Hybrid Natural Building

Sangre de Cristo Mountains, NM
summer 2008

June '08 (click yellow text for pictures)

Mid May - June - Bob arrives sets up camp, purchases some new tools and goes to work. Then one morning winter heaves its last gasp in a freak June snowstorm leaving Bob cozy by the fire for a day or so. It melts quickly, and he finishes adding lattillas to the ceiling in the living room, puzzles in some flagstones and works on framing details. Rock cutting requires special costumes... Bob poses in what we call the Darth Vadar getup.

June 9-10 - Kindra and Raylene road trip from Texas with the family circus of pets : 2 horses, 4 dogs and Sam the kitten. The traveling party arrives exhausted and spends a light work week adjusting to the altitude and settling in.

June 16-22 - framing details finished and inspection requested. Kindra mixes mud with the new mixer while Raylene puts on the straw-clay fill coat to shape the exterior walls. Building inspector arrives on Thursday and immediately corrects our understanding of inspection sequence... mechanical rough-in inspections come before the framing inspection... grrrr... our electricians told us in 2006 we needed framing inspection before they could inspect rough-in electrical. Ug. learning curves leading us in circles.

June 23-27 - Jef Page arrives from Austin just in time to join in finishing the Hardi siding on the East and North sides of the house.

June 30 - Travis, Kerri and John Curry arrive from Austin via Kerrville and Lubbock


July '08 (click yellow text for pictures)

July 1 - 4 - The expanded team of builders set to work! Cob....filling in tight under the rafters much cob is mixed and then tossed to people on ladders. Then a form is set and cobbed over in the "firewood niche" outside and a team takes on rough coat plastering in the bedroom. Every morning is sunny and beautiful, every afternoon the clouds come marching across the sky for our daily douse of icy monsoon rain. Rain ends the building momentum for the day and we all end up cozy and quiet in the house. Except JuJu who is constantly on guard against Travis despite his occasional attempts to patronize the poodle princess.

Thanks to John Curry who took most of the photographs in the next two weeks, between him and his camera even a plastic bucket looks good.

July 5-7 - Kindra, John and Jeff head up to Llama for a lime plastering workshop with Bob Campbell. Meanwhile, Kerri, Travis, Bob and Raylene take it easy and even enjoy a little rafting on the Rio Grande.

July 8-11 - Rough floor pour in the bedroom: The floor is prepped with Radon Tube submerged in a layer of pumice rock,a plastic barrier and we are ready for mud... two layers with radient tubes in the middle equals two days of Kerri and Travis sifting, John mixing and Kindra and Jeff pouring.

During and after all this mud work, Bob has finished the latilla ceiling in the living room and Travis puts together a rope system to hold Kindra on the roof while she attaches siding to the side of the back dormer.

At some point in the week Kerri wrangles the family down to the meadow for a family photo and then up onto the roof for the next in our series from a fixed location. John the photographer assumes the "fixed location" which happens to be half way up a pine tree, only to be quickly followed by Sam the kitten who is fascinated to see a human participating in cat practices.

... back in the mud we are joined by Jami who stops in from Colorado on her way to Austin. She takes right to cob and then joins the Mom (now 60 and still lifting weights!) in helping her finish up the rough coat of earthen plaster.

July 14-18 - while Kindra gets plumbing lists together and gets ready for the permit to arrive the Mom works on rough coat plaster around the pantry. Bob begins work on the railings upstairs: the process starts with finding the perfectly curved trees and branches in the forest, peeling the bark off each piece and then scribing each part for installation. On the north side Jeff gets to the last sections of soffit when we observe a bird nesting two tiny eggs in the rafters, so roof completion is postponed another two weeks or so. And finally!.....we get our successfull electrical rough-in inspection!

July 21-25 - so here we are almost the end of July, the horses have settled into their routine of rides and grazing walks, chipmunks have adapted to our landscaping, the outside of the house is a uniform color for the first time ever. Kindra's brain is totaly absorbed in mastering the rules of plumbing as the white octopus of PVC grows from the basement. In between town runs for the right parts she works the living room floor (which is in pretty rough shape as it was walked on extensively before gettering sealed) with various colors of alis (clay paint), with each coat the floor gets smoother.

