Week two of the Natural Cottage Project

Here we go! Pictures are worth a thousand words….

Now that the timber frame is up we are starting to attach purlins. We used round poles of 2 to 3 inch diameter. Photo taken by Ed Trager
A little bit of stick framing around the doors and windows. Here are some window buck frames. These are for the loft so they will be hung from the rafter rather than attached to the toe ups. Window details are perhaps some of the most complex and crucial parts of a building as they are weak spots for potential water leaks and air drafts. Photo taken by Ed Trager
Bundles of phragmite reeds being stored until we are ready to put them on the roof! Photo taken by Ed Trager
Bundles of phragmite reeds being stored until we are ready to put them on the roof. Also, you can see slip straw put out on tarps to dry a little before being stuffed into the cracks between bales and gables. This will shorten the overall drying time which can be as slow as an inch a week. This means if you have a 14 inch thick bale wall and are using slip straw to fill in odd shaped gaps it could take 14 weeks for the wall to be dry all the way through in these spots! Letting the slip covered straw dry a bit before putting in the wall will shorten this time period. Photo taken by Ed Trager
Unloading the bales! Photo taken by Ed Trager
Before the bales are put on the toe ups drainage gravel was laid to create a level surface between the wooden ladders and nails were hammered into the toe ups to give the bales something to grab onto and help hold them in place. Photo taken by Ed Trager
And the first bales go in! Sarah shows us how it is best to start from the corners and work in, tying, staking and pinning your bales together as you go. Photo taken by Ed Trager
A bale stake about to be put in. These wooden (not metal!) bale stakes pin one row to the next. The stakes used to pin the second row to the first are particularly long (~24 inches) but the stakes used for the the rows above the 2nd row are generally just a little longer than the bale is tall, so about 18 or 20 inches. Stakes are only really necessary in the corners but can be used along the whole length of the wall. Sarah told us to think about the stakes and other bale fasteners as temporary bracing until the plaster goes on. Once the plaser is on the bales this is what will really be doing the structural work of keeping the bale wall in place. Photo taken by Ed Trager
A bale pin, which acts like a toe nail, pinning the bale to the adjacent post, or in this case a window buck. Photo taken by Ed Trager
Notice the air fins attached to the posts, beams, and braces before bales goes up. The material used for these is called screened hardboard. The use of these air fins are particularly crucial around the windows. They will keep air from being able to enter where the bales meet the wood and will also allow for a smooth plaster transition and prevent any cracking in the plaster that could occur as the wood shrinks and expands. Photo taken by Ed Trager
Baling needles are about 19 inches long and are used for retying bales to custom sizes, which is particularly handy around windows and doors. Photo taken by Ed Trager
A shave horse came in handy for making bale stakes as well as for pins and needles for thatching. Photo taken by Ed Trager
A beautiful diagram of thatching drawn by Deanne Bednar. Photo taken by Ed Trager
And Deanne helps up put the first bundle of reeds on the roof! Photo taken by Ed Trager
Tying down the reed bundles with a wire threaded under the purlin and around the sway. Photo taken by Ed Trager
Me! feeling good, hanging out on the roof, and happy to be a part of this fantastic project. Photo taken by Ed Trager
Deanne inspecting the drip edge of the thatch roof. Photo taken by Ed Trager
The gable “hat” in the kids cottage gave us some ideas for the retreat cabin. Photo taken by Ed Trager
The cob garden wall is coming along great! Notice the wooden form in the archway that will later be removed and the anchors along the wall that the mini living roof will attach to. Photo taken by Ed Trager
Some details on the cob wall. Cob is great because of its sculptural nature; you can carve niches out and sculpt just about any design you can imagine! Photo taken by Ed Trager
Heather working inside in the loft, passing thatch needles back to those on the outside. Soon the whole structure will be enclosed! Photo taken by Ed Trager
The second coat of plaster is beginning to go up! Photo taken by Ed Trager
Here is the house, with the north side just about completed. There is still work to be done but not bad for a two week workshop! Deanne will continue to work on the structure with whomever is able to stick around. Photo taken by Ed Trager

I can’t wait to see a picture of the cottage completely finished!

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