Yes, we loved the bunnies and the skunk cabbage, our bare naked land, our baby. And like any parents, we decided to go shopping and dress it up in cute little baby clothes – the tool shed.
Lea and I started scavenging wood when we first arrived in Ithaca, through freecycle – although our first finds weren’t of great quality. Still, it was exciting to begin bringing materials to the land.
Once Joe joined us in town, we realized that our materials, tools and the sweet sweet tractor needed a place to crash, and soon, before the coming winter months. We considered getting a storage container to use as a space, we talked about cob building (my recent love – oh cob!) and we looked around at what we had laying about.
Upon digging several poop holes toilet spaces, we realized that we had an abundance of rocks and clay soil. Here our friend Doug shows off his personal accomplishment – achieved without the help of a shovel since the implement was um… hiding in the weeds.
There was a lot to be done on the land even before any imagined tool shed could make a landing. First, we mowed the crazy tall weeds on our little hillside, making sure to preserve as much nature as possible, while still allowing us to see the potential building sites.
Check us out, the Gershon sisters take on the duty of grooming the grasses!
Next, we decided to begin rain water collection using the power of gravity. This pipe and some salvaged roofing now allow us to collect rain water for cleaning supplies, construction purposes and – my personal favorite – watering a small row of purple beans that I planted, the first official “crop” to be grown on the land. (I hope they survive)
Once the terrain was visible, we turned our heads this way and that way, pointed our compasses south and declared “Ah! Yes! Here!” Or something like that. We decided on the spot – a little ways behind our imagined house, in as flat and elevated a place as we could find for good drainage.
Now Joe was ready to show off some of his toys. Out came the transit and I got to learn how to level the thing. We shot some measurements to determine the high and low spots of our new site.
Leveling the site included a fun ride on the back of the tractor. Here Sean, our teenage neighbor, helps out by being a human paper weight with us. This is how we scraped down the land to get close to a level spot. Tractors and huge piles of dirt – better than Six Flags!
We decided that the next step was digging out a rubble trench to protect our building from frost heaves (a little info on rubble trenches – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubble_trench_foundation). Ithaca gets dang cold in the winter and it is really important to divert water away from structures. At this point we’re not sure if the 16 inches we dug down is enough or whether the whole step was superfluous, but it will become more evident after a few winters. Since the tool shed is a small project, it’s a good one to experiment on, to test the environmental effects with and generally the best time to make mistakes. Right?
So we dug. A lot. We invited friends out to help. Well…maybe we told them there was a camping trip, lured them with beers and then just happened to give them shovels and picks and tractor duties…?
Danila even offered a little strip tease…
In the end they worked their hearts out for us.
We finished digging, lined the trench with fabric and placed the piping in. All the rocks in the middle were dug up from the trench. This was not easy, people! But we used every last one of them.
We filled the trench up with gravel after hookin’ the truck up with some sweet siding.
At the end of the weekend we were satisfied with our efforts. The weather was our ally, and we were a huge step closer to a tool shed. Thanks to all that helped! At this point we have done a lot more work and have decided to try out straw bales as walls. Posts on progress and awesome video footage will soon follow. To those of you keeping track of us – I hope to see you around here sometime, and to those that have come I am very grateful. Until next time…