We're building a little hobbit house of sorts at Bardo Farm in Croydon, New Hampshire. The excavator has started clearing the site, pulling out rocks and stumps, and knocking down trees, and we've been cutting 'em up and dragging 'em out. This will be a Woodland Oehler Freaky-Cheap/Fast Annualized Thermal Inertia structure, less than 400 sq ft, and will be built on a roughly east-north-east-facing fairly gentle slope. So, the uphill patio, and therefore the majority of the windows, will be oriented roughly towards the west-south-west. Stay tuned for sketches, site pictures, video, and more info.
You can totally come help and learn along with us as we build our first wofati.
Well, the workshop is going to be postponed until, ideally, a dry week near the end of summer. Exact date will be posted here as soon as we have one. Maybe then a nice mod or someone would be kind enough to change the title of this thread.
Meanwhile, work on clearing the site is coming right along.
E A Thoreau : Sh*t Happens, don't be afraid to come back here and post your progress, or even lack of same, this is stuff that happens everyday,People who know
me, think that my favorite expression is " life is what happens AS you try to make plans for tomorrow !".
Really, it is not my favorite expression, just a reflection of daily life, this may be a blessing for a near-neighbor with a newly dug pond, or proof of brilliance for the guy
who just planted a Big food forest for the next 100 years ! For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL !
Success has a Thousand Fathers , Failure is an Orphan
Making progress. Here's some of the trees we've pulled out so far. Lots of maple and a good bit of ash, but there's also some nice golden birch, an oak or two, and in a separate stack outside the pic there's some hemlock and white pine.
Update: Making progress, learning from mistakes. Next time will be better. The site is almost cleared, but most of the logs are not debarked, except insofar as dragging them out with the tractor tore a lot of the bark off. Great big pile of logs with most of their bark still on, kind of unwieldy, not really easily accessible, so I'm having to move them again, trying to lay out softwoods down as a big pallet of sorts, and then laying out the hardwoods that are going to be the posts, beams, etc. on top in such a way that they can be debarked and worked while staying relatively dry. Little spots of mold have already started to set in. Hoping that sunlight, dry wind, and maybe a nice adzing will fix that, but it's indicative of a problem in my timing, I think. With more foresight and better planning, I think I would like to have been processing the trees as they come down, getting them completely debarked, high, dry, and maybe even under some kind of cover that still lets air and sun in at them.
We're thinking the work party (with free pizza!) should probably be in August. And once we're sure that we can efficiently put people to work, the exact dates will be announced. Meanwhile, if you're local-ish and excited about wofati or natural-building or post-and-beam or earth-sheltered houses or all of the above and preferably if you have some skills and expertise, send me a moosage or post here and chances are you can come over, check out the progress, and lend a hand, even before the workshop proper.
Folks who are really hardcore and excited about earth-sheltered structures can come stay and work with us the whole 9 day week, from August 8th through August 17th. For folks who can't make it the whole week, you're welcome to come join us for the first weekend, the last weekend, or both.
The pile of debarked logs is steadily growing, as friends, neighbors and kids, (both humans and goats,) have been helping to peel bark off of some beautiful maples and birches that are going to be the posts, beams, and rafters of the wofati (hobbit house).
In between working on the wofati, feeding the animals, fixing stuff, and all the other farm chores, we also found time to build an earth-sheltered bunny bunker in the rabbit run this week. It was fun and very helpful to gain experience working with the same materials, (just on a smaller scale,) as what we're going to be using in building the hobbit house. It was particularly helpful to work out solutions to tricky spots, certain edges I didn't know exactly how I was going to deal with yet, namely, the corners of the overhangs, where the waterproofing membrane meets the retaining wall, and the transition between the overhang, the outer wood that covers the waterproofing membrane of the drip edge, and the retaining wall. I now feel better prepared to tackle these areas in the human-scale structure, though the massive weight of the materials and increased complexity of the project will no doubt present new and unplanned challenges.
The event will take place from August 8 - 17. Come any day, or stay for all!
