Sunday, February 7, 2016

January progress.....a bit, anyways.


Perhaps it's my Midwestern blood, but wintertime is still a period of hibernation for me. This, despite our now living in Hawaii with its tropical climate and long(er) day length. At least that's what I'm telling myself.....surely that's a good excuse for my lack of progress on the home-building front?



"So.....what have you guys been up to, anyways?"




When buying salvaged roofing material, try not to choose the stuff that has 20-odd layers of old paint on it, no matter how cheap it may be. Remember and acknowledge how obsessive you can get when picking old chips of peeling paint from a surface.



The wire wheel/grinder combo might be faster than going it all by hand power, but not by too much.



"But wait......I thought that you guys didn't have electricity?!?"


Please bear witness to our emergency generator. Not only is it huge and inefficient, it's also one of the most expensive ways to create watts, haha.



The jumper cables run into a tote, inside of which is a deep cycle battery that acts as a buffer for heavy surge loads, and from that, to moderately cheap 2000 watt sine wave inverter.



The inverter is mounted to a piece of plywood, keeping both the inverter and battery from shifting around, and elevating everything from any acid spills or inadvertently accumulated rainwater. In the picture, you are looking at the side of the inverter, that silver thing under my multi-meter. The silver box looks pretty boring, but that's where the magic happens, Direct current (DC @12 volts) being altered into its Alternating (AC @120 volts) wave form.


The whole setup is pretty ghetto, but that's how we roll. It works, though I try to use it as little as possible, it being a severe impediment to my being able to brag about how we don't need their stinking electricity anyhow, thank you very much....haha.



There's more fun where that came from.




The beautiful Renee has been doing the real work for the last month, finding the perfect place to put all of the lava she digs up.






The Okinawan sweet potatoes love it here.



Paths and terraces.




It's a little hard to discern, but she has been weaving the guava whips into a sort of living fence. Soon the thin shoots will be sending out new vertical growth, turning this surface into a wall of solid green.



The walls surround an area of dappled sunlight, perfect for growing some of the more shade tolerant plants.



She weaves the stiff Aluhe fern stems, wrapping ever more of the thin Guava shoots, around and around......



.....hangs them in the trees, then tucks in an Orchid (actually vice-versa, but you get the gist).



Homemade planters for epiphytes, pretty cool.



I've been incrementally cutting my way through the tangles of Guava, swinging the chainsaw in an arc roughly 6" above the ground.



It doesn't look like much, but this area, only 20' to a side, created a stack of Guava nearly the height of my head.



We separate the shoots by size, smallest to large, then cutting off the branched top, to be composted. I see an army of stick chairs here....


...or maybe a stick house?




We are roofing the structure with clear polycarbonate sheets in the interest of keeping the weight as low as possible.



It's also cool, because when you lie on your back and look to the sky, it's as near a thing as having no roof at all.


Initially, I have screwed the intersecting pieces together. Then, after the branches have had a bit of time to shrink some, I lash things tight, using lengths of nylon seine twine. Screws alone won't suffice for long, the forces of the bending and shrinking sticks being enough to snap the stiff deck screws here and there. The twine square lashing stiffened things up remarkably, tying the structure into a springy and resilient whole. I like that.


What maybe doesn't show in the photo, is that there are approximately 10 bazillion intersecting branches in this glorified 12' x 23' gazebo, and many of the lashing are stacked one atop the other. Access gets awfully tight in spots, so progress is slow. I try to tie each lashing perfectly, and despite having already done this *many* times already, I still occasionally take one apart that just doesn't look right.


Aside from the time involved in doing a good job, there is also the concern over UV degradation, bring roofed with clear panels and all. The lashing need to be coated with something, paint most likely, but I can already see that as another one of those projects that gets delayed too long. The proper time to coat the lash is...immediately!


You also might notice that I'm using unpeeled logs. Initially, this was to be just a quick way to get a roof over my head, a dry spot to work. Famous last words, right? I started out peeling the sticks, stripping them of their bark, but being in somewhat of a hurry (ie: lazy), I swiftly transitioned into using the stock just as it came, bark and all. Within just days, I noticed something interesting though. The sticks that had been peeled were immediately lunched by the ferocious powder post beetles that we've got here, whereas the unpeeled stuff remains untouched to this day. The bark and leaves of this Guava contain so many tannins, nobody wants to eat it. Working the stuff instantly turns steel tools black, and makes your clothing look as though you've been crawling around under your car, dropping the transmission or something. This stuff will make a great ebonizing, purple/black dye....That's for another day though.



So what have I *really* been doing?



Mostly sitting on my ass, filling page upon page in my "Book of bad ideas".


See, the real problem here is that I've got too many options. I'm extremely adept at making the most of little, but now that most of the typical restraints have been lifted, I'm at a loss for direction. We have money, and we have space, but no map. Each route has its attractions, particularly so, as our standards are very low, haha...... Or are they?


To be honest, I'm finding that building with sticks and branches is....unfulfilling. Renee has forbidden me from tearing the "stickhaus" down and starting anew, but I swear....given half a chance....


I'm spoiled, I admit it, but working on a project that doesn't fully resonate within, it's draining. Why don't I build what I REALLY want to build? Well, what I've been obsessing about, apparently it hasn't been done before, at least according to Google. I consider myself fairly adept at sifting through multiple search term queries, and I know that the truth is out there, but I'm not finding much inspiration.


What I want to build is a system, something that I've touched on before, a modular format, prefab, portable when need be, type of small structure design. Individual components must be portable by one strong individual or two, if your hermit has a friend. The standard size of sheet goods is 4'x8', too big a fit for most cars, so smaller multiples are required. I want it to look nice too, so I'm intending to use as much "real" wood as possible, only resorting to plywood and it's like if it's worth enduring its unfriendly working qualities.


A small and efficient shelter, low cost, and not too difficult for the average person to build. Let it be nice to look at as well, and you might be seeing them tucked into cozy secret corners, without drawing too much fuss by the neighbors (and authorities). Not a "tiny" treasure McMansion, nor a 1970's Swedish erector set house. Legos color scheme is too bright, so no love there either.


There is no way that I am the first here, but really.....