house made of mud

rescuing a sonoran row house

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 4)

stay at the house made of mud! (plus new photos and some aww shucks….)

hello inveterate readers of this blog (well over 6,000 of you have popped in at one time or another, by the by),

just wanted to pop in myself with a few pieces of news. the first is that our guest house is now up and running and available on airbnb. i’d promised photos, and you can see them on the listing. also-if you know anyone who’d like to stay in an historic 1890s sonoran row house in the heart of barrio libre, send them our way! we’re loving being able to share a portion of the house with guests. few things could be more gratifying than having people walking around the rooms going “wow” every two seconds.  :-)

there still more photos of the house (commissioned by our architects and take over the summer) available on local photographer gerardine varga’s site. trust me: they rock!

finally: we were beyond pleased and humbled that the house renovation not only won an award for historic preservation from the pima county historical commission, but also won a governor’s heritage honor award from the arizona preservation foundation and the arizona state historic preservation office. the awards recognized the many people who worked so hard to help us bring the old place back, and were well deserved by all!

all moved in

well. so it’s been awhile. my apologies–i do have excuses galore. first: we were MOVING. which was crazy, since we did most of it ourselves (if you’ve ever moved out of a 3200 sqft house, with a garage and shed, you’ll know what i mean). and then, once we’d moved–or, really, while we were moving–it was the holidays. after which i promptly fell ill for about three weeks. and after that, well, i realized as i was taking “after” photos that i’ve been rather reluctant to share them. even though the place has come so, so far, to me it feels like it’s still not photo-ready (you’ll note the lovely paper “curtains” still covering our windows).

but anyway. none of that is really valid for keeping everyone who’s followed this blog in suspense so long. i do hope to get some really nice photos taken (by someone who’s a much better photographer than i am!) once we actually have things like, you know, curtains, and once we truly get the furniture figured out and so on. but in the meantime–here you are. after!

before that, though, there’s one final thing I must do:  a huge, HUGE, shout-out to everyone who helped us bring our House of Mud back to life (bear with me, this is going to sound like the oscars for a minute). but here goes–our sincerest, sincerest thanks to: Kegan & Fe and everyone at The Architecture Company for their wonderful suggestions and drawing our plans;  Steven Hess, our structural engineer who made sure the walls would stay up; the Barrio Viejo Committee and the County Historical Board for their excellent guidance and encouragement; The Arizona State Historic Preservation Office for the same; the City of Tucson with all of its various and congenial approval offices and officers; Palo Verde electric for getting the lights on;  Steve Seidel plumbing for digging like moles through the heat of the summer to put in our pipes and other various plumbing accoutrement; the extra teams of masons and plasterers who helped bring the structure back to where it needed to be; Achilles Heating & Cooling for making sure we’ll be alternately toasty and cool; the folks up at the Canelo Project-Athena & Bill- for giving advice when needed; and David Yubeta for the same; our friend, architect and most excellent welder Jean Luc at Atelier Design for designing and making our gorgeous new gate, and to Paco, for helping him; Natasha at Originate for our beautiful, recycled paper countertops; Vicki at Benjamin Plumbing, who has to be the world’s most knowledgeable fixture maven; TEP, SW Gas and Tucson City Water for everything they did to get us much needed utilities; CG concrete for our lovely new sidewalks; and EcoSense landscaping for grading, grading and more grading. And huge thanks to EVERYONE in the neighborhood who’s been cheering us on. Truly, your words and encouragement have meant the world to us throughout this long, long process.

The biggest shout of all, however, goes to Oden Construction, our stalwarts. To all of the guys on the crew: Elias, Herman, Tino, Chris, Adolfito, Martine, Dan, Jessie, John, Misael, Gerald, James and everyone, though especially to Sean Oden, our site supervisor extraordinaire. You guys sweated it out in the heat and mud (lots and lots of mud) and we couldn’t be more grateful. And finally, to Randy Oden-owner of the company and our guiding source of wisdom on all things adobe. We would have been lost without you.

