Natalie among the redwood logs prior to installation. Quite the pieces of "trim".

This is the seemingly slow period in which the framing punch list gets finished up, and all the electrical wiring, plumbing and HVAC ducting gets installed.  The fast and furious pace of framing has given way to lots of individual contractor work, but often not a lot of very visible progress.  Still, the back sliding doors are going in, and a staggering amount of ducting and wiring and lighting and piping is going everywhere in the house now as you can see from this picture of one corner of the kitchen.

Electrical and Plumbing getting done

We’ve now installed “smurf tube” into every room to allow us to pull low voltage wiring and easily upgrade our computer wiring at some future point, and that is now all converging on a central panel for structured wiring.  Once this is all complete, there will be electrical/plumbing/HVAC inspection, the insulation and drywall and exterior stuccoing can start.  The strawbale library is now completely lathed and ready for stucco on the outside (and needs to be protected from the rain until it is!), but the final lath wiring is still to be done on the inside.  A project for over the Christmas break!!!

Catherine putting protective finish on the logs

The dizzying activity for today was sealing the log ends after they had been installed up at the roof line.  Thankfully the stucco guys have already installed their scaffolding!  That certainly made both the installation of the logs by the framing crew last week, and the sealing of them by us this weekend much more tractable.   When it is all complete, these logs will look like they are supporting the roof, but they certainly aren’t doing that!  Rather, these log stubs are hung from cantilevered beams that are hidden under the white cedar soffit and extend back into the house.

We have gone back and forth on the logs wondering if it was going to look cool, or weird and tacky.  It is certainly a risk doing something this unconventional.  We had convinced ourselves that cool would predominate, and once they went in, we were relieved to see that they do add a visual interest.   Hopefully they won’t end up being a maintenance nightmare dropping bark on our heads or wicking water back towards the house!

View from the front

Stacks o’ bales

This post is coming a bit after the bale raising for a couple of reasons – one we’ve been crazy busy, and the other is we were very disheartened by the fact that most of our photos of the bale raising are gone in the digital camera equivalent of opening up the back of the camera with film in it.  There was some weird format error on our card, and fewer than 1 in 10 of the photos from the incredibly fun bale raising are still readable…. sigh

We are trying to get photos from some of the other folks who were there, and if we can, we’ll put up a much more extensive set of photos, but until then… we’ll steel ourselves and blog on with the few remaining photos…

Michele, of Boa Constructor shows us how to work the bales

On a fortuitously sunny Saturday November 21st, an intrepid crew of friends and volunteers interested in straw bale construction arrived for our Mohr Family Bale raising.  The plan is to turn the pile of straw bales (not hay!) into a well-built and sturdy walls for our library.  The goal: deep window seats and high insulation value.

Few people there had any straw bale building experience, but Michele Landegger from Boa Constructor, and Dohnyat, the local straw bale expert, soon turned our rag tag band of surgical robot engineers and straw bale enthusiasts into a crack straw bale construction team.   Michele and Dohnyat are shown at right demonstrating how to notch a straw bale so that it could be fit around the vertical post of the moment frame.  This is a technique that we would use over and over as we cut, re-tied, wedged, and stomped those bales into a precision line.

Dhonyat, of Boa Constructor was the super-bale-expert

As with anything, the key is to have the right tools!  We had bale saws which are like very large knives with big smooth serrations.  You slice the straw more than “sawing” like wood.  There are also bale needles which are like enormous sewing machine needles that you use to thread baling twine through to re- tie a bale into a smaller “custom” bale [no pics of the needle, :-(  but a re-tied bale can be seen] and special “reference” 2x4s to check straightness of the walls as they go up.

But, hands down, everyone’s favorite tool is “the persuader” a delicate, high-precision tool for gently moving those bales into position.

Meg, Ely, and David “persuade” a bale

Everyone loved The Persuader

After 8 hours of measuring, marking, cutting, tying, hauling, placing, shoving, kicking, stomping and persuading, we had raised the walls, and an exhausted and straw covered crew opened some beers, started the grill, and kicked back for the first official party of the new house… it was outside, around a fire pit, and we sat on straw bales and ate off paper plates – but it counts!


and congratulations to what Michele called “the best Straw bale crew I’ve ever worked with”

Amy, Andrew, Arjang, Charlotte, David, David, Dean, Dohnyat, Don, Elymarie, Emily, Forrest, Greg, Jerry, Jennifer, John, Meg, Michele, Mike, Nick, Pamela, Paul, Randy, Suzanne, Thomas, Tom

(and to the kids who so nicely played all day in the back and let the mommies and daddies work!)