Repairing Subsidence with Rammed Tyres

Well, I had a great summer spending a month in Canada, which is why this website has been left a little quiet. Upon getting back, the weather has started to turn and Autumn is making it’s presence felt. In the garden, things are progressing very well, and “the drummer house”, as it’s now known as, is simply waiting for it’s final coat of clay plaster inside.

Last spring, I posted about the subsidence that had occurred in the garden; my retaining wall built from telegraph poles was not strong enough to hold back the wet soil and pushed everything forward. This week I found the time to dig out enough soil to ram a few tyres onto solid ground and build up the wall this way, which should prevent any future subsidence.

The tyres will add stability to the soil which is not holding together well.

The tyres will add stability to the soil which is not holding together well.

With this almost finished, it means I can now focus on getting this garden tier flattened, and optimistically, have it looking like a garden for spring! I’m just hoping I can find somewhere to put the remaining soil without having to lug it down to a skip for removal.

Finishing the Patio & Clay Plaster on Tyres

As per usual, I feel guilty for not posting more updates on my work in the garden.

The weather has been outstandingly hot the last two weeks, as you would no doubt have noticed if you are UK based! This has been great for my plastering inside the building, but not brilliant for working outside – it’s far too hot!!

Before the hot weather struck, I found some time to get the patio outside of the building finished. Where the tyres end, I built up a wooden step and this frames the patio area very nicely.

The decking provides a step up around the tyre edge of the patio

The decking provides a step up around the tyre edge of the patio

On the patio, I got hold of a great cable reel which I nicely asked for down an industrial estate. It wasn’t very well protected from future element exposure, so I found a woodstain which was the right colour for me.

The original cable reel. I wanted to keep the logo markings to maintain the authentic feel!

The original cable reel. I wanted to keep the logo markings to maintain the authentic feel!

The stained cable reel looks great in my opinion. It sits very nicely on the patio, and I celebrated on a warm evening with a ice cold beer. Not a bad view, eh?

The markings on the cable reel shows through nicely. This photo shows the reel while still wet, the stain is a little lighter than this!

The markings on the cable reel shows through nicely. This photo shows the reel while still wet, the stain is a little lighter than this!

New patio, new cable reel table and a fresh beer. Glorious evening!

New patio, new cable reel table and a fresh beer. Glorious evening!

On the inside of the building, my clay plaster mix has dried on the straw, and I have started plastering over the tyres now, before I combine the two in a final coat which should finish off the wall before I can paint it and call the inside finished!

The tyre wall steps down at the back, and merge into the straw wall in the same coat of plaster.

The tyre wall steps down at the back, and merge into the straw wall in the same coat of plaster.

The straw and tyre walls have very different finishes to them. I might break this up on the finished wall with a shelf or a dado rail.

The straw and tyre walls have very different finishes to them. I might break this up on the finished wall with a shelf or a dado rail.

Once the tyres are plastered the wall has a beautiful texture to it. The bottles will push into the wall to a smooth finish.

Once the tyres are plastered the wall has a beautiful texture to it. The bottles will push into the wall to a smooth finish.

The finish of the tyres looks brilliant, in my opinion. I’m going to keep the undulating finish as part of a feature on the building, maybe separating the tyres and straw with a shelf, or other feature. We shall see how it looks when I get the paint on the walls and a flatter finish on our plaster.

The week before the bales: preparation madness

I don’t know where to begin to start to describe the last two weeks or so building up to this coming weekend. It has been an absolute stress fest. About four months ago, I bought the straw planning to raise the walls in Easter and now it is here, it’s a sudden rush of activity as I try and get everything in order for the weekend of building.

Firstly, the weather has been really awful this Easter, in case you hadn’t noticed. I’ve been quite lucky here as no snow has fallen, but about 100 miles north, there are people unable to leave their houses because they are snowed in! Crazy times. The forecasts have been highly erratic and I’ve been worrying that I would have to cancel the straw bale raising and delay the build until the weather settles which brings with it many more concerns.

Being a teacher, I’ve got the two weeks off before Easter, and I am endlessly grateful for that, because I’m spending every day this week getting things ready. It’s not the pace of building I am built for if I’m honest and I’ll breathe a huge sigh of relief once I can sit back with a roof on the building and take my time with the rest of the construction. Perhaps this is the real benefit of building frames when building with straw – the more I think about it, the more I would find the less stressful option of having a roof over my building before the straw arrives!

Here you can see the start of the wall plate going down.

Here you can see the start of the wall plate going down. The building really takes shape with this outlining it!

So this week so far, I’ve got the wall plates measured and cut for both under and over the straw bales. Next up is installing the uprights and frames for the doors and windows, then building the trusses, and I’ll be ready for the straw! I’d have liked to have done this sooner, but cold and wet weather has forced my hand slightly and it’s a case of leaving it to the last minute! I’ll try and take as many photos as I can and post here, if only to document the build for people looking for more information.

Plans for 2013

Hello again! I do hope everyone is having a nice January.

I know its still falling in some places, but today was the first day where the snow showed visible signs of melting away, and myself and my parents jumped at the chance of getting stuck in to the first real work day of 2013!

