Monday, March 1, 2010

Good Solutions

At the beginning of our first building season (March 2009), Scott and I outlined a plan of action for our three-year building adventure. As mentioned in an earlier posting, we actually completed everything on our To Do List that first season. What a great way to end the first leg of our journey!

That outline listed complete and raise the timber frame, construct the roof and raise the bale walls for season two. Those are still our goals. However, now that we know a little more (often a precarious position), it is apparent that we need to refine that list by adding the baby steps we'll take along the way. We also have other things to add to the list. Two of those projects have moved to the top.

The first comes about because we'd like to begin work again in April. April in Torrey can be windy and cold. Our yurt has no insulation at all, and often it seems colder inside than out. We've located a used wood burning stove which we plan to install. This will ward off the chill and give our yurt yet another homey touch.

Second, we have four cats: Pete, Stentor, Missy and Rusty. Last year they spent a long, lonely summer stuck in our house in Logan. Our very kind neighbors, Don and Patty, fed the foursome and kept an eye out for their general well-being. But I really missed the cats, and it is really kind to ask your neighbors do continue with such a big favor for another summer? No! So we need to build a cattery which will be attached to our garage.Through a pet door, the cats will have access to the cattery during the day and the garage at night. I'm reluctant to let them scamper about unwatched. I've heard unhappy stories about cats who get lost in a new setting. And what about the owls and coyotes in the neighborhood? Yes, a cattery is a good solution.


One of the advantages of working during building “seasons” is that we have time to think ahead and to plan in advance. A disadvantage is that we also have plenty of time to dwell upon our shortcomings, and this makes us doubt that we will ever be able to get the project done.

For example, a few weeks ago Scott said, “I think building a STRAW house might be one of the stupidest things we’ve ever decided to do.”

Why was he saying this? We’d gathered some preliminary figures for the amount of straw we would need - four hundred fifty bales. Since one of our primary goals is to get our building materials locally, Scott began calling folks in the area. They grow oats in Wayne County, and we hoped they would be able to provide straw. He learned that straw in Wayne County is used for fodder, so the grain is not separated from the chaff. It is left on the stalk and baled into the bales.

This is good for feeding animals, but it is bad for building walls. As the bales are stored and as they stand in the walls waiting for plaster, that grain becomes a magnet for mice. Mice in your walls? Not a good plan. And, if the grain gets wet (although the ultimate goal is for the walls to NEVER get wet), it will sprout. I can just imagine what a disaster squad would think when I called for help. “What in the world were you thinking?” We’d get another earful of big bad wolf jokes but not much assistance with sprouting walls.

In Cache Valley where we live now, it would be very easy to gather 450 bales right out of the fields and truck it to Torrey, but that defeats the concept of local products. And the supplier in Filmore, Utah isn’t growing grain next year. After many phone calls, many dead ends and many hours of frustration, Scott did find a source in Delta, Colorado. That’s a little over 200 miles away from Torrey. At least we have a source, but is that local? I think only time will tell.