Friday, April 6, 2012

In pursuit of a bottom plate (part one)

We have 9 days until our workshop. There is much to do. Yes we have managed the excavation and the footings, and while we are thrilled we managed all this against the (weather) odds, we can't allow complacency to creep in. There's a little more we need to have done before 8am on Monday 16 April. Part of the understanding we have with Frank (strawbale builder) Thomas is that we will be ready to start building the strawbale walls on Monday morning. What this means is we need to construct the 'bottom plate'. The bales will be attached to the bottom plate which will be attached to a "top plate" on top of the bales. The roof is attached to the top plate. As there's no frame on this little strawbale, this is what we need to do to ensure our building is structural. Our little straw bale is what is known as "load bearing" strawbale. And this is the main reason for our over-engineered footings. Yes we (and the earth) have paid the price for legitimacy.

Look, I don't know about you but I find this top plate, bottom plate bizzo all a bit tricky to understand. I am seriously challenged when it comes to anything conceptual. I don't know what happened to me. I suspect, the largest part is growing up a book and art loving girl in our gender divided culture. It's like part of my brain got switched off to the point where try as I might, I find this stuff so hard to understand. My lack of understanding is such that when Annie said we needed to head to the land this morn to attach the bottom plate, I actually had no idea what she was talking about.

So we're a bit of a bumbling building duo. We lost the essential drill bit that would allow us to finish the bottom plate task. However we were able to measure and cut the wood. The best way I can describe it is that we were making a kind of timber frame that will sit atop the footing and contain blue metal, a board will sit atop this (drilled in of course) and from here we will start laying the bales. They'll be laid somewhat like bricks.... I'll stop there, best for there to be photos to complement the further detail.
So we spent the glorious morning with sun on our faces and a delicate north easterly breeze in our hair measuring and sawing timber. Yes pine. I think I'll leave the discussion about the ethics and toxicity of timber to another blog post. But if you're interested, in the meantime, Milkwood have a useful discussion on the issue. Oh like so much it's a veritable minefield of ethical dilemma fused with financial constraint. Eek!

It was a task that would take some people an hour. It took us three. We had kids to attend to, measurements and diagrams to check and double check and the fact that our tools were pretty much all wrong for the task. Oh but we are happy. I felt pretty chuffed when we'd measured, sawn and laid out all the timber. So happy I forgot to take a photo. And the kids were happy to have our attention again. They played together and apart. Oscar had been devouring the slopes with his new balance bike while Olive had found a shady spot under a tree for some reading and maths(!). On the issue of maths, well, that is totally self-directed. We're not the hot housing types, I promise. She just decides to do sums sometimes.

After all that calculation, it was time for lunch in the shade of a mighty 500 year old Angophora with views down the valley. Calzone with tomatoey basil sauce + olives + mozzarella made this morning were first up followed by local fruits, bliss balls and tea. Pretty satisfying.
Friends start arriving this week and I need to start baking - biscuits and cake and spice mixes and all manner of general deliciousness to feed the generous and sweaty workers. Exciting times ahead.

On the issue of costs, the timber for the bottom and top plates and window frames (more on this at a later date) was $1,500. After the roof trusses, that's all the timber we'll be using. So far everything is fitting nicely within our budget. Let's hope it stays this way so we can purchase more trees and plants for garden abundance.


  1. ah, so pretty. we shall be seeing you very soon... xx

  2. love the calzones..... dad would be impressed! They look delicious.

  3. oh, I wish I could come to the building week. I love reading what you are up to and how the building is going. We built an extension to our place several years ago and learnt so much from it. We did all but the plumbing and electricity ourselves. It is really frustrating that it is hard to get actual costs for a building project.
    With the over designed footings, think of them as an investment for future archaeologist to ponder what was there 1000 years ago:) And the top and bottom plates are sort of like the pastry on your yummy looking calzones - they keep the good stuff where it's supposed to be and a base to stop the roof flying away in the first good wind.