 

the zaguan.

the zaguan. note the father kino fig-given to us by our architects. we’ll plant it outside in a month or so.

looking into our little library from the zaguan. we'll have bookshelves built at some point.

looking into our little library from the zaguan. we’ll have bookshelves built at some point.

guest bedroom off the zaguan, opposite the library.

guest bedroom off the zaguan, opposite the library.

another shot of the guest room.

another shot of the guest room. our cats like it.

the living room. the "fireplace" is a place holder until we can get a real one installed.

the living room. the “fireplace” is a place holder until we can get a real one installed. (we just couldn’t decide where one should go during the planning process, so we’re living with the room for awhile.)

living/dining room looking the other way.

living/dining room looking from the library door.

living/dining from the other way.

living/dining from the other way.

looking into the kitchen from the living room.

looking into the kitchen from the living room. (sorry these are so murky-the light wasn’t the greatest!)

Photo Feb 16, 12 06 52 PM

another view of the kitchen.

Photo Feb 16, 12 06 42 PM

the norge is safely ensconced, and we even got it to work after something of a rocky start.

pantry. yes, that's a uhaul box still sitting there. ugh.

pantry. yes, that’s a uhaul box still sitting there. ugh.

bath opposite the guest bedroom. still in love with the tile.

bath opposite the guest bedroom. still in love with the tile.

our bedroom. it's hard to describe how fortunate we feel every morning, waking up in this space.

our bedroom. it’s hard to describe how fortunate we feel every morning, waking up in this space.

master bed from the opposite direction.

master bed from the opposite direction.

master bath, with refinished tub up and running.

master bath, with refinished tub up and running.

more master bath.

more master bath.

view of chris's study. he's pretty happy.

view of chris’s study. he’s pretty happy.

view of my study. someday i may actually get through all of those files. sigh.

view of my study. someday i may actually get through all of those files. sigh.

finally: a quick view of what has become our favorite part of the yard, our outdoor fireplace, aka the wood stove that was in the kitchen of the house when we found it. sitting there in the evening with a glass of wine and the sun going down behind the tucson mountains off to the west... that's when we know it was all worth it.

finally, a quick view of what has become our favorite part of the yard: our outdoor fireplace, aka the wood stove that was in the kitchen of the house when we bought it. sitting there in the evening with a glass of wine and the sun going down behind the tucson mountains off to the west–that’s when we really feel it was all worth it.

 

sayonara for now, all. as i mentioned earlier, i hope to post some professional photos at some point, though it’s hard to say when that will happen. and there’s the guest house–the guest house! i swear i’ll get some photos of it up too; it’s not quite sorted out yet. also, the tucson historical preservation foundation has already been asking when they can put the house on a home tour (not yet, demion!) so look for that in the relatively near future as well. if you haven’t done so already using the specific feeds button on the upper right of the site, you can subscribe to the blog to automatically get an email when there’s a new post.

my thanks to everyone who’s been following along here! it’s been quite the journey, and i hope you’ve enjoyed the updates as much as i’ve enjoyed giving them.

 

 

day five million and two

okay, so it hasn’t really been quite that many days. though there are days lately when it feels like it! not that i’m impatient to be done or anything.

but: if we were closing in on my last post, now we are REALLY closing in. i can almost feel the moving boxes that lie in our future-and the smell of cardboard, the heft of them, the zillions of books that we will once again have to pack up and cart (honestly, i’m truly convinced that books have babies-it’s the only explanation).

and yet. and yet-then we will finally actually be living at the house o’ mud! not sure what i’m going to do when the place is no longer a construction site. at any rate-a few more progress photos. sooooo close.

enjoy!

we went through a few different colors, trying to find one that would darken up the exterior enough but not too much (the lime wash alone is just so WHITE).

we went through a few different colors, trying to find one that would darken up the exterior enough but not too much (the lime wash alone is just so WHITE).

here's where we ended up. it's still more on the white side than i would have liked (tinting lime wash is not as simple as it might seem-several of the darker colors we had actually looked purple in certain lights), but it is toned down some.

here’s where we ended up. it’s still more on the white side than i would have liked (tinting lime wash is not as simple as it might seem-several of the darker colors we had actually looked purple in certain lights), but it is toned down some. and note the addition of the lights!