July 27 - Elena, John and Jami arrive from Texas!

July28 - Aug 1 - Bob and Jeff work through the carpentry in preparation for finish plaster in the bedroom downstairs: Bob on ceiling and Jeff on sills and doors. Elena and Jamie cob in the odd spaces between wallls and soffit on the north side. Kindra puts the final coat of alis on the living room floor and then starts the process of sealing it with linseed oil. The floor soaks it right up and we get five full strength coats of heated linseed to soak in over a period of three days.


August '08 (click yellow text for pictures)

Aug 1 - gathering and setting rocks in the morning helps us work up an appettite...Friday is pizza night! Start with some local veggies, Mom makes dough, we fire the oven, assemble, cook in the wood fired horno and... ta da! tasty pizza.... and always a few scraps for a patient audience.

Aug 4-8 - Still in the carpentry zone, Bob finishes the bedroom ceiling and Jeff fits doors with hinges. Jamie puts together several tests of lime/clay combinations on the outside of the house, waits a few days then turns a hose on them. We learn that our brown clay weakens the lime, but the red and pink/red clays hold strong. A fresco wash of burnt umber and yello ochre gets us to a final color. Inside the Mom assembles color samples for her bedroom and installs ceramic tile as a baseboard in the living room and bedroom. ... and in the bathroom the plumbing continues! Monsoons still end our afternoons early giving us time to appreciate the roof over our heads.

Aug 11-15 - dirt on the roof and finish plaster week! First the dirt for the living roof... approx. 200 buckets get hoisted by pulley and then spread on the north side of the west roof. Then we switch to finish plaster... ah finish plaster...is there anything more visually satisfying that covering a rough brown wall with creamy mud and burnishing it smooth? Kindra's favorite parts are edges, perfect tided up edges, and all the mud cleaned off the wood and windows.

Then the crew moves the hoist to the north side of the east roof and now under survallience of the mama bird in the rafters we go again with the dirt and buckets... 200 more to finish out the living roof. In this week of heavy lifting we work up some appettites, the Mom, Elena, John, and Jamie taking turns in the kitchen keep us well fed!

Aug 18-22 - Exterior plaster week: first we harvest a pickup load of red clay from the side of the road and add it to the soaking pit; lime and sand are already on site. We mask the wood headers, set up scaffolding, mulch the muddy pathways and away we go starting on the west and then splitting into two teams moving in opposite directions around the house to meet again on the east side. On Thursday we are moving quickly with Bob handling the mixing and an extra set of hands on the wall: Michael Blaha of www.ilovecob.com. Around 3pm we asses the situation and decide to power through and finish everything out. The last bits are covered as the plumbing inspector arrives around 4pm to officially fail the plumbing for lack of purple primer, ug! ...I mean ...yeah the plastering is done! Now we just have to keep it misted for another three days or so.

Aug 25 - 29 - so you may not remember, becuase it was not often photographed, but for four years there has existed an immense stump pile between the house and the road. Over the years there has been much discussion about the removal of the stump pile, finally the decision was taken to divide it into smaller piles in the forest creating safe havens for forest critters of all types. And we (seven people, two wheel barrows, one horse and a late arriving tractor) did it in one day! The stump pile has been erased and a maple tree now stands in its place.

Then on Tuesday Elena, Jamie and Jeff return to Austin and their own projects. We see them off with wishes for safe travels and many thanks for their hard work and creative contributuions.

And then we re-plumbed the house (with primer) (much faster the second time around). Bob has his own water gripes to handle...he sets out to dig up the electrical conduit that didn't quite get connected and is leaking water into the basement. With a bit of photo research and some dousing, he finds the line quickly. Inside John and Kindra patch the plaster around the living room ceiling.

Labor Day weekend it rains the whole time and Kindra catches up on her computer work... finally!


