Getting plastered!

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September 5th 2008
Published: September 6th 2008
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The English language has such a wonderful selection of idioms describing the consumption of alcohol to excess and perhaps. on occasion, alcohol has indeed been consumed to excess in the straw bale house after a hard day's work, but I shall leave such occasions to your imagination.

This entry describes the frenetic burst of activity required to achieve weather-tightness before the first frosts and co-incidentally before a spell of very wet weather hits the UK. This wet weather is related to the hurricanes threatening the Caribbean... but you didn't log on for a metereology lecture did you?.

On Sunday, I came home from my holiday on the building site ready for a week of sitting in front of a PC resting those aching muscles.

On Monday, Dean and John arrived with the Infernal Sprayer. The Infernal Sprayer sprays a mixture of sand, quick lime and water onto the walls. It is a very quick way to plaster a building, but is incredibly messy.

The lime is horrible to work with - Willy's been saying all week that lime might be eco-friendly but it's human unfriendly.

When lime and water come into contact with each other, there's a chemical process which generates heat and noxious fumes.

When lime and water comes into contact with your skin, it burns. I'm sure I've read that when people were hanged in the days of capital punishment, their bodies were thrown into a pit of quicklime - or maybe it was plague victims, so that the plague virus was destroyed.

I've mixed it by hand in small quantities on a still day and got burnt. It's been windy this week and all of the All Stars have all got burns - and they kept up the work day after day for a whole week. Well done guys - much rather you than me.

The All Stars are Dean and John from Forres and their Infernal Sprayer and Willy, Ewan and Tober from Tombreck, with assistance from a ringer - Hamish from the Whitecastle Eco Village stayed over after the weekend to watch the spraying.

In a parallel burst of frenetic activity, our window cills/sills arrived.

There's an alternative spelling. According to Chamber's dictionary - the first is used by builders and the other by normal people, but I've always spellt it "cills" which either shows I've
Willy and the Infernal SprayerWilly and the Infernal SprayerWilly and the Infernal Sprayer

Willy looking terribly attractive loading the hopper for the machine
always had a latent building streak, or more likely, the first place I saw it written down was in my dad's building magazines.

But the window cills are a story of their own...

Last week when Dean said he was going to start in a week, he said it would be better to put the cills in while the lime was fresh and I realised that, as I hadn't even started to source them and had quite enough to do getting the building itself ready for lime, the cills weren't going to arrive if it was left to me.

So: I delegated to Lancashire. I emailed the sizes to my brother Graham, who printed them and took them to my Dad, who doesn't have email any more. The cills were sourced from the guy, who had supplied my brother Andrew with paving stone last year - and are actually Indian granite. (That blows our eco-credentials doesn't it! Perthshire's full of stone, so we should have been able to source something local - just not last week.)

The cills were picked up on Monday morning - and forget next-day delivery by lorry - these were rushed from
 North wall done: east still straw North wall done: east still straw North wall done: east still straw

I think the title expresses it adequately!
Lancashire to Perthshire as quickly as possible, without of course exceeding the relevant speed limit.
Rumour has it that the delivery vehicle was a BMW with a personalised number plate, but that may just be rumour. Many thanks to dad and Uncle David, who are invited back to see the house properly when it isn't being blasted by dangerous, albeit naturally occurring, chemicals.

Just in case I've over-stated the case against lime, once the chemical reaction has taken place and it's hardened, it's perfectly safe.

The great advantage of lime over cement is that lime naturally breathes, so ny water that enters a structure through a crack can escape by evaporation/transpiration. Lime is soft and flexible, and has been called self-healing, so if a building moves slightly it won’t crack like cement and let water in. Both these properties are really handy in a straw bale house.

It's now 22.07 and I'm hoping that Willy will be home very soon - it's been a very long week for him and a very long stretch. I think tomorrow's his first day off since 5th July. He's home!!

It's now 11 and I'm sitting with a glass
Lime dustLime dustLime dust

just to give an idea of how much dust gets everywjhere
of Laphroaig having just come out the bath. I've done some hard work in my youth and more lately on this f...... house. But this week takes the biscuit (at least so far). As Wendy said, Dean and John arrived on Monday and after setting up their equipment we trialled the set up. Firstly we mixed some lime inside the house (sand + lime + water = lots of dust and noxious fumes). These are rather unpleasant in an enclosed space (even with every available window and door open). Also the resulting mix kept balling up and clogging the machine meaning all we achieved was maybe 6 sq metres or less than a 20th of what was needed.

Hamish had to leave late afternoon thanks for another good shift (or 3 in this case).
Dean and John worked on the equipment till darkness fell (8pm) Then we all put our heads together and came up with the idea of a screen Tober quickly produced some chicken fencing as did Ian Grindlay who had taken part in the early discussions. However neither was sufficiently fine to prevent the balled lime from getting through.

Tues - a little bit of alchemy (a different mix) and a change of scene (we moved the mixing process outdoors) did the trick, at least as far as getting the equipment working we quickly completed the west gable and moved onto the north wall. However the problems with dust and fumes persisted and all of us suffered some burns from the lime. Dean and John movede to Lawers Hotel to get properly clean.

Weds - more of the same we managed to complete the northwall and most of the east gable completion by Friday was looking possible - however though it was yet another horrible day with regards to fumes and dust though we were beginning to gell as a team.

Thursday more of the same but we finished putting the main coat on the south side so feeling hopeful I was ready to follow Tober into the bath, when we were hit by a sudden downpour. Grabbing a pair of trousers, I dashed from the house to cover up our ready prepared mix - only to find Dean already busy doing just that. We cut yet more black plastic (almost as useful as baler twine - neither are at

This is what it looks like when the straw's all covered! If you hadn't seen it before, copuld you tell it was a straw house?
all eco but both have proven incredibly useful in building a straw bale house). Then came the rainbow or rather a magnificent twin rainbow. Maybe it was an omen.
Tober and I joined Dean and John in the Lawers later for a couple of pints and a discussion on the alchemy, chemistry, history and general magic of lime. A bit more luck weatherwise, some more hard graft and reasonable luck and we should make it.

Friday dawned misty but soon cleared to a beautiful, if slightly chilly morning. Another big push from Ewan, Tober and I ensured we had a plentiful supply of lime, or at least so we hoped. Everything was set up and the craziness began again.
Eventually it was over it was close run thing with both the weather and our supply of mixed lime just holding up we completed the spraying by about 4pm. Only the cleaning up, finishing off and packing up to do. Some 4 hours later it was all done and Dean and John headed north to Morayshire and I headed home. Thanks guys for an incredible effort through a helluva week well done!

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13



I believe this is Tober & Ewan
Wonky wallsWonky walls
Wonky walls

or alternatively - organically curved with no hard edges
Action Man & the Infernal SprayerAction Man & the Infernal Sprayer
Action Man & the Infernal Sprayer

Doesn't the title say it all - and isn't it an effective machine
The All Stars The All Stars
The All Stars

John Dean Tober and Ewan
Cleaning off the excess lime Cleaning off the excess lime
Cleaning off the excess lime

A cloud of lime - still I guess it'll be good for the soil

6th September 2008

hell on earth
I've worked with some horrendous materials during the sculpture years but this I've thankfully avoided. Having said that the result looks fabulously organic so well worth the pain!

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