Monday, February 23, 2009

Straw, Earth, Mud, Plaster, Birth

It's so interesting to me that many of the same people who think government should stay out of their lives believe government should have a bigger role in the lives of others (The Lives of Others, a very good movie, by the way). Like say, legislating where we can give birth and who can attend that birth. And, they don't even choose the side with the best outcomes. Very odd, don't you think?

This is not to be a political rant but we are in danger of losing a very basic right and it makes me happy when I see things like this: Marshall University Nurse Midwifery Emphasis added to MSN Program. I come from that neck of the woods and this is a boon to the area. Hopefully many will stay and serve the population.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More Plaster

I never know where this blog will take me, kind of like life. On the heels of my plaster post last week, this week Rick (the spousal unit), worked with the National Park Service in helping to preserve buildings in the Fort Lowell Historic Neighborhood (see more about Ft Lowell here). These are adobe buildings from the 1860's that are melting away. Adobe is a wonderful for building but it must be maintained, when it isn't, it quickly deteriorates. One of these structures was inhabited until 2006 but in our climate, with its torrential summer rains, adobe can quickly return to its base materials. The intent of this project is to preserve what's remaining, not restore to original. Some photos of the area and the work being done.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Plaster and Paint

Our hearth brown clay paint, wall a lighter (perhaps Lincoln clay) paint.
Looking at the photo of the mirror in the previous post my eye is drawn to the texture of the wall behind the mirror. That is clay paint, sometimes called alis. Homemade clay paint. Homemade by me (and him).

Strawbale building in a nutshell: outer walls-stacked strawbales with roof tied to foundation by steel that runs through the bales. Inner walls-some folks do some creative and labor intensive things such as wattle and daub, or cob but we chose the old standby of frame and drywall. However, I didn't want latex on drywall as the finish; too flat, too boring, too smelly.

Two slightly different clays.
After attending a workshop with Bill and Athena Steen at the Canelo Project, I decided to earthen plaster the drywall. You can buy earthen or clay plaster but it was out of our budget range and, we had lots of clay.

But that's clay paint on the walls. So what happened to the plaster? We had already plastered the outside and the interior strawbales walls and we got tired. There comes a point when building a house that you just have to finish and we had reached that point. Lets just get this done! So we bailed on the plaster and went to clay paint.

Clay paint recipe: finely sifted clay (I used the more typical brown for some walls, but purchased very fine ceramic clay, like Kaolin, for others), fine sand, finely chopped straw (or mica), water and flour paste. We also added a small amount of powdered milk to ours. The milk acts as a binder as in old-fashioned milk paint. You mix the first 5 ingredients and then slowly add the milk until it starts to thicken to the consistency of heavy cream. Then take the biggest brush you can handle and start slathering it on the walls. It's a messy process but worth it. The walls have a nice texture and the clay and sand add a small bit to the thermal mass of the house.
It did what we needed it to do.

That being said, I will plaster the walls some day as that's the look I wanted from the getgo.

I'm not sure when, but the day is getting closer.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mirror, mirror...

I needed a mirror for above the washstand that sits in our quasi-entryway. The washstand came from my great-grandmother and had for many years lived in a garage as a workbench. Talk about patina! My dad lovingly brought it back to life for me and I've had it since the spousal unit and I were married. Previously the watercolor that I wrote about here, hung above it but in a small space mirrors and light are your friend and a mirror hung above the stand would reflect light and the outdoors from a window on the opposite wall.

Now, I don't know when you last purchased a mirror but holy, moly they are pricey, especially the larger ones. And I knew I wanted a substantial frame so, I put on my scavenger cap and went on a hunt. While thrifting one day I found an old white painted (looked like latex) frame that was about the size I had envisioned. Then on another day I happened on a mirror in a 1-inch fakewood frame for a couple of bucks. The mirror would not fit perfectly into the frame but I thought I could make it work and I did.

What do you think?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Thanks to Paul Levy for pointing me to Movin' Meat for this reminder.

Which got me thinking and brought back this memory:

I almost lactate when I hear these songs. I'm taken back to a quiet room, in the middle of the night with a baby at the breast, dreaming dreams of the future.