Monday, October 31, 2011

14th Posting - Front walls roof-ready

We've made progress the last few days, but now I'm leaving for South Africa for almost 6 weeks, so the project will have to continue in the spring. This is the front view of the cabin before I covered it all up with tarps and blankets to protect the bags from the sun through the winter. My sister Gaylene helped me fill bags, and my sister Valerie built the five 'support ladders' that go above the doors and windows. The spray paint job is just for a bit of camouflage for areas that sometimes are visible from the road. That will all be covered eventually with 'northern adobe'.

A close-up shot of the front door and small window. Notice the buttresses go clear to the top of the walls, in order to stabilize them.

This is when the support ladder for the big picture window first went on. The window and door frames themselves cannot be weight-bearing so these very sturdy support ladders are placed over the top of each of them, resting on the bags of the walls themselves, and not weighing on the frames. 

This is the end of a support ladder. About 6 to 8 inches of 2x4 rests on the bags and another 6 to 8 inches of the underside plywood extends further out over the bags. The plywood is secured to the bag below with long nails (they really do hold!) and then I put several nails in part way so they can grab the bag that is tamped on top of the plywood.

Here you can see a bag on top of the plywood. The support ladder can now no longer move.

Looking through the small window in the completed front wall, with the support ladder clearly shown. I will use styrofoam insulation sheets to fill in the empty space between the ladders and the frames. The ladders themselves are stuffed with insulation.

The finished northwest corner from the top. On the left is the long support ladder. It is 8 feet long and each side consists of two 2x4's with crossbars every 12 inches. The diagonal 2x8 is a stabilizer connecting the front wall with the north wall. It just adds a little extra stability.

The southwest corner with south picture window and small front window and stabilizer.

The view from the back of the cabin. The front wall, and the front of both sides is roof-ready. The back wall is only 6 feet high and needs another six rows of bags next spring before I can put the roof trusses on. We have filled in dirt all along the back wall and the south side.

This is what it looks like all put to bed for the winter!

Friday, September 9, 2011

13th Posting - Front walls near the top

Well, I managed to get a little more work done on the walls a few days this week while I was home between tours. The pictures are colorful with the different tarps and blankets I have over the walls, but I use anything I can find to protect the bags from the sunlight. I took these three photos after I had the walls already covered up and ready for my absence for the next 6 weeks, when I have three tours back-to-back. 
I next plan on working on the cabin between October 22 and November 1. It would be nice to get the walls finished during that time, but that may be a bit overly optomistic. The weather would have to cooperate well and I'd have to have some help filling bags as well, but we will see.

View of the front wall. The next step is for the 'support ladders' to go on above the door and window frames. Then I'll just have one more row of bags on top of that!

This is the southwest corner - also ready for the support ladders over the frames.

And the north wall needs another row of bags before the support ladders can be put on. The back wall (no pic) will still need several rows of bags and that's the real question mark, whether we can get that done in October.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

12th Posting - Work continues in August

Just in case anyone is interested in coming to inspect the project and help with the building, I plan on working on the cabin again the beginning of September, and again the end of October. All volunteers welcome!!

My friend Ruth Mark from Indiana came out for 9 days to help build the cabin and we were also joined for a couple days by Richard Sharp from DC. We got quite a bit of work done on the walls. Ruth and Richard packed a lot of bags, we strung barbed wire on the walls, and packed the bags into place. Now all walls have at least 13 or 14 rows of bags, or nearly two-thirds of the necessary height. Roger Brownson brought his bobcat out and moved a lot of dirt, backfilling the south and east walls up to the current height of the walls. The dirt hill behind the cabin will continue to rise with the walls so that eventually the hill comes to the roof level at the back of the cabin.

Ruth and Richard pack dirt into the bags.

Ruth has lots of bags ready to go on the walls.

Ruth demonstrates the height of the front wall.

Roger starts moving earth to backfill the east wall.

Richard catches me on camera, shoveling dirt down behind the back wall.

Tamping the bags into the wall.

Front wall after our last bag went on.

Richard standing in the picture window. Also note the earth piled behind the walls.

My white cliffs with ripening wheat fields in the foreground.

Another view of 'White Cliffs Ranch' over the grasslands and coulees.
Even with the grasses turning golden the abundant spring rains are evident!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

11th Posting - A new year of building

Here it is past the middle of June and spring is barely here, let alone summer! For the last 4 months we have been incessantly hammered with snow, rain, rain, snow, rain and more rain. There is a lot of flooding around Montana, but what most people don't realize is that the snow pack in the higher elevations is just now beginning to melt..... and it's 200% of average!
I planted three big trees early this spring on a rare occasion when the ground was dry enough to get out there, and they are now doing beautifully. They are in memory of my friend Bob.
This is the driveway up to the cabin, just to show how unusually green and lush it is.

The Missouri River is trying to appropriate our road!
If the water rises much more, our road will be impassable.

We did get some work done this past week finally. My sisters Val and Gaylene, and my brother-in-law Andy helped. This view is looking at the southwest corner, which now sports another window frame and several new rows of bags.

Also the east and south walls have new rows on them.
Now I'm leaving for two tours back-to-back, so had to put all the tarps back over the walls to protect from the sun - of course I had to do it in the rain!

The wildflowers on the land are beautiful this year!

I plan on being home the end of July and the first two weeks of August to work on the cabin. A couple friends of mine are already planning on joining me on the project and anyone else who would like to pitch in is more than welcome!