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Category: recycling/salvaging

Turkeys and Argonauts, catching up through end of August 2012

Boy howdy is it hard to stay on top of this blog right now.  The other year has just died, a new year has just sprung forth, I’ve been busy and having fun like nobody’s business fun, and dang, I need a vacation from the vacation.

Tell me you have gone to work only to find turkeys hanging out in your “office.”  Can’t do it?  Well, had you asked me to tell you that a year and a half ago, I would also have said “can’t do it.”  But do it I can.  The carpenters sometimes don’t like it when they find turkey poop on their table saw, or on and in their tool bags.  But the plain and simply fact of it can’t help but make us grin at the same time, and give us something kind of fun to talk and tell about.

gobble

Mr. Ken Bradley himself multi-tasking–talking on the phone and dealing with another job, and wiring in the Stareks’ farm to the grid transformer all at the same time.  Oh boy, what fun!  Obviously, these shots were taken back in the end of August, when shorts were permissable.  Shorts now though?  Lawd a’mussy, not in a million years.  It’s like 5 degrees outside right now at my house on the mountain, and prolly less than 20 down in Boulder, a 4000 foot difference in elevation.

ken bradley

These here are electrical panels, both AC and DC, on the Main House.  I love the adobe details Alice is doing around them.  Sweet.  The cracking you see in the adobe mud, kind of looking like the top of light brown brownies, is intentional.  This is the second coat, and the cracks allow a place for the following coats to reach in and grab, making for a tighter and stronger bond between layers.

main electrical panels

In Boulder County, down lighting on the exterior is a mandate and requirement of the code.  The Code.  Boulder County is not into what they call “light pollution.”  I say “what they call” because, even though I understand the need for rules “across the board,” such as blanket rules, sometimes they are a simple pain in the argonaut. 

Down lighting means an exterior light fixture that you cannot see the direct light of from a side perspective.  In other words, the light is completely closed or covered all the way around the vertical sides of the light.  The only light allowed to escape the fixture is pointed down, directly at the ground.  Basically, the County does not want your neighbor to have to see your light directly when it is on.

“That’s not such a bad requirement,” one might say.  But when one considers mountain living, or in the woods living, in a backyard where no other neighbors are available and you might like more light, coupled with the very limited, and/or very expensive choices a consumer has to buy specifically down lit lights, it can be a nuisance at times.  Way more than once I have seen my clients buy the cheapest, ugliest, and most basic down light here in Boulder at McGuckin’s, only to get through the County process, go back to the store and buy whatever light they dern well please, have us remove the required downlight and put up the new light of their choice.  This process not only makes for an irritating one, but one that is less than GREEN.  Consumers are buying twice, creating more waste, spending more money, paying an electrician twice, etc.

But Alice, being the creative soul that she is, is making her own “down lighting” right out of the adobe mud itself.  Sculpting her own down lighting, I should say.  Perty neat, huh?  Where you see that there wire sticking out, we can wire in any ol’ high-efficiency compact fluorescent or LED light, and since you can’t see it from the sides, it meets code.  The Code.

main adobe details

There’s the brave woman herself, up on the scaffold, where I’m sure she’d rather not be, doing her mud.

alice on scaffold

Here’s some more of the mud goings-on…  The dark brown mud details are very fresh.  Probly applied either that very day or the day before.  The darkness is showing that it is still wet.

Main

There’s a saying a guy uses for his straw bale company:  “Wood, Straw, Mud.”  He has it on his company t-shirts.  For these houses, the saying would have to be “Wood, Straw, Scaffolding, Mud.”  We use scaffolding here like our Life depends on it, because it does.

P1010945

I don’t really know what I was trying to show here, but it is the AG House, just sittin’ there all beautiful and still.  It truly is sweet when you love your work, what you are doing, and what you are creating and making.  Mmm doggy.

AG House

Same house, different view…

P1010949

This here is Sheep’s Wool blown-in insulation.  We are using this for the roof insulation in 2 out of the 3 houses.  Indeed, it has a higher insulation value, plus it has all of the perfect characteristics for dealing with unwanted moisture and having a super long life expectancy.

box of sheeps wool

Here is our wonderful and very prominent pillar of the farm, the ever-present Silo.  Oh what to do, what to do with this magnificent and symbolic “lighthouse of our ocean prairie.”  We cannot take it down cost effectively and keep it intact; we do not want to waste what it is; we do not necessarily want to look at it as-is forever.  Well oh well oh well…

silo

Here is one thought.  I don’t know, though.  Ours would have to have one HUGE attic space, I would say.  We could make our more like a multi-level bird house, but for people.  You know, ladders or stairs to upper levels.  I don’t know.  Guess we should keep thinking about it…

silo home

Do you even know what an argonaut is?  I didn’t.  The chosen definition I chose to like and connect with is:  “A person who is engaged in a dangerous but rewarding quest; an adventurer.”

I would truly like to believe that the danger of an adventure is worth a thousand days of ease and comfort, and I do think it is.  In fact, I once heard it said that:

“We are all functioning at a small fraction of our capacity to live fully in its total meaning of loving, caring, creating, and adventuring.  Consequently, the actualizations of our potential can be the most exciting adventure of our lifetime.” 

Join me in becoming and being an argonaut.  Follow your own Code.  Be the lighthouse out on the prairie ocean.  And leave the light on so’s I can know you’re there, know you’re awake, living Life to the fullest, and keeping a hot pot of coffee on the woodstove.

Because I’ll be by.

Bluebird out.

And until then, I can be reached at:

303-229-7202, or

therabbitruns@hotmail.com

Digging In (to straw bale building)! Continuing through August 2012

Well!  Happy weekend to you, I hope its been swell!

You’d never know it, but straw bale houses have THE highest fire-resistance rating of ALL combustible building materials.  I know, amazing huh?  They certainly and definitely have the absolute highest insulation values of all building materials period.  Straw bale homes are very conducive to homeowner-builders and do-it-yourselfers too.  Straw bale structures are incredibly warm in the winter with the most minimal amount of heat.  And oppositely, straw bale structures are incredibly cool in the summer, without air-conditioning, and relative to the outside temperature of where it’s located.  In fact, they are almost perfectly suited for any and all climates, except perhaps a tropical ones.  But I’d be willing to try. 

Straw bale homes and structures do not necessarily cost more that traditionally built.  Of course it IS possible for them to cost more, but it is also possible for one stickframe house to cost more than another stickframe house built from the same design.  It depends a lot on the person orchestrating the job and the people doing the work.  As you may be aware of, there is a HUGE range of intelligence and in integrity in the world.  It pays to be picky about who you choose to build your home.

But straw bale building is not rocket science.  Has nothing to do with rockets, or science.  Straw bale building is an earth-centered process.  You can learn everything you need to know about building with straw bales by simply watching nature:  you can watch how a river cuts a bank; how beavers stack trees; how birds build nests; how mud daubers pack mud, and how a canopy prevents water from soaking the ground underneath it.  In other words, sure, building codes and requirements are necessary, but at the core gut level, we need nothing from the man-made world to understand which materials will work in a building, or how to make the materials work together. 

Because of this, straw bale buildings are super-conducive to third world country environments, whether it be African, or American Indian reservation.  Where there is wood, a straw-like material (that can be baled), water, mud, and people willing to work, a quite nice and comfortable structure can be built for next to nothing.  I have even seen plastic trash and garbage baled up into huge bales, stacked one on top of the other, and mudded over with adobe.  One only needs to be creative and figure out how to utilize the materials you have on hand within the constraints of the building practices you have learned and taught yourself about.  We can learn all the basic principles through the acts of Nature, and then expand upon them and open our doors of possibilities with creative and critical minds.

Jerry here looks like he’s in the middle of some critical thought.  On this day they were starting to mount all the solar hot water collectors on the Main House.  These things have water pumping through them during a sunny day, which gets heated up very hot by the sun.  And the pump, btw, is also running off of the sun, by solar electricity.  Anyhoos, as more and more water keeps getting heated up, it gets stored in and circulated through a hot water storage tank, that feeds the sinks and tubs and whatevers.  And when the temperature is below freezing outside, the pump turns itself off and the water collected in the panels just gravity falls back into the warm interior space of the house so as not to freeze inside the solar water collectors.  Which is why you’ll notice that the panels themselves will all be installed at an angle, out of level, appropriate to the position of the drain line. 

solar water

This is the view Jerry would have in the picture above if he turned around and looked down.  That’s the exterior deck to the AG House below, and Randy and his red truck beyond that.  It’s a pert-near steep roof, 12/12 I think.

don't fall!

This shot was taken from the same position as the photo above, but is showing our greenhouse excavation pit.  Looks more like an olympic-sized swimming pool.  This farm has at least one river running underground directly through it.  The water table is extremely high, and the ground super wet.  It gets worse, like when this picture was taken, when they open the irrigation ditches to water the fields or relieve pressure from somewhere up the line, like somewhere not even on this farm.  I’m not sure exactly how or when it comes on, but boy does it get sloppy around here when it is on.

greenhouse swimming pool

I’m not sure, I might’ve already shown these pictures of the Studio solar equipment, but here they are anyway.  Now of course, this is bleeding a little into the man-made side of things in the modern building world.  But one does not NEED any of this stuff in order to survive and live well.  But it is really really cool to be able to have power as a direct result of the sun shining.  All this equipment is all-thread bolted all the way through the bale wall, with a big washer on either side, both inside and out.  Then the straw that you see will eventually get adobed and covered over.  The adobe mud will be applied right around all the boxes and different stuff, basically creating a shelf 2″-3″ thick all the way around each piece of equipment, really making its mounting to the wall very strong.

studio solar equipment

I’m pretty sure I have shown this one…  Many many batteries for storing the sun’s electricity.

solar batteries

Here is the Main House, looking kind of fortressy.  Reminds me of the Lewis and Clark days of old, not that I was there, but I wish I was.  Notice in the fence that some of the slats are blackened from the Four Mile Fire.  All timbers used in all three houses were salvaged from the Fire.  I think that is WAY cool!

main fortress

Now hear!, here is something real neato!  We have started making our own interior doors for the AG House.  And not only are these doors hand-made right on site, but they are made from salvaged lumber we acquired when deconstructing the original AG House that used to be on the property.

In the framing of the old house, we found true 2×4 lumber, meaning they actually measured 2 full inches by 4 full inches, not 1.5″ by 3.5″ like we have now.  So Mister and I got a wild hair up our noses one day and decided to see how long it would take to make one door, and find out how cool or not they would look.  Mister made this door, the first, in 8 hours.  Not bad for the first one with a learning curve and all.

