Well, Well, Well Houses

our earthen well-house in progress

To practice our earthen brick-laying and plastering techniques, we built a well-house. Our rock foundation, about 5 x 7 feet on the inside, rests on top of a concrete foundation that we dug by hand.

our earthen well-house with the arch form

The first layer of earthen block is always the hardest to lay, because you have to line up and level each block. It’s not so easy to do when your foundation was made by amateur stone masons. That would be me, my nephew Bobby, my daughter Eva, and her friend, Alex.

the well-house arch

We prevailed in the end, and built the walls up to the point where we wanted an arch-shaped opening. The arch form is two plywood semicircles. The most important thing to remember about an arch form is to put shims under it. Don’t forget.

the finished arch

Charles led the arch construction and all the crew had a turn mortaring in an arch block. They were reluctant to put their faces in the photo, so their t-shirts immortalized here in the picture of the finished arch.

plastering the well-house

Shaping and then laying blocks around the arch was a challenge. But again we prevailed. We put up the first of several plaster layers. Next week my cousin Jerry will pour a bond-beam (reinforced concrete) on top of the walls, and then he’ll build the well-house a roof.

metal roof frame for our earthen house

As all this was going on, welding guys were putting up our house roof. The frame made it feel so much more like a house. A short week later, the roof was finished. It was Jerry’s idea to build the roof first, so we could work in the shade and so our earthen walls would be protected from rain.

We moved in as soon as it was done—you know, our water jug, our lawn-chairs, and the hundreds of bricks we made earlier in the week. Re-stacking the many 40-pound bricks wore us out in a hurry.

Alex and Eva lay the first earthen blocks on our house

Our big moment came last Friday afternoon, when we laid the first earthen block on the house. Minutes later, the new roof came in handy during a downpour that lasted, oh, about four minutes.

it's great to have our building site dried-in

My Dad and our dog, Firewheel, enjoyed dry seating as the rain dripped from the roof.

Firewheel guards our bricks and mortar

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