Well, mud and weeds anyway, the lunacy is general and not directly a result of the house. Since completion of the sewerage system, things have been moving behind the scenes (not in a sewerage sense), with sorting the various technical drawings and plans for the capping of the foundations ready for the wall raising. Part of this involved a late, but successful harvest, with the wheat only coming in in September. However, this has replenished our stock of straw bales, in readiness for walls. Combining happened exclusively at night, so evenings shovelling grain stopped me and Chris and Thom from getting bored after work!
After this, and in consultation with Barbara from Straw works, we started making plans for putting up the walls. We have now decided not to use lime to render the outside of the bales, but to use a clay plaster instead. As we now know from lots of soggy digging over last winter, the soil on the farm is very heavy clay, especially the subsoil. Luckily this turns out to be just what we need for the clay plaster, so with a few experiments involving various ratios of clay to sand and chopped straw, we’ve come up with a really good mix for coating and sealing the bales inside and out.
This will mean that we have to clad the outside of the building with wooden cladding, which we wouldn’t have had to have done with lime, but it’ll still work out cheaper and easier (I hope).
We also tested the bales for compression, so we know what height each wall section will be once compressed, so we can plan window heights etc.
The weeds part I mentioned is the ongoing battle against the nettles in our proto-garden. 60 years of capped rubbish tip, regularly doused with ash and larch needles means that the site has very nutrient enriched soil, perfect for nettles. Now, although I’m well aware of the rich fauna supported by nettles (various butterfly larvae, prefer or are almost dependent on them), so I would n’t want them to disappear, I would like them to disappear from my garden!! However, they’ve seen me coming, and deliberately decided to be pretty resistant to regular cutting and glyphosate, so the battle continues! (mostly involving me getting hot cutting them, and then being stung by the next generation…GRRRR!)
We have just finished the last, surprisingly level, run of tyres to the outer wall foundations which means we are finally building above ground! This forms the base for the wooden ring-beam that will anchor and compress the bales of the ground floor walls, so it needs to be level. We have also completed the ‘french drain’ around the outer edge of the foundations – the shallow trench filled with gravel that keeps the foundations and lower walls free of standing water and splash back. No more tyres and gravel – hoorah! Thanks to Dave and Kev for their hard work on completing the foundations.
*this title is borrowed from a particularly puerile comment made by a local councillor on a piece of work myself and some colleagues did looking at the economics of land-use and its effect on environmental services in the fens. He asserted that the British public cannot live “on lunacy and weeds!” I leave it up to you to decide who is right on this….our article is here, his ‘learned’ response is here .