Photo Oct 02, 9 29 54 AM

notice anything about that last photo? yup-that’s right, they took the construction fence down! it’s been a couple of weeks now, but that was a red letter day, after almost 10 months of chain link surrounding the front facade.

also on the exterior: canale extenders! sounds dull, but they're super important for keeping rain draining from the roof away from the base of the building. we did three different designs for the front. this one is arrows.

also on the exterior: canale extenders! sounds dull, but they’re super important for keeping rain draining from the roof away from the base of the building. we did three different designs for the front. this one is arrows.

plum blossoms.

plum blossoms.

sun and moon. in all of these you can see the sheets of strand board we were using to try to shoot the water away from the building until they arrived.

moon and stars. in all of these you can see the sheets of strand board we were using to try to shoot the water away from the building until they arrived.

and some exterior rain water control for the back. all of the metal bits on the front and back of the building will eventually rust, which will go with the rusty fences we have planned.

and some more exterior rain water control for the back. all of the metal bits on the front and back of the building will eventually rust, which will go nicely with the rusty fences we have planned.

hey look, a light fixture!

hey look, a light fixture!

hey look, another light fixture! (and a chair. randy, our contractor, yelled at me for moving stuff in, but when you find a recliner on super sale, sometimes a girl just has to do what needs doing.)

hey look, another light fixture! (and a chair. randy, our contractor, yelled at me for moving stuff in, but when you find a recliner on super sale, sometimes a girl just has to do what a girl has to do.)

and, yes, ceiling fans too! we even have outlet covers now and wall switches, if you can believe it.

and, yes, ceiling fans too! we even have outlet covers now and wall switches, if you can believe it.

Photo Nov 04, 1 31 36 PM

in addition to the electrical, there’s been a whole lot of trimming going on. check out the scribe line on that piece of trim! i told the guys they should all get awards for most complicated scribing ever. (and if you think the wood is impressive, you should see some of the cement tiles.)

here's the kitchen table our carpenter, john, built to replace the one i'd had built previously that did NOT work out. he used reclaimed wood from our yard for the shelves. it's fabulous!

here’s the kitchen table our carpenter, john (that’s him above), built to replace the one i’d had built previously that did NOT work out. he used reclaimed wood from our yard for the shelves. it’s fabulous! the top will arrive soon.

Photo Oct 09, 2 58 48 PM

not to be outdone by john, our site manager sean installed the reclaimed wood ceiling in the pantry. it looks amazing!

close up of the ceiling.

close up of the ceiling.

meanwhile, i've been plastering my little brains out on the guest house shower stall. this has one more coat of fine-grained lime plaster to go, then a coat of sealer and it should be ready to get trimmed out.

meanwhile, i’ve been plastering my little brains out on the guest house shower stall. this has one more coat of fine-grained lime plaster to go, then a coat of sealer and it should be ready for fixtures.

once Fito finishes the tile in here--he's close--i'll be able to plaster this shower, too. and then we'll almost have a working master bath!

once Fito finishes the tile in here-he’s close-i’ll be able to plaster this shower, too. and then we’ll almost have a working master bath!

and then this can go back in there. though it does make for something of a statement piece sitting in our bedroom.

and then this can go back in there. though it does make for something of a statement piece sitting in our bedroom.

but the really big excitement lately: services! this is the sewer cut in progress. we had a few bad moments with a nearby water line, but it all worked out in the end.

but the really big excitement lately: services! this is the sewer cut in progress. we had a few bad moments with a nearby water line, but it all worked out in the end.

what's even more fun than a sewer connection? that's right: a new utility pole! this just went in yesterday, and after a wait of some seven months, it's hard to say how happy we are that we will finally have power everywhere in the house and guest house.

what’s even more fun than a sewer connection? that’s right: a new utility pole! this just went in yesterday, and after a wait of some seven months, it’s hard to say how happy we are that we will finally have power everywhere in the house and guest house. they had to install a new transformer, and in the meantime the crew was working off one outlet of temporary power for the entire place (though we were grateful to have even that after months of generators.)

one last photo to leave you with: more adobes. they had to make one more small batch to infill one of the doorways we're closing off on the front. 'cause you can never do enough adobe-making when you have a house of mud.

one last photo to leave you with: more adobes. they had to make one more small batch to infill one of the doorways we’re closing off on the front. ’cause you can just never do enough adobe-making when you have a house of mud.


closing in

first: i must offer my apologies. after we got back into town in  mid-august, the rest of the month somehow flew by and then, yes, i started back in with architecture classes at the U of A (if anyone out there has ever been in architecture school, you will know that it’s a miracle i’m still upright, let alone doing blog posts). anyway, between that and trying to keep the contractors supplied with all of the fixtures, etc., they need to get their job done, life has been a challenge.

nevertheless, work has continued at our mud house apace. without further ado, a few updated images of the progress. these are in no particular order, and will no doubt not adequately convey all that’s happened in the past couple of months. hopefully, though they will tide you over until I can post again.

cheers for now,

Kathe

Photo Aug 12, 9 07 37 AM

recycled brick in the zaguan-our main entryway.

