What is this New Devilry?????

Welcome again free folk of Middle Earth. It’s not easy hanging in there this time of year I know.

Thanks for hanging in there!

Like I said said last winter, hell isn’t hot. It’s cold….Really cold, and we’re getting hit with negative 2 on the Fahrenheit scale people. I mean it’s brutal. Really brutal….. andย  on top of that the wind is gusting up to 45 miles per hour. I think the real feel temperature is supposed to be negative 45 degrees.

So I went over to the house Saturday to dig out if you will. Man I had no idea how much snow fell while we were away. I guess I just didn’t pay much attention to the walkway at my house but over at Hobbit Hollow there has got to be at least 20 to 24 inches of snow! As the English would say, “Bloody Hell!!!” Well…I think that’s what the English would say. There were mostly English people at the resort we stayed at on Antigua. Hence the Englishman reference. Actually there were some Italians as well. I’m trying to think of a Super sod refain that would go well here but I’m having a bit of a writer’s block. Oh, well. (I’ll think of something for the next post I assure you!)

Like I was saying I spent two and a half hours plowing and digging everything out on Saturday and was pretty depressed about our prospects moving forward. I drew a complete blank Sunday while trying to write a blog post and came up with nothin’. Nothing of any substance anyway. That’s why there was no post.

Monday was Presidents Day here in the States so I had the day off. Another brutally cold day, but I headed over to the house after it warmed up to a balmy 15 degrees around 12:30. I actually got quite a bit done if I do say so myself. The weather being the way it was and all. I had a bunch of little stuff to do which is always kind of annoying. The little stuff is annoying let’s just be 100% clear. I brought my new I-Pod with me, that my children bought me for Christmas, and got some tunes rolling and that really helped.

Before I get to what I worked on just a quick picture of the site when I got there Saturday.

Snow bound!
Snow bound!

Anyway, I had to start off with additional snow removal and then I fixed two 4×8 sheets of styrofoam that weren’t sitting flat on the gravel. I had to pull up each sheet and then re-screed the gravel underneath them. It actually took a lot longer than I thought. Every time I thought I had it right I would replace the sheet of styrofoam and retest the fit. The old trial and error method. Tedious….very tedious. I got it in the end and everything looks good now.

I also, for some strange reason, decided to leave out a small strip of styrofoam right along the edge on the North side. Of course it is now filled with snow so I put my snow removal hat on and took care of that next. Then I proceeded to cut and fit four inch thick styrofoam into the cavities that were there.

I tried a couple of different ways to cut the 4 inch thick styro, here’s what I came up with. Snap a chaulk line on the styro and then use a skill saw to score cut it. Once this is done snap it off by fully supporting the styrofoam just off the cut line and just giving it a good shot if you will. Once this is done use a sawzall to trim the piece nice and flush. (Usually the piece wouldn’t break off perfectly square.)

I had a nice little station set up to do all this. Check it out.

Styrofoam cutting station.
Styrofoam cutting station.

Okay it looks like a bit of a mess and it was. I’m not giving myself points for neatness here people we just want to get it done. Hobbits aren’t supposed to be working in this kind of weather to begin with.

So all I’m left with is some miscellaneous patching around the pipes and then we are ready to install our air barrier! This will be interesting. Hopefully the weather will be decent this coming Saturday.

Like I said before thanks for hanging in there.

Stay warm and enjoy your week!


8 thoughts on “What is this New Devilry?????”

  1. The working philosophy around here has always been “when in doubt, buy a book.” I’m to that point and wanted to ask what reading material on Passive Houses do /did you find most helpful? (Or did you, as a long-time cement guy, just know all already?

    We are surviving the cold here. I’m hauling warm water to the barn each day in an effort to keep everyone eating (the more they drink, the more they eat, and digestion helps keep them warm.) The geese have kept most active, leaving wedge-shaped footprints behind.

    • Sally! How are you? Sounds like you have your hands full keeping the farm going with this winter being the way it’s been.

      So yes books are the way to go. I have quite a collection of construction books but as far as Passive House type stuff is concerned you want to start with, “Homes for a Changing Climate-Passive Houses in the U.S.” by Katrin Klingenberg.

      This book gives you the basic history and definitions of what a Passive House is. It also has a number of examples of homes built to the Passive House standard.

      I would also recommend The Journal of Light Construction. They’ve had a number of articles over the past few years that were really interesting and in depth.The guys writing these articles talked a lot about building techniques and the different materials and systems they used to reach Passive House standards. Unfortunately I’m not really sure how you can access articles from this magazine.

      Just for the record you’re not going to find anything about Hobbit Passive houses in these type of books. I guess if you’re looking to do what I’m doing just take a lot of notes.

      I don’t know if that has helped you but you can also look up the Passive House website. I think it’s PHIUS.com (Passive House Institute United States.)They might have some stuff somewhere on the website that might help as well.

