures)

7 July - the excavator arrives to trench our water line and half of our rubble trench. Those machines are powerful but a little sloppy on the curves, at the end of the day we have holes and MORE mountains of dirt.

8 July - in order to protect our foundation from frost we must put rigid foam 48" below ground level on the outside of our rubble trench. Foam does not curve like we want it to, but a little duct tape gets us close to what we want.

11-12 July - Bob and John Mahoney come to drill the well. John locates the spot by dousing with copper wire. Then they pull in the big rig and start digging. Finally at 240' they find water (about the same as all our neighbors). They start putting the casing in, but the hole collapses and they have to re-drill and re-insert the casing all the way down. Meanwhile Ollie comes with his tractor to help us fill in our trenches. Kerri and Mom spread granite while Kindra and Chris take turns on the compactor. At the end of the day we have a secure well and water at 130' and are hmmm.. mostly done with the trench around the living room.

14-19 July - Excavator finishes the water line to the new well and the trenches for the bedroom foundation. Kindra and Chris lay block for the basement stairs while Kerri, Bob and Mom spread and tamp gravel into the new trenches. Mom criticizes Bob's sandwich making ratios....he put TOO MUCH peanut butter in her sandwich; fortunately Kindra, still in the trenches, wasn't bother by the fracus.

20 July - set up inner forms for gradebeam and tied rebar until 10 pm under headlamps (hoping the inspector might show up the next morning). Shay and Rachael from Austin made us a stop on their roadtrip and helped out for a day.

21 - 25 July - waiting for inspector. finished flattening one side of vigas for kitchen floor with Bob's new "Farm Boss" chain saw and mini-mill attachement. All in all we cut 12 logs for the kitchen floor. The logs are a minimum of 7" diameter at mid span and are spaced 24" O.C. With 1.5" tongue and groove flooring across the top, the floor will withstand just about anything.

26-27 July - inspection and gradebeam pour. Finally we have filled in the holes and are back at ground level ready to start building upward!

28 July - Kerri and Jon head back to San Francisco, Chris heads for Vermont for a wedding. Rocks from stem wall and flagstone for entrys delivered. After half a day of shoveling granite Mom and Bob go on strike and insist on taking almost the whole weekend off. Panda tries to sneak some goodies and finds herself stuck in the dark.

AUGUST '05 (click on YELLOW text for pictures)

1-9 Aug - Kindra and Raylene are left alone on site with mountains (about 20 yards) of crushed granite and a double CMU stem wall to fill in. With no way forward except to shovel, they tackeled the piles and slowly filled and compacted the stem wall.

10 Aug - Chris returns from Vermont just in time to help finish the final bit of the stem wall. After the pour John Mahoney, who had just connected the well pump and pressure tank, commented that there was no way to tell who was filthiest. Then he gave Bob the rest of the day off.

11-22 Aug - rocks for stem wall arrive and slowly find their way to the house then flagstones are set for the window sills in the dining area. Meanwhile Bob, in his workshop, builds window frames while the chipmunks eagerly stock their new fortress with booty from the bag of dog food. Finally, with the frames set on the wall and braced we are finally ready to start cobbing!

23 Aug - the first COB goes on the wall. Cob is the British term for what New Mexicans call "puddled adobe", the oldest parts of the Taos pueblo were built this way. Cob is adobe: clay and sand (some rocks) mixed with straw. We mix with our feet (becuase its fun and very inexpensive) then transport the mixture to the foundation where we form up a monolithic wall. In our project we are building all the columns this way (monolithic=strength) and then ordering manufactured adobe blocks for the longer walls.

25-27 Aug - by beginning of the third day of cob we are making good progress. Building on a south wall full of windows is fast and gratifying! We raise each column about 12" with each two person batch. Then trim with a modified wood saw carefully making sure that every face of every column stands perfectly plumb. Also, in place of regular gringo blocks we attached twisted branches to the frames, these lock into the cob and secure the windows to the wall. Every day brings a little extra height to the walls. Meanwhile Bob finishes out the cellar stairs and practices for roundwood timber framing in the next phase.


SEPTEMBER '05 (click on YELLOW text for pictures)

2 Sept- Adobe delivery!! Because New Mexico has a vibrant and thriving vernacular architecture we can get adobe by the truck load with about three days notice. Our blocks came from the Adobe Factory south of Taos (they produce about 15,000 per day during the dry summer months). Each block measures 10"x14"x4" and weighs 32 lbs. We recieved 1350 blocks (the most a truck could carry): 225 of semi-stabalized for the lowest two courses and 1125 of "traditional" or pure clay, sand and staw.They came off the truck in palattes carried by a special forklift buggy which spreads our stacks around the site. Earlier that morning Mickey, Chris' dog, entertained our neighbor by raiding an old bone pile and selecting only the largest he could carry.