Photo Aug 19, 8 10 20 AM

it’s gorgeous, isn’t it?

Photo Aug 19, 8 10 33 AM

and another view.

Photo Aug 19, 8 12 13 AM

concrete pavers are in now in most of the house!

Photo Aug 27, 2 03 14 PM

windows arrived!

Photo Sep 08, 7 47 32 AM

lime plaster is up on the exterior.

Photo Sep 08, 8 02 32 AM

our contractor keeps trying to get me rid of this pile of broken up concrete, but i’m clinging to the idea that we can somehow use it.

Photo Sep 24, 9 38 43 AM

wood flooring in the bedrooms! i’ll be painting these-going for a relaxed, old farmhouse type feel.

Photo Sep 22, 11 14 32 AM

the bathtub is back from the refinishers and looking fabulous. we originally found it in the house, all those many months ago.

Photo Sep 22, 9 27 14 AM

and, once you lime plaster, the next step is to lime wash. this is my tom sawyer picture. anyone want to help? it’s really fun.

Photo Sep 19, 11 29 19 AM

the furr out for the guest house kitchen wall. this is now covered over in drywall, as are almost all the other fur outs. we’ll cover them with earthen plaster so they blend.

Photo Sep 24, 10 04 46 AM

guest bath tub! it’s a tiny bathroom, but it’s going to be nicely outfitted.

Photo Sep 26, 9 12 18 AM

hexagonal cement tile going in in the guest bath (in front of the tub from the last photo. it’s even better than i’d pictured it.

Photo Sep 26, 9 12 39 AM

master bath with furr out almost sheathed. the shower will be on the right, and the tub about where it is now. we’re leaving some of the walls rough, as you can see to the left.

Photo Sep 26, 9 13 47 AM

some interior lime plaster in the living room area. i’m totally in love with the look and feel of it. note the wood floor going down as well.

and that’s all for the moment, folks. hope you’ve enjoyed!

dog days of summer

well, it’s july in tucson, which means it’s hot, hot, HOT. and i have to say it seems as though everyone over at the old house made o’mud has been feeling it, me included. i am off, then, for a couple of weeks in cooler climes (while our poor crew continues to sweat it out in the barrio). in the interim i thought i’d do a sort of whole-house progress review, with at least one photo from each room, from one side of the house to the other. enjoy!

the front room on my study. waiting on floors.

the front room on my study. waiting on floors.

back room of what will be my study. also waiting on floors, but the wall to the left of the ladder has been mud plastered.

back room of what will be my study. also waiting on floors, but the wall to the left of the ladder has been mud plastered.

master bedroom. sub-flooring! and the wall on the right has been mud plastered.

master bedroom. sub-flooring! and the wall on the right has been mud plastered.

master bath. more sub-flooring!

master bath. more sub-flooring! not to mention all of that roughed-in plumbing.

laundry room/closet. waiting on floors, but the walls are scraped.

laundry room/closet. waiting on floors, but the walls are scraped.

hallway from master suite to zaguan. that wall on the left is new, as is the mud plaster going on directly ahead in the zaguan.

hallway from master suite to zaguan. that wall on the left is new, as is the mud plaster going on directly ahead in the zaguan.

Photo Jul 16, 4 58 43 PM

guest bath. note the new mud plaster!

guest bedroom. sub-flooring!

guest bedroom. sub-flooring! i know it’s ridiculous to be this excited about sub-flooring, but after months of walking on dirt, it truly makes a huge difference.

front part of the zaguan. the wall on the right has been completely re-built, and that's new mud-plaster on that side of the hall, too.

front part of the zaguan. the wall on the right has been completely re-built, and that’s new mud-plaster on that side of the hall, too.

back part of the zaguan. more mud-plaster!

back part of the zaguan. more mud-plaster!

living/dining room. floor joists are going in--figuring out the area over the cellar proved tricky--and sub-flooring will soon be complete there.

living/dining room. floor joists are going in–figuring out the area over the cellar proved tricky–and sub-flooring will soon be complete there.