The frame of the door is the reclaimed lumber mentioned above.  The interior panel of the door is our salvaged lumber from the Four Mile Fire that we milled right here on-site into planks, and then incorporated into this door.  The copper ornamentation is just a decorative touch that either covers up a gap in the planks, or a split in the wood, or simply for fun.

mister's door 1

With the next 3 doors we made, we opted out of the interior panel look.  Too traditional, and too time-consuming.  With our current system and style you see here, we can pump out about 2 doors per 8 hour day.  That does not include finishing them in any way, however, like oiling or staining them, or mortising and installing hinges and such.

mister's door 2

We even made our own door stop material out of our mill cut-off scraps, leaving the natural irregular edge exposed all the way around the door opening.  They really look nice, rustically nice.

mister's door 3

Every once in a while a guy gets bored doing nothing but working with wood.  During these times a new toy is sometimes a nice change of pace.  In this scene, I got Vidal here a concrete floor grinder.  I mean, I didn’t even know a concrete floor grinder was in existence!  Men, we make the weirdest things, ie “man-made.”  Anyway, the purpose here was to grind down a very irregularly-shaped floor in the area where our new garage door was supposed to close down against the concrete floor and create a semi-sealed closure.  Before grinding, when we shut the garage door, it touched down on one end, gapped to nearly 2″ above at center, and then was another inch above at the other end of the door.  So we ground the floor down and semi-levelled it out.  Now it almost touches the concrete floor all the way along its length.  Better.

grinding concrete

I know, one picture was prolly enough…

concrete grinding 2

This here is a quick picture of my own house.  I show it for a couple of reasons.  One, to go back to the beginning of the blog, building a straw bale house is not rocket science, nor is it NOT for the poor.  When I built this house, relatively speaking, to Boulder County standards, I was poor.  It is a straw bale house, built over a nine month period, and I was the only one working on it who had any real experience building anything.  My workforce was a brother, a 2o yr old son, aunts and uncles, a sister and brother-in-law, friends and neighbors, and just anyone else who happened along and let me talk them into helping me.  Cause I needed it, the help, I mean.  I could not afford a paid crew, paid help, a paid General Contractor, etc.  I was building with limited means and limited experience, but with truly unlimited determination and unlimited positive attitude.

my house

You see, my poverty was not complete, it lacked me.  And still does.

I once heard Norman Vincent Peale say, and I agree, that “Empty pockets never held anyone back.  Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.”

Actually, I don’t even know who Norman Vincent Peale is, or was, but I like his thinking.  You should too.  Get on out there and walk through Life as if your pockets are over-flowing, because they are.  They are over-flowing with the potentials and possibilities of Life itself. 

Dig in!

Bluebird out!

I can be reached at 303-229-7202 and therabbitruns@hotmail.com.

Leaf Running-rabbit

Welcome Back Gentle Readers, the Blog is Back! August 2012

OMG! I can’t believe I am back.  Or at least trying to be.  It has literally been months since I last updated the blog and took the wonder and loss out from behind the eyes of my readers!  So ever so terribly sorry gentle ones.  And hopefully, like a summer snowball completely out-of-place and rolling down a steep hill, we will gather volume and volumes, and pick up speed, getting bigger and bigger just like the green building world itself.  There are many other snowballs, of course, other than mine, but just like a world with global warming, every drop, or flake, counts.  So please, let us start counting right here and now.

To get started, we goin’ have to take a few steps back and catch up to where we currently are in construction.  This may take a few more blogs to do.  But we will do just that.

Right here we finally managed to get the main electrical service for the whole farm set up between Excel Electric Public Utility, and Indian Peaks Electric, my own electrical contractor.

The BIG green box being boomed down off the truck is the electrical transformer for the grid-tied side of our system.  The base in the ground and dirt there is just that, a base.  We had to hand-dig that down below grade and then set the transformer on top of it.

I don’t know why I posted all these boring pictures on here.  When I got on here to write, I found all these pics I had already uploaded back in August, and then had forgotten.  So now, in November, I’m just writing about what I had already posted back in August.

That guy holding the yellow box hanging from his shoulders has the fun job.  That yeller box is like a joy stick to a video game.  He controls the boom and the truck with it.  For those of you who can’t stop playing video games, but really and truly do need to get a job, you might should consider this for an occupation.

Boring…boring…boring…sorry!

Ok, this is a tad bit better.  This here is the drilling machine for the helical piers we had installed for the greenhouse foundation.  The machine itself is not so exciting, I know, but the reason I put it here is because my lead carpenter Randy asked me to do so.  Apparently, his uncle or brother-in-law or brother or somebody close in his family is part responsible for the creation of this exact machine.  I think they invented it just by chance.  So he asked me to post a picture of it so he could have his relative see it while reading the blog.  There you have it.

For those of you who have been with me since the beginning of the blog, providing you haven’t lost yer short-term memory yet, will remember the foundations to the three houses.  They were shallow, on super soft ground, and extremely wet.  To the point of filling in the excavation pits with several feet of compacted gravel for the foundations and weight of the houses to sit on.  It was absolutely necessary in order for the houses not to sink in the soft earth.

Well, the greenhouse has the same issues:  shallow foundation, super soft and super wet soils.  But this time, instead of digging out the muck and replacing with gravel, Karel and Alice opted to go with helical piers.  30 of them.  Each one drilled approximately 20 feet deep into solid bedrock.  Upon which, the weight and foundation of the greenhouse will sit.

In the picture above, you can see the stack of square steel bars on the right side of the photo.  I think they were each 4′ or 5′ long.  The machine literally impact drills/drives one of those shafts down into the bedrock.  Then, once it’s close to being buried, they stop and attach the next bar to the one in the ground, and drill it in.  They continue this process until the bars will not drill any deeper into the bedrock, and the actual bar itself starts twisting under the force of the machine.

Below you can see how they continue attaching more and more bars to get the depth they are after.  The bars are made of super high strength steel, and they are solid, not hollow.  It takes a lot of force to twist these babies, but they do twist.  They will keep impact drilling until the bar withstands almost one full twist before they stop.

It’s actually amazing to me that those things can actually BE drilled into SOLID bedrock to nearly 20′ deep.  That is some power and some strength.  Kind of reminds me of myself, actually.  JUST KIDDING  :-)  ONLY KIDDING  :-)  JUST KIDDING  :-)  !!

Well now, here we get into some fun.  This here below is Alice’s handy dandy rock work.  Building her wall up right around the diagonal log brace.  All the stones are salvaged from the burned house, brought down to Boulder from Gold Hill.  All the white wash looking stuff will get washed off in the end.  Very rough right now.  But it will perty-up quite nicely, the wall will, I mean.

More of the same deal here.  Only this is even WAY more far out!  This is a circular spiral staircase made from the same salvaged stones, and walnut stair treads milled right here on site from a standing dead tree.  This is local materials use at its finest, to be sure.  And this is not even something that Alice has even done before I don’t think.  I could be wrong.  But I think she is just a teachin’ herself as she goes, and doing a mighty fine job.

And actually, in the photo above, the treads are on the right.  On the left are shelves made out of the same walnut.  In the end, that little area will be like a pantry cubby with shelves opening up to the kitchen area.

This is what my imagination did to me when I first learned there was going to be a hand-made spiral staircase built in the houses.  I immediately went to wood and playful fun.  Nice, but a little too slick for these houses.  Not near rustic enough.

Who needs store-bought’n furniture anyway?!  Alice and Karel do not, it appears.  This here is a permanently fixed couch crafted out of straw bales and adobe.  You can’t really see it in my picture, but the right end armrest is curled all the way in, as if saying “Please stay, please sit within the confines of my comfort!”  Where as the left end armrest, is swayed way outside, completely open to the flow and energy of the living room, saying “Go!  Leave!  Be free!”  It’s a subtle detail, but very meaningful to the subtle observer, like me.

Ooh!  This was fun.  And interesting.  This little bat was under our j-channel along a bale wall.  I got real close to him and blew on his face, which made him snarl at me like you see here, at which time I snapped the photo shot.  He was a cute little sucker, no pun intended, even though he was a snarlin’.

These here stones are laser cut stones for arches.  The Gold Hill home that burned down was full of arches like this one.  But the fire couldn’t burn them.  So we brung’em on down here to Boulder to try and put them back together and use them in the new houses.  I’m not sure where they might go, but somewhere, eventually, I’m sure.  They’re way too cool to leave layin’ around in the dirt.

Well, that’s not a bad start I’d say, for a laid-to-rest blog picked up and stoked back up.

I heard it said once that the first step is always the hardest.  But after that, anything is possible.  In fact, the secret to getting ahead, is simply getting started.  Agatha Christie said that.

So get started people, doing something real, something legit, something green and healthy for you and the environment.  Eat a leaf of kale, or a richly red beet.  Stack up some straw bales and mix some mud.

And smile,

knowing that you’re just getting started.

Bluebird out.

I can be reached at 303-229-7202 or therabbitruns@hotmail.com.

For Men and Mothers, through 8/17/12

How doo!

A mother, any mother, protects her brood.  I have seen this mother turkey account for every one of these chicks; herd them together and guide them to destinations; protect them from Wolfgang and Gilda, the homeowners’ HUGE dogs; and feed them and love them to the best of her ability.  All over this farm.

Just like my mom and yours.  Got to love them for that.

They are so innocent and cute.  Just being.  Like you were, and I.  Fuzzy and sweet smellin’, big round eyes.                           Now look at us.  :-)

We’re just dirty hairy men working with machinery digging dirt and building houses like it’s fun.  Well it is fun.

Wade here is having a great time digging a trench to hold major electric lines coming in from XCEL Energy to feed the entire farm:  3 houses, 3 barns, septic and well pumps, and who knows what else.

Talk about a huge chainsaw lookin’ thing.  We rented this Bobcat attachment from Bobcat of the Rockies in Denver.  Karel went and picked it up himself.  It made easy work of the 3′ deep trench that holds and protects the lines, like a mother.

This is exciting.  We have remodelled the dairy barn.  We cut into this end of the building and put a garage door opening in it.  And on the inside, we raised the ceiling.  Back in the back there, you can see a loft right above the ladders.  This loft carried forward all the way to our new opening.  We added all those horizontal and diagonal bracing and basically gussetted the thing together.  Made it a lot stronger.  And allowed us to cut away and remove the entire second floor loft.  We left about 8 feet or so back in the back for a little extra storage space.

The whole point was to allow enough height for Karel to be able to pull his tractor in there for parking, and for shop space in order to work on it and other things.  The Shop.  The Man-Cave.  The Mother of our Manliness.  Oh boy.

That’s Randy below and Daniel above.

This is Wolfgang, slobber and all.  He didn’t like having his picture taken.  He kept looking away and/or moving away.  Not very picture-friendly I would say.  But a good dog none-the-less.  Quiet.  You don’t hear them much, meaning him and Gilda, which I like.  And they don’t bug you to throw sticks and stuff.  These dogs are kind of like cats, actually.  They do their own thing and are pert near much indifferent to you.  They can take you or leave you.  And the latter seems more prevalent to be honest.  Sometimes I’ll go to pet one of them, they’ll “allow” it for a few seconds, but then they’ll walk off like you’re a nuisance.  But they’re the biggest and hairiest and slobberin’est cats I ever saw.