5-14 Sept - Kindra and Chris start cobbing the columns west of the main entry. Piles of dark pure clay and sand arrive and slowly shrink as the walls get taller. The clay is so pure that in order to use it we have to let it sit overnight in our soaking pit (really a horse trough) and then buzz it with a plaster mixer on a high speed drill to break up the clumps. Our main tools include the wheelbarrow, lots of buckets, and a functioning water hose. Towards the end of the week as the walls grow higher rain frustrates our progress. Bob constructs a pair of tressels for us to use as scaffolding. They are easy to move versitile staging for getting builders an extra six feet of height and stashing cob within reach of the working area.

meanwhile.... in between carpentry requests from the cobbing team Bob manages to start laying the first course of adobes. The one-man team moves steadily along the wall and the building begins to take shape.

15 Sept - Our site is a bit messy but we are making visible progress: Kindra and Chris join Bob in mixing mud and laying block. By the end of the day the adobe block walls average 8 course high... only 12 course to go.

16 Sept - Bob constructs and installs arch forms for the future front door and three windows in the bedroom.

18-20Sept - Cob and Adobe block....final push to finish cob before Kindra leaves for Austin for a week.

21-26 Sept - Chris and Bob take a few days off then return to a bit cobbing and adobes. Kindra in Austin preparing for and presenting at Renewable Energy Roundup.

27 Sept - Kindra and Raylene visit Winters, Texas where they pick-up Christina Ott (www.Barefootbuilder.com) and her dog Annabelle. Christina has just completed two consecutive natural building workshops helping a Texas family to start their family chapel. The three ladies arrive in camp and are greeted by Steve and Geri Fry (family friends from Austin) who are visiting for a few days. And we have a full house!

28 Sept - Christina's partner Craig Sommers, a.k.a "Nature"(www.RawfoosBible.com), arrives from Arizona and the team is ready to roll. Everyone pairs off and pitches in to raise the adobe walls: Mom and Bob, Kindra and Christina, Chris and Steve Fry while Geri Fry steps in as photographer. Cutting adobe blocks and mixing mud mortar also happen continuously throughout the day. With the three arch windows in the bedroom formed up the team begins the trickier work of laying the rounded parts of the arches. Unfortunately the rain arrives about the same time and thwarts our progress for a few days.


OCTOBER '05 (click on YELLOW text for pictures)

2-3 Oct - we are getting closer and closer. Our daily hours increase as our Oct 4 inspection deadline draws near. Roundwood headers are placed over every window and then cobbed in. The adobe block and cob walls meet and intertwine. We form up the bond beam with "tempered hardboard" and lay in two runs of #4 rebar (making those turns is always a challenge especially when two people have to climb up and down ladders to make each adjustement.) Mom shows off her grinding skills in cuttting the reinforcement for a portion of the pour.

4 Oct - succesful inspection! after a look around and some discussion of Tyvek and strawbale Kindra promises to present literature on the use of lime plaster as a weather barrier for strawbale.

6 Oct - our scaffolding and forms are fully ready one hour before the pour and we have a chance to have a break before the big event. Sorry we have no pictures of us wrestling the black concrete snake around the house, there were no spare hands for picture taking. It is our first sunny weather pour and everything goes well.

7 Oct - James Thompson (www.Housealive.com) steps in to help us strip the forms, including the front entry arch. Afterwards we celebrate the completion of our first floor walls. One detail... as we were forming the bond beam the Mom tucked burlap and thick plastic over each wooden header so that after the pour, the burlap that wraps up and over the bond beam to help adhere the earthen plaster.

8 Oct - Saturday is Taos farmers' market day. While Kindra, Chris, Christina, Nature and James head for fresh veggies and the hot springs. Mom and Bob take their creatures for a hike in the mountains. Fall has arrived in full swing and aspens glow yellow reveling themselves from the pine, spruce and fir. Kody's only worry is the rumor that he has to return to the Texas heat, Panda doesn't care where she goes as long as she is with her mama.

11 Oct - we awaken and step out of the tents to three inches of snow on the ground.

12 Oct - Mom, Kody and Panda return to Texas. Nature and Christina's last day with us. We will miss their hard work, delicious raw food and especially their company. Our first column, hand-carved quadruple-rope spiral, is set and fitted with a beam above. Not all our columns are this fancy, this one and one more stand in very prominent places, so we spent a little more and had them carved at Southwest Spiral Design in Taos.