kitchen. scraping this room--with a heavy, hoe-like scraper i borrowed from the contractors--was a workout. but i'm in love with what was under the icky beige plaster from the 80s.

kitchen. scraping this room–with a heavy, hoe-like scraper i borrowed from the contractors–was a workout. but i’m in love with what was under the icky beige plaster from the 80s.

front portion of chris's study. waiting on pavers.

front portion of chris’s study. waiting on pavers.

back room of his study. note the plaster going on.

back room of his study. note the plaster going on.

guest house living room. i'm loving how the walls in here are turning out.

guest house living room. i’m loving how the walls in here are turning out.

guest house kitchen. more plastering! and waiting on floors.

guest house kitchen. more plastering! and waiting on floors.

guest house bedroom with creative use of galvanized metal to try to keep the pigeons out. but there is sub-flooring.

guest house bedroom with creative use of galvanized metal to try to keep the pigeons out. but there is sub-flooring.

guest house bath. sub-flooring and framing for what will be a tiny laundry closet.

guest house bath. sub-flooring and framing for what will be a tiny laundry closet.

the exterior plastering is also proceeding. we'll leave that one little wall remnant unflustered as a testament to the chinese grocery that used to be on the corner.

the exterior plastering is also proceeding. we’ll leave that one little wall remnant un-plastered as a testament to the chinese grocery that used to be on the corner.

more exterior plaster, and at the back behind the trees you can see the pantry about halfway re-built.

more exterior plaster, and at the back behind the trees you can see the pantry about halfway re-built.

plastering and the backyard.

plastering and the backyard.

and one more: the back of the kitchen fully plastered. we're getting there!

and one more: the back of the kitchen fully plastered. we’re getting there!

it’s all about the little things

or, in this case the big things, such as a roof! yes, yes, yes, yes: after a mere five months (filled with far too much rain, especially for the desert) we finally have a finished roof. and just in time for monsoon season, which should start anytime here now in tucson, too. yay! let it rain, rain, rain.

here’s an image. doesn’t it look spiffy? and watertight?

Photo Jun 21, 7 00 22 AM

in other mud house news: there’s been lots of progress on all fronts (hard to believe it’s been a few weeks since i uploaded anything–time sure flies), and here are a few snaps to prove it:

they've been continuing to put in the plumbing and other mechanical, which has meant major digging. walking around the site was a challenge for awhile.

they’ve been continuing to put in the plumbing and other mechanical, which has meant major digging. walking around the site was a challenge for awhile.

this was the side yard.

this was the side yard.

and this was the back yard. they were channeling to put in pipes for the hose bibs.

and this was the back yard. they were channeling to put in pipes for the hose bibs.

here's a corner of the kitchen. my stove will someday--someday--sit where that old wood burning stove is at the back of the photo.

here’s a corner of the kitchen. my stove will someday–someday–sit where that old wood burning stove is at the back of the photo.

the most fun, though, lately? doors. we added three pass-throughs in various parts of the house (to connect what were originally series of small apartments). fito was mostly in charge. he starts by scribing the outline into the wall, then chipping out above to insert a wood lintel on one side.

the most fun, though, lately? doors. we added three pass-throughs in various parts of the house (to connect what were originally series of small apartments). fito was mostly in charge. he starts by scribing the outline into the wall, then chipping out above to insert a wood lintel on one side.

here, he's got wood lintels inserted into both sides (after chipping out on the other side, too) and has started removing adobes.

here, he’s got wood lintels inserted into both sides (after chipping out on the other side, too) and has started removing adobes.

at one point he called me over to show me what he'd found on some of the old adobe bricks he was removing: dog prints left by some pooch over a century ago. pretty cool.

at one point he called me over to show me what he’d found on some of the old adobe bricks he was removing: dog prints left by some pooch over a century ago. pretty cool.

Photo Jun 10, 12 21 23 PM

here’s another doorway he was working on (this one between the library and chris’s study), halfway down.

and the original doorway, now all the way cut through. this one is between what will be our closet/laundry room and the master bath.

and the original doorway, now all the way cut through. this one is between what will be our closet/laundry room and the master bath.

