Roof and wall sheathing are mostly in place, and north porches are framed for our first cluster.
Roof and wall sheathing are mostly in place, and north porches are framed for our first cluster.
Our growing season at Rocky Corner is coming to an end. Our first field of mixed vegetables can be seen in this wonderful drone photo taken by Rocky Corner friend Domingo Medina. He and Brenda Caldwell are learning about our soil, how to enrich it with amendments, how to help the microbes become healthier and thrive. Soil has a microbiome that helps plants to grow, just like humans have gut bacteria that keep us healthier.
Domingo runs Peels and Wheels Composting in New Haven. Residents and businesses subscribe to his service. Using a cargo bicycle (Wheels!), he picks up kitchen scraps (Peels!) and other biodegradable materials left at the curbside. Domingo pedals it all to his composting enterprise at Phoenix Press Farm. This is the property below the large wind turbine you can see from the I-95 Quinnipiac River Bridge. Peels and Wheels compost is produced with solar powered aerators that speed up the decomposing process.
We are building a relationship between Peels and Wheels and Rocky Corner farm so that his beautiful, rich compost can be one of our key soil-building amendments!
It’s beginning to look real. The first building has all three home types (one-bedroom type A, two-bedroom type B, and a type C, which nominally has three bedrooms, but this one has two bedrooms and a study).
The slab is insulated from the ground and wrapped in a vapor barrier that will extend up and over the whole building. All of the underground conduits and pipes are in place, and the carpenters are working fast.
The builder, the architect, and the structural engineer are checking to be sure everything is tight and sound.
And the main thing is that now we can stand in a home and get a realistic sense of the interior spaces.
The heavy rain storm last week was a challenge for our builders, but they have persevered and five homes are ready to be slabbed. What I mean is that they have placed the pipes, the forms and the insulation and are ready to pour the cement on Monday. The weather looks perfect for the weekend so everything should go as planned. I don’t think we will be out there with a champagne bottle to christen the pour, but a few of us may go to watch. This is Nancy and Rich’s home in the photo. so they may want the front row seats!
Two reps from Home Energy Technologies came to the site to review the requirements for Energy Star certification. They are excited about our project and find us in compliance with everything from lighting (all LED) to air barriers to insulation. Our foundations exceed the > R10 Energy Star insulation requirement for slab on-grade. We will have R16! If you don’t know about R values, an insulating material’s resistance to conductive heat flow is measured or rated in terms of its thermal resistance or R–value — the higher the R–value, the greater the insulating effectiveness. R16 reduces the heat flow (in or out) by 95%.
Why are we doing slabs rather than traditional New England basements? The slab in every building at Rocky Corner is a heat sink. It will absorb heat during a sunny, winter day. The slab will gradually release the heat during the day and into the evening which will naturally warm up the house. That means less need for other heat sources that cost money. Free heat!
Lots to be proud of and to brag about. Rocky Corner homes will rock when it comes to energy efficiency!
The site contractor is backfilling and compacting the trenches where the under-slab utilities were laid for the first cluster of homes. When this step is complete, peripheral shaped trenches will be prepared for the haunches (shallow frost walls). These will be lined with a four-inch insulation layer that extends across the whole platform under the concrete slab.
The dark gray material is structural fill compacted level. The fill is cleaned and crushed recycled concrete. The next step is laying out the underground services (pipes and conduits) that will poke up through the concrete slab into the living space. The plumber needs to be able to pinpoint where those pipes come up relative to walls. Al, our construction manager’s ever-resourceful site superintendent had the clever idea to lay out the locations of all the walls using metal studs spiked into the fill. Unlike stakes and string, the studs aren’t going to move, and the plumber can measure accurately from them.
After trenches are dug and the pipes are in place, the trenches will be refilled and compacted again.
The next layer up from the fill is four-inch-thick rigid, closed-cell, high-density polystyrene foam insulation. Here it is, stacked and ready go to for the first two clusters. The concrete slabs will be poured on top of the foam.
Permaculture is a design process that works to meet human needs while increasing ecosystem health. We have definitely designed Rocky Corner to meet our needs as people while thinking of the Earth and our own land every step of the way.
The ethics of permaculture includes three important values: Earth Care, People Care, and Resource Share. We can find all of these in our vision statement.
Rocky Corner’s Earth Care:
“We are devoted to preserving, protecting, nurturing and regenerating the natural environment.
Rocky Corner’s People Care:
“We are dedicated to fostering a friendly, open, vibrant, mutually supportive atmosphere.
