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Urbanite Retaining Wall at the Garden of Invasive Species

Welcome to the Garden of Invasive Species, otherwise known as my backyard...

We've got ivy

and japanese knotweed (deliciously edible tho)

and lots and lots of Vinca Major!
Not to mention, I compiled a thorough list with the help of my landscaping buddy, Ethan Rainwater. Here goes:
Ivy, Vinca Major, English Holly, Japanese Knotweed, English Laurel, Port. Laurel, Himalayan Blackberry, Dandelion, Wood Hyacinth, Sing. Hawthorn, Mazzard Cherry, and Norway Maple. Yikes!

So, I don't feel bad about changing this landscape and taking some of the heavy clay soil out of there for my next cob structure. Score!

Digging out a small retaining wall

Let's curve it to define spaces I'll actually want to use

We use up some leftover urbanite from the cob greenhouse project and have some fun with the lines we can create, nothing like getting nerdy and muddy with a fellow designer...

we find a little shiva statue in the ivy and give it a proper rebirth

soon to plant edible nasturiums and strawberries!

My Little Moon Lodge

So, it's been a long time since my last post, the winter has been good--restful and yet productive, planning away the 2010 building season. I did manage to squeeze in some building time over the course of it however, and finally it is a project for myself! And a hardcore exercise in renovation! My folk's property in southern Oregon had this little run-down cabin on it, built some 60 years ago by a teenage boy who needed some room from the main little house. I believe all the wood used for it was logged and milled on site and the cardboard insulation is totally a tribute to the food that was popular in the 1950's. Our insurance company says we needed to fix 'em up or tear 'em down. And since this little cabin had just about the most character of anything on the whole place, we decide to fix it up and hire fellow builder, Sebastian Collet, for some carpentry assistance and the story unfolds...

we find home-canned salmon and blackberries still sitting on the shelves!

and all sorts of treaures

funky mushrooms grow on bits of wood beneath the steps

my mom and I frame out a 5 foot cedar deck using a ledger board

four 4x4 posts and a few steps

then we gut the inside of the little cabin, to discover nostalgic cardboard food boxes tacked against the inside of the siding... insulation? or to stop infiltration? I think a new earthen infill is in order here.

even though no people have been living here, turns out 1,000's of wasps have. Their beautiful paper homes fill the wall cavities. Good thing most have moved on and none are there during the winter season.

a lot of debris is produced, but

we take advantage of the scrap lumber being produced

and whip up some new compost bins!

my mom does a great job on this side project!

Hummus on the way!

Sebastian does the dirty work, and tears off five layers of asphalt shingles!

and finally down to the skip sheathing

wait, yeah, how about let's get rid of that too!

we completely reframe the roof and north wall (which was sinking badly)

the new beams and rafters extend to cover the new deck

we use plywood as underlayment for the metal roofing

we put up a temporary railing for the insurance inspection, a more natural version is sure to replace it at some point

mom and I are so happy!

then on to some more fun things, we harvest scraggily oaks nearby to frame the porch and railing

Sebastian works it with a drawknife

we enjoy peeling the fresh poles

and then we ran out of time for November...

and four months later, we finally finish them, putting in another building session on the moon lodge

we notch the bases really cleverly...

just a slit with a circular saw to slip in the base and you can't even tell there's Simpson hardware in there

the top branching part of the poles gets notched to meet the rafters

classic bread cuts!

it's looking so much better with those round poles branching up to the roofline.
Thanks for helping me, Sebastian, and having loads of fun!

the rest of the railing soon to come, stayed tuned

Living Walls Earth Plaster & Aliz

A beautiful timber frame structure to work on!

lots of stuff all around...

thank goodness for 5 gallon buckets!

we start with coco fiber mesh as lathe to span areas that might crack

this project had 36 rounds!

and lots of upside-down areas to plaster

the base coat goes over the Durasol stemwall and Light Clay-Straw walls

a nice pic of the substrates and base plaster layer

my mom joined in for a day of base coat application

somehow I got known to "love upside-down stuff"...
I guess it might be true :)

lots of taping off involved with a frame like this

scratched surface on the base coat

Ingredients for the final coat, how many bags of each do we need?

mixing it up in small batches

applying kaolin-based finish coat over the base coat

detailing those rounds!

and details around each framed opening

The gable ends were conventionally framed and covered with drywall. We primed the surface with latex paint that we added a bunch of coarse sand to. The surface looks like this and you can apply finish coat earth plaster right over it.

my plaster set up

working those gable end details

Finally time for some color! The client chose a light yellow aliz. Iron oxide is the best!


whose that monkey?
I must have climbed up and down that scaffold 100 times!