Photo Jun 21, 7 05 15 AM

and while we’re in the vicinity of the master bath: note the plumbing (not to mention all of those electrical wires for the main house panel). might not look like much, but that is serious progress right there. we are all roughed-in and ready to go on all of the mechanical.

i've been having a bit of fun with planning. that sawhorse table represents what will be our kitchen island, and those lights will be hung above. i brought them over so we could make sure we placed the electrical where it needs to go.

i’ve been having a bit of fun with planning. that sawhorse table represents what will be our kitchen island, and those vintage lights will be hung above. i brought them over so we could make sure we placed the electrical where it needs to go.

Photo Jun 03, 1 07 51 PM

and: the cement tile has arrived! on the left is the black and white pattern for the master bath, while on the right is the patchwork pattern i have my fingers crossed is going to look fabulous in the guest house.

Photo Jun 10, 12 21 59 PM

the skylights are in now everywhere in the house. these two are in the guest bedroom, highlighting a wall with original, 1890s mud plaster.

Photo Jun 10, 12 23 08 PM

and another. maybe we should consider keeping the ladder? skylight to heaven?

Photo Jun 10, 12 23 14 PM

when we bought the place, this fireplace was filled with debris and covered in a layer of painted-on faux red brick. it’s now rebuilt and ready for some plastering.

Photo Jun 21, 7 04 34 AM

the wall on the right hand side of this photo is new–we relocated a doorway to make this straight shot of a hallway into the master bedroom beyond, and to create a new guest bath behind the wall. lookin’ good, methinks.

Photo Jun 21, 7 04 50 AM

and yes, in the master bedroom itself: floor joists! still a bit tough to walk over, but we’re getting there. it’s an improvement over the plumbing channels.

Photo Jun 21, 7 10 25 AM

finally: they have actually begun the process of re-mudding and then lime plastering the exterior. can’t wait to see it looking all pristine again. the next few weeks should be majorly fun. stay tuned.


 

return of the pascales

yes, you read the title right–members of the pascale family came to call today. juan pascale, you may recall, is the italian immigrant who built not only our row house, but the row houses on our entire half of the block. one of his great grandsons, john (named after his progenitor), recently contacted me. most of the family had eventually moved away to california, but he and his family are now in phoenix. his father, robert, who is juan’s grandson was visiting and they decided to google the pascale adobes–and found us.

robert and his wife carol and one of their daughters (who happens to be named kathy, interestingly enough, especially given that my father’s name was robert–more signs?) and her family stopped by. robert remembers coming to the house as a six-year-old with his father, joseph, one of the younger sons of juan. they would go down into the cellar below the living room in order to nap in the cool. there was also a candy shop in the corner grocery space (now collapsed) that he remembers fondly.

here we all are. they were tickled pink to see that someone was finally restoring the house. in carol’s words, “i can’t believe we’re actually going to see the place fixed up before we croak!”

from right: me, chris, robert pascale, his wife carol, their son-in-law dough, their daughter kathy and kathy and doug's son.

from right: me, chris, robert pascale, his wife carol, their son-in-law doug, their daughter kathy, and kathy and doug’s son.

day 126

at least i think it’s day 126? i hope no one out there is checking my work. counting was never my strong suit, just ask my second grade teacher.

so if there’s been a word to describe the last few weeks at the house, it has to be “mechanical.” every day now when i arrive it’s nearly impossible to park in front of the place because pickups line both sides of the street. we’ve had hvac, plumbing and electrical all going simultaneously, all in an effort  to finally (finally!) get the roof done. though the roof is completely framed out, and has been for awhile, everything that penetrates it (plumbing vents, air conditioning ducts, etc.) has to be in place before we can actually put the roofing on and get it all sealed up. my fingers are crossed that it might happen by the end of next week (feel free to cross yours as well).

in the meantime, a few progress photos for your perusal. disfruta bien!

tunneling plumbing channels into what will be our master bath. the plumbers were doing their best mole impressions.

tunneling plumbing channels into what will be our master bath. the plumbers were doing their best mole impressions.

and a few more into what will eventually be the guest bath.

and a few more into what will eventually be the guest bath.

we had to put in an all new sewer line (the only existing one dated to the 30s, and it was clay, shared with the neighbors.) here they are digging the new trench down the front.

we had to put in an all new sewer line (the only existing one dated to the 30s, and it was clay, shared with the neighbors.) here they are digging the new trench down the front of the house.

look closely and you'll see the new ductwork above the ceilings. pretty exciting!

