Friday, April 20, 2012

" I love our little house! I don't want to live anywhere else!"

Thus spoke Pearl as our first truss was lifted into position and we caught our first glimpse of our beautiful little hand-made home. Indeed, it is a glorious sight, and pretty much wiped out the memory of the last few days' tears and fretting and nervous tummies.
This morning, after the fog lifted, we saw blue blue skies. We rejoiced, we did good weather dances, we hurriedly ate our porridge so we could get to the land and assess the damage. Frank brought his moisture-meter and we tested all the bales to see if any needed replacing due to water damage. The internationally-recognised theshold for safe moisture levels in building bales is 19%. Most of ours were pretty good, but we had one pesky one, in the top row, that was testing around 20%. Luckily for us we didn't have to totally dismantle any walls, and Frank was able to just pop out the 'infected' bale using his enormous strawbale mallet (affectionately known as "the pursuader") without even moving the top plate. We felt pretty good. I'm pretty sure all of us had at one time or another considered the prospect of having to rebuild entire walls due to damaged bales, so to get away with only replacing one was super!
Our reading of strawbale books had led us to believe that strawbales could not get wet AT ALL. Many a strawbale book and article told us: "moisture is a strawbale house's worst enemy!". That is true, but not the extent we had assumed. According to Frank (and let's face it - if you can't trust Frank on these matters, who can you trust?) strawbales can get a little bit wet on the outside of the bales, but not at all moist at the 'heart' of the bale. This is the bit we tested with the moisture-meter. The water-shedding capacity of our bales was also aided by the fact that they have been laid on edge, meaning that the cut edge of the bale is hidden within the wall, and the exposed edges act kind of like a thatched roof, shedding the water off rather than sucking it up like a straw.
We very quickly completed all our walls, and manhandled the top plate into position - including a 5-person uphill tug-of-war to move the massive thing 20mm to make it perfect - all before lunch!
Spirits were high as the sun shone on our quick progress, and immediately after lunch we lifted the first truss into position. You will notice the trusses are blue. This is because they're made of treated pine. Getting pre-fab trusses was something we were always going to have to do. With no building experience, and no money to pay someone to build a properly-framed roof, pre-fab trusses were our only option. And you know what? We're pretty fine with that, not least of all because it meant we were able to get our roof up in one day today, especially given the precarious weather conditions. Our trusses have a very wide bottom chord, which will act as the bearers for the floor of our sleeping loft. They were especially engineered for us to make the most of that roof space while still being structurally sound (obviously) but also aesthetically pleasing. Our roof pitch is 45 degrees, which is a tad unusual in Australia on account of us not having to shed snow from our roofs all that frequently. Some people also think it looks a bit funny. And while I do concede that our house looks rather like a gingerbread cottage, and also rather like the kind of house a 4 year old would draw, we love it to bits and wouldn't have it any other way.
All this rain we've been having has really made a HUGE deal of the whole roofing exercise. Now our strawbales are safe from thunderstorms and rain, which is a relieving thing indeed. It was also lovely to see our little house take shape - no amount of whiz-bang CAD pictures could possibly compare to seeing the little "gingerbread cottage" taking shape on our very own block of land. And the love!! I know I've mentioned it before, but seriously - it's astounding! Especially given the circumstances. So much rain... so much sticky mud. People are showing up every day with their hearts and their bodies geared towards helping us build our dream. It's overwhelming, really. And even people we barely know are pitching in, bringing us meals and baked treats for the hungry hoards.
Morag, Frank and Matt spent much of today atop our top plate, which is no mean feat given it's about 9 feet off the ground.
This gave me the heebie jeebies as I'm really not keen on heights - I forced myself up a ladder today to help attach one of the trusses but was really quite useless on account of not being able to let go enough to use the hammer. So to see all our dear ones fairly trotting along the top-plate carrying all manner of heavy items really reinforced the feeling of love we have for this whole project.
As the roof went up today, Morag asked me, "Do you love your little house?" and I replied, "I do, but I love you more". And it's true! To build a house with someone, to pitch in and do all the multitude of tasks both big and small that make up a house-build, is really something, and I hope against hope that one day I can return the favour, not just to the people who have helped us this week, but to anyone who needs it.
Today was supposed to be the last day of our workshop, so tomorrow we're losing some of our workforce as those who had traveled to be with us return home. But some are staying on, and many locals have offered to give us a hand with the rendering, which is our next big job.
The rain is supposed to stay away for the next couple of days, which would be lovely, though there is slightly less urgency now that the trusses are up and tomorrow we'll have a proper roof over our precious 4 walls.
Cost of the trusses was $2500.


  1. It looks gorgeous and amazing. The roofline is my favourite roofline of all and what I'll be having in a new house. We've got 35 degree pitch on our little studio which is a cute pitch too. Love high pitched, gingerbread houses!!!
    So pleased for you guys that you were able to get so much done yesterday. Absolutely incredible. It took us nearly two weeks to get to the stage you're already at!

  2. Oh how wonderful to see everything coming together, and hear you are all in such wonderful spirits and loving your sweet little home! Yay, so happy for you all!

    Much love,

    Ally, Rich and Annie xx

  3. I have to admit to a few tears reading this post! What an amazing effort in the face of the weather! It looks beautiful and I can only imagine how happy, exhausted and grateful you must be. I can't wait to see the next stage.

    I will be on uni break in July so let me know if there's anything I can do then.


  4. So glad everything has turned out so well, I have been thinking of you these past few days, have been seeing so many adobe houses, many half finished, and also taking photos of very colourful houses with you in mind.
    Sending good vibes and lots of love for the next stage.
    Miss Jane xxxxx

  5. So happy for you!!! What a beautiful sight! Best of luck with the rest! Xxxx Beth