This here is the new rendition of the chicken coop.  All put together using the walls of the deconstructed garage.  Windows from the garage too.  In fact the entire structure was built without buying one thing new.  Only the concrete was new.  But every single other piece used to build it came either from the garage or from something else off the farm.  It’s about 12’x26′ or something. 

We went ahead and built some nesting boxes with a storage closet below, some hinged perches so you can fold the things up and clean out underneath them  and a food storage bin big enough for 6 five gallon buckets.  All of this came from salvaged materials too.

We are full-on into solar install right now.  Almost.  I mean they have been putting stuff together and getting the roofs ready for panel mounting.  A few more supplies need to arrive before we have everything we need, but it’s moving along.  Both solar hot water and solar electric.

Zeke, with Mile Hi Solar is in charge of the solar electric side of things.  This here is the door of his truck with contact information.  They have been very knowledgeable, helpful, and flexible as far as thinking things through and working with Karel and Alice to find the best way to make it all work.

It’s a VERY complex system.  There are two solar electric systems, one on the Studio and one on the Greenhouse.  These will run major parts of the three houses, like DC lights and pumps and outlets, as well as feed back into the grid in order to sell energy to Xcel, and off-set their costs.  There is solar electric and solr hot water, intermingled with power coming off the grid.

The Starek’s are WAY into saving fuel and energy.  These here bicycles are one testament to this fact.  They are electric, and soon to be charged by solar energy.  When riding, they sort of have a helping hand feel under the petals, makes the going a little easier.  Like having a strong wind at your back at all times.  Makes for a quick and easy jaunt the few miles into Boulder town proper, where the city action is.

From Pete’s Electric Bike in Boulder one can either purchase a bike fully set-up with the electric components, or you can buy just the electrical components and add them to your existing bike.  Which is what the Stareks did.  Actually, they bought the components for one bike at least, and had their son Peter install it on their bike.  You know how kids, especially teens, are good at electrical technology-type stuff.

We still been slingin’ mud, as you can see.  Or at least somebody has.  Alice mostly.  The designs she makes are beautiful, I think, and I like them.  Notice how the mud has separated from the log post.  This is normal.  The mud is very wet when applied.  And as it dries, it shrinks.  Then you have to add more mud, and fill it in again.  

Here you have adobe walls being built-up in the Studio.  You can see the wetter portion of the wall has been done most recent.  The drier bottom portion was done days ago.  You build them up in stages.  Notice how the metal electrical conduits are getting buried in the wall.  She just builds the walls right around the conduits.

Here’s a beautiful Sunflower sort of growing out in the middle of nowhere.  I was just walking by and had to take a picture of it.  It looks like it has sun in it.  Although, I think it is the green color in plants that is the result of the sun.  Either way, I love the flower and I like its name.  It’s very fitting in all ways.  It has the color and it has the rays.

This is kind of an interesting deal.  These are, can you guess, sled runners.  Nearly 19 feet l-o-n-g and specially made for the sheepies.  The sheep are standing out in the full sun all day, just like that sunflower.  But unlike the sunflower, the sheep need some shade.  So Karel has gotten a large canvas tent thing that stands on poles.  It’s like 20-something feet long by probly 10 or 12 feet wide.

What he wants to do is to mount the tent onto these sled runners, and be able to drag the whole thing around to different places in the pasture to give the sheep shade.  Apparently, when using good and responsible grazing methods, you never leave a grazing herd in one place.  Nor do you allow them the ENTIRE grazing area for an indefinite period of time.

What’s best is to fence the animals off in limited grazing areas for a certain amount of time, and then move them to another area and fence them off in that area for awhile.  Thus, he needed a way to more easily provide them shade without having to take down and re-set-up the shade tent each time.  The sled runners do just that.  Of course you got to have a strong tractor, too, which he does.

Well, getting down to the nitty gritty, and the man-thing again, look at what happens when you give a guy 16 ounce cans of Coors and a roll of duck tape…

This was the second-to-last Friday Council and, well…, I don’t know what to say.  Except thank gawd it was Friday.

And we had a visitor!  This here below is Cassidy, a roommate of Adam’s.  He was there helping Adam move a piece of heavy furniture from their house back to the farm.  So he just hop-along-happened right into our Council at just the right time.  Time enough for beer and ducktape and a man’s imagination.  Ooh boy.

Well, speakin’ so much about mothers and men, men and mothers, I just couldn’t help but think about something Ralph Waldo Emerson told me one time.  Of course he didn’t know he told it to me, told me it, since I wasn’t even there.  But, inadvertently, in a sort of round-a-bout way, through written words more than live language, he never-the-less told me:

“Men are what their mothers made them.”

Plain and simple.

So if you are a mother, and you have a young man under your wing, make him a good man.  For this man, one day, whether metaphorically speaking or not, may be the maker of fine built houses.  Teach him about GREEN Building.  Teach him what it means to take care of the Earth, our Mother.

Bluebird out.

My number:  303-229-7202.

It’s OK, We’re Still Here! Through July 20, 2012

Because HERE is where it’s at.

Right now at least.

Here is Ian Smith, again, our structural engineer.  He is performing the moisture-content test on the Main House bale walls.  With that nifty little instrument there, he is able to poke a probe halfway into a bale, and get a reading on the percentage of moisture hiding in the bale.

Boulder County, through their permit process, requires this test before we are allowed to stucco or adobe any walls.  If we were to adobe the walls on both sides, for example, unawares of moisture that may be getting trapped in there, there would be the possibility of mold and mildew developing inside the walls.

This would be not good.

But we actually monitor the dryness of the bales as we build with them.  We simply do not use any bales that are wet or damp, that have any discoloration showing signs of wetness, or any other bale that is questionable or suspect for any reason at all.  We are snobby balers.

I found this next picture and couldn’t remember if I had already posted it or not. 

This is the old gazebo that was part of the existing farm, which as a result of, needed to go away.  It took a while to find a taker, but the owners of the neighboring farm decided they would take it.  We had them bring their trailer over and leave it for a day.  Then we broke the gazebo away from its foundation, strapped a strap around it, and used a come-a-long to pull it up some ramps and onto the trailer.  Then we called them to come pick up their trailer with the gazebo on it and it was gone.

One more gazebo cared for and respected, saved from death at the landfill cemetery, to be fixed up and loved for another family meal in the backyard.  Or two. 

We finally got the ol’ whiskey barrell up and at’em.

It’s actually a sauna, but it’s so much more fun to call it a whiskey barrel.  It’s been sitting over in a corner of the farm for many weeks, all quiet and still, just waiting for its own debut into the building of the houses.

And now the curtain has been lifted.  It has been lovingly cradled up and into place on the deck of the Main House for all to see.  Perty nice.

This here is more proof that we are still here.  Adam has been putting up soffit around the AG House.  The AG House is the third house we are building here, for those of you just joining in.  The material is 1×6 tongue and groove, V-groove pine.

This is Randy doing the same thing as Adam, installing soffit.  You can’t tell it in these pictures, but as the guys move down the run installing the soffit, they are stuffing full the cavities IN the soffit with leftover loose straw. 

When bailing walls and cutting bales and resizing bales, you plain ol’ end up with A LOT of loose straw on the ground.  We pile this stuff up, save it, keep it dry, and insulate all voids and cavities we end up seeing or making, like in the soffits.  And we pack it in tight.  They hand-shove it in, and then use a 2×4-made tamping stick of sorts to jam it in there deep and tight.

A tight house is a greener house.

This here is Mr. Vidal Barron, or “Little Boys,” as the guys like to call him.  He and Ramon, his son and partner, brought structural fill dirt  into the Main House to bring up the grade for Alice’s cobblestone floor.  They bring it in one wheel barrow at a time, over and over, spread it out all level and at the proper height, and tamp it down with the tamper you see him holding there, which he made himself.

And as you go, this is what it starts looking like.  A perfectly flat earthen sub-floor base upon which Alice can start laying down her cobbles…, 

…which is what happened next.  Alice is becoming quite skilled at doing this work herself.  I might could hire her out on our next job.  If we could ever get another job as cool as this and with cobblestone floors!

Well, we finally had it all the way out with the chicken coop, for those of you who already know the whole story.

After flipping it back over, we ended up tearing it apart and salvaging all its parts into a lumber pile for future use.  Then we disassembled the existing garage, leaving the walls intact in as large a pieces as we could manage to move around, and started building a brand-new chicken coop with them.

We used the Bobcat to pick them up and set them over the anchor bolts sticking up out of our stem wall.  It worked out quite nice, and within a day and a half we had all four walls standing up and braced and ready for roofing.

Ramon, Wade, and Daniel, for some reason in this photo, look to me like they are praying about something, and Ramon is leading the prayer.

Nothing wrong with that, I say.  I think Life IS a prayer, a prayer in the way we live and work and ARE with other beings.

Even chickens.

Not to mention baby Praying Mantises.  This little guy was present for the chicken coop ceremony, just prayin’ around, doin’ his thing.  I thought he deserved a curtain call.

This here is Wade continuing work on the AG House fascia.  What I was really trying to show here though, is…

…the cuts of fascia going around that there square beam protruding out.  Alex did this work and was proud of it, and rightly so.  Good job!

Now we start getting into a little bit more fun.  We rented a beam saw!  Doesn’t that sound exciting?  It really and truly was, especially for Randy and Alex, who got to use the thing.

This is Alex, double-saw-fisted, showing the difference in size between a regular skill saw and a beam saw.  The beam saw is pert near bigger, and a lot heavier.

The reason we needed the beam saw was to cut through the thick glulam material when making our new stair stringers.  Well, we need a way to more easily climb up on the deck and get to the whiskey barrel.

The glulam (which stands for “glue-laminated”) is an exterior grade Alaskan yellow cedar beam.  How we came to this type of beam specifically is simple.  Our span was longer than any solid lumber board at the lumber yard, and a glulam you can get at any length.  We are not using any type of treated wood on this site, yet code requires a rot-proof exterior grade material, which yellow cedar is.  And we needed something, for that long of a span, that provided more strength than a typical inch and a half dimensional 2x, like a 2×12, for example.  The glulam beam is more than 5″ thick, which is why we rented the beam saw.

Without the beam saw, we would have had to draw the entire layout on BOTH sides of each beam, make all the cuts down one side, flip the thing over, make all the cuts down the other side, and then still have the center part of the beam left to cut and finish off with a sawzall or a hand saw.  It was just easier and faster with the beam saw.  And more fun to boot!

Here they are, in all their shinin’ glory.  Now those are stair stringers to behold!  Nice job fellas!  They will now be oiled up all nice and perty with free oil I have been picking up at the hazardous waste and recycle facility near 63rd and Arapahoe.  If you’re needing anything from paint to stains to oils to cleaning agents and chemicals, they have a great store front with all these items and more free for the taking. 

We finally got around to installing interior doors too, in the Main House.  I don’t know where the Starek’s picked up these doors, but they are SUPER cool.  They are thick old slab wood, very rustic and hand-hewn looking, and naturally antiqued.

