House Raisings begin on the Ground

August 20, 2010

The morning was just cool enough for a sweatshirt.  As the sun rose, the air took on a citrus orange crispness.  Poles and supports presented geometry against the blue morning sky and undulating ridge beyond.  Long morning shadows slowly receded as if shying from the increasing activity.

This was a long awaited morning.  Neighbors spoke for years of the straw-bale home they were going to build.  Earlier in the summer poles were erected, leveled, and concrete placed around their base.  Now, the morning had arrived to pour the slab of their future home.  The morning air spoke about a hot day ahead, which made the early morning start feel better with each moment.

Slabs give a permanence to people’s lives.  No one knows what might happen to this slab during the next hundred years, but for this family, it means a home for today and tomorrow.  Straw bale construction is quite different from the wood framing of which most homes in the valley are constructed and this says something about this family.  The support structure of this home is post and beam.  Future straw bales will infill the posts and give walls their shape.  As such, the slab is eighteen inches wider than the support posts, all around.  Unlike a wood frame home, the anchor bolts are set specifically for the doors and windows, but nowhere else along the wall-line since bales have no need of them.  As the last location of bolts was marked on the outside of the form boards, and the last neighbor arrived to help with the pour, the concrete truck turned into the drive.

Soon the truck backed up to the slab.  The drum began to turn and concrete began to flow down the chute.  From that moment on, everyone became busy, running the chute, moving concrete, screeding, floating, and troweling.  Time moves fast for those whose living isn’t made working concrete.  Everyone knows concrete sets on its time and the work must be done when the set is right.  The set occurs, the work is done, and four hours later everyone sits down to the mid-afternoon dinner with a finished slab beginning to cure.

The sun is high, the sky has turned to a light blue, the water is cold, the food is good, sore muscles are stretched, neighbors tell stories of past pours and past homes being built, and there is laughter.

© David B. Bell 2010

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