It has been almost two months since my last blog (Oh oh! This is starting like a confession!).
In fact, this period has been a confused one, during which life has taken over and once again I found myself forced to let go of my expectations and go with the flow.
Going with the flow generates confusing feeling for a project manager. We, PMs, are expected to stay focused on moving the project ahead and coping with any and all outside interferences. Of course that is the rule for a business environment but when dealing with situations in our own lives, we must often significantly flex the rule. In fact when we let go of the professional reflex, it feels good to surrender and just accept that life is more important and that the other stuff must simply wait.
That life event has been that my mother’s life with us finally came to an end after a number of increasingly difficult health challenges over the last two years. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with her during her last days with us. Also, this has been the occasion to gather up with the family and celebrate her life and the family that she created. So of course a strong mixture of sadness, love and joy with a twist of exhaustion due to the travelling.
As a result, achievements for this period are not remarkable for their size. Since last blog, a ton of things have happened but I must confess that the walls have not risen by a very significant amount.
Once again, I think that it will be easier to take it item by item rather than chronologically.
To summarize, we have:
· Made some big progress with regards to enrolling volunteers.
· Been blessed to have some friends who came to visit and give a hand to start packing the walls
· Started the third tire course
· Acquired a compressor (actually two of them, but that part is not an achievement in itself!)
· Installed a temporary rainwater drain in the center of the building pad.
· Closed the site down for winter
Volunteers from ‘Earthship Ottawa’ group:
This was a hope from my last blog that came true in a big way. I think I just simply discovered the “Eastern Canada Earthship Networking Queen”! Or more accurately, she discovered me. But then, this is the way things happen when you are counting on the ‘Big Guy!
Out of Ottawa, Agata manages a virtual network of people and organizes events of all sorts including volunteering in groups to go help a number of local earthship builders and other interesting eco-friendly initiatives, with the purpose of learning at the same time.
I strongly advise everyone to visit the group’s website and join if you are in the general area and interestAgata connected with me and came with a few friends for a weekend.
See pictures in the Photo Gallery: Agata, Mark, Jonathan, Joanne and I (Sept 28).
It was the first time we had volunteers staying over and we set out to provide food for everyone. It turned out quite super in fact thanks to Joanne who took care of the planning and execution and made it look simple. Altogether we had a great time and did some significant progress as they finished the second course and started the 3 course of tires while I was doing the Quality Assurance on the progress.
I am now much more confident about working on the site with a number of volunteers and I also have the invaluable help of Agata in organizing virtual events and communicating with all group members to get volunteers to come and help in Bancroft.
Between one trip to Kelowna and one trip north to pick up the compressor and of course with my emergency travelling late in the fall, I had to cancel a number of building sessions and I could not capitalize this year on this new volunteer supply, but I know that next spring I will be looking forward to tap into this source of volunteers and start the construction in a big way.
I also had a few friends who happened to be in the area and offered to come and visit and give a few hours of their time to work on the building. With the three of them we started packing the walls and ended doing a good part of the wall. But beyond the achieved result it is really the pleasure of having them there that hits us.
I have to decide if I want to keep statistics on this packing operation as it will become hard to keep track of it. Chris, Carrie, Stefano, you guys did set a bench-mark that I am sure will be hard to beat.
Three lessons to remember from that day:
1 – Having good friends over to come and help; there is nothing better! Well, ok, I knew that already, but it is so good to be reminded of it in that way.
2 - There is no amount of help that is too small. Every bit counts and ends up being a lot. See the pictures in the gallery with Chris, Carrie, Stefano and Jim (Oct 13).
3 - One person is required full time to keep mixing and distributing concrete for 3 or 4 packers but it requires a good organization and many buckets to work efficiently. The group was working really fast and hard and in about 2 hours with 3 people packing and I mixing cement we packed about 80 spaces which is almost ½ of the first course of tires for the house.
After I received the backfill tamper, I set up to find a portable compressor. I find one 5.5 Hp gas motor that seems ok. There is no specification for the number of cubic feet per minute (CFM). I take a guess that with 5.5 Hp it should be ok (big mistake!). I buy it, take it home then to Bancroft the next weekend. When I test the tamper with the compressor, I immediately realize that the compressor is grossly inadequate for this kind of equipment. It will require a significant larger amount of CFM to run the backfill tamper. So I bring the compressor back to Toronto and set out to resell it. (The bad news is that I still have it, but I am patient).
In the meantime, I go back to looking for a larger compressor and find one on Kijiji, brand new, big, flaming red and still in its original crate. The only problem is that it is 6 hours north of Toronto. So I decide to make it a weekend pleasure trip and we set out on a Saturday for Cobalt Ontario. The weather actually cooperates and is nice for the most part. We have a pretty nice trip, a great lunch in North Bay, we stay at the “Frontier’s Man Motel” a few km south of Cobalt. The place is simple but clean and quiet (Not surprising since we are in the middle of nowhere!). The next morning we pick up the compressor in the morning and head down to Toronto. We have a good trip and arrive quietly around 5 pm after another great lunch in North Bay. (I recommend the restaurant Arugula!).
The next weekend we take it to Bancroft and download it from the trailer by hand like two pros. I uncrate it, unwrap it and gas it up. I connect the battery - Yes Sir, it is a classy machine with a battery and an electric starter. I turn the key and zoom-zoom, it starts instantly! It works like a clockwork, but I am missing the proper connector and a friend coming to visit prevents me from going to buy the proper fitting. So I decide to put it away until spring. Even without testing it, I am sure that this one will do fine.
Temporary rainwater drain in the center of the building pad:
Since I have found about 3 inches of water in the middle of the building pad after a monster rain storm about a month ago, I have been determined to put in place a drain using the black water drain pipe that I had previously installed through the north east corner of the house. This drain will be temporary (until there is a roof).