And don’t let him scare you, but notice John’s face peering through the little peek hole in the middle of the door.  On the other side, there is a miniature door with a latch on it so you can open it up and see who comes a’knockin’.

The doors came just as that too, just the doors.  There were no jambs or doorstops included.  So we made our own door jambs, and the stops we made out of our milled cut-offs.  We left the barked and irregular edge on one side for coolness.

This here is showing some more of the details going on with the adobe mud.  Alice and her daughter Emma and Emma’s boyfriend Gunnar have been doing a lot of this work.  Which reminds me, I need to get a picture of Emma and Gunnar in order to show the fullness of the family affair going on here.  I already have pictures of their sons Peter and Adam, but have not captured Emma yet.

But I will.

They all have been working very hard and doing an outstanding job.  Gunnar has done a lot of mud mixing and hauling, and everyone has gotten more than a little dirty spreading and sculpting mud.  It looks fabulous!

Well, for the Fourth of July week, I had 23, TWENTY-THREE!, family members come and stay with me, which is one of the many reasons I have been so negligent in the writing of this blog recently.  So sorry!

Below is a picture of the infamous day itself, the 4th.  And even though the state-wide fire ban disallowed the shooting off of fireworks on this and all days this summer, our little town of Ward still had its usual festivities of 4th of July Parade, Town Picture, and in general wackyness.

I asked Vidal, who owns a couple of horses and ponies, if he would bring up a horse and pony to my house for my family and children to ride, and to take in the parade with us.

This is me trying to ride bareback on Tonto, a race horse.  He had never been ridden bareback, nor had he been around all the ruckus which our little town provides.  He was a little freaked out to say the least. 

I fixed him all up and made him my Peace Pony, complete with Golden Eagle tail feathers and earth-pigment water paints.  Then, after 3 tries, I managed to jump up on him to try and ride.

Wrong!

As you can see, he did not like my idea!

Within 20 seconds he was done with me and went to showin’ me who was boss.  He reared up like a wild mustang, and both of us fell all the way to the ground, side by side, in the grass of my yard.  My daughter Ella took this shot while it was happening.

All I know is that I am super lucky that he did not land on top of me.  He could have crushed my lungs.  But as it is, I am unscathed.

Another little prayer, I sing to the Universe, that both me and the horse are alright.   It was a close call.

Sometimes we don’t know what makes us do what we do.  We don’t know why the flow flows where it flows.  All we can do is hang tight, go with it, and try to keep our composure so that we can make the best decisions possible under the circumstances; wait to make judgements until the smoke clears and we can see what is really going on.

The words of Abraham Maslow told me once that

“…[one] great lesson is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s backyard.”

That is true.  I see in the backyards I frequent, chickens, children working with mud, Praying Men and Mantises, and hard-earned sweat.

These things are sacred.  

So go on out there and be sacred, you can’t help it anyway.

Bluebird out.

My number is:  303-229-7202.

All the Way to Belize! June 8-June 18, 2012

Dear Gentle Readers,

A monumental task has been accomplished, and I have returned to dry land, very dry land, to tell the tale.  Running-rabbit Fine Art in Home Building, Inc. has been all the way to Belize, and back.

I was lucky enough to be a part of an incredible work mission between my daughter’s school here in Colorado, Nederland Middle-Senior High School, and their sister school in Belize, Central America, Faith Nazarene School, where we went for 10 days, committed to working 5 out of those ten, on our sister school in need of help.  Faith Nazarene School is an under-funded and poor school, parts of which was in major disrepair, and some of which simply needed some tidying up.  And tidy up we did!

We have travelled the long distance toward the equator, we have set up camp, we have painted, we have guttered, we have built, we have had trials and tribulations, we have cleaned up the land, we have made new friends and built new relationships, and we have returned to the high mountain with the story of success filling full our pockets and backpacks.

We have made a difference, not only to a school and community in need, but to ourselves, in ourselves, and for ourselves, by doing for others.  Numerous are the lessons me and my daughter, 23 other teenagers, and three other adults, have learned.

Please, grab some tea, sit down in a comfy chair with plenty of natural sunlight, and read the tale to be told.  If it was half the journey my mind has made it out to be, then you will not need the fire in the woodstove, for the fire shall burn in your heart as a result of reading of our accomplishments.

The tale begins with a nasty sounding alarm clock, beeping spitefully, at 2:30 AM on June 8, 2012.  By 5:30 in the morning we were already 2 hours plus from our mountain abode, at Denver International Airport, with all of our supplies.

What you see below is what I personally gathered as my share:  200 pounds of electrical supplies collected and salvaged off of my remodel job sites, from my home collection of junk, and from what I bought at ReSource Yard Boulder for a mere $20.  This suitcase was HEAVY, to say the least.  Too heavy, in fact, for the 50 lb limit without having to pay extra.  So I got there early and waited for everyone else.  As they each came up to the check-in counter to weigh in and get their boarding passes, if their suitcases did not weigh the full 50 lbs allowed, I started shoving electrical stuff into their suitcases until they each reached the 50 lb limit or close to it.  In this way, we were able to spread the weight out enough in everyone’s luggage that we didn’t have to pay anything extra.

In fact, as a group, the kids had been collecting supplies such as books, school supplies, clothing, tools, painting supplies, office supplies, paper, folders, etc., for a couple of months.  We asked each person to pack up all their own personal clothes and whatever else they were bringing, into their carry on bag.  That left all 28 of us with a free 50 lb stow away bag available to bring supplies.  So if you do the math, and in the end we probly had an average weight for all 28 bags of approximately 40 lbs. each, we took around 1,120 lbs of materials, supplies, equipment, and tools with us all the way to Belize, Central America.

The reason for the electrical supplies is due to the fact that free public school in Belize only goes to the 6th grade level.  After that, to continue into High School, a family has to pay the equivalent of about 1/3 their annual income per child for them to be able to go.  So most families simply cannot afford to send their kids through high school.  Thus, at a very young age, kids go into the orchards to pick oranges, or into the jungles to cut back the bush for more orchards, or to alcohol or to nothing.

So there is a program there that takes promising young kids with the interest in becoming an electrician, and teaches them the trade.  But the country and the program is so poor, that they dont even have the electrical tools and supplies to teach the kids.  So we were told how helpful it would be to get all the switches and receptacles and metal electrical boxes we could get our hands on.  So I scrounged up all I thought we could bring.  It was about 200 lbs worth.  The reason they wanted metal electrical boxes is due to the fact that the majority of all building that goes on in Belize is done with concrete.  And in concrete construction, you have to have metal electrical boxes.

So anyway, we left high elevation mountain dry and cool weather (I mean I was wearing pants and socks and long sleeve shirt from my house to the airport) to hot and sticky and humid and buggy and itchy climate in a matter of a few hours.  This is us having just landed and walked into the Belize City Airport, no air conditioning.

This is the plane we just got off.  There were no air conditioned portable and enclosed walkways from the airplane to the inside of the airport.  It was get right off the plane and onto the ground, suddenly encompassed in a neverending and unrelenting heat and wet that lasted the entire time we were there and until we climbed back onto the plane to go home and they shut the door.

After going through Customs and getting out of the airport, we had a bus waiting for us with, as far as we know, the Best Bus Driver in the Whole Wide World, named Miguel.  We piled in with all our gear, all our 1,120 lbs of supplies, and our tired and hot and sweaty bodies, and settled in for about a 2 hour ride to an organic eco-farm called Hummingbird Haven, where we spent our first 2 nights acclimating.

This here is Hummingbird Haven, an absolutely awesome and wonderful place to stay.  It has a magnificent running river for swimming, full blown jungle, and all kinds of edible foods growing all around.  I saw bananas, cashews, pineapple, bread fruit, star fruit, papaya, coconut, and more with my very own eyes.  We ate a little bit of all of those things, but we ate the most of banana.  They were shorter and fatter than what we are used to.  They were not plantains, although there were plantains too, they were just different.  And they tasted ever so good.  I never had so many banana pancakes in all my life.  I don’t even like pancakes.

As soon as we got there and the kids threw their bags into their rooms, it was right to the river they went.  And DANG did it feel good, until I suddenly heard some of them start screaming.  They swam under this log here and caught their first glimpse of jungle wildlife!  This mack daddy was significant.  Bigger than our daddy long legs.  But they eventually chilled out, moved away from the spider, and carried on.

This here is Jaime and his son James Bond.  That’s what he named him.  They speak Spanish, but if you ask the name of the boy, he will tell you James Bond in a funny accented sort of way.  Jaime lives and works on the farm and he knows a lot about the bush and the medicines and herbs and edible foods that grow there.  Here he was giving my daughter Ella some advice on chopping open a coconut with a big machete.

This was the view from our rooms.  Stunningly beautiful.  Made you want to go for a walk out there, in the jungle.  But no.  Period.  There is no way.  It simply is too thick to walk anywhere, not even one step, beyond the edge of that grass there.  Not to mention the fact that there are poisonous snakes out there yonder.  But I still wanted to go out there.

Our first two nights there we were treated to the delicious cooking of Donya and her adopted daughter, Donyita.  They are local Mennonites who live close by, and they served us up a traditional Belizean meal with nothing less than handmade flour tortillas.  In fact, all of us had the opportunity to roll and pat out our own personal tortillas and cook them ourselves.  It was a lot of work for so many people, but way worth it and a great memory maker.

We had chicken and rice and some Belizean dessert I don’t know, and man it hit the spot.  I learned while being there that the Mennonites came in a long time ago once the English had been in and taken all the hardwood lumber that they wanted.  Hardwoods were, and still are, a huge money maker.  So in the wake of all the lumber clearing, a lot of free and open land was left for the taking to be easily farmed, which is when the Mennonites came in.

They now have all kinds of their own communities in the bush where they farm and raise animals and live off the land.  They convert Belizeans to their religion, but in a lot of cases, they do not give back to the community as much as they could.  They have their own compounds, their own mini-villages, and do their own thing.  I saw them riding around in their horse drawn covered wagons and everything.  The women and girls wear heavy fabric hand-made dresses, white caps, and leather shoes toes covered.  The men wear hand-made heavy cloth black pants, button-up shirts, suspenders, and a particular kind of hat.  Their hands are very worn and tough and dirty.  You can tell they earn their keep.  But they will hardly even look at you let alone speak to you.  They looked at me as strangely as I had to be looking at them.  They have lots of babies too.  I wish I could have taken a picture of them, but I didn’t want to be rude.

Donya was not from a village of Mennonites.  She lived her own way with a non-Mennonite husband.  But they obviously still had converted and considered themselves Mennonites.

This is Little Donya, or Donyita, twirling around in her matching dress and hat.  A miniature of her momma.

My first night going to bed I found a new friend in my bed.  Among others.  But this guy was the biggest.  That’s one thing I learned real quick:  you HAVE TO check your bed and sheets before getting into bed.  You HAVE TO!  There were scorpions, spiders by the hundreds, uncountable flying and buzzing things, and creepy crawly doesn’t EVEN begin to name all the other possibilities that were wanting to sleep with me.  And there was no stopping them.  You basically got to clean them out when you first crawled in and went to bed, but after that, all you could do was close your eyes, try to fall asleep, and hope (dream) for the best!