Joshua prefers to hang out on the tip top of the ladder...
but can he reach the very top?

the final texture is so beautiful

a nicely integrated 'truth window' shows off the plaster layers


'Living Walls' plaster over an 'EcoNest' -- Working with Lime

Alright, this had been a big job, and hence, haven't written in a while. But finally finished and what a good one it has been! Especially for those of you interested in the super flat and super refined earth plaster style. Good to practice.

The structure is a heavy timberframe with a mixture of traditional european and japanese joinery and infilled Light Clay-Straw. It was designed by Paula LaPorte and the construction was led by her husband, Robert Laporte, of EcoNest. My mom was at the straw-clay workshop for this structure, where I got introduced to the project from early on. Little did I know, six months later, when the walls were thoroughly dry, I would be on a team of four to plaster the whole thing.

For this project, I joined the crew of Living Walls, a Portland-based earth plaster company, led by Joshua Klyber. We did a lime plaster system on the outside and earth plaster with aliz on the interior. And we had a lot of fun! This post will focus on the lime plaster portion and my next will cover the earth plaster work. Enjoy!

The site and our mortar mixer set-up.

The Light Straw-Clay walls to be covered.

Base coat of lime goes up

Greg works it!

Comin' around the corner!

base and finish coat shown clearly here

Joshua is so silly sometimes!

Pigmented lime wash

the fun part!

cleaning up the stonework with muriatic acid

classic Econest!

This finish is at minimum a seven-pass system. First, we prime or lathe all windows edges, corners and other expanses of wood. Then we apply the rough base coat of lime plaster which has a lot of gravel. Next we press the plaster with a wood trowel to compact the lime as it dries. Then we score the surface with a small rake or scarifier. Then we come around again with a finish coat, no gravel in it this time. We follow again with a hard-packing motion with a wood trowel. Then we brush all the loose sand from the surface. Finally we apply a lime wash to give the surface color, actually two coats. So in all, we have come around to every square inch of this exterior wall surface nine times. Labor intense, no joke!

Natural Building Colloquium 2009

Welcome to Camp Latgawa, and the 2009 West Coast Natural Building Colloquium

This is an annual gathering of professional and aspiring Natural Builders, who have come to share their stories, experiments and successes, discuss the state of the world, brainstorm ways to effect the main stream and build a few things while we're here!

Most of my photos are from the building projects that were going on during the week.

Peeling round poles for a new shade structure frame

Decorative hempcrete clings to a pole

This 10 year old plaster job is ready for a fresh coat

Well, we just so happen to have 70 creatives ready to fix that

Austin concentrates on his plaster job

the main gathering area comes together

the back of the bench

great work!

Darrel DeBoer teaches about bamboo construction

Julia tries a notch

fish trusses are fun

hose clamps make a connection without making any holes in the bamboo

Curving bamboo o'er an openfire

fish truss roof frame almost done

Sebastian attaches the posts and sheer bracing

good thing we had plenty of bales around

Chris and Jen from Ontario teach about Pre-fab Strawbale

Plaster is applied horizontally and saves lots of time.

Compressing the bales into the form

Big leaf maple prints in the plaster

Bob Theis leads an entry sequence revision. A new gabion retaining wall and curve is added the the entrance so that cars will park instead of drive into the camp. Perhaps the most important project we did this week.

Also, let's build a Rumford Fireplace down by the creek. With Ianto Evans here, how could we refuse?

a teepee frame in the meadow

a tiny little cottage, kids built this one a few years ago

i get an aerial silk lesson from a talented young girl

and there's even time for hikes in creek which surrounds this magical place on three sides

a newborn tree grows out of the moss-covered rock

mushrooms fruit from beneath fallen leaves

Two mushroom hunters accompany me on the hike

Art Ludwig leaves a cairn

Hope to see you all again next year!

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