Earthbag Cellar: Lots of Earth Finishing and … finally … an Umbrella

So (this post is already a few days too late to be written in the present tense … especially since we’ve more progress since then … but I will do so anyway) we had Razvan visit with us for 5 full days of work and we got lots done.

We had already started applying finishing (first two layers) on the left retaining wall and started looking nice:

Part of it was already “scratched” in preparation for receiving the final coat (a soon-to-come) experiment with lime finishing.

My attention  was constantly reaching one step ahead, making preparations so that Iulia and Razvan could continue working fluently. In this case that included applying a protective (mouse and rat proof) wire-mesh on the opposite (right retaining wall).

… and then one side started to take on its final form: it connected to the small retaining wall on top of the entry-roof … and the image I had been holding for two years started to come to life.

… and we crossed over the arch

… and so I finally had to take action on another small experiment … creating a “foundation” for the cob on the arch using bent branches:

… and I looked down and decided to finally liberate the form that was holding the earthen floor (which is cracking!):

… and to protect this new edge I decided to finally complete the concrete (again: protection against digging animals) entrance … which has a small “step” which is hopefully going to act as part of the door-stop.

… and in the back of my mind I started realizing we may be moving inside soon …. and so I started thinking about bringing electricity … and soon the first pieces of that sub-system were in place and we had (temporary) lights on in the cellar:

… and then it was time to face the outer end of the right-retaining wall. It was not in good shape: earthbags had torn and eroded (I wish I had taken more pictures … because this was quite a rescue). It is also the most difficult back-fill area … because it had limited access and a very steep incline (much learning taking place in this project!). So the first challenge was to gain access to the wall … and that took some careful digging:

… then after much cleaning, wetting, re-activating clay, carefully applying cob, adding a large mesh (a small part of which was needed anyway as the entrance to the ventilation pipe) … the wall was rescued. In this picture you can see the last three sack-edges peeking out … waiting to be covered with the cob rolled up at the bottom-center of the image:

… and then, suddenly, the full form that I imagined came to be … an earthen funnel that leads into the hill:

… here Razvan and Iulia are simulating the bench, soon to be incorporated into the wall:

We also added a bit more height to the top-retaining wall:

… and the arch was calling to us :

… and working on it inevitable led us to the inside:

While Iulia was cobbing inside, Razvan and I got to working on the water-shed umbrella (another experiment I was looking forward to encountering). This involved more physical labor, so I was grateful to have Razvan’s help with it.

We started by digging a slightly sloped trench around the back of the cellar.

The trench was planned to go all the way around, but because of the steep front slopes it couldn’t (not effectively). So we went around one side slightly, and connected a small trench on the other side.

We then laid out plastic that covered the structure and stretched over the trench and filled the trench with large gravel which should act as a drain:

… with an outlet to daylight (and will stay that way after the final burial):

We then folded the plastic partially back over the gravel (to hold it together):

and then came a layer of geo-textile that will prevent soil from clogging the gravel (and in the hope that it will offer some protection to the plastic layer from the roots of plants that will come in the last layer of soil that will complete the burial):

But the true highlight of this visit was that Tana (our 6 months old puppy) finally got a few great days with a playmate because Razvan brought with him Hera (his very large! one-year old puppy) and the two had a great time together (despite some conflicts between Hera and Indy who plays the role of the Bhudeva badass):

It was a very productive week … moving inside was a big step forward … we can imagine the cellar complete and filled with an abundance of food for the coming winter.

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