30 March 2012

Second coat of render...

The second coat of render was applied (to the outside walls only) this week and as you can see, it has dried a touch lighter than the first coat, which is due to lime being added to the mix.  Lime gives the render strength and weather protection.  More care was needed during the process this time cos lime in the eyes aint nice, so the wearing of goggles and appropriate clothing was essential... not that MOTH wanted to hear the message (which I must add was delivered loud and clear... several times) cos he ended up with nasty lime burns to his finger tips... silly man really should have worn the sexy up-to-the-elbow gloves like the rest of us!  We were splattered in mud just as much as the week before too, but this time the advice was to wait until the globs had dried, then pick off the skin as you would a scab, then wash. 

The mix was much thicker and stickier than the first coat too, so my hope of having an easier time was not had.  In fact it was waaaay more difficult running a trowel over the walls.  The good news is tho... I could walk without discomfort and raise my arms above my head the next day... quite a good result really.

This would be an appropriate time to thank our regular volunteer Paul, a Melburnian who is in the planning stages to build his own straw bale home and comes along on the weekend every now and then to help out... and I suppose pick up some tips and tricks.  Thank you Paul for organising your RDO for Tuesday and assisting us in the rendering... your help was invaluable.

The chain gang

Paul balanced on a ladder
which sits on a temporary balcony

AC works her way up the wall;
as you can see the top section has
not been trowelled yet.

I'm told the cracks that have already formed along all the outside walls is a natural occurence, and so long as they don't become wide open gaping chasms, it's all A-ok.  Hmmm...
The next day... part dry
and the cracks start showing.

25 March 2012


The Cobbers and Cobbettes have been busy this weekend filling all the holes with cobb, which is a brew of render (soil, clay and sand) mixed with loose straw.

Now the first coat of render is almost dry, I've realised it all looks quite ugly...

This wall was riddled with holes,
but now filled with cobb

Look... we missed a bit
in the rubbing process

AC works on the first of 3 holes up high
Nama with her bucket of mixture

Fuzzy scrapes off
splatted render
Yellow string lines being placed around
the perimeter to indicate maximum
depth of render plus 50mm


Looking forward to render coat #2 going on this coming Tuesday and Wednesday...

21 March 2012

Rendering has begun...

The rendering crew arrived at sparrows Monday and they flew through the process quick as a wink... it was all over in 2 days!  The weather was perfect... almost 30 celcius on both days with a pleasant breeze to take the edge off the heat.  We're so rapt that the first coat is on... it really feels like we're getting closer to the finish line.

That said, here are the facts.  Three fit blokes (2 from out of town) ran the operation in clockwork fashion.  They are an amazing crew, led by Mark the renderer, Adam the first timer and local guy Paul, who kept up the pace so fierce, I was puffed just watching them.  Adam & Paul on the mixer and pump, with Mark dragging a hefty hose around spitting out mud from a crude looking nozzle.  You have to admire these guys, they really do keep going like Energiser Bunnies ALL day... a massive achievement. 

The rest of us worked bloody hard too.  After Mark applied the render, AC, Nama and I had to follow his trail and run our gloved hands up every inch of every wall to 1.gently push in the render, 2.ensure every little piece of straw was covered & flat (dealing with the stalictites hanging from top of window frames was tricky), and 3.look for and expand cavities (we called them rabbit holes)... and unfortunately, we found masses of them.  In between now and render coat #2, these holes need to be filled with 'cobb'; this will be explained in an upcoming post.
Not dirty yet, but evidence
I was there AND worked!

The trick for us was timing... follow Mark too early and the render is too runny, or wait too long and it's almost dry, which is what happened after Mark applied render to the north facing wall and we stopped for lunch.  Upon our return, we learned that a little water had to be applied so we could do our job properly.

As I mentioned in the previous post, there was more than a week's worth of work to be done in preparation, and right up until the very end of day 2, MOTH was finishing off the chicken wire and trimming of the east facing wall... so much so that Mark was chasing him along the wall at 6pm.  Unfortunately, MOTH didn't get to complete the last section of wall, so we'll have to hand mix a batch of render and apply it after MOTH is done.

Fuzzy gets showered with
straw shavings
Nama making more pins
for MOTH

The mixture got quite runny towards the end of the day (understandably so... the boys were weary), so we had quite a wait until we could start wiping the east wall... alas our job continued til about 7:30 that night.  Wow, what a day!

Fuzzy trying to convince me
he's hard at work

Playing with mud
seemed fun at the time

Personally, it was the physically hardest work I have ever done and I am extremely sore today in most areas of my body.  Being a totally unfit person is my undoing, but it was awesome fun.  I even climbed to the very top of the scaffolding to wipe the walls right below the roofline.  Scary when the wind is blowing!!!  Much of the day was spent on my knees and learning lessons... 1.wear goggles to prevent mud going in eyes, 2.wearing kneepads makes spending long periods of time on knees less painful, and 3.keep mouth closed cos mud tastes yucky and the sand makes it gritty. 

But pigs in mud we were... literally.  The house now looks like a pig sty... as did we at the time; Mark was voted the filthiest at the end of the day, with AC & I coming a close equal second.  Mud was flung in every direction possible, not just from the actual rendering application which blew, puddled and spat, but also when we had to frequently offload the weighty excess gunk from our gloves... which we turned into artwork (inspired by Pro Hart).

Art in the making

Mark wins!

The boys are all cleaned up at the end of the day

Today, MOTH, AC, Nama & Fuzzy are back on the job preparing for the next coat of render, starting Tuesday next week.  Me... I'm so sore I can barely walk and lift my arms.  I hear coat #2 is much thicker and must be trowelled after application, so that doesn't sound quite so labor intensive.  Should be fun!

12 March 2012


Today is a very special day... cos I can proudly announce the windows and doors are finally finished... just in the nick of time for the rendering guys who are booked for Monday, 19th.  That said, there's still a good few weeks worth of work to do in preparation, but we only have 7 days and it's gonna be tight.  Why don't we postpone, you ask?  well... that's just it... we've had enough delays and it just has to stop, so we've decided to bite the bullet and just get on with it.

So, if anyone is taking some annual leave and interested in joining us during rendering week, we'd be delighted to have you and feed you.

We acquired several 44 gallon drums
for use during and after rendering

Much else has happened too...

Fuzzy has put boards up around the house 
so the render goes on smooth
from top to very bottom

AC got tired of stuffing up
so she switched to stapling

Provision has been made
for the front door bellS


Kooki's hungry & is spotting
lizards and worms in the grass below

MOTH made bottom plates
for the door steps



2 trailer loads of bagged clay
had to be unloaded

Some are licking their wounds...





... others just want to escape!