Winter can be harsh here in the Shire, but imagine living in a house that stays warm and cozy throughout the cold months with minimal ongoing inputs. Well-designed earth-sheltered structures take the warmth of summer and carry it deep into the heart of winter. The key is an "umbrella" of dry earth that covers and partially surrounds the structure. The dry earth acts as both thermal mass and insulation, helping to passively maintain near-earth-stable temperatures year-round. Earth-sheltered homes can be faster, easier, and cheaper to build than almost any other construction method, but there are certain critical design issues to keep in mind. Firstly, the roof should follow the site's slope and be oriented in such a way that every drop of water that lands on it has a complete downhill soil path. Secondly, there should be multiple drainage ditches uphill of the structure to redirect water coming down the hill.
Here at Bardo Farm, we're hoping to build an earth-sheltered house that can live up to their reputation, so we're building with roundwood timber posts and beams from the land it's being built on, and we're integrating a permaculture food forest site design into the uphill patio. When everything is done, the uphill patio will not only facilitate proper drainage, it will also be planted with a beautiful, diverse, and highly productive edible forest garden, and provide a fairly large and comfortable outdoor living area to complement the modest interior of the hobbit house itself.
If you're excited about natural building, earth-sheltered houses, food forests, and/or permaculture, then come on up to Bardo Farm Aug 8-17 and learn along with us.
Friday, Aug 8 will start with an overview of the site, the house and food forest design, and the work we've already done, and once we're all on the same page, we can start getting our hands dirty!
On Saturday, Aug 9, the focus will be on log debarking. Stripping bark off of the logs will help to prevent them from rotting, and help to dry them out.
Sunday, Aug 10, we'll learn how to cut notches and fit together the posts and beams!
From Monday, Aug 11 through Thursday, Aug 14, we'll finish up the debarking, the notching, milling lumber, and preparing the rock footings for the posts.
Friday, Aug 15 is a big day! We'll raise the post and beam frame and start placing the rafters!
Saturday, Aug 16 we'll finish the framing, shore up the walls and roof with milled lumber, and add the first waterproofing layer.
If everything goes smoothly, then on Sunday, Aug 17, the excavator will backfill with dry earth and we'll add the "umbrella" waterproofing layer to keep the dry earth dry. Finally, we'll add the last layer of earth and seed over everything with a cover crop!
What's a hobbit house work party without a hobbit meal schedule? That's right, if you want to come rough it out here in the woods of the Shire and help build a hobbit house, you won't starve, as we aspire to serve you the traditional six meals a day.
Breakfast, coffee available everyday and sometimes sweets.
2nd Breakfast, might be quail eggs, fresh or frozen local berries.
Elevensies, hot and fresh from the Bardo Farm Kitchen!
Luncheon, wild edibles, maybe salad or berries, and bring your own to share.
Tea, a different tea everyday, tulsi, oolong, rooibus, etc., sometimes biscuits.
Supper/Dinner Party everyday after work, sometimes pizza, bbq, campfire, live music!
If you're staying overnight(s) don't forget to bring a tent and camping equipment, and prepare for any weather.
Thanks wayne. It was very much inspired by Sepp Holzer's pig shelters, though obviously scaled way down.
Well, things are almost ready for the official beginning of the work party tomorrow. Most of the meals are spoken for. The posts and beams are about half debarked, and the rest are staged and ready to be worked, and all but a couple rafters are debarked and staged. The lumber we're milling for the ceilings and walls is coming together too. Expect lots of photos when the workshop gets going.
Some good folks showed up over the course of the work party week and the week after, and we got a lot of work done. All the logs debarked, a lot of dirt moved, three of the four stone retaining walls built, and the first two posts in, as of today, Aug 22. We've been getting lots of rain, and the site today was pretty much a soup, leaving me wishing that more of the uphill drainage had been completed earlier. So much for everything being dry when you put it on.
Trying to figure out the best way to dry the dry earth layer over time, and so far the plan seems to be installing a sort of vent tube coming out of the peak and ending in an upside down 'u' The tube would sit in the dry dirt layer, near the outer waterproofing umbrella but under the surface, and would have holes in it and maybe gravel around it. The idea being that no water would flow down into it, but it could vent the moisture that evaporates and rises to the top of the umbrella. Anyone think this could work? Did I explain that in a way that makes sense?