12-21 Oct- Logs, logs, logs! We begin with first floor posts and then place larger logs (10" diameter) as beams spanning the earthen walls with a post for support in the middle. On top of these beams we placed smaller logs (7-8" diameter) as floor joists. All of the joist logs were flattened on the top side and then notched on the bottom to fit over the beams. We also raised one pony wall for the second floor becuase its sill plate rested under a major beam. Working with logs is dangerous work, lifting heavy timbers on unsteady ladders is no joke. After a few close calls we made use of saftey ropes mandatory as we raised the larger (9-10" logs). For the really big stuff (10"-12"diameter) we acknowledged that the wallet is sometimes stronger and more efficient than the human body: for our saftey and efficiency we scheduled a crane.

24-27 Oct - Rafter preparation. Almost half of our logs went towards rafters for the living roof. Each log required a flattening on one side and a notch to catch the ridge on on end. By this time most of our logs were peeled and mostly dry, these were easy to carry and had almost zero indication of wood borers. However, as we realized that we were running short of logs, we dug in and drawknifed the bark off the last few. Unfortunately we soon realized that waiting so long had been a mistake. The logs were still green and wet making them almost too heavy to move, and wood borers had clearly begun their invasion. Boric Acid was purchased for the insects and muscles were strengthed as we struggled with the last logs from our site. Also we realized too late that the logs we had were not enough, in the interest of time we ordered from a local mill.

28 Oct - Olguin's sawmill delivered several peeled, dry and pre-flattened logs to our site. It saved us having to cut trees and work with green logs but it didn't come cheap. With all our materials on site the final floor joists were quickly installed. At this point you could really begin to see the shape of the house. Views: from kitchen looking south into dining area, mud entry looking west across kitchen into living room.

29-31 Oct - second floor framing: We laid plywood across the joists as a temporary floor in order to have a walking surface as we installed the second floor posts. We employed a variety of techniques in connecting the posts. One of our favorites is the mortise and tenon.

NOVEMBER '05 (click on YELLOW text for pictures)

1 Nov - Crane Day AND Chris's Birthday

well.... when the crane arrived at 1pm we still were not quite ready, so as Kindra put notches into the final logs Bob and Chris caught the flying logs and guided them into place. Most exciting were the ridge pieces: two logs so massive we could barely lift them on the ground had to be fitted to posts twenety feet above the ground. At the end of the day, the house had grown considerably in height.

That night we celebrated Chris' birthday with a new twist on an old tradtion: Birthday Beer! and warmed our tootsies by the fire in Bob's apartment.

2-5 Nov - installaion of Tounge and Grove (T&G) wood floor for loft. This method is labor intensive, but for approximately $2/sqrft in material costs we have a beautiful ceiling in the kitchen below in addition to the loft floor above.

"Brown Dog" previously known as "bad hunting dog" adopts us and begins to spend his entire day on site. Bob departs for the warmth of Texas.

6-8 Nov - installation of remaining rafters, including short rafters over dining area on south side. For this we used every log possible. In the end, of the 108 harvested logs we began with, only 2 remained in the yard outside in front of the house.

I should also describe a helpful little trick for setting posts taught to us by Mark Goldman of Onyx Construction. When you pour a base for a post insert a piece of all thread sticking up approximately 10-12". Before setting the post put a nut and washer(s) on the all thread to catch the bottom of the post. This method gives you the ability to adjust the post up and down by 1-2".... very helpful in leveling. When everything is set and perfect on your framing above, pack in the gap with a very dry concrete mortar mixture. Viola! Post at perfect height.

9-17 Nov - THE FINAL PUSH. Kindra and Chris frame out the second floor with walls and rafters, it was tricky at times, fast at others. Then came plywood, a fantastically expensive resource thanks to hurricane events during the summer. We were almost ready to paper when 2" of snow appeared one morning. Pressed for time, we swept it off and kept going. In our rush to winterize we allowed for a few moments of "stepping back" and noting our progress. During one of these moments Chris observed that the emerging profile of the house echoes the form of a mountain rising out of the foothills.

17 Nov - after working through the night under a full moon in sub 20 degree weather Kindra, Chris, Mickey and Sy Sy were packed and driving away just as light was filling the sky. They arrived savely in Texas later that night and began the foundation on a new project the following morning. Everyone was already counting the months till we could return to New Mexico and get back to our project!

next year...

we will return in May 2006 for part 2: final roofing, electric, plumbing, interior walls, spiral stair case, windows, doors, plastering