Winter Solstice 2014

This morning I woke up on the dirt floor of my future yoga room. Sleeping on a dirt floor is more comfortable than it sounds. Less than a year ago, there were living trees growing here. Many of those trees, with stumps, limbs, bark, and little else removed, now support multiple tons of dirt bermed up against the walls and over the roof.

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In theory, this mass of dry earth will help to regulate the temperature of the space inside, and minimize the amount of additional heating needed to stay warm. In practice, 2/5ths of the walls are still incomplete: mere pockets of air between thin temporary plastic sheets. These walls will eventually be made of cordwood, cob, and several windows mostly facing west-southwest to catch the afternoon sun. For now they keep out the wet, but not the cold.

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It’s literally freezing in here, and I’m highly motivated to complete this rocket mass heater. Once the cordwood walls are done and gaps sealed with cob, I anticipate not needing to run the rmh very often to stay comfortable, perhaps boiling water for tea once a day during the cold months. But this winter, I expect to burn at least a cord or two and not really be comfortable, though it’ll be good to apply lots of dry heat to the mass of earth.

I spent some time today digging up the floor of the apothecary and levelling the dirt in preparation for building the rmh combustion core into the floor. I’m opting to start sub-floor so that the insulated heat riser can be effectively taller and thus have a stronger draft while keeping the cooktop at a reasonable height. I’ve accumulated some fire bricks, and some of the barrels I’ll need, but I’m still hunting down the last of the materials. Got some wood split to toothpick size and ready to burn, though.

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Today was the shortest day of the year, and it would be easy to be discouraged about the house not being done yet, but I remind myself that hundreds of hours have gone into this project so far, and the most important parts are already done. The inside is mostly dry. The roof doesn’t leak. The dry earth umbrella is at least on, if not totally dry yet. And the uphill drainage ditches are actively redirecting water around the structure and away down the hill.

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My current goal is to complete the rocket mass heater before the end of the year, and I’ll be documenting the process as I go along.

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