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I haven't written much about it, so for those of you who don't know, I'm building a house. The build site is way out in the boonies--about a half hour's drive from Berryville which is itself no metropolis. So far, I've acted as more of a contractor than a builder, but that's about to change. Today, J.D Parker and son poured the footing for the house. On Monday I start the hands-on portion of the job. My first task; building the foundation walls out of cement block. Once I get above ground-level, I'll switch from concrete to papercrete.

Patrice and I recently built a greenhouse attached to my mother's house. I'll use that to start the plants that I will later transfer to my (still largely theoretical) organic market garden. We bought the land for the house and garden way back in July, and I've moved very slowly (imperceptibly for long stretches) in getting the whole project moved out of my headspace and into the world at large, but the ball is rolling now.

When we found the land, it had no utilities at all. It was just a four and a half acre patch of ground bisected by a row of trees. We now have a well for water, power lines for electricity, a culvert so we can actually drive onto the property, and now the start of the house foundation. The cement guys also poured a pad for the propane tank that will be delivered next Thursday. We'll be using composting toilets, so we won't need a septic tank.

I don't know exactly how long it will take to finish enough of the house so that we can move in, but I'm hoping to be out of this rental house (Lara has dubbed it "the Brown Palace") by March.

Tomorrow, Lara, Logan and I will drive to Huntsville to meet with our (probable) midwife for the first time. Logan was born in our house in the woods by the bay in Port Ludlow, Washington. Sometime this summer, Logan's younger sibling (barring complications) will be born in the house his/her father built in the Ozarks in the Spring of 2004.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 24th, 2004 04:21 am (UTC)
I had been wondering about how it was going with your homestead. Actually it seems like you have achieved quite a bit in 6 months by having the site prepared.
I am very interested in alternative materials for housing. I used to live on land share homestead in Humboldt, California, so I'm familiar with straw bale and cob technologies, less so with rammed earth.
I've looked at papercrete online. I think it is a pulp mixture of old newspaper and clay. Is there any printed book about it? It would surely be fun to read about the process while you are working with it.

Jan. 24th, 2004 10:20 am (UTC)
papercrete book
The book I have is called Building with Papercrete and Paper Adobe. Amazon lists it as out of print, but you can get a copy from the Dirt Cheap Builder website:


I don't know that I'd recommend the book. It's a collection of reprinted articles from Mother Earth News, and just about all the information in the book can be found on-line. I was a bit disappointed when I got it and found that I was re-reading things that I'd already read on the web.

I saw a lot of rammed earth buildings in Australia, and I'd love to live in one, but rammed earth requires more skill, expense, and effort than papercrete.
Jan. 24th, 2004 05:20 am (UTC)
Man, I remember my days of lifting lumber and hammering nails with my Dad, a part time contracter. I hated every blessed minute of it. But when I hear about a friend builing a house, I want to put those miserable experiences to work for them.
Advice. Everything in the house needs to be plum and level and that sort of thing. But the baseboard foundation, doubly so. But you probably already know that.
Jan. 24th, 2004 10:24 am (UTC)
plumb and level
Yep, right angles rule. That's the primary lesson I took from Michael Pollan's book, "A Place of My Own : The Education of an Amateur Builder."
Jan. 24th, 2004 03:21 pm (UTC)
Re: plumb and level
Thanks for the link. I need to check that out. Send it too my Dad, too. He is a retired robotics engineer, build is more or less and ameteur builder.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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