Return to building

October 20th, 2012

I have spent most of October back on the block, working towards finishing the walls by the end of this month. The good news is it looks like we’ll finally make a deadline with 4 honest days’ work left to complete the ninth level of the external blocks.

Here are a few pic updates of what’s happening around the place.

Pic 1 above is “Tweety” the mixer. It is a beast of a machine and has been working even harder than the mixer we killed before. Pic 2 shows the only real damage almost 5 months of cold miserable weather has caused to the existing walls with the blocks becoming “face blown”. Not a great deal to us since we’re more interested in a house with character than one which is clinical perfection. Pic 3 is where the first of the aquaponics sheds will go, once the roof is on the house.

Pic 4 below shows the woodlot planted around 3 years ago. Many of these gums are now over 2 metres tall and should be ready to start harvesting in another 2-3 years.

75% done

May 20th, 2012

Things are slowing dramatically at the moment.

Just about every day has some sort of rainfall event, ranging from the annoying to the work stopping. The temperatures are already approaching zero overnight and we are back to allowing 2 days between pour and strip down of the moulds to allow the earth to harden enough to avoid damage. The cold is also bringing large amounts of heavy fog and dew which coats everything and having to “dry” everything again slows the processes from cleaning to oiling and resetting.

It’s all rather frustrating, but that is the joy of building with mud.

Current farming activities

May 11th, 2012

As you may have guessed, with 140+ acres at our fingertips we also are partaking in some farming activities.

You may have also guessed when the weather for building is not suitable we’re busy working on other projects for the farming side of our enterprise.

These projects are conventional at the moment but we soon plan to introduce some of the unconventional.

We have several woodlots planted across the block with hundreds more trees scheduled to be planted late in August this year. The trees will be part of a managed forest so we are able to reap benefit from the trees through selective harvesting for firewood and lumber. There will also be many stands of high quality fodder trees planted allowing us to continue feeding fresh material to our animals long after the feed in the paddocks has died off into summer. With the tree lots will come bee hives and honey will soon be available.

At the moment we are free ranging quality beef and sheep in conjunction with one of our neighbours. We would soon like to add pork, ducks and chickens (meat and egg) to that list of free ranged livestock. We also have plans for rabbit and quail although these will be intensively farmed to protect them from predation and the rabbits confined to mosquito proof housing to protect them from the calici and myxoma viruses.

Part of the unconventional will soon include an aquaponics setup. Aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture that delivers a symbiotic benefit to both systems. With fish present this also means chemicals such as synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides CANNOT be used, making the end produce as good as organic – without the certification of course. In this system we will be able to grow a variety of delicious heirloom veggies, bringing back true flavour to the dinner plate.

On the fish side we hope to soon be able to bring native perches and freshwater shellfish to the market.

Once this is all in place farmgate sales will be ready for retailing produce direct to the consumer.

Update on costs

April 30th, 2012

Old faithful the mixer finally gave up the ghost with more of the cast iron parts wearing away. It’s been replaced with a Bianco 3.5 cubic foot capacity mixer which I have not included in the costs as that was purchased by our business for infrastructure work on the farm.

I got caught out by the Easter break with Bianco being closed on the Saturday so I had to get my white cement from Bolzons and boy it was expensive – $10.95 a bag against the $8.50 I usually pay. Entirely my fault for not paying attention to the dates and not being organised enough.

Bianco for white cement – $382.31
Bolzon’s Garden Centre for white cement – $109.50

Total project spend is now at $296,144.65
House only is now $82,192.15
Cost per square metre is now $285.39

Over 70%

April 25th, 2012

Apologies for no recent updates. Last week we passed the 70% mark, currently at 72% of the mud mixed and poured. Just about all sections will be at 7 levels by the end of next week, barring bad weather which has written off this week so far.

Pic 1 above is the smaller windows for (left to right)  the main toilet, ensuite toilet, shower room and walk in robe. Pic 2 shows the kitchen window looking through Elise’s craftroom window opening. The kitchen window is the first major variance from the plans. It was meant to be 1200 wide, but this did not look right when I formed the opening so I’ve cut half a block from each side to widen it to 1800. It now looks “right”.

Pic 3 is the same openings as pic 1 taken further back up the hill. I decided to form across the entire span to assist with keeping the small columns plumb. Pic 4 is the cross bracing being used to keep the columns between the windows at the front of the house upright in the strong breezes we get up here. The timber is crossed at 70 degrees and bolted to the columns using the threaded rod cast into the walls to allow framing to be fixed. Wood screws fix off the cross piece.

Photo update

February 29th, 2012

Pic 1 above is the view down the west wall from the front door. In pic 2 the openings from left to right are laundry, main bathroom and main toilet. Ensuite toilet, shower and WIR are in the next wall section.

Pics 3 and 4 is a progress comparison view from the sou’west corner where the WIR is located.

Pics 5 and 6 are from the sou’east and nor’east corners respectively.

Some numbers

February 23rd, 2012

Being 38C today gives me an opportunity to sit in aircon comfort and crunch a few numbers.

Blocks poured to date – 467.42
Bags of cement used – 213.5
Blocks per bag – 2.19
Cement cost per block – $3.84
Sand cost per block – $1.55
Blocks per square metre – 5.55
Wall cost per square metre – $29.91

Cubic metres poured – 23.69
Guesstimated cubic metres wasted mix – 3
We are getting better at managing the wasted mix but it is not completely avoidable.

Finally on the downwind stretch

February 21st, 2012

After a good spell of fine weather last week our completed percentage for the walls is now 52%.

We are about 200 blocks away from reaching level 7 around the perimeter and getting all sections to this is the next goal. From there the verandah tie downs are moulded into the wall, using laser levelling for accuracy. Once that is done there are only 170 blocks left to complete the walls!

Update on costs

February 11th, 2012

I am no longer purchasing cement by the pallet as the per bag rate is identical and it’s less of a logistical nightmare to move 15 bags at a time in the ute than an entire pallet of 80 across the ute and trailer.

Bianco for white cement – $295.21
Garden Grove for sand – $1185

Total project spend is now at $295,484.32
House only is now $81,531.82
Cost per square metre is now $283.10

Half way looming

February 11th, 2012

One day this coming week we will pass the half way mark with the amount of mud that needs to be mixed and poured. I’ve lost 3 days over the past 2 weeks to mechanical problems with the mixer and another 3 days to wet weather. This week is promising weather wise and I hope to have a huge week with all formwork cleaned and ready to be set.

First pic is from the perspective I’ve been trying to keep for comparison sake of progress down the west wall. If you scroll back the last few posts on building progress you can see how this is progressing nicely. The wall is reasonably straight, the vertical rise and fall along each layer is I believe caused by shrinkage rates due to rain and temperature and is beyond our control.

The cracking around the front door has been caused by the wood blocks as they get wet and swell causing the earth around to crack. So much for the expert advice of using oil treated wood set into the walls to fix doors and windows to. I have now resorted to using threaded rods, ligatured to the upright wall plate tie down rods and we’ll bolt the frames to the walls rather than screw through the jarrah blocks.  You might be able to pick those rods out in the second pic in the window openings.

Pic 2 is a view from half way down the driveway and shows the 2 largest opening on this side of the house. One is Elise’s craft room window of 1200×1200, with the second one being formed at the right of the formwork seen in the pic and also 1200×1200. Much to the dismay of most people there is no laundry door as we didn’t see the point of having a door on the side of the house where most wind and dust from the road comes from. All the openings this side are the smallest permissible for habitable spaces for this reason.