look closely and you’ll see the new ductwork above the ceilings. pretty exciting!

this was yesterday when i was there. the electricians pulling a huge line of conduit into the ceiling from a giant spool on the ground. looks like we might actually have power one of these days.

this was yesterday when i was there. the electricians pulling a huge line of conduit into the ceiling from a giant spool on the ground. looks like we might actually have power one of these days.

in case you've ever wondered how you get power into an adobe wall: you channel. the wires will get laid into the wall itself and then we'll mud back over the channels.

in case you’ve ever wondered how you get power into an adobe wall: you channel. the wires will be placed into the wall itself and then we’ll mud back over the channels.

but it hasn't been all fun with mechanical. in the back corner of this photo is what was the one bathroom on the property (it was added in the 1980s), halfway torn down. this is the only area where we're changing the house's footprint, expanding it by a few feet in two directions to make a decent-sized pantry.

but it hasn’t been all fun with mechanical. in the back corner of this photo is what was the one bathroom on the property (it was added in the 1980s), halfway torn down. this is the only area where we’re changing the house’s footprint, expanding it by a few feet in two directions to make a decent-sized pantry.

the wall going back up between chris's study and the guest house kitchen.

the wall going back up between chris’s study and the guest house kitchen.

prepping the base for the wall going back up in the zaguan.

prepping the base for the wall going back up in the zaguan.

finally: a glimpse into the maw. this is the adobe mixer, which has still been going strong. not sure what the count is right now on how many adobes have been made at those, but it's at least 600, and we may even be pushing 1000.

finally: a glimpse into the maw. this is the adobe mixer, which has still been going strong. not sure what the count is right now on how many adobes have been made at the house, but it’s at least 600, and we may even be pushing 1000.

falling walls redux

one morning when i was over at the house this past week we had an unpleasant return to a stage we had all hoped was long past: another wall came down. we’d known this particular wall was in bad shape–there was a huge chunk of concrete at the base that someone had used to try to repair it in the past. unfortunately–though predictably–the concrete had heaved and had to come out. you can see it in the photo below, beneath the window.IMG_3154

when they went to remove it, however, they discovered that there wasn’t much left to the wall without it. luckily no one was hurt–the guys ran pretty fast–but here’s what i saw when i came around the corner.Photo May 05, 7 40 07 AM

what happened next was some mad, mad shoring. because it’s an exterior wall, it carries a fair amount of roof, and though we could have put the ceiling beams in the room back up if they’d fallen, no one wanted that to happen if it could be prevented. a lot of grabbing of shoring poles and hurrying into the now somewhat dangerous room ensued. not to mention a lot of swearing. while they were working somewhat frantically–though, i have to say, also with a good deal of aplomb given the situation (it helped considerably that randy, the boss, also happened to be on site and immediately took charge)–i stood outside photographing and watching that huge crack above the collapsed wall portion visibly widening. the only thing holding it up was the bit of door frame you can see on the middle right of the photo. my heart was pounding like mad the entire time. not only did i not want that portion of the house to fall, i didn’t want it to fall on anyone!Photo May 05, 7 31 00 AM

a view from inside. it was important that they get the poles in quickly–but also important that they be level. that’s randy in the striped shirt on the right.Photo May 05, 7 33 31 AM

once we were sure the ceiling wasn’t going to go (thank god!), it was time to knock down the rest of the wall.

here it is afterwards.  Photo May 05, 8 11 47 AM

and another view from inside. the dust lent a nice, apocalyptic air.Photo May 05, 8 12 10 AM

on the bright side–better that this happen now rather than later, when someone might be sitting in the room, innocently eating potato chips on the couch or something. the silver lining is that this section of wall will now be brand new–and much more stable. by the afternoon, they’d already started the re-build. Photo May 06, 10 31 03 AM

never a dull moment, really, at our little house o’ mud.

ceilings

i wanted to share one thing about the house that’s nearing completion: the ceilings. when we bought the place, some of the rooms had fairly decent ceilings, others none at all–just ceiling joists–while others had either old packing crates or barrel staves between the joists. we wanted very much to keep as many of them as possible, though it turned out that that just wasn’t feasible in the packing crate and barrel stave rooms–they were just too old and brittle (trust me, i sorted through a bunch of them myself by hand). so in those rooms we pulled the old ceilings down (after, you may recall, removing the three or so feet of dirt that was on top of them) and did what the resourceful always do: used what we had.