This photo is the result of our one and only experience going into the bush.  Another guy who lived on the farm, Cameron, led us into the jungle and to this hidden waterfall and pool, and man was it breathtakingly AWESOME!

And then we were off to work.

This was our destination, The School.  Located in a town called San Ignacio, Cayo District, it is a run down under-funded and very poor school serving some of the community’s poorest citizens.  This is a school where even hunger is a reality.

This is the “Before” picture of the school.  I estimated it out to be around 6000 sf of school building floor space, so even more wall and walkway space, which we painted all new, with 2 colors.

The first day we had come up with a plan of attack as far as dividing up all 24 teenagers and ourselves, the four adult chapperones, into groups with their own sections to paint, colors, brushes and rollers and pans, and all the motivation we could muster.

But as soon as the Belizean students came to school, and in between classes and at breaks and lunch, they swarmed down on us like ants on honey, and practically made it impossible to work efficiently, or even work at all.

The children wanted to help us, talk to us, play with us, hang on us, ask a million questions about us, and just be with us.  It was a beautiful thing to witness.  Most of the children spoke English, Creole, and Spanish.  So our kids could communicate with most of them.  But they were fascinated with our kids’ clothes, their jewelry, their backpacks and glasses, our hair and eye colors, and just everything.  It must have been mind-churning for our kids to consider these questions and see such raw and new interest in things we take for granted everyday.

It seemed at times like there must have been hundreds of kids running and screaming and playing and helping and asking all around us.  You can imagine wet paint everywhere, the students in their uniforms, pans and pales of paint everywhere,…  It was a mess.  I can only imagine what some of the students’ parents said when their children came home with paint all over their dresses and shirts and pants and skin.

We did not have the luxury of a school not in session, or a school that was closed for our work.  We just had to try and ignore the fact that school was going on, try our best not to disturb class any more than necessary, and get the job done.  But it was hard.

Our kids, of course, wanted to play soccer with them, give them piggy back rides, just hang and talk with them, etc.  How could they not!  It was absolutely awesome for all kids involved.  They all enjoyed each other so much that lots of new relationships were made.  It’s true they may not ever see each other again, but the memories will last forever.  Some of our kids gave away their sunglasses and other things that they just wanted to share.  One of our kids even bought a kid a new pair of shoes he really wanted because it happened to be his birthday.  And what’s more, is that when the little kid went home that night with a new pair of shoes, the mother actually took them away from him, and brought him and the shoes into school the next day, and tried to give them back to our student who had bought them.  The mother thought her son had stolen the shoes!  So our student explained to the mother that no, he really had gifted them to her son and that he really wanted to do it.

So she gave in, and the kid got to keep his new pair of canvas converse all stars. 

After getting all the painting going on as best we could, me and Timex set out to install gutters all along the front of the building where the walkways are.  As it is now, the water from rain, which there is A LOT of, just comes splashing down all over the place, soaking children and teachers alike, ruining the paint, and just making things unnecessarily miserable.

We had no good tie-offs.  We had one rope.  We had a cordless drill with weak batteries.  We had a SUPER hot tin metal roof to lay on under the beating sun.  This here is Timex hanging about 25 feet above the ground by his arm pits.  For this section of roof, I had a rope tied around his waist, strung over the roof behind him, and tied to a fence down on the ground.  And I am right under him as a back-up and handing him screws as he moves down the eave installing the gutter clips.

Not long after this, and while all the painting was going on right underneath us, it started raining.  We had nearly an entire section of handrail painted and the rain completely washed it away.  There were two colors of paint running down the sidewalks, dripping from the second level walkway down to the first, and making color puddles all over the ground. 

And then the bell rang, and a hundred kids came out and trompled it all around even more, got it all over their skin and clothes, played and splashed in it for fun, and in general made a messy situation into a comical one.  You couldn’t help but to just laugh.  There was nothing else you could do.  Except to start all over, which we did.

You can see below the gutters as they looked installed.  They are white plastic and will make all the difference in the world.  There were not enough downspouts to get all of them all the way to the ground, but at least the rain will now be consolidated into just a couple of water outlets, rather than splashing all over up and down the walkways.

This is the back side of the building, and you can see some of the obstacles we overcame to get the job done.  We were on a mission to paint this building, and by george that’s what we did.  We had all the best climbers and people not afraid of heights doing this wall.  That’s Liam at the far end, my daughter Ella bending over, or doing yoga or something,  :-), and then Diego and Sam moving this way.  And that’s Mackenzie standing down on the ground.  They all did an amazing job all said and done.  It was a TON of work.

Actually, just imagine the cleaning up everyday of 30 paint brushes, a dozen rollers and pans, pales, hands and bodies, etc.  It was crazy.  But we got’er done.

In fact, another project we managed to accomplish was the building of a new outdoor school room for expelled and troubled students.  Students who are actually in trouble with the law, the police, and who will take classes in this room with a police officer.  Remember, this is a school of kindergarten through 6th grade.  SIXTH!  THE LAW!  POLICE! 

Good gawd, that seems crazy.  It is crazy. 

We were given a stack of treated posts, 2×4’s, and 1x material and told to put something together on an existing old foundation the best we could.  And we had not much time.  The foundation was very old and falling apart.  There were old and rusty rebar spikes sticking out of it.  I had a saw, a broken tape measure, a pen and pencil, two guys (Timex and Joe), and a police officer.   That’s right, we had a police officer sort of guarding us the entire time.  He helped out and gave his suggestions on what he was after.  I don’t know why I don’t have a picture of him.  He was a very nice guy.

We threw level and plumb and square out of the way first thing.  Then we divided up the posts evenly between the corners, doors, and wall space.  We did away with double top plates all the way around.   And we worked fast.  When it was time for us to go that afternoon, all the painters had cleaned up and were ready to go, we were so pumped on adrenaline that we opted to stay longer.  Three other boys wanted to stay and help too, Jaden, Jake, and Luke, and together we took the thing all the way through the roof all on the first day.  We worked til I think 6:30 pm.   And in the rain.  We roofed the thing at the end of the day in the rain.  We didn’t care.  We wanted it done.  And it did get done.

These pictures were taken the second day, the day after we had roofed in the rain.  Standing L-to-R is:  Timex, Joe, me, Jaden, Luke, and Jake.  Jaden has a tape measure on his head.

The police officer was so excited about how fast we built it, he went to the store on the second day and had hardwood planks like full dimension 2×12 treated hardwood beams brought over and said he wanted us to make a bench and writing “desk” all the way around.  So the second day, that’s what we did.  It actually only took a half day, but you can see the stomach high writing plank and rustic bench travelling all the way around the new room.  The room measured roughly 12’x26′ I think.

But that whole deal, the new room, roof, desk and benches, we pulled off in a day and a half.  And man did my back hurt that second day.  It was a rough day for me.  I’m not as young as I used to be.

Here is my daughter Ella Wren happily covered in paint.  Oh, and I just noticed how Jenna does not look very happy in the background.  And you notice how that kid is literally hanging off of Jenna, this is how LOTS of the Belize students were.  Some of our kids could not get them to stop doing this to them.  They demanded your attention and were not going to be denied.  It was interesting to see how each kid dealt with this.  Some went along no problem.  Others could not get away from them and did not know how to ask them to stop.  I observed a lot of this dynamic.

I’m not sure who painted this, but it is absolutely beautiful.  I just love it, good job!

We added lots of touches like these to the school.  Really fancied it up.

This entire sign and the two black figures were painted by Amber, who has on the white shirt and red bandanna around her neck.  It also is fantastic! 

You can see above the sign the windows into a classroom.  There are no windows, only shutters.

One morning, actually on our last morning if I remember correctly, a local man came up to our bus and asked permission to come in and speak to the children about AIDS.

One of the other chapperones told him it would be better if he wanted to come into our lunchroom where we were all congregating for a meeting.  He told us that he was embarrased of how we was dressed.  He looked kind of like a homeless guy.  They told him not to worry and everybody came in and the man was ushered to the front to say what he had to say.  I’m not sure if anybody knew exactly what he wanted to say, but he felt safe enough to let into our group.

He went up and started off by saying we was a victim of AIDS, and how terribly his own country treated him because of it, and that he could not get hired for a job, could not get an education, could not pay for his medications for his disease, and was basically on a downward spiral to nowhere.

BUT, he had this genuine shark’s tooth necklace that he was hoping to sell to someone who heard his story, his story not of shame and blame and pity, but a story of hey, this is how one can turn out with just a few bad decisions, a few missed opportunities; a story of being smarter, making better decisions, and taking advantage of opportunity.  This man had a story of making the world a better place for humans, and with only $2.50 American money, he would have enough to buy his daily medication he needed in order to live with AIDS for one more day.

And it was quite a nice necklace.  I gave him $20 for it, thanked him for his story, and then gave it to Jake to give to one of the little Belize students.  But Jake had other intentions.  He is the proud new owner himself of a unique shark’s tooth necklace!  Lookin’ good there bub!

Some of our students managed to make time to plant a garden.  We actually bought several plants and bushes and such to try and spiffy up the school grounds, instill beauty and pride.

The pride and cleanliness thing was probly the hardest thing to overcome.  We could spend the first 20-30 minutes of our day cleaning up the school grounds of trash and debris, and then as soon as the kids came out to play and eat lunch and snacks, the trash and litter was right back again.  They seemed to not even notice we were cleaning it up.

So we painted a few reminders to help them remember!  :-)

Another reminder…

And on our last day, we were visited by a surprise visitor who had a special project for us to do.  His name is Fernando, and he is a local mural artist and painter in general.  He brought over his personal collection of paints and brushes and other goods, and asked us each to paint our “signatures” on a back wall of the school.

So that’s what we are all doing in this shot.  And that is Fernando there in the blue jean shorts and his hair all pulled up on top of his head, probly keeping it clear of the paint!

This is Ella’s signature, an image of the mountains where we live, Eldora ski runs up high, and the Barker Reservoir in Nederland  down below.  Very nice job!

And this is my signature, the 4 Direction symbol, with 4 Golden Eagle tail feathers shooting off in the four directions.

I’m pretty sure it was on our last day of working on the school that Holden and me were walking through the playground to go look at fixing the swing set, and a board that we walked over had a sound come out from underneath it.  It was this cat.  Nothing but skin and bones and practically on the verge of dying.

In the end, we got the cat shots, cleaned and fed and watered her, gave her a name (Nazarene, after the school), bought it a one way plane ticket to the states, and imported the thing back to the mountains of Colorado.  They call her Nazzy for short.  One never knows, this could be the very first ever Belizean cat to get imported and transplanted back here in the states!

This is most of our group who went on the work mission trip.  It was taken on our last day, right before saying good-bye to our new friends.  The black girl you see in the pink shirt between Julie and Lori, her name is Birdie.  She is one of the expelled and troubled students who will have classes in our new room with the police officer.

