For some time progress on the house has been… invisible. Some things have been going on, but they’ve been difficult to present or to think of as progress.
There was a mishap in regard to the floor color that set things back for weeks while the concrete magician worked out an elixir that would fix it. This was nearly a tragedy. An assistant on the job passed the wrong stain color to the applicator, who conscientiously sprayed it on half the downstairs floor. It takes several minutes for the color to emerge in the applied acid etch stain. I can only imagine B.’s horror as he watched the colors change before his wondering eyes. In the end, after many hours of “lab time” and many samples and tests on floor spaces that will be concealed in the final house (under cabinets, in closets…), he came up with a treatment that has given us a lovely floor. It’s not exactly what we had in mind for the ground floor — we had wanted to reproduce something like the natural hues revealed in the soils in the excavation for the house: reddish clays, ochre layers, faint green smears… but it is a really beautiful floor. It looks like old leather. If you did not know where to look, you wouldn’t see the place where the disaster took place.
So, weeks later, the floors are finished and safely covered over so carpenters can come in and start on walls and windows.
We brought our color samples into the kitchen — It’s been a long time since we first made the selections for materials and colors, and, frankly, I had to be reminded. Oh, is that what the cabinets are to be? Good thing we still liked it! I wonder how often people change their minds drastically after the months pass between choosing and finally seeing? Here is the color pallet, as much as you can tell from monitor pictures:
The guys took the black plastic off the window holes and replaced it with translucent plastic, and we are pleased to find that light pours into the rooms, and the colors are earth-like and good.
Two bold men spent a month applying what is called a parge coat to the exterior of the house.
Parge, or parget, is a coat of waterproofing, traditionally plaster but in this case a material more like mortar. It is the undercoat of the exterior treatment.
Some plumbing has wormed its way out of the building:
This looks to me like some kind of Borg bio-mech entity escaping from the foundation.
Meanwhile, electricity has happened. Here, the electricians are installing panels onto the racks on the roof. Note the careful use of safety lines. It’s a long way down.
The ‘Phase One’ array of photo-voltaic panels is installed, a little over 6 kW, and the attendant inverter is in the attic:
In the first test, on a cloudy day, the panels immediately began harvesting hurried electrons and providing them a way through the lines to the meter. The only problem with this was the meter. We still have the original meter in place, and it is not so smart as it thinks it is. All it knows is that electricity is flowing, not where it originated. Until PGE can replace it with a new, reversing, meter we won’t be running the PV system — no point paying the utility company for electricity we generate. The change-out should happen next week.
On the passive side, we have a different kind of array on the north roof. These are solar tubes, small skylights with reflective tubes running from the underside of the lens into the attic. At its terminus, a tube is fitted with a Fresnel-type lens that distributes the light.
The Fresnel lens, first developed in the 19th Century by Augustin-Jean Fresnel , was the lens that made lighthouse lights visible over distances of 20 miles. These days they are made affordably of plastic and used to magnify images in overhead projectors, and small CRT screens; they are the lenses of traffic lights, theater light instruments, and auto headlamps; they correct vision disorders; aircraft carriers use Fresnel lenses in their optical landing systems; and they concentrate sunlight into solar cookers and forges. Solar tubes with plastic Fresnel lenses are available at common home-improvement stores.
There are five solar tubes on the roof. Three will light the attic. Two will penetrate the ceiling of the main living floor and light the dining area and one bathroom.
Here’s the view up a tube:
and here’s the light underneath:
In daytime, you don’t need electric lights in the attic! These are completely passive, clean, and… well, they are just so neat.
All the time excavation was going on for the house, we were laughing up our sleeves because just down the road from us the neighbors had had to blast boulders out of their backyard in order to install a septic system. Our hole had no rocks bigger than a melon, and not many of those. It hardly seemed fair, and the neighbors were unamused at our good fortune. But last week we found the boulder field. Just south of the house, where a drainage line is headed into the pasture, the excavator started pulling stones from the earth. In an entire day’s work he made about 20 feet of progress on a 2-foot wide ditch, and accumulated a nice pile of volcanic stones.
We’re hoping the field is short, because that drain line has a ways to go. It’s our punishment for glee.
On the other hand, those are fine landscape stones, and we’ll find a use for them.