Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Reaching Toward the Roof






I accomplished almost nothing on the Nebraska Sod House during the entire month of December. The days sped by, and suddenly there was January, presenting me with a new year and a new view from my workroom window. All that white stuff also presented me with a good reason to stay inside and get busy working on my soddy again.



OFF WITH THE NEW, ON WITH THE OLD



In my last post, I had increased the height of the sod walls because I mistakenly thought that I hadn't allowed enough space for the roof beams to fit over the windows. I was wrong. So my first construction task of the new year was to saw off that extra height. I made a big mess, but not as big as I expected. 



The tops came off so easily and smoothly that there was very little interior repair necessary. That was a great relief!



I applied more brown paint to the top of the shorter walls to cover any white styrofoam that might show through the sod. I'm right back where I started from in November!



Now my homesteader can continue to build up the sod walls. When the walls reached waist level, a wagon, if one was available, was driven alongside the wall to provide a working platform for handling the heavy sod. If no wagon was available, perhaps he used a table to stand on. (Lay the sod, drag the table; lay the sod, drag the table.)

Robert, my electrician, also put wiring in at this time for display lighting.



THE INS AND OUTS OF WINDOWS



The walls have reached the top of the window opening; it's time to build the wood box frames for the window and door openings. At least, that's the way I did it. My homesteader would have built his simple, open box frame as soon as the sod wall reached the desired level for the window sill, set the frame in place, propped it up with sticks, and built the walls up around it.



I tried a dry fit for a side window and frame. The soddy's two small windows will have pins set in each side frame so they can swivel outward from the bottom.



Also a dry fit for the front window and door box frames. The door will be made later. The most common type of window was the twelve-pane double hung sash window that could be raised or lowered from the top or bottom. The sod walls didn't permit the use of counterweights, so when the windows were raised, they had to be propped open with sticks. In some cases, if the walls were too short for the windows to fit upright, they were installed horizontally and could be opened by sliding the frame to one side.

Most windows were set in their frames close to the outer walls, rather than even with the interior walls, to avoid any possibility of water settling and washing away the sod. This provided deep window sills inside, where they offered needed storage space. (The deep sills also gave the homesteaders a dry place to sit when rain leaked through the roof and soaked everything else!) Many homesteaders plastered the inside of the window wells to avoid the dark shadows created by the bare sod blocks.

Since all windows and glass panes were extremely expensive and seldom to be found in the small prairie towns, many settlers brought windows with them, as many as they could afford, carefully swaddled in quilts for the long wagon journey. If they arrived without windows and couldn't find them in a town - or couldn't afford to buy them - they would make do with a canvas covering for the window openings, or sometimes cover the opening with oiled paper, which would let a little light into the soddy.



The wood for these frames and windows is ready to be painted or whitewashed, then "weathered" a little. This soddy is not very old, so hasn't undergone much wear.



I stuccoed the interior of the deep window and door openings, which will be sanded and whitewashed.



All the window frames, the windows, and the door frame are ready to be installed... 



... as are both side windows.





All the box frames are installed, leaving a "buffer zone" between the top of the frame and the window opening. The front windows will be next...



...along with the small west window...



...and the east window waits its turn.



This is the collection of sticks that will serve as "cedar" posts for the over- window support beams. Cedar is a tough, rot-resistant wood that the homesteader could often find along creek banks, although finding a straight limb of the right length was not easy.



I've cut the sticks into appropriate lengths to use as support posts.



Two cedar posts for each window will be laid over the top of the sod blocks, leaving a gap between the top of the window frame and the cedar beam. This space will be filled with rags to prevent the settling of the sod over the window, which could result in a jammed window and broken window panes. The door frame will receive two cedar posts for support as well.



Views of the front and the east side of the soddy before the support beams are installed.




The cedar posts for support beams have been installed over all the windows and the door.



A view of the small windows that swivel outward at the bottom.




A simple method of propping the windows open.



TO THE TOP OF THE WALL



More courses of sod blocks are laid above the support beams to reach the desired height of the soddy. This photo shows the west side of the house.



And the east side.



This is the front view of the soddy, showing the support posts and the overall height of the house. In many of the photographs that I looked at before I started construction on the soddy, some of the windows seemed to lean drunkenly to one side or the other, because of the premature settling of the sod blocks. I decided that was a nice touch of authenticity, so I spent some time and effort to have a window leaning at a drunken angle. However, now that it's way too late to correct its posture, I realize that the window doesn't look authentically askew; it just looks like a crooked window. 



The time has come to add sod blocks to the sides of the partial back wall; all the blocks have to be built up to the same height as the other three walls.