While we were there working, Birdie was asked to join our group and work, to help us out everyday instead of just be expelled with nothing to do.  She was a hard worker and worked as hard as us and everyday on whatever we were working on.  She was so sad when we left.  She had become a part of us.  I have no idea what she did to get expelled.

This is the “after” shot, last day before leaving, with all the painting and guttering done.  It doesn’t quite do justice to the actual difference it made to the school as a whole.  The school definitely looks better than it did when we first got there!

This here is Mr. and Sir Bob Trausch, peace activist extraordinaire.  He was the person who orchestrated all the work that we did.  He was the one who saw the need in the first place.  He was the one who personally raised the more than $15,000 in materials and supplies and paint and lumber and gutters and roofing for us to do what we did.  This is an honorable 74 year old man who continually and never-endingly sees needs in the world, takes steps to address the needs through fundraising and organizing, and simply having the courage to stand up and say “Hey!  Something’s not right here!”  and doing something about it.  He is truly an inspiration.

In fact, by the time we had left and arrived back to Houston, TX to change planes, Lori was on the phone with him and he was already at another school back in Belize that had several wheel chair-bound students who could not attend school due to a lack of wheel chair ramps.  He was already figuring out how much money and what it would take to get some ramps built at the school for those students.  Incredible!  And for no other reason than that is what fills his love tank.  He wants to help, and he is driven.  And he does not accept impossibilities.

I should give a nod to our students’ fundraising as well.  For all 24 of our students, myself and 3 other adult chapperones, we had to raise $50,400.00 to get us their, accommodate us, feed us, move us from one location to another, and get us back home.  FIFTY THOUSAND!  And we did it.  The kids had bake sales, worked for money at odd jobs, asked neighbors and family, just whatever it took.  But our kids own that accomplishment, and we own the accomplishments of what we did while in Belize.  An incredible and life-long experience and memory.

This is me and Ella saying good-bye to the island of Caye Caulker, where we spent the last 2 nights of our trip.  This was on our way home.  Another father-daughter feather in the hat.

This is the kind of thing I want Running-rabbit Fine Art in Home Building, Inc. to be about.  Helping where there is a need for help.  And getting nothing in return for our efforts other than new pillars that help to hold up the character of who we are becoming.  This time it happened to be in Belize, but next time it might be right around the corner or down the block.

I believe we are in this world for more than money, and for this company at least, we build more than houses.  We build communities, relationships, character, integrity, and self-esteem.  These are some of the values of my company, and these are the values shown by everyone who went on this trip.

It was our destiny to be together on this trip.  In fact, George Dana Boardman once said:

“Sow an act, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a character; sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”

I don’t like as much the saying that says “you are what you eat,” but I do like the above quote, which I read as “you are what you do,” or “you are what you act.”

We ARE what we do.

So, kind readers, step on out there, do something good, and build upon the good character and destiny of our neighborhoods and communities. 

For it is those same neighborhoods and communities that make up the entire World…

Bluebird out.

My number:  303-229-7202.

Who Will Care for the Empire?…through 5/31/2012

Oooh boy.  The building police were here again today.  But lookey how they come all drivin’ up in a Hybrid, no less.  Show-offs.  But green show-offs, at least.  I like it.  I don’t think hybrids are the key to anything, batteries always have their costs, maintenance, and downsides.  Not to mention it takes coal, more times than not, to charge them up in an on-grid home.  But if you were to charge the batteries up at my house, now that would be righteous.  Solar charged from the Sun direct.  Actually, if the hybrids just stepped it up another notch and became Purebred Solar Electric, then THAT would be something.

As it is though, this car simply brings Robin, the building officer,  out to the job site, in a half green sort of way.  Which is better than a no green sort of way.  Alice is chuckling I think because she knows I am trying to steal a photo of them without them noticing.  It didn’t work…

One morning this week I went to Gold Hill first thing in the morning on my way down down down the mountain.  We are getting ready to help Karel and Alice’s old next door neighbor up there, Nana, to rebuild her house, which also burned down in the Four Mile Fire.  My Project Manager, Margot, has been volunteering a lot of her time in the design, engineering, and budgeting of the project.  And now we are going to let Nana have 3 members of our crew, Alex, Wade, and Ramon, for a discounted fire victim price.  Her budget is way tight, and her insurance company didn’t exactly treat her right.  In fact she has a shame on you naughty naughty billboard spray painted in HUGE letters right across her burned basement slab.  So you literally could read it by flying directly overhead, like from a plane.

Anyhoos, notice all the green in this photo.  Come Labor Day it will be 2 years since.  It now is really starting to regrow with vigor.  I saw trees, even, that you would’a thunk burned and dead, all black and charred.  But at the tippy top, little green buds were popping out like popcorn.  I would say somebody, or something, is looking out for the Empire.

This is the Stareks’ old house site.  Those monster-sized panels you see are their old solar hot water panels.  Somehow, they did not burn.  They don’t have any water to heat anymore, true, but they did not get burned.  Nana’s burned house site is just beyond those panels.  And that’s Nana’s tent, where she is currently living, and has been living, for 2 years now.  She is certainly taking care of her empire.  She refuses to leave her burned property.  She will stay there, and she will rebuild, one way or another.  She has fought the insurance company, cleaned up her burned house and site, designed and even drawn some of the building plans from which we will build and that she submitted to Boulder County for approval, and is just one determined lady.  We are glad to be helping out.

This iron fencing, like rocks, also remained unhurt from the fire.  A little black and charred, but still full of integrity for future use.  Or just to leave right there, pretty as it is.

For those of you who don’t live round here, I stopped in my truck to show you what it looks like, if you stop and turn around and look back behind you, when leaving Gold Hill toward Boulder.  That there is the Continental Divide, bigger than Dallas, in all its glory.  Pert near fortunate, I feel, to live here and get to look at scenes like this on my way up and down the mountain.

Down here we have  the third story loft framing going on in the AG House.  That’s Adam and Daniel there with their framing hats on.  We are moving right along…

This here is showing the AG House fascia.  Mister and Wade started out on this side, but Wade has now been doing the majority of it by himself.  It really, REALLY, looks nice.

Here’s Pancho himself, in the act, get’n’er done.

Dang!  This looks gorgeous!  Lovin’ this stuff guys, good job!  Vidal and Ramon are going to start oiling it very soon.  Tomorrow I will try to get by Western Disposal’s commercial yard to have a looksy at what they got.  Every Wednesday at the Boulder yard is hazardous materials/recyclables day:  paints and batteries and computers and stains and cell phones and motor oil and wood oils, like tung and linseed.  Which is there for the taking.  I’ve been there and seen as much as 15 gallons of free linseed oil, for example.  So tomorrow I try to score us some free oil of various kinds.  And if there are more than one kind, we just mix them together to make one consistent color and we’re off to the races.

I should’a caught a picture of this only a day earlier.  Jesse had his machine taken all apart.  You would’a thought he was changing out the motor as many parts and such were laying scattered about.  His machine started over-heating and he couldn’t figure out why.  But after super detailed inspection he found the radiator was all plugged up with clay and straw.

We basically surmised that doing the clay liner all around the raised leach fields put a lot of clay dust inside the radiator thing.  Then rain and other moisture wet it down and it hardened.  But all the while this was going on with the clay, loose straw was also getting blown or sucked up there, mixing with the wet clay, then getting stuck in there as the clay dried and hardened.  It was like his radiator had been adobed, the same as they’re putting on the houses now.  And to get inside the engine housing that deep to where the problem was, was a chore and a half.  But he did it, and now we’re back up and runnin’.

We have also moved our temporary electrical panel from the Main House to the AG House.  We had our electrician put this together for us at the very beginning of the job.  On a building site such as this, with as many skill saws and compressors and nail guns and table saws and mitre saws and planers and such, we need to have our own dedicated electrical supply.  There’s hardly any other way.  This one has 8 plug-ins coming off a 2 gauge wire 100 feet long so we can move it around wherever we want it.

This is the Main House service panel sinched up tight to the bale wall.  We basically have 1/4″ all-thread running through the back of the metal box and all the way through the bale wall.  Then you put a 1″-2″ washer on each end with a nut, and sinch’er tight.  And once an inch and a half of adobe goes on the bales around that box, it will be sitting on an adobe shelf as well as captured all the way around the box.  It becomes very permanent and strong.  And of course we have to fill that hole back in, wet and compact it, and it’ll be done. 

This is standing in the living room of the Main House, looking out the bay window.  The “couch” you see there is straw bales covered over with adobe.  In the end it will be a lot smoother and probly covered with cushions and pillows stuffed with sheep’s wool sheared right off their own sheep they raised and grew on the farm.  You can do anything you want, I guess, when you’re in charge of your own empire.  Which, my attitude is, that we all ARE in charge of our own empires.

This right here is a cool deal.  This is a hand-made draining/drying shelf made by Rick Maddox of Albatross Woodcrafters.  It is made from a plank of wood we milled right here on site, from a tree from this site too.  I think it is the Cottonwood.  But it hangs directly over the kitchen sinks, three of them like commercial style, so they can set their washed and wet dishes up there to…

…drip dry and drain through these holes and right into the sinks.  Very cool Rick and Alice!  Super neat.

This here is the bay window to the AG House that Alex finished up this week.  Custom milled posts between the windows and boy howdy it looks nice.  Well done Alex!

I’m trying to show the Sharkskin roofing underlayment going in this photo, but I can’t keep my eyes off that fascia.  Man that stuff looks great!  Dang.  But yeah, check out that underlayment!  :-)  Fernando and his helper are doin’ that job.  This particular Sharkskin is a self-adhesive type.  It has its own adhesive, which is food grade, by the way, that sticks it right down to the deck.  Perty nice stuff.

Well, there was a harvest, a beet harvest it looked like, and carrots and onions, put on by the farmers who are still living in the original farm-house.  Farm workers come usually in the afternoons with all their booty they’ve collected from another farm at another location, to wash, sort, and bunch them together.  They take 3 or 4 different kind of colorful beets, one red one gold one white one yellow, or three beets and a large carrot, rubberband them together in a pretty presentation, and sell them at the farmer’s market.  They also use them in their own restaurant, farm-to-table style.  They truly are beautiful vegetables, like giant edible gems.  Makes one want to consider becoming a vegetarian.  Not really.  But maybe.

The Earth is an Empire.  We are all its caretakers, whether we are farmers or builders or office chair workers.  It doesn’t matter what job a person has, or where they live, or how much money they have.  It is up to ALL of us to be caretakers of this planet, and beyond.

In fact, I once heard (in a dream) William Wordsworth say:

“The poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time.” 

The Earth is an Empire.  We are an Empire.  We take care of each other.  And so I say,

“He who loves the world as his body may be entrusted with the empire.”

And likewise,

“He who loves his body as the world may be entrusted with the empire.”

Because they are one in the same.  What we do unto the Earth we do unto ourselves.  And what we do unto others we do unto ourselves.