I cleared a path up to the back on Friday, and so this morning we had a quick walk up to the top of the garden where we uncovered the tarpaulin to find nice dry ground, perfect for shovelling into tyres! We got four tyres rammed, and started working on the final trench that needs digging, at the far right of the garden. Despite the cold and lingering patches of snow, I’m impressed with the work we completed, and now I’m sitting inside my warm house, listening to the rain fall and wash away the rest of the snow. I’m using this time to turn my thoughts ahead to the next three months of work..

Easter (25th March to 7th April)
Its a mere 9 weeks until the Easter holidays, and this is when I intend to finish the straw building section of the shed, as well as get the roof up and waterproofed. In this time, I have the tyre foundations to finish, so I’m seizing days of good weather to get the ground dug up and the foundations placed. I will certainly be sending out volunteer requests for probably the full two weeks, so if you are not subscribed to my newsletter and you are interested, then you should get involved very soon!

Half-Term (11th to 17th February)
My half term in college is only two weeks away and I plan to be spending every hour out in the garden digging my way to the end of this project! If you are free and you want to come along and learn some stuff about tyre foundations, and hopefully preparing a stem wall for straw bale building, then give me an email, or sign up to my newsletter and you’ll get an email from me when I send one out.

I will update this post in the morning if the weather is favourable and get some photos of my progress on here!

Rebuilding the Wall

A while back, I blogged about the discovery of all the stone at the back of my garden. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been digging out trenches at the back to lay my drainage pipe along the back of what will be the retaining wall and the buildings back wall. As I have been doing this, the amount of stone at the back has been surprising, to say the least. It’s literally a pile of stone, so its very structurally unstable and therefore something I need to sort out before I put the wall in.

As I took out the earth to go low enough for my trench today, a load of the wall collapsed, so I am working on repairing it over the next month to get it solid and looking good.

Taking the stone from the wall and after laying the drainage pipe as a guide, I built a small wall around where the drainage pipe is laid. As it is built, I’m trying to tie it in with the pile of stones behind it to make both walls more solid. It also gives me somewhere to put all the stone!

Slowly, I’m removing the unstable blocks and putting them back in as flat as possible. I’ve only just started though, so you can see the work that needs doing below! The wall will be about 5/6 feet high when finished.

So thats the work going on at the moment! Once it’s finished, I’ll be working hard to get all the tyres in the foundations done, so I can relax for the winter and look forward to the straw wall raising, which I am sorting out suppliers for this week!

Hi Ho! Hi Ho.. etc..

In the latest twist of the gardening, whilst digging trenches for my drainage, I have discovered that the back of my garden is a little rockier than I would have liked! Today, I pulled up what I thought were a few stones, to find that I’ve basically got a dump of quarry stones in my back garden.
I’ve got no idea how deep the pile goes, or how far back, but one thing I know is that I need to move a lot of them so I can make space for the building floor. Fortunately, the space on my next terrace down has allowed me to use the stones unearthed so far for a small dry stone wall which will form a pond. Other ones I hope I can use for drainage and foundations, but I will have to remove them first to see how many there are!

The photos show the trench I have dug so far, some of the stones in the ground and the wall I have built with the ones I have pulled out. Time will tell how many there are in total that come out, but at the moment, I can’t see an end, and they are big old stones! I hope it doesn’t have an effect on the schedule for the volunteering weekend coming up! I’ll continue working on getting them moved.

Time to move to Plan B…

Last week, early in the stage of digging out the footings for my building, we hit a large rock. We decided it wasn’t worth trying to get t out, as it wasn’t even wobbling when we got a pick underneath it.. in the process of doing some digging today, I unearthed more of it and so far, its about 1.5m long! It’s bloomin’ massive! I took a photo.

As you can see (hopefully) the rock starts by the tyre, and goes up past the end of the spade! I marked it, so its the white streaks. Unfortunately, I was planning on laying tyres there, but I will have to raise up the next course a little with flat stones and just build on top of it. Ultimately, it won’t affect my plans too much (though I have to redirect my drainage pipe around it as a result), and its reassuring to know that my building will be on such solid footings! However, It’s a reminder that I need to be adaptable to my plans. If I hit something like this in an area where I can’t just work around it, it will cause me serious problems getting it out! Given my house is just below an old quarry, I will have to keep my fingers crossed as I dig!!

Garden Development

Slowly, as the winter approaches, I am nearing the end of phase one of my garden plans. Currently, I am working on flattening and tiering the garden to ensure that I have a flatter area to start my foundations on. The work started early in the summer and has been going on in spare time, and on good days. As the winter approaches, I have been seizing the days to get the grass removed from the garden, and Am hoping to fill in the large dip in the middle of the ground. This will also mean I have to build in some ground drainage to account for all the water running off the mountain. I’ll document this if it happens.

The back part of the garden is going to have one more tier built into it, and the very back will be dug down a little from the border with a retaining wall built in, so that the back floor of the house will sit about 1m below the current level of the garden. Once the middle part of the garden is filled in, I will start to focus on the next retaining wall to give an outline of the building. In the coming weeks, I hope to start sourcing some tyres and speak to the planning office regarding (avoidance of) planning permission. I’ll no doubt update the blog with diagrams on how the building will look once I’ve created them.