I thought the back (north) wall was finished - but then...



...I found better "roots" for the sod blocks that make up the wall.



This photo shows the left half of the wall with new roots, compared to the right half that has the old "skimpy" roots.



The new root system looks much more like the thick, tangled roots in Real Life prairie sod.



The last step (for this post) is to stuff rags in the "buffer zone" over the window frames and the door frame. I used unbleached muslin, colored darker by soaking  in black coffee to simulate weather stains. I wanted a blotchy effect, but the pieces insisted on being rather uniform in color. 



I tore the fabric into approximately two-inch (24-inch Real Life) pieces, which I thought would be a manageable size for the homesteader to work with when he pushed the pieces into the space over the windows. I let the fabric dry. 



The rags have been stuffed into the buffer zones over the window and door frames. I added some sod-color blotches with a paintbrush and a grayish wash after the rags were in place.




Now the sod walls have reached the roof height, so one of the next steps will be to build a sod roof. The roof was the most important part of the sod structure, so the homesteader has a hard task before him. I hope he finds a neighbor who can help with the job.



TINY SPECIAL THINGS



I must share with you these tiny treasures that Jodi (My Miniature Madness) sent me. I'm so happy to have received the perfect pink chair, along with a basket of kitchen towels, books and a tasseled book mark (!) There is a tiny cup of tea with a minute tea bag (how is that possible?) and a jar of honey to sweeten the tea - even the teensiest spoon for stirring, and boxes of tea so I can keep on enjoying those "cuppas." The beautiful pot of flowers and the birdhouse bring a breath of spring even in January and will add color and cheer to a wintry landscape. I'm so excited about all these delights, but they're much too elegant to find a place in the soddy, so I'll put them safely away until my next build - where they'll fit in to perfection. Jodi must have read my mind! Thank you again, Jodi. You've warmed my heart with your sweet thoughtfulness.

19 comments:

  1. Well do I know the feeling of having to undo what's already been done and then having to begin all over again, but even if you were Marjorie, you have regained the loss ground by your Amazing progress on the walls of your soddy! The new moss you are incorporating looks to be Ideal and the windows have made an Enormous difference to the entire structure! I am impressed by your research and the authenticity of this quaint little house and look forward to seeing how the roof and then later the outfitting of the interior develops.
    AND I am Delighted to see that you are a lucky recipient of Jodi's Bounty too! Which of course means that following your Prairie Soddy there is going to be a contemporary one at a future date- Happy Days in 2019! :D

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    1. Hi, Elizabeth - I've made more progress on the soddy in January than I thought I would, and now that the walls are up, I think construction will move along at a good pace. I don't really want it to go too fast, because I'm enjoying it so much - and also because so far I'm not finding much information on the structural details of my hoped-for next project. But there are still many things to finish on the soddy, both inside and out. I suspect that this house will be completed on its terms and timeline rather than mine! Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I am so happy to hear that undoing your "fix" went so painlessly, and was less messy that you'd anticipated! Cutting Styrofoam often creates a surprising mess, impossible to clean because of the static cling!!! You are obviously an expert!
    I am even more enchanted with this build now that you've shown the next phase! The windows are wonderful, and making them tip out is a detail which for some weird reason thrills me!. I love that you are using real cedar twigs for the window support beams, and every historical tidbit you share about the construction is fascinating! The new roots are spectacular! And I love that it makes the viewing wall look truly as though you've cut a section out of a real life soddy!
    I am so happy to see that my gifts arrived safely, and hope that one day they will become of great use in a future dream!
    Best of luck with the roof - I am looking so forward to being educated about that part of the build!

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    1. Hi, Jodi - Yes, styrofoam is messy to work with; I admit that I get really tired of the stuff constantly clinging to my hands, my clothing, my tools, my work table - everything! But it also has its saving grace, in that it's also easy to work with - and SO FORGIVING! (My favorite phrase.) I'm excited about starting on the soddy roof, although I think it'll be harder than I expect. But compared to those tile roofs on the French Farmhouse and the Tuscan Villa, this one may surely seem like a piece of cake. I'm so glad that you're looking forward to the roof construction, too. I hope that I'll have something satisfactory to report in my next post!
      Marjorie

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  3. A pesar de haber tenido que modificar la altura,me alegra que no causara demasiados destrozos y que haya sido una tarea más fácil de lo pensado.El musgo y las telas quedan increíbles en la fachada,tiene un aspecto muy realista!
    Gran trabajo!
    Besos.