September '08 (click yellow text for pictures)

Sept 1-5 - First the final touches on the plumbing... a roof vent accomplished with ropes, caulk and a huge variety of tools procured by John and passed up to Kindra perched on the roof ridge. Bob has his own uses for caulk of many varieties as he secures the electrical conduit connection. In between hauling and misc. mudwork the Mom turns a harvest of crabapples into delicious sweet-tart syrup for pancakes. Sorry folks there's none left!

Tuesday we pass our plumbing inspection...yeah!!!... except for the solar stubb outs (recently required by code) those will come later with a plan for solar hot water on the roof. This enables us to move forward and pour the bathroom floor that covers up the pipes below: first rough floor then finish floor with color that extends over the rough slab all the way to the twin door entry... and then we have one more finished floor. But not without some drama, Bob had to go back to the store three times for color stuff as we were pouring, thank goodness for his patience!

Sept 8-12 - the shower pan gets built in the bathroom and then fitted with a shower liner. Then drywall!...a the bathroom becomes its own room in need of plaster, tile selections, vent pipes and a whole other cascade of steps. Kindra takes care of some final framing details including a bottom plate encroching on the stair space requiring some heavy reciprocating saw work.

Twentry feet away Bob is hanging the arched twin doors, first fitting each door, then cutting hinges and finally hanging the door in place...we have been living with plywood over the opening for so long, real glass seems close to miraculous.

Another miracle happens Saturday morning: our neighbor Glen Connor brings his tractor to expertly spread our big 'ol pile of topsoil and make way for a future garden.

Sept 15-19 - Tuesday brings our succesfull framing inspection, well almost, the glass in the tiwn doors didn't have the etched in saftey glass label, but otherwise we can proceed. First priority... close in the back wall, install the bathroom window and hang siding.

Meanwhile the Mom is making grand garden plans and puzzling her rock wall toghether that defines her garden space.

Thursday afternoon (the Mom's last day this year) Kindra gets to play hookey from work and take a pony ride with the Mom... its a typically beautiful early fall afternoon in northern New Mexico, the aspen are just barely starting to turn gold. We pause along the way to let the horses graze and admire the view from the other side of the meadow.

Early the next morning, the caravan... including a newly acquired four wheel drive silver Tundra...sets out for Texas. The Mom, her three dogs, Sammy the kitten, and the horses Lucy and Rusty all head back to Texas heat with Bob as an escort.

Sept 22-26 - Monday the long awaited grading of the road takes place. Since that sort of thing hasn't happened on our road for over a decade there is some major disturbance of encroaching vegetation. As the grader peels the sod back, Kindra and John swoop in with wheel barrows to transfer the big chuncks to patches of bare ground... tada! instant meadow of native grasses. The afternoon time is spent with the heat gun mixing and testing a casein paint to cover patches in the living room.. its a process that pushes into dusk hours, but thats ok becuase we have lights!. Tuesday, John and Kindra mud it up with Michael Blaha (www.ilovecob.com) and his inspiring one man project out on the Taos Mesa before picking Bob up from the airport shuttle. After a day of materials preparation John and Kindra dive into the rough coat plaster of the stairs and pantry while Bob installs door hardware on the twin doors. And to finish out the productive week, we bust out the living room floor (its a long story... one should not casually mix lime and clay) and put it back again.

Sept 29-30 - On to the next floor!.... this time the bedroom, which we finish in less than a day thanks Bob on the mix & delivery while Kindra and John smooth out the mud on to the floor.


October '08 (click yellow text for pictures)

Oct.1-2 - A surprise visit! Chris Copp swoops down from Boulder, CO to help with the final push... which he finds proceeding at a much more sane pace than previous years. We take advantage of his artistic touch to patch and paint the future dining nook. Meanwhile a major clean-up is underway... revealing the long shrouded kitchen floor. This final purge of mess and clutter completely shifts the feeling of the house. Just in time, becuase Kindra and John are packing to leave for the Artistry in Clay and Lime Workshop with the Steens in southern Arizona. Good thing for lights, becuase its a late night organization for an early departure the next day.