Help us to build this Empire we call Earth, along with everything contained there-on and there-within, in an entrusted way.  May we all be entrusted with the care of the Empire.  Everyone’s Empire.

Bluebird out.

My number is:  303-229-7202.

Almost Never Counts…, through May 25, 2012

…except for in horseshoes and with hand grenades…

In building, you cannot just “almost” do something.  You cannot almost build a house.  You cannot almost finish a job.  You cannot almost remodel something.  We are not an almost sort of company.  We are not almost good people.  And we do not almost have integrity in what we do.

We throw ringers and we use bows and arrows.

This here is a closer up shot of the adobe shaping going on at the Main House.  This is Alice’s handy work.  Getting more and more voluptuous all the time.  Absolutely lovin’ it!

This is a detail shot of one of the Studio’s four “corners.”  Ain’t like any corner I ever saw before.  That’s what makes it cool!  As a reminder, what you’re looking at is called the scratch coat.  It is very rough and coarse, providing great means for adhesion by the smoother finish coat. 

Down here is a window of the Studio.  As you can see, the adobe has the ability to give your window “trim” any kind of shape in the whole wide world.  It makes the connection between the bale walls and the window framing.  It gives the bale-to window-to door-to log posts-to soffit-to log beams-to…whatever.  It gives continuity to and around the whole house.  And it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Any ol’ body can do it.  No experience required.  It’s fun and gritty.  And if by chance you have even a half ounce of creativity in you, well by gawd, you can do just about anything you want.

This is a corner of the Main House.  Once it’s all said and done you will see adobe, partial post, and partial 45 degree brace.  And up at the very top, right underneath that soffit and big steel angle iron, is a nest…

…made out of adobe mud by the architect’s hands themselves.  Alice thought, why not, they’re already building nests in our straw bale walls anyway, I love the birds, how ’bout I give them a permanent nest that they can keep.  Show them they are welcome.  Sounds nice, I thought.  Great idea.

Well well well, finally after forever and a day, the three-field, raised septic bed is complete, inspected, passed, shaped, and now planted with both fruit trees and native grasses.  Some 500 trees, to be exact.  They got apple and pear and gorgonzola and gouda trees.  What, you never heard of cheese growing trees?  Well, neither have I.  But I forgot what all kinds of trees Karel told me they had planted, so I started making up some that I would like to have.  I guess I should’a included money trees too.

Here is a neat perspective of the Studio and Main House beyond.  Really gives you a good look at all the neat shapes and how the yards are all cleaned up now.  We pert near groomed everything and had all ground surfaces scratched up in preparation for seeding and tree planting.  The whole place has really taken on a new identity.  It is becoming The Golden Hoof Farm whole-heartedly, and in earnest.  With lots of love labor and sweat equity.  In my book, it’s a real and true place.  Worked for.  Heart and Soul.  By everyone there.

This has been one of my tasks over the past week.  This is called an HRV, or Heat Recovery Ventilator.  In a nutshell, what this thing does is:  1.)  pulls fresh air from outside and filters it;  2.)  sucks stale air from the inside and extracts the heat out of it before blowing the stale air outside;  3.)  adds the recovered heat from the stale air to the incoming fresh air from the outside;  4.)  and blows this filtered, fresh, and warmed air back into the living space.  It continually recirculates the air of a building without losing any of the heat.

This is another advantage to using a versatile contractor and company.  The more kinds of things like this that we can do ourselves, eliminates the need for extra sub-contractors or plumbers or mechanical companies to do this work for us.  We do as much of the work “in-house” as possible.  This not only saves our clients lots of money, it gives us more work  also.  And let’s face it, the times have been a bit rough for lots of people out in the construction trades.  Work is a precious thing to come by.  We count our blessings everyday. 

Wade and Jonathon have been busting out the fascia on the AG House this week.  That’s Wade there with Randy above him.  I love how this fascia looks.  Way cool!

Our deconstruction days are not over, to say the least.  This here is, or was, the original garage.  It now be no more.  Vidal and Ramon are taking it down.  The white lap siding that was covering its walls has been salvaged by our plumber Vern.  He came and got it today to re-use on some sort of building he has been building on his property.  We were going to donate it to ReSource Yard anyways.  So I am glad he took it.  Saved us some labor from having to move it too.  We just took it off the garage and piled it up right there.  Then Vern pulled up and loaded it single-handedly.  We didn’t need to help.

In addition, all the switches and receptacles and plastic boxes and wire nuts and the like, my daughter and I will be taking with us to Belize to a sister school there who is in great need of these types of electrical components.  We go there starting on June 8 for ten days.  One half of every day there has been committed to working on, remodelling, painting, and in general refurbishing of the school there.  It is in disrepair.  All these parts would also have been donated to ReSource.  And this need I was just informed about by the people who are organizing the trip.  So it works out perfect.  I’ll be taking an entire suitcase filled with old salvaged electrical parts and odds and ends.

Here is the current Studio adobe crew:  left-to-right is Heinrich (hope I spelled that correctly!), Walter Rumpf, Alice, and Adam.  Heinrich is a German foreign exchange student who lives with Karel and Alice.  Walter is a friend of Adam’s and a budding Green Building pioneer and extraordinaire.  Walter also has a blog going about this building site and out-of-the-box Green Building dynamics in general.  You can visit his site at www.starekfarmproject.blogspot.com.  And of course, Alice and Adam are mother-son, with Alice being the owner and architect, and Adam being a carpenter in training, as well as a Contractor in training.  If he wanted to take it that far, that is.  He certainly has all the potential in the world.  He’s like a painter with brush in hand, empty canvas in view.  Just checkin’ it all out, waiting to see what he wants to paint.

Here’s a close-up of Walter gettin’ down and dirty with the mud.  That’s half the fun of it.  It’s earthy, reminds you of where you come from, what’s revolving right there underneath our feet.  But basically, you just start smashing the mud right into the bales, filling gaps and cracks, finishing off edges around other surfaces like wood soffit, doors, and windows.  And like I said, if’n you want to, just plain old making fun shapes.  You, too, can be a sculptor of mud.  A Gaudi, of adobe.

Now tell me she doesn’t look pleased!  It’s on her face, in her hair, on her hands, clothes, and ears.  She loves to give people hugs too when she’s like that.  I try to stay clear of her when she’s all mudded over like that.  I’m just kidding.  None of it’s true.

Well, one more Friday Council.  This one on the ground, though.   Starting left-to-right at bottom is:  Randy, Vidal, Ramon, Wade, Jonathon Mister, Alex, Daniel, and Adam.  I’m takin’ the picture.  We chatted it up a bit and cooled off under the shade tree, but then we went right to throwin’ shoes.  And man o man, what a game did we have.  You won’t believe the miracle come back win that occurred…

What you’re looking at here is Adam’s winning shot.  We’re talkin’ a Michael Jordan-style horseshoe shot.  What happened, is I threw the blue shoe that you see.  It was a game-winning ringer.  My ringer made the score 12-10, me and Ramon win by two.  But Adam had the last shot.  He threw the white one that you see, and it not only was a ringer itself, but it knocked my ringer completely off.  This made the final score 13-9, Adam and Daniel won by four.  It was an incredible shot.

So, like I said at the beginning of the blog, we are not out to do anything “almost.”  We throw ringers, and we use bows and arrows.  We also just keep trying and keep an open mind.  One way or another, we will figure out the best way to get the job done.  We will succeed.

In fact, Michael Jordan himself once said:

“I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  26 times I’ve been trusted to make the game winning shot, and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”

So keep shooting people, never give up.  The world needs us.  We got a lot of living to do.

Bluebird out.

My number is:  303-229-7202.

There are no Problems, only Opportunities, through May 18, 2012

Well, howdy doo!

Yes, I am catching up, as promised.  This post is still a week behind though.  So I not done yet.  Just a’catchin’ my breath.

This here is Mister sawin’ a hole through a bale wall in the Main House.  The swamp cooler will go through there.  One thing that is nice about bale walls is that they are easily modifiable.  We basically build and stack each wall as if there is nothing going through them anywhere.  Then, when the time is right, we come back and do what we need.  A simple hand-saw like you see Mister holding is all that’s needed usually.  Sometimes we use tin snips to cut out notches or shapes into a bale, like a square hole shape to hold an electrical box, for example.  We may even use the electric chainsaw to cut a groove down a wall for a water or electric line too.

This swamp cooler is 12 volt DC, which is totally cool.  I would’ve never even guessed you could get a swamp in DC.  But if it’s out there, Alice will find it.  She’s good at that, the investigative work.  In our dry and cool climate swamp coolers work real good.  They basically pull the warm and stale air out of the house, pass it through a wet filter-like pad inside the unit, and then blows it back into the house cooled off.  It requires the windows to be cracked or open though, so that when the swamp is pulling the warm air through it wet pad, fresh mountain air can be sucked in.  That is the one thing to using a swamp versus an air conditioner:  a swamp requires opening windows, an AC unit requires windows to be shut.

This unit will sit on the second level exterior deck, right under an eave.  It will have a 12 volt power feed and its own water line for the cooling pad run right to it.  All three of these house will have both 12 volt DC and 120 volt AC run to various parts of the house.  A combination of off-grid and grid-tied.  If ever Boulder County loses power for whatever reason, like high wind or heavy snow breaking a public power line somewhere, the most important items are off grid DC so that they can keep on runnin’.  Items that will be run DC are some lights, some receptacles, the fridge, and the solar hot water pump.  Hot showers are ALWAYS nice.

Here is a quick shot of Terry the plumber extraordinaire.  He is now working in the Main House.  Right here he has been laying out the Master Bath on the second level.  The electrical lines and boxes you see hanging all around him are where the walls will eventually go.  I bet there are not many plumbers and electricians out there who have to rough-in their stuff in walls that are not even there yet.  We’re all about challenge around here.  One of my company work mottos I give to the guys all the time, in fact to the point that they are always telling it to me now, is “There are no problems, only opportunities.”  And this, we believe.

Which is how you end up with a plumber who rides a motorcycle to work.  Now tell me that’s not a first!  This is Terry’s bike, with basket in tow, perhaps even filled up with plumbing fittings on occasion.  The problem, in this situation, is that gas is so gawd dern expensive.  And the work is hard to come by.  The opportunity:  to be the first plumber in the world to figure out how to ride a motorcycle to work and still have all the things you need to get’er done.  Terry brought in his big job box one day and all his tools and set them up on the site.  Then he made one huge order from the plumbing supply house and had them deliver.  Then he put a big ol’ smile on his face, and filled up his bike with gas for about $15.

This here is a first-time shot of the Main House from this angle.  We now have the AG House standing up to its ridge, which is where this picture is taken from.  We have not had that until now.  I think it is a neat perspective.  It really shows the roundness of the house.  It almost looks like a silo shape from this side.  Beautiful!

For this shot I laid down on the ground on my back.  Got straw in my shirt too.