      Hope I didn’t confuse you. Spring isn’t far away!

      Take Care!

      • I had already found the Passive House website, and from there lowcarbonproductions.com, which publishes the book you mentioned. They have a two book deal I was considering, and your recommendation means I will go ahead. I am disappointed that phius.org has so little for consumers.

        I think you are right – not many others building with cement like you are. The one other I know of is Walter Jefferies at Sugar Mountain Farm (https://sugarmtnfarm.com/) who has not only built a tiny house of cement, but is almost finished with an on-farm butcher shop. You would probably really appreciate his work. Especially since he doesn’t actually build or handle cement for a living.

        The animals are hanging in, but my worn out old house is driving me crazy and staying cold. Got to go build a new one!

        • Sally: You can do it! There are a lot of ways to build any house.There are a lot of ways to build a passive house as well.

          I agree with what you said about the PHIUS website. It’s not very user friendly and it really doesn’t give you a lot of information.

          I look at it this way. The standards that they are using are the basics to what you are looking for in a new home. You want the bones of a new house to be energy efficient. The size, finishes, etcetera are all things that are used to personalize your home. This is where cost comes into play.

          The Hobbit house might not meet the requirements established by Passive House when it’s complete. I’m shooting for getting as close as I can without going crazy.

          That being said education really is the key here. The book I mentioned is a really good first step in understanding the science behind the Passive House.Once you understand the concepts fully the articles in the Journal of Light Construction will be of better help. Fine Homebuilding also has had a number of articles on Passive House as well. Maybe you can get them through your library?

          Anyway good luck! Keep Bilbo Baggins in your head. This could be a great unexpected adventure for you!

          Best wishes!

  2. Jim,

    It sounds like you enjoyed your vacation, but you should be careful changing temperatures that fast. You know what happens when you dump cold water on a hot glass. ๐Ÿ™‚ The sugar mill stuff was interesting. But your vacation did spoil my chance to really tease about the weather here over the weekend. While you were freezing your a** off on Saturday, I was breaking a sweat doing some major yard work in the 75 degree sun.

    Have you thought about putting a temporary wall at one end of the house? Just something to keep the wind from blowing right through would make it a lot more pleasant to work in there. A little framing covered with a tarp or a sheet of plastic would do the job. (Or maybe just some large blocks of frozen white stuff, like they use to build igloos. There was a guy up in Boston giving away free snow. You could just pile a bunch of that at one end.)

    Hang in there. The spring thaw is only a few months off.


    • Hey Frank! Thanks for filling me in on how warm it is in Texas. Much appreciated. It sounds like we’re going to get hammered again with some more single digit temperatures over the next few days. I can’t wait.

      The good news is that it might hit 30 on Saturday. Maybe I will get something done this weekend.

      Believe it or not there really wasn’t that much snow inside of the house which really surprized me. I originally was thinking along the same lines as you. My idea was to hang a tarp from the ceiling and secure it to the rebar sticking out of the knee wall. (Never got the time to do it though.) If I get into the slab rebar I’ll probably just cover it up with some tarps. I think that will do the trick.

      Thanks for hanging in there!

      Enjoy sunny Texas!

      • I’m surprised there wasn’t a pretty good snow pile in there. But I was thinking more about you and the Men of Bree. I’m sure you’re aware just how much of a difference getting out of the wind will make when it is cold outside. Closing off one end would cut down on the wind tunnel effect in there. It looks like you are pretty close to pouring the slab. Just hang in there and look forward to the time when you can set up a heater in there without fear of torching the Styrofoam.

        Or you could just flood it and have a skating rink until spring. Paint a few lines on the white styrofoam first, and stick a net at each end. You’d have a nice little pond hockey set up. It would give you an excuse to not work on it until the weather was a little better. ๐Ÿ™‚

        I wish I could stay here and enjoy the weather. I’ll be in Quebec next week. Forecast is for temps as low as 14 below. (That’s real temps, not wind chill. Ouch.) Finding serious cold weather gear around here is tough, so I’ll have to make do with what I have. I’ll get my fair share of frozen anatomy.

        • Hey Frank! The ice skating rink isn’t such a bad idea. I probably could have charged a fee and made a little money over the winter.(Do they make ice skates for Hobbit feet?)

          Yeah, the old saying “Cold chills but wind kills” is relevant as far as working outside is concerned. Believe it or not the house is sort of in a bit of a valley so we don’t get crazy wind at the house. The outside walls give us a good break as well.

          I had to work in the city up on the 43rd floor the other day. The crane operator said he was getting 45-50 mph gusts. If you didn’t have a lot of layers on and your face covered you were done. I’m sure you will find some cold weather gear up in Quebec if you need it. I don’t know how they do it on a regular basis.

          Thanks for writing and good luck up in the Great White North!

          Take care and stay warm!


Leave a Comment