Rocky Corner’s Resource Share:
“We actively sustain our community and maintain our property by sharing work and responsibilities.
I personally love our vision statement. It took us about a year to identify our mutual values and then write this into a statement that turned out simple and eloquent.
The work we are doing now to create Rocky Corner is still focused on our values. I am proud of all of our future residents, working so hard and keeping the vision alive.
Conduits have been placed in a trench parallel to the main drive. Two are for electric service (one to be used, the other a spare, required by Eversource, in case anything happens to the first one). One is for Frontier, for landline service. One is for fiber optic Internet service. No clue why there’s a fifth conduit in the picture.
The top of the polymer concrete box at the left at at finish grade. It’s a protective structure to allow an electrical worker to access the power line to splice wires and make repairs.
Here’s what we’re pursuing (don’t know if we’ll be able to pull it off): We may be able to entice a solar company to own and manage our electrical distribution system. What does that mean?
Bottom line, the tradeoff is that instead of buying a $20,000 solar system yourself and then hopefully paying for it with reduced power bills, you would be paying nothing for the system and getting a token discount on your power bill. But the big benefit is the protection against power outages.
Wish us luck.
What can Rocky Corner cohousing bring to the small town of Bethany? We can bring new people to Bethany who are interested in how they are living together and how they are living on the land. We can bring people to town who are hard working and creatively thinking.
We can get involved in the local government and committees like the Sustainability Committee (http://bethany-ct.com/bethany-sustainability-committee/), the Bethany Land Trust (http://www.bethanylandtrust.org/), the Conservation Commission (http://bethany-ct.com/organizations-and-groups/commissions/conservation-commission/). Membership in some committees are elected positions; others are volunteer.
There were people in the town who were afraid of our project and probably still are. Let’s show them that our friendliness and our vision is good for Bethany and that we can help make it a stronger town.
Read more about Strong Towns and cohousing here – https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2018/4/18/cohousing-offers-a-different-way-to-live?gclid=CjwKCAjwtIXbBRBhEiwAWV-5nqD-iWaX9gGgS6kT5Ado1YZkSg_oKJkomAvQF1dVI3oe6qpYp4RklhoC85EQAvD_BwE
What you get when you cut up potatoes.
31,000-gallon water tank. The eight precast concrete sections were placed yesterday, amid intermittent thunderstorms. The sections have rubber gaskets between them and, basically, gravity keeping them from separating enough to leak. The sections are not tied together. The hole will be backfilled and covered with a layer of dirt before the tank is filled with water. Only a fire hydrant will be visible when it’s done.
The crane operator was not thrilled about the weather, but the site superintendent was watching the minute-by-minute forecast on the Weather Channel and called for breaks when the storm clouds rolled in. By 7:30 pm the tank was in place and the crane was loaded for transport.
The two end sections have temporary concrete access covers that will be replaced with steel covers once the tank is fitted out for the fire department. Who knows what an archeologist a thousand years from now will think this strange structure was intended for.
Char made a timelapse movie this morning of the guys installing section 2 (of 8 total) of the water tank.
This morning, the site contractor finished getting the bottom of the pit down to grade. This is looking over the brink into an eleven-foot-deep hole where bedrock used to be.
This is where the water storage tank will be buried. A minute later, a loader smoothed out the temporary slope . . .
. . . and then they started laying a bed of crushed rock in the bottom for the concrete tank to rest on. The tank is due to be installed Thursday.
The pit being dug here is about eight feet deep in the video, with about three feet further to go. Once it is leveled out and the bottom is filled with a level layer of structural fill, the hole will house a 31,000 gallon concrete water tank. The water will be available to the Bethany Fire Department in case there is ever a fire at Rocky Corner.
A fire engine will pump water out of this tank and into a series of dry hydrants arrayed on a water main down the center of the community. This water supply is not connected to the water we’ll use every day. Sprinklers in the homes are connected to the domestic water supply.
. . . construction site.
You have to break some eggs . . .
Ledge (gray schist bedrock), inconveniently located where the common house is supposed to go, yields to a pneumatic hammer delivering 8,000 pounds of force.
Our site contractor has stripped a great deal more topsoil from the construction area than will be needed to regrade the site after the homes are built? What should he do with it? We decided to use it to increase the depth of topsoil in the primary vegetable growing area between the main driveway and Meyers Road.
A bonus is that spreading it now will smother all that mugwort and will allow us to get a cover crop in soon.
The soil is a rich sandy loam with excellent tilth. We did not go to the added expense of screening it. This is New England; what would we do without rocks in the soil?