Adam here is forming up the shape of a concrete foundation for the circular stairway that is going to go here.  We re-used the bendable forms that we used for the foundations of the houses, and staked them to the ground here.  He has to level and mark the line we want to concrete to go to, add rebar reinforcement, and fill’er up with concrete.  This way, the massive weight of the Walnut stairs themselves, plus the addition of cobblestone walls circling the stairway, will not want to sink down over time.  They be solid this way.

What do you see there?  Nothing.  That’s cuz we took’er down.  The quonset-style building, that is.  There is a picture of it way earlier in the blog with our big ditching machine we rented sitting in front of it.  It had the rounded-over roof, about 20’x12′ more or less.  Vidal and Ramon deconstructed it, salvaged and stacked up and saved everything we could re-use, bagged up insulation and other stuff to donate to ReSource Salvage Yard, and trashed what little was left.

Now is a good time to mention that, as a job site, we have built two and a half houses, deconstructed one house, one small building, and half a garage, have re-roofed a barn, deconstructed a large chicken coop and built the foundation for a new one, and have started the remodel of another barn, and STILL have had no need for a roll-off dumpster.  All in all, we have made I think 3 trips to the landfill in my small 6’x10′ trailer.  Mostly unclean wood scraps that the wood diversion will not take (ones with paint or stain or that are treated), and petroleum-based plastic products that come wrapped around things like windows and doors and parts and pieces.

Kudos to Boulder County for providing such an accessible means for recycling, and the sheer number of different things that can be recycled here!  When I visit family in places like Oklahoma, Missouri, and Indiana, there is recycling there.  But not NEAR the same as here.  They recycle SOME of the most basic items, like glass, aluminum, newspaper/cardboard, and maybe metal.  They do not provide a means for recycling things like mail and all papers, all metal and steel right down to nails, electrical switches and receptacles, plastic bags, styrofoam, all clean wood and particle boards (no paint or stain or treated), all plastics with numbers beyond #1 and #2, etc.  Not to mention a recycling requirement in our building department, and the option of deconstruction versus demolition.  We have it goin’ on in Boulder County!  Good job Boulder!!

This is fun.  This old wagon was left out in one of the fields by whoever lived here before.  Four flat tires and a falling apart deck.  Karel asked us to somehow pull the thing into the barnyard where we could get the tires off of it, get’em fixed, and see what’s next.  My old friend Vern the Plumber was in last week and saw the thing sittin’ there and said to me “Let’s go look at that wagon.”  “Ok,” I said.

He stoops down and looks at the axle and says that’s an upside down axle off a Chevy truck.  He says they just pulled them off the truck and flipped them over so as to give more height clearance.  He then points out how l-o-n-g they made the wheel base, like how far apart they set one axle from the other.  He said, the way the Stareks are gonna have this farm set up, they might like to have a shorter wheel base for easier turning around.  The way it is now, he said, it will require a lot of space to turn the thing around.  He said one thing they could do, especially since the wagon bed is falling apart and needs to be rebuilt, is that while you have the deck off, you could cut the frame in two, right down the middle.  Then cut off however much length you want to lose, like 4 feet if you want, and weld it back together.  Or you could simply cut off the front axle all together, weld a tongue and hitch onto it, and use it like a 2-wheeled trailer.  Then you’d have a whole bunch of mobility for tight quartered turn-arounds.  Wow, I said.  I hadn’t thought of all that.  I love that about Vern.  Full of ideas.

Either way, that there wagon has some more work and living to do.  It ain’t done yet.   

Nothin’ like father and son working together and a learning from one another.  It’s a family affair here, which I admire.  This here is Peter, having just returned from college in Massachusetts for the Summer, is now lending a helping hand on the farm.  This has SO many great benefits:  working together with your children, teaching and learning on both ends, cheap or free production on the job site, uplifts moral for everyone on the site, us included, higher levels of production breeds more production (same with positivity), and more.

Finally, we have made it to framing the roof of the AG House.  Yoohoo!!  And how cool it looks, if I do say so myself.  Fabulantastic.  We are all super psyched.  It has definitely been MUCH easier and faster framing this since we have already done it once for the Main House.  And notice how those two big beams come down in a “V”, and at the bottom how they trap and catch that square beam protruding through.  I love that.  You can also see how the carpenters had to extend the scaffold with wood well out beyond the steel scaffolding.  That’s because the protruding points of those gable roofs extend so far out beyond the actual floor deck, there is nothing to stand on out there.  You’d have to be floating in air.  Again, this is not a problem, only an opportunity.

This shot is from standing on the deck of the Main House looking over at the AG House.  That’s Wade and Daniel working on sheathing.  The thing I want to point out here is the shed-roofed dormer on the AG House.  And the actual roof pitch, which is harder to notice.  Both of these things are different from on the Main House.

On the Main House, the pitch of the roof is steeper, something like a 19/12 or…I can’t remember exactly.  But STEEP.  The AG House’s roof pitch has been reduced and lowered to a 12/12.  And the dormer, which you see right now as a shed roof with like a 2/12 pitch, on the Main House was that very sharp and steep gable roof with a pitch of like 22/12, practically a wall.

Of course, this really changes the overall shape of the AG House, making it less similar now to the Main House, but it quickened up the building process by a significant amount.  Simply said, it was much easier and faster for us to construct.  It is saving them time and money, and for the AG House, providing more usable living space on the inside by having it done this way.

Not to mention that it provides us, the work crew, a super nice deck to have our Friday Council on.  This was the guys’ idea, to be clear, to have Council up on the roof of our newest house.  They were feeling very proud and celebratory on this day, as was I.  It is a major accomplishment we are all feeling the progress in, and we are happy.  Standing left-to-right is:  Alex, Adam, Wade, Vidal, Randy, Daniel, and Ramon.  Salud!! 

Here’s our beautiful Beer Bouquet someone drug up on the roof.  Alice told us a 2 beer limit per man.  I’m not sure if we followed that or not, to be honest.  :-)  But we are all still safe and sound.

These are happy guys who are passionate about and LOVE what they do.  I am super proud to be working with these guys.  It’s a positive thang.  And they do a great job.  Mister was not here, though, so I have to give him a nod.  He went home early feeling a bit under the weather.  But, it was his day to buy the beers.  So he actually went and got them for us, then went home.  How nice is that!  He certainly was not expected to do that.  That’s just who he is.  That’s just who we are.  Indeed!

I know that this is a little bit much, but Adam, seriously, really wanted me to do this.  If you are major offended, just let me know and I will remove.  All in good fun.  Life will be Life, no matter what.  Just not on the bales please!

Again, this didn’t need to be a problem, just another opportunity.

In fact, Harry Truman once said:

“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”

And boy do I agree with that.  The last thing, or ONE of the last things, the World needs today, is another pessimist.  So go on out there my gentle reader, be positive, spread positivity, be an optimist, and seize your opportunities!

Bluebird out!

My number is:  303-229-7202.

All My Lovin’, One Builder’s Dream, through 05/11/12

Ooh la la,

shore seemin’ like Summer out there.  I got a pile of snow in my meadow right now up in Ward, but down in Boulder it’s nothing but sunshine and sun and shine.  And a few gentle breezes.  Pert near nice workin’ weather.

This particular blog contains mostly pictures that Mister took while I was away in Chicago at my son’s graduation from Columbia College.  Which, by the way, was the best dern graduation I even been to.  The only one I’ve ever been to, but the best one none-the-less.

This shot looks like it was taken from standing up on the exterior deck of the Main House, looking over yonder to the AG House.  Looks like they are finishing up the 1×6 fir decking.

Now, in this shot, the deck is completely done.  They have moved my brown Jobox up onto the deck to protect the tools nightly, and they have started putting up the safety handrail around the perimeter.  Those white boards are the old fencing around the farm, which we have recycled by using in about a hundred different ways, like for safety railing.

Here it looks like they are all prepped up to lift the huge ridge beam into place.  Two of them, actually.  I think they are 16″ tall microlams.  They have to lift them up there and into place one at a time.  They’ll brace the first one up there in a straight-as-an-arrow line, then nail the second one up against the first.  It’s critical important that the beams are perfectly straight, because if they are not, it makes each rafter have to be cut a little bit different.

This is showing how the scaffolding and planking are now ready for the big lift.  They’ve got two ridge posts up and braced into place, and safety seats to set the ridge beams on so they cannot fall off their posts.  Lovin’ that blue sky they had that week.  For my time in Chicago, which I brought a suitcase full of shorts for, showed us nothing but clouds, cold, and rain.  I wore one pair of shorts for about 2 hours the entire 9 days.  While these guys were here just basking in the sun.  Lucky dawgs.

This looks like the silhouette of the first big ridge beam sitting in the afternoon sun, just being there, doing its job.  That’s prolly 16+ feet up in the air.  No small task.

There she blows, all strong and straight and ready to do its structural job.  Such a simple life that beam has.  Just sittin’ there bein’ all beamy.

With all those people up there, I have to imagine that they have just lifted up and placed the second of the two ridge beams.  People holdin’er, people screwin’ screws into’er, people just workin’ with her.

As promised in the last blog, this here is a shot of the finished wet, curved, and bent fascia boards over the sculptural detail between second and third stories of the Main House.  I think it looks awesome.  Nice job Mister!

Well, this solid oak spiral staircase was originally bought by the Stareks at ReSource, our local salvage yard.  It was going to go in the Main House.  In the end, however, things needed to be adjusted and now it is simply too big for our space available.  So I have been trying to sell it on Ebay for months now.  I had one taker, even brought cash-in-hand and a trailer, but eventually backed out because they were afraid of how big the thing was on their trailer.  It’s over 12 feet wide, and over 8 feet tall.  It hung over their trailer sides by like 3′ on either side.  And they wanted to take it all the way to Missouri!  So they bailed.

But if you or anyone you know needs something like this, please, tell them all about it.  It’s a one-of-a-kind, and only $400.00 obo.  My number is 303-229-7202.

This is another shot of me having caught and picked up the Bull Turkey.  This was at lunchtime right before my trip to Chicago.  This Turkey has become like a big feathered dog.  He wants you to rub and massage his breast.  He is awesome.  I will be sorry to see him go when the farners take him to their new farm.  They have been moving out of the old farmhouse and off the property for a couple days now.

This blog post is runnin’ almost two weeks behind, as some of my trusty readers have pointed out, so I gots some catchin’ up to do.  In other words, the pressure has been put on.  I’ve simply had other excitements and goings-ons in my life that needed to take precedence.  And sometimes this is a good thing, to back burner something, do something else for awhile, and then come back to it.  Gives ya a fresh perspective.

In fact, I heard it said once that

“Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”

And I shorely know I cannot fool Nature.  Wouldn’t even try.  Nor would I try to fool you, dear reader, as you are the inspirational force behind the writing itself, because it is you, all of you, who I want to be educated in your building and remodeling decisions.  And if I do a good job, these lessons may leak on over the brim, down the side of the cup, and puddle up on Life itself, cuz honestly, GREEN building and GREEN living are one in the same in my book.

No foolin’.

Blubird out (but not for long).

My number is:  303-229-7202.

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