The best part of summer is behind us and there is definitely visible progress as well as a number of successes to celebrate:
- The second course of tires is nearly completed
- A new load of tires brings the total count on hand to around 700.
- The concrete mixer should be ready to try next week.
- I have come upon a few significant elements to possibly speed up the project:
o I just got my hands on a pneumatic backfill tamper and a compressor
o Just recently connected with a new group of volunteers
Altogether, while construction has still been going well but still much slower than expected, some of the recent developments are bringing a strong hope of future improvement.
Another thing that thrills me is that I am getting more traffic but also more and more contacts from my web site as well as from word of mouth.
Weekend August 15-17th
I take the Friday off work to do a tire collection expedition and have the city engineer do a footings inspection.
Thanks to James who volunteered to come and help me do a tire collection expedition, we manage to fill up a 26ft U-Haul with 405 tires from a recycler north of Bancroft. Once again we come back tired and soaked from the waist down, but proud of a job well done. That brings my total tire count to around 700, therefore well on the way to the 1000 needed.
In the afternoon, the city inspector comes and decides that because the house is not on undisturbed ground, he wants me to get a compaction test done. Considering how relatively little ground we added and how well we compacted it, I think that it is an expense that is not needed, but he rules in Bancroft! I will need to deal with this question during the week.
I spend the rest of the weekend doing some tire compacting and working on side projects.
I finally fix the plumbing in the camper and so I now have running water in the camper.
I start rebuilding the concrete mixer and build a prototype of the mixing blades inside the drum. I need to buy more steel to finish the other blades and a new motor.
Weekends of August 24th, September 1st and 7th till Sept 15th
4 busy weeks doing a lot of researching, addressing issues, reorganizing, and purchasing.
3 busy weekends working alone on the site, completing the best part of the second course of tires. (Weekend of Sept 15th I was in British Columbia)
For this period it will be easier to relate events issue by issue rather than chronologically.
Following the request for a compaction test, I contact a company in Peterborough and find that it may cost me up to $1K, considering the distant location. The guy I talk to tells me after showing him pictures of the site before, after and during the compaction that we did, we should be good without a test. I talk to my engineer and we decide that he will look at it and give me his recommendation. A few days later, he sent a report to the City inspector. I am waiting for his decision. Hopefully this should be sufficient to calm his concern at a lesser cost for me. I should get his feedback soon.
The second course is going well and I learned a few lessons:
1 - The fragility of cardboard. I now know that I cannot fill a tire containing a cardboard liner and compact it the next day. The cardboard will likely break.
2 - Choosing and mixing tire sizes on the same course: The first course was mostly done with larger tires and trying to lay down the second course on top is challenging when using some smaller diameter tires: after a few tires, the layers do not stagger very well and I have to leave spaces. Lesson: It is wise to try and mix the sizes of tires along one wall, so on average, tires can be staggered without leaving too many gaps.
3 – Compacting a tire over a concrete pad: I thought I did not need a cardboard because the tire was sitting squarely on a concrete pad. I found that after compaction the tire had significantly lifted because compacted sand had been pushed between the tire and the concrete. To prevent this place one layer of cardboard at the bottom of these tires.
4 – Shaping a concrete block at the end of a wall: using a piece of cardboard inside a rough plywood form works well to round edges and can be easily removed when the concrete has hardened. That same cardboard can probably be reused as well.
Rebuilding the concrete mixer:
I purchase more metal stock and screws etc. and make and install the other 2 blades inside the barrel.
During the week I purchase a 1/2hp motor, pulley and breaker switch, cable… and install and connect the whole electrical system. I got a fully enclosed motor (farm grade) which should resist to the construction site conditions adequately. I measure the belt size and now I can buy the drive belt. My only concern at this point is that according to my approximate calculation, the mixer could be spinning a little too fast to properly mix. I will see soon enough when I first test it.
Well water testing:
The first thing I did was to get the water tested (Thanks Jerry for the help) and I just received the water test result. Bad news: they found some traces of coliform bacteria in it (no e-coli) but enough that I cannot drink it as is.
So for now, I have lots of questions and no answer.
Is this something that happens in newly used wells and that may disappear after more extensive use? Can I do a treatment to the well itself? Do I need to install filters to make the water drinkable?
I need to consult with someone knowledgeable in that field as soon as possible.
New compacting tool:
This is big news # 1: My friends pointed me to a video of one guy in the Denver area who is using a backfill tamper to compact tires on his project. He claims that it is working very well and drastically cuts down the use of a sledge hammer to only a few finishing blows. This could obviously be one answer to my need of increasing the building speed rate. See his link on the resource pages. I do some research on the internet, but cannot find one on Kijiji in Canada. Eventually, I find a supplier in Toronto and get a quote: somewhere in the vicinity of $1200. Not great when I can see that on eBay, we can find rebuilt ones for less than $500. I finally find one in Detroit on eBay and place a bid on it. 2 days later, surprise, I get an email telling me that I am the proud owner of a backfill tamper except for a small matter of money transfer. Obviously I don’t know how eBay really works. I definitely need to go out more! In any case, it arrives at my door 3 days later. That was easy. Now I look around for compressors on Kijiji and find a couple of them around Toronto area. I decide and buy one. I also get a hose and connectors and I should be ready to try next weekend.
This is big news # 2: About 1 & 1/2 month ago, I had been given a link to a website called Meetup. It seemed like something worth trying so I registered and created events for my construction where people could volunteer but it did not give me anything at all, so I discontinued this after a month.
However, this week, I receive an email from a very enthusiastic lady who appears to be animating a group of people on Meetup focused on earthship and other sustainable building projects. She proposes to organize a large group of volunteers to come and work during weekends this fall and next year and ask me if I am interested and how many people would I be interested in? May as well ask if I like chocolate! Now this is music to my ears! We now are in communication and she is organizing a group for the coming weekends. This is quite promising and I am anxiously waiting to see what comes out of that.
This is quite a thrill and if that works out, I will have to wear my manager’s hat for that weekend, planning for food and other logistics then getting things organized and in control on the ground.
Morale: There has been more ups than down during this month, so overall the morale is quite good.
It is good to actually see progress in the form of the second course of tire getting completed and seeing the walls starting to look like… walls!
This period ends of course on a huge high with the new tools and most of all with the promise of an enthusiastic group of volunteers. This could definitely be the answer to my prayers.
Also, generally seeing more traffic on my website and more and more contacts through it is exciting
All these ups, definitely offset the fact that the last few weeks have seen me working alone on the site.
Health: It has been really good. I have been enjoying working during this late summer period with more modest temperatures and few bugs, so still able to work without a shirt most of the time.
Wild life: Deer come and visit while I pound tires. It looks like the young ones are now on their own. Lots of turkey sighting; usually families with young adults. Also a squirrel got into my camper and started doing some damage until I found him cold beside one of the mouse trap. Apparently he got hit on the nose a few times too many by some of my mouse traps. Lesson to learn for all, big and small: Beware, peanut butter can be a killer!