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The Story of the Affordable Natural House continued...
by Day Host-Jablonski
(taken up by Lou Host-Jablonski)

It has been many months since Lou decided to revive Day's practice of journaling the progress of building this natural house. Lou begins months after she leaves off, after the furor of the Spring '02 workshop has subsided. We hope this will give you flavor of the ongoing rhythms of the work.







Left: Lou and Day.

Above: A view of the project before the Spring '02 workshop, showing the parts: the "little old house" at left, the "connector" in the middle, and the "main house" at right.
June 27, 2002
Will and Jeremy are tearing off the roofing at the little house. Peletteri Co. just delivered the 6 yard dumpster, the only one we've needed, and that only because we can't find anyone who will take the old shingles to recycle them. We expect to have it only a few days, as it is blocking the driveway and will impede the delivery of sand and gravel.

Trusses are complete, stacked against the side of the house, glue curing and ready for lifting, hopefully Saturday if weather permits. Before that we need to prep the little house: level the wall plates, remove obstructions such as nailers, and most importantly, add blocking on the interior tops of the walls to support the existing ceiling joists and plaster until we're ready to remove it all in the eventual gut-remodel of the little "Old House".

Took moisture readings of all our straw-clay walls so far, as well as of our collection of samples that we're going to have tested for R-value.

Other Progress:
• Jeremy installed the clay brick air-core floor during the 2nd and 3rd week of June. Gabe helped for a day too.
• Lou is working on cutting the heavy timber posts and beam for the center of the house. As he's able to put in only a few hours at a time on weekends, this is taking weeks.
• Terry O. has begun to assemble the sensors for the air-core floor. Installation must occur before we place the first course of the earth floor at the front three-fifths of the house.


July 5, 2002
Trusses went up Saturday without a hitch, with generous lifting help from Jane Ann and neighbor Lou. This week Jeremy & Will continue to work on the new roof over the Old House. They discovered that the Old House walls are neither parallel nor 90 degrees square. Consternation. We always knew that the Old House is not parallel to the lot line, as is the new house. But now, there will be even greater difficulty in getting the roof decking to "tooth-in" to the connector roof, to avoid any shifting or gap that may cause a leak in the roofing. Will and Jeremy's resultant work looks good, but is taking longer than we planned. Nevertheless, Will says that this is his "best job" so far.






Welcome to the beamery

On nights and weekends, I fit in hours here and there to cut mortises and tenons into the re-used Douglas-fir beam and posts. The various stains and holes recall over a hundred years history of human use. Supplied by Glenville Timberwrights in nearby Baraboo, these beautiful timbers will have a new home for a few centuries more.

After many test fits and adjusting, everything finally fits. Then I plane every surface with the power planer, touch-up with the belt sander, and chamfer some corners with the router. All is ready for the post-Independence Day beam lift.

Our beam raising crew of eight slowly arrives after noon. Glitches with the pegs delay us, and we lose a few people to various other commitments. We fit the posts into the beam, each pair of posts joined by a curved brace. Everything fits perfectly - I am relieved, pleased and proud. We place coins dated 2002 in some of the mortises, a timber framing tradition that will date this frame for future archeologists.

Finally we're ready to raise the frame. Anthony, Will, Roger, Lou, and Gabe do the lifting; Janet records photographically, and young Mr. Henry Smith (mostly) patiently watches over his new baby brother. Will has measured the post lengths with almost no room to spare, so we struggle to fit the frame between the concrete piers and the already-installed 2nd floor joists. Not really the right sequence to build; we have to sledge-hammer the beam into final plumb position. It is nevertheless a very satisfying moment.

July 12, 2002
This week, Will and Jeremy worked to nearly complete the roof decking over the Old House. Didn't quite finish. Jeremy fell off the scaffolding, hitting his back on the cross-bracing. Only the bouncy flexibility of the bracing, his youth, and quite a bit of luck, prevented serious injury. Nevertheless, it was a nasty scare -- our first one, really. Jeremy left a day early on his vacation, to rest up and hopefully return soon.

Dan and Anthony spent most of the week preparing the air-core floor for it's earth-cement covering. They built the plywood plenum covers with shafts for the registers. They placed the long piece of Northern Gold stone that will separate the front living areas from the rear private areas. And they installed 16 of the many temperature sensors that will be connected later to the computer data-logging system. A student of MATC Instructor Terry O'Laughlin's prepared the sensors to Terry's specifications.

On Friday Bill finally returned, to direct Dan and Anthony and to run the mixer. They started late, worked late, and succeeded in placing the first layer of earthen floor over the brick pavers. All afternoon the neighborhood kids enjoyed playing on the newly delivered pile of sand. Even Cyrus [Lou's grandson] visited.





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