The site before begining excavations.
We started excavations by hand, but decided to go with machinery because we were in a hurry.
It ended up being a lot more dirt than we thought, so we feel like we made the appropriate choice under the circumstances.
We could have built a wood platform on posts, but we wanted to use the earthen floor style of building which provides a thermal mass to store heat from sunlight and doesn't put a flammable structure under your house. It also just feels better to us to be on the ground. We probably ended up using more concrete and we also have to build a big ass retaining wall now, so it's not all butterflies and roses but it still seems like the best choice.
Unloading straw bales for the project.
Straw is used to stuff the spaces between the wall studs and to add strength to the poured adobe floor and earthen wall plasters. This straw was "second use" from a bale wall used to block sound at a nearby festival.
While having the site excavated, we also had a small vernal pool dug.
Vernal pools are ponds and low spots that fill with water only during the winter months, but go dry for the summer. They host a group of usually rare plants that are adapted to being flooded with water for extended periods of time. Chuck is a vernal pool expert and has already dispersed seed of native vernal pool plants into the new pool. In this picture we have removed the top soil and are just hitting a layer of clay (pockets of grey and green showing). Since this is an added bonus and a needed material for the cottage, the clay was dug out and set aside for the building project. There is more than enough, so we'll save the rest for other buildings.
We came out to check the sunrise from the building site on summer solstice morning.
Girls in pajamas with shovels are hot!
We used a lot of gravel in the building.
Since we had just put in our road the previous fall, we decided to use the waste gravel from the sides of the road.
All the gravel had to be laboriously raked up and sifted. Altogether, we used about 6 1/2 yards of sifted gravel.
Sifting the gravel by dumping it onto a diagonally oriented screen. The big stuff is what we're after.
The finer gravel siftings were mixed with straight run rock and soil before being tamped into place on the driveway.
The drive, like much of our road, is sloped to the outside so that water runs off right away. This also eliminates building and maintaining a ditch on the inside. Reduced sediment runoff and reduced maintenance. It's win/win all the way.
Who needs to go to the gym when there's gravel to shovel?
Getting some help contouring the driveway.
Tamara dug most of the footing.
The footing slopes to a drain so that any water which gets under there will drain out quickly.
This picture shows filter fabric and drain pipe laid in place.
Filter fabric allows the water to enter, but not dirt and sediment which would clog the pipe.
All layers have to be tamped firmly into place because we are putting a heavy structure right on top.
Tamping is hard work.
After one layer of rock was in, the cloth was folded down and the final layer of rock put on top and tamped down firmly.
We set the rebar up ahead of time, including all the L's.
This worked Ok, but trades running around trying to stick rebar in setting concrete with scrambling to make sure the concrete is pushed up under all the horizontal support boards over the trench.
Mirabai and Rusty putting in final touches for the next day's pour.
Thanks especially to Joel, Rusty & Mirabei for showing up at "just the right time"
and helping with what is always kind of a crappy job.
We had a project planned for the extra concrete we knew we'd have, but the guy brought a whole extra yard just in case.
We were pretty disturbed by this, having gone out of our way to minimize the amount we were using.
Instead of wasting it completely, we had him pour the extra out onto the drive and scored lines in it before it set so that it would be easier to break up. It worked pretty well. We've added the pieces to the already large pile of urbanite for building a retaining wall on the back of the excavation.
The PLANNED project for the extra concrete was this in-ground cooler.
It's sort of a mini root cellar for keeping produce, pickles and drinks cool. It can accommodate about 25 gallons of hard cider in soda kegs:) The form is a big log covered in adobe mix. Here I'm telling people what to do which is not an uncommon site around here.
Placing the rebar for the concrete reinforcement of the cooler.
Note also the smoothed sand coating which was intended to leave a nice finish on the inside. It sort of worked....
The log and adobe stuff being removed after the concrete set.
The front will have a redwood door and there will be a ferrocement cowl over the front to hold the 2 feet or so of earth covering back. It turned out a little voidy due to the usual concrete pour panic time crunch, but it's pretty damn cool.
Next step was to build the concrete block stem wall.
Here Talcon has just helped us bust out the first 30 feet of wall we laidwhich we had to remove due to a layout error. It sucked.
Laying the block was challenging.
The whole process was done during a heat wave, so we could only work in the mornings and evenings for a couple of hours.
Laying the last block in failing light
Finally done with the damn thing. In spite of the challenges and learning a new skill, the wall turned out within less than 1/16th inch tolerance for squareness and about 1/4 inch for level. Talcon was there the whole time helping out. Thanks Talcon!