the result is marvelous pastiche of different colors and textures–every room is a little different. pics follow below, of course.

the ceiling in part of what will be my study. we used some old 1X4s that had been pulled out of the building.

the ceiling in part of what will be my study. we used some old 1X4s that had been pulled out of the building. i love how the slightly wider widths make it feel not-fussy.

one of the original ceilings that is staying. we'll patch the broken areas.

one of the original ceilings that is staying. we’ll patch the broken areas.

master bedroom ceiling. this room is a little more complicated than the others because it used to be two, so i'm going to have to figure out how to deal with the different colored joists. for here, we used old floor boards.

master bedroom ceiling. this room is a little more complicated than the others because it used to be two, so i’m going to have to figure out how to deal with the different colored joists. for here, we used old floor boards. (note the “missing” joist we now have in the middle where the wall used to be. if anyone out there has an old 2×10 circa 1890, let me know. we’re currently on the lookout.)

this might be a solution for the master bed: staining the joists darker (though these ones here are dark because they got singed in the fire).

this might be a solution for the master bed: staining the joists darker (though these ones here are dark because they got singed in the fire. design by serendipity?).

ceiling in the study, also old floor boards. i love that some of them have old paint on them.

ceiling in the library, also old floor boards. i love that some of them have old paint on them.

ceiling in the living/dining room area; it's original and staying that way. we're still working on how we'll transition between the two ceiling heights.

ceiling in the living/dining room area; it’s original and staying that way. we’re still working on how we’ll transition between the two ceiling heights (yes, that white space in the middle is currently the sky).

original ceiling in the kitchen. i've always loved this one.

original ceiling in the kitchen. i’ve always loved this one.

new ceiling of 1x4s for what will be chris's study.

new ceiling of 1x4s along with some wider boards mixed in for a non-fussy feel (don’t want to be too matchy-poo poo, as oprah once put it) in what will be chris’s study. apparently the pigeon sitting on the beam below it approves. goodness knows we have not yet managed to convince them that they really ought to find new houses.

original ceiling in the kitchen. it's staying along with that too-cool water-damage patina.

original ceiling in the guest house kitchen. it’s staying along with that too-cool water-damage patina.

this is one of my favs of the new ceilings. when we ran out of floor boards, randy proposed ripping some of the old floor joists in half. this is the guest house living room.

this is one of my favs of the new ceilings. when we ran out of floor boards, randy proposed ripping some of the old floor joists in half. this is the guest house living room.

and, my absolute favorite: the guest house bath. a huge thanks to greg clark, the former caretaker, for this one. he salvaged some colored peg board and stored it at the house thinking it might come in useful someday. fingers crossed it jives with the multi-colored cement tiles i have picked out for in there!

and, my absolute favorite: the guest house bath. a huge thanks to greg clark, the former caretaker, for this one. he salvaged some colored peg board and stored it at the house thinking it might come in useful someday. fingers crossed it jives with the multi-colored cement tiles i have picked out for in there!

and one we're still waiting on--the last one, really: the zaguan. we were going to do saguaro ribs in here--a traditional ceiling material in the barrio, but not only are they tough to find, they're also frequently not harvested sustainably. so we're doing cedar latillas instead--essentially long, small logs. it will looks similar to a saguaro rid ceiling, if it won't have exactly that same look (if anyone knows a good rib source, let us know!)

and one we’re still waiting on–the last one, really: the zaguan. we were going to do saguaro ribs in here–a traditional ceiling material in the barrio–but not only are they tough to find, they’re also frequently not harvested sustainably. so we’re doing cedar latillas instead–essentially long, small logs. it will looks similar to a saguaro rib ceiling, if it won’t have exactly that same look (if anyone knows a good rib source, give me a shout. i could still be convinced to change my mind.)

finally--to change gears: . a floor. or, at least, the beginnings of one. this is my study at the south end of the house, and today was the first time i could walk between the two rooms without having to take gigantic steps up and down. they've begun putting in aggregate and grading in preparation for the new floors. whoo-hoo!

finally–to change gears: a floor. or, at least, the beginnings of one. this is my study at the south end of the house, and today was the first time i could walk between the two rooms without having to take gigantic steps up and down. they’ve begun putting in aggregate and grading in preparation for the new floors. whoo-hoo!

 

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