Southwest retaining wall went up today. The idea with this wall in particular was to curve the southern end of it back in on itself a bit, forming a concave section open mainly to the southish. This suntrap will in the future perhaps become a walipini / oehler greenhouse of sorts. I like the convenience and thermal gain of attached greenhouses, but I don't like the moisture problems, so having a greenhouse attached to the south berm of the dry earth umbrella seemed like a good compromise. The interior living space, which should be quite dry, won't directly share a wall with the greenhouse, which will be wetter.
The first layer of earth, the "dry earth umbrella", (mostly composed of wet clay,) is mostly in place. It still needs some sculpting, and I should add more permanent lateral supports, (a bit of shifting occurred during the backfilling and we had to pull some dirt back away from the walls and add temporary bracing before filling it back in,) not to mention letting the earth dry out as much as possible, (which means covering it for the winter and then uncovering/recovering it many times next summer,) before finally adding the last layer of dirt.
But the next most immediate concern is completing the uphill drainage ditches of the uphill patio before the ground freezes up completely. Then building the rocket stove and framing in the windows and doors will be the next highest priorities. I'll have to make do with just stacked cordwood and a couple layers of tarps for my walls for this winter, and eventually I'll re-stack the cordwood and mortar it together with cob next year when the weather is more conducive to such work. Over the winter I'll be blasting the rocket stove and seriously drying out the interior, and I should have time to piece together the stone floors of the apothecary and the study, and maybe even work out the faux moss carpet for the yoga room.
I'll probably build some shelves and other built-in-storage too, not to mention figure out how to turn one entire wall of either the study or the yoga room, (roughly 8' x 8' square) into a giant book of maps. I'm picturing like big binder rings holding several huge sheets of heavy-duty canvases or maybe hemp paper, at least 10 exquisitely detailed permaculture-notes-rich maps centered on the house and zooming out in scale: Zone 1 (the house and uphill patio,) Zone 2 (immediately surrounding gardens, woodlands, pastures, etc.) Zone 3 (the whole 200+ acre farm and some neighboring properties,) Zone 4 (the town and nearby towns,) Zone 5 (the Shire and southern Arcadia,) Zone 6 (North America and the North Atlantic, as far south as Mexico, as far west as Idaho, as far north as Greenland, and as far east as Ireland,) Zone 6, (Earth) Zone 7, (the solar system,) Zone 8, (neighboring stars on the inner edge of the orion arm,) Zone 9, (the milky way,) Zone 10 (the local galactic supercluster.) Of course, the giant book will also hold lots of art and poetry, and be able to have a projector shot at it.
I'm really looking forward to next spring when I can start planting Mountain and Heaven, 6 of the 9 portions of the uphill patio forest garden. The uphill patio is conceptually a series of outdoor rooms based on three trigrams from the I Ching: Lake to the south, Heaven to the west, and Mountain to the north. Each one is divided along the concentric arcs of the terraces/drainage ditches into Upper, Middle, and Lower portions. I haven't totally figured out the plan for all 9 yet, but Lower Heaven will be a yoga meadow, Lower Lake will be the solarium spa and kitchen garden, Lower Mountain will be the outdoor kitchen and fire ring, and Middle Heaven will maybe have a ring of trees woven together to create a living gazebo or maybe a fruit salad tree. In general, the height of the dominant layer of vegetation will slope up from the south to the north, meaning mostly groundcover and herbs in Lake transitioning to mostly shrubs and understory trees in Heaven transitioning to mostly canopy trees and a shade tolerant understory in Mountain. There will also be climbers on trellises in key places over the path, fungi throughout, and habitat for domestic and wild animals. Wildlife for which I'd definitely like to provide habitat include bats, frogs, bees, (and other beneficial insects,) birds, (especially owls and wild turkeys,) porcupines, and deer. Domestic animals I'd like to permanently integrate into my local ecosystem include honey bees, meat turkeys, egg ducks, and an alpaca for wool. Occasionally a pig or two may be let in for short periods to do work in specific areas.