Form comes off

We left the form on the rammed earth wall foundation for nearly a week, mostly as a spot of protection against the rain. Attaching the reinforcing to the rebar uprights was a matter of a few minutes.

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And now it’s rammed earth time. We have a job of work ahead of us conditioning the soil to go into this wall. We’re going to sift out the rocks, add sand, cement, plasticure, water and mix. We need to procure the sand, the plasticure and a cement mixer.

One of the issues is that the soil we want to use has been sitting in the rain all winter and is full of water, which will make controlling the water content very difficult. We’d expected that there would have been a good stretch of fine weather by now to dry it out (less than a week until summer!), but it hasn’t eventuated. While the soil is conveniently located (it’s about 3m away to the left of the foundation in the picture above), we really need any soil destined for a wall to be put somewhere dry first. The only dry spots we have are under the house where there’s also no sun to help things out. So it looks like we’ll need to set up a tarp to stage our dirt. At least its ugliness will spur us on to get things sorted quickly!

A little oregano garden

All of our oregano is up by the road. It’s dotted around the place and is certainly ample for our needs for most of the year, except around the end of winter when the old growth has aged and yellowed and the new growth is yet to emerge.

A couple of flower heads were planted in seed-raising mix a little while ago, and they sprouted much better than expected. They were starting to get a bit big for their seed tray, so they were put into their own little oregano garden down in the orchard. We’ll plant other herbs down here, too, to make it a one-stop food shop.

Spring onions

Spring onions are ready to harvest after 3 months of relatively cold spring weather. We literally did nothing to look after them after planting: that’s my kind of vegetable!

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These were just the biggest, healthiest, springiest spring onions ever. Now buying spring ¬†onions at the shop in giant wilted bunches we can’t use is going to chafe even more!

Wall foundation

The weekend provided some warm, rain-free weather (finally), so we’re able to get on with setting the foundation for our little rammed earth wall.

“Make a box and pour concrete in it”. Sounds so easy.

We decided to use our walers as the box sides: they’re 90mm tall instead of the planned 100mm, but it doesn’t really make much difference and gave us more flexibility for cutting up the formply later. Unfortunately we can’t transport 5.2m pieces of wood around, so we’ve jerry-rigged the box out of 4x 2.4m walers and some pine we had lying around.

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The star pickets keep the outside in line, and we used the long steel extrusion to ensure straightness between pieces. We didn’t do too well on one of the star pickets, but a little shim got everything lined up nicely:

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We used a spare 30cm-long bit to test the width along the box before filling it in. Everything has to be perfectly straight and level, since the rammed-earth form will used this foundation as its reference. That meant we had to do a bunch more digging to achieve a level bottom so the top could also be level.

Then it was just a matter of mixing up the concrete. By hand. 4 hours and 12 batches later I had a sore arm and a determination to buy a concrete mixer at our earliest convenience. The rammed earth will need about 7 times the volume to be mixed and there’s no way I’m going to do that with a shovel.

But a dead flat dead straight thing amongst the dirt looks just like civilisation and satisfaction levels are high.

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A touch of spring

Ah, a bit of sun amongst all the rain. Every weekend has been wet, so no progress has been made on the rammed earth wall. Flowers and new leaves are out in force though, so let’s have a spot of floral celebration:

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Mexican puffball and a few stealth blueberries
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R’s “hug” tree, the one so fluffy that it must be hugged. The thyme in the base is also looking pretty happy.
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Crabapples on the drive with their delicate little blossoms
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Rhodie on the fenceline. We need to enjoy these flowers while they last; in a couple of weeks they’ll be gone for another year.