I buy a roll of Big O (with the sock). During the closing down process, we dig a small trench, put in place the cloth liner at the bottom, about 20 ft of Big O, connect it to the drain pipe and cover the whole thing with 3/4“ gravel. We do not forget to also clear the drain pipe at the lower end to ensure adequate water flow. See the pics in the photo Gallery. That should do for draining the pad and reducing my anxiety when the weather forecast turns to rain.
Closing the site down:
My wish list of activities for the closing was to:
1. Finish the wall packing that had been so well started with Carrie, Chris and Stefano to protect the tires on the second and third course.
2. Install the drain in the center of the pad
3. Disconnect and drain the water system
4. Close the place down for winter
We arrived on Saturday 10:00 am. If I had any hesitation about closing the place down, one inch of snow and the cold nights (-7C) took care of that. We therefore decide to close the same day and go back to Toronto that evening.
I was happy that I had drained the water system in the trailer and shed, the last weekend I had been there and I did not restart it.
Considering the weather, the lack of time and absence of water, I rapidly rule out doing more concrete and finishing packing the walls. This is not a happy choice, but I decide that I will have to take that chance. However, for sure, that will have to be the very first job to complete next spring.
On with item # 2: the drain. Good news, John has delivered the gravel that I ordered and even placed it in the perfect spot. I am happy to admit that we are improving in the area of locating the supplies on the construction site!
First thing first; considering the cold, we light a fire close to where we want to dig the drain. Then, after a couple of hours of shoveling and fighting with the big O that does not want to stay where we want it to stay, the drain is done. See more details above and see the pictures in the photo gallery.
Item #3: The water system:
Two weeks ago, we had prepared the well for winter by replacing the first 8 feet of temporary hose out of the well by a permanent hose, properly isolated and buried. Following one of our friend’s advice, I ran a 4” pvc pipe from the well down in the trench that I had dug which is only about 10ft long. Then I ran the 9 feet of the 1” permanent hose inside the pipe and connect it to the well. Using a 4” pipe provides a way of replacing the hose if needed without digging the whole trench again and it also provides added insulation. Since this trench is only about 3 ft deep I add some 2” foam on top of the pipe and bury the whole thing. I now connect the temporary hose at the end of the 8ft of permanent hose. When I disconnect it (for winter, I just let the permanent hose drain out in the trench.
I disconnect the temporary hose in the trench, let everything drain out. I put all equipment away, ensure that all machines are well covered and I put most of my portable tools in the car to take them down with me to TO (I never know what I may need over winter). I tilt my solar panel into their winter position (most vertical position). In the meantime, Joanne clears the inside of the trailer and we are ready to close it. Great team work and time to toast to the close of a season. Then we just cover it with the tarp and tie it down. See picture in the photo Gallery
One week after, as I am lying in bed (that is one of the places where I do my best thinking), it downs on me that I actually forgot to pour antifreeze in the drains. But not big problem since we are going back there soon.
Two weeks later we go back up to Bancroft (on the 18th) for the “Anything Goes” event in Maynooth. We take the opportunity to pass by the camper, open one door and pour the antifreeze in all drains. I am happy that it looks like there has been no damage to the drains.
The “Anything Goes” event in Maynooth was great and a lot of fun, I do a set with Sue on the piano and Jerry on the one string base, I sing a couple of blues including my ‘Bancroft Sledgehammer Blues’ and recite a two of my poems (‘Missing you’ and ‘I want more of that’). As it is the first time that I play my own material, I am very happy and it all goes really well. See the picture in the photo gallery and the lyrics in the ‘Resources’ page.
Building season retrospective:
It has been an interesting year characterized by:
· A mixed bags of important life events:
o A new beautiful relationship since the beginning of the year
o Some sadness and shock with my Mom passing but also the good fortune of seeing her through that and the joy while celebrating her life with the family
· A number of exciting events on the project:
o Starting erecting the walls – The first tire event!
o Seeing the third tire course started
o Meeting a whole bunch of really great people this year, mostly through friends, the web site, the project itself etc...
o Getting running water on the site
o Connecting with a number of volunteers and a promise to have more volunteers for next year
o Procuring the backfill tamper and compressor, another big promise for next year.
· Regret / No regret events:
o I lost 4 weekends of the building season due to my repeated absences and that represents a significant proportion of the season. I had to do this and that’s life. No regret!
o I did not do a good purchase with my small compressor. Now I have to sell it and it is a waste of energy. That’s part of making decisions: Sometimes they are not so good! No regret!
o I forgot to cover my stack of cement bags last time and I may have lost some of it because of the rain. We’ll have to see in spring. I regret that I did not place them in a good spot to start with where I would not have missed that in the first place. Lesson learned!
I am happy as always to close the building season and go back to normal life for the winter months.
I am a little disappointed that I missed so much of the fall building season, but also excited at the new prospects for starting the spring season with new tools and volunteers.
So acceptance is part of the feelings that I am going through around this time and that feels good.
Another reason for feeling good is the focus on family that has been ever present this fall. This is always a big source of joy and strength.
Overall this year has been quite significantly focused on relationships of all kinds and that is a very positive progress in the right direction.
I have the feeling that next year will be still focused on relationships and that we will have a much better progress on the ground as well.
Health is ok. I always struggle a bit with the fall season, and this year is no exception, with some back aches, etc… At least, since my back has been a life-long challenge, I can tell myself that this has nothing to o with aging!
Restarting the swimming season has been good for me. It was fairly painful the first week, but it is definitely getting easier fast. However, I find myself with a significant chlorine allergy this year, to the point that on training days, everybody sit far from me, fearing that I have a cold!
Looking forward to the cross-country skiing season!