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    1. Hello, Pilar - I was so happy to come across that bag of moss; I knew that the low back wall needed more and better "roots" for the sod blocks, but I wasn't finding anything that seemed right until I found that new bag. It isn't perfect, but at least I'm satisfied with it. It'll be another challenge to find the materials that I need to complete the roof. I need sticks and dried grass - and right now everything is buried in snow! I'm hoping for a quick thaw! I appreciate your comments - thanks for stopping by.
      Marjorie

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  4. Hello Marjorie,
    I am always so happy to see a new post on your blog. I am really enjoying learning about soddys. The construction of them fascinates me. Your version is coming along beautifully. I am happy that there was no damage done when shortening the walls. The windows look great and I think the rag buffers are such a wonderful touch. They came out very nice in the coffee wash. I cannot wait to see more.
    Big hug
    Giac

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    1. Hello, Giac - I'm so glad that you're enjoying my "soddy stories" - I also find this construction method fascinating. So much of the Real Life building of the sod houses was done by trial and error, so I feel as though I'm entirely in my element here! My rag stuffing for the buffer zones is actually a bit too tidy, compared to some of the photographs that I've looked at. But then those builders were in a hurry to stay ahead of the cold, the heat, the rain, the hail, and the tornadoes - they can be forgiven for stuffing those rags in any old way to get it done fast! Next up (I think) is the roof - and that should be an interesting experience, to say the least. Thank you for stopping by!
      Marjorie

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  5. I love the swivel windows! How awesome! And the sticks and rags above the window: I never knew or even thought about it. I always assumed the sod lay on top of the window frame!
    And I am so happy to hear that there is another build being brainstormed! Although I am hoping there are still more posts about the soddy coming as the roof and interior need to be tackled still!

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    1. Hi, Lori - There are definitely more soddy posts planned. I still need to make the roof, put in a dirt floor, do something more with the wiring, furnish the interior, and "landscape" the area around the house, so the end is not yet in sight! But I am, of course, already thinking ahead to the next project, which will require, as usual, some fun research. I hope you'll hang in there with me for the duration!
      Marjorie

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    2. Absolutely hanging! I love your journeys!

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  6. Un trabajo fantástico Marjorie , aunque te haya costado un poco más, se la ve muy real.Unos regalos preciosos.Besos:-)

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    1. Hello, Rosa Maria - Thanks for stopping by the soddy. I hope, now that the walls are up, that there won't be too many more mistakes that need to be corrected. But this is a "trial and error" project, so I never know what the next "work session" has in store for me. I appreciate your input!
      Marjorie

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  7. The sod house is so realistic looking. Two steps forward - one step back right? I haven't gotten much done in the past month either as far as miniatures are concerned. The windows turned out great. I'm liking your attention to detail. I'm sure you will find the perfect spot for your Jodi items. Looking forward to see what you come up with. Keep up the good work - Troy

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    1. Hi, Troy - I often seem to take a step back for every two that I take moving forward. However, I'm hoping that I don't have too many backward steps while I'm building the soddy's roof. That's going to be the hardest part of this build, and I have no idea how it will go, so I hope you'll check back and see what's happening. (Or not happening!)
      Marjorie

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  8. This building is amazing. I love all the things you teach it is so interesting. The windows are great. Cant wait to see more.
    Hugs Maria

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    1. Hello, Maria - I'm so sorry that it took me this long to reply to your comment! Some days don't go as smoothly as I would like, and my time management skills just fall to pieces. I'm happy, though, to know that you find my soddy project interesting and that you're learning some things that you didn't know before. (So am I!) I appreciate your comments, and I hope you'll stop by next time.
      Marjorie

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  9. Hi Marjorie! Your "Soddy" has to be one of the most unique mini projects going! It is fascinating to see all the methods and difficulties they had to overcome just to get a house! I am glad your re-adjustment of the "adjustment" caused no lasting damage! It is good to know that your planning in the first place was well done! It is looking amazingly realistic with those swinging windows and rags stuffed in cracks... (I have seen a few similar weather prevention techniques in RL!) This is surely going to be a fascinating journey to get the roof laid! I can't wait! :):)

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    1. Hi, Betsy - I'm looking forward to the roofing phase of the Soddy Project, but with a bit of trepidation, I admit. It'll be interesting, whatever happens! I have discovered some things that will need to be done before I can start on the roof, but they're minor things so shouldn't postpone the roof laying by more than a few work sessions. I try to look forward and plan ahead and anticipate the proper order of construction - but something that I didn't think of always pops up! I hope you'll continue to string along on this homesteading journey and watch that roof take shape.
      Marjorie

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I'd love to hear your comments!