Footings – Our House Has Feet!

I must say, it’s quite strange to actually see progress on our new home.¬† We waited so long to get our plans drawn and approved (almost 2-1/2 years) that we can’t believe it’s actually happening!

We pinch each other periodically ūüėČ

Building with faswall

Ray used his blower to remove the leaves and pine needles that had drifted into the footings before anyone arrived to the build site.

As mentioned in a previous post (breaking ground), we¬†contracted with The Reynoso Brothers to do the concrete work for our house, and after our first inspection of rebar in the footings we passed with flying colors!¬† I’ll talk about our “Special Inspections” in a future post, but for now we were good to go for the concrete pour!¬† ¬†Yay!

Building with FaswallWe were scheduled to have the footings poured on a Friday.¬† The perfect ending to a great week.¬† The first truck came around 12:30 in the afternoon and ended up driving right past our gate.¬† Oh no!¬† Driving past our gate wasn’t¬†his biggest problem.¬† The biggest problem is that we live at the head of a private dead end road, and down the lane are a couple of fairly large marijuana farms!¬† ¬†The cement truck driver would have to basically turn around in a marijuana grow.¬† ¬†Luckily, it’s toward the end of harvest season and most of the crop is already in the drying sheds, but still…

The driver made it back up the road just fine, but laughed about his “adventure”.¬† ¬†That’s California for you!

Anyway, they eventually got the cement truck backed up to the concrete pumper, and soon enough concrete from the first truck was flowing into the footings.

This is the moment the first drop of cement went into the footings! So Exciting!

Speaking of the concrete pumper…Building Faswall Footings

I had to laugh about it’s name.¬† Putzmeister.¬† Hahaha, who came up with that one?¬† I’ll tell you, though, it did a great job.¬† So did the Reynoso Bros!

Faswall Footings

This is what the footings looked like before the guys smoothed over the finish.

Then came a slight hiccup.

Five trucks of cement had been ordered, but it wasn’t enough.¬† We needed another truck!¬† Five truckloads of cement with 9 yards in each truckload wasn’t enough for the footings!¬† Luckily they realized they would need another truck, and ordered it right away, even before the fifth truck was being off-loaded, so although we live 1 hour from the concrete plant, the wait for the final delivery of concrete wasn’t too bad.

Faswall Footings

The delivery driver from Spec West delivering some of the rebar. Three tons of it! Whew!

Now, I will say that everyone¬†who has been to our build site¬†and has seen these footings¬†– how deep and wide they are and the amount of rebar in them¬†– have said that it is total over kill.¬† Everyone.¬† We have also studied other Faswall builds with on-line blogs and pictures that have far smaller footings and a lot less rebar in both the footings and the walls and have wondered why ours requires so much more. But, we have to trust what our engineer calculated and designed, and the building plans inspector approved.¬† If you can’t trust the work of licensed professionals, who can you trust…right?

Anyway, here they are in all their glory!

Aren’t they glorious?¬† We had to keep them moist for the next few days so that they would cure without cracking, and so we watered them three times a day for five days.¬† We were watering our footings more than we watered our garden!

On that fifth day, we couldn’t wait to start putting up the walls!

From everything we have read on the Faswall instructions and other Faswall builds, the first course is the hardest but the most important.  Why?  Because the first row needs to be absolutely, positively, perfectly level.

Luckily, Ray is good at that sort of thing.  Yay!

First we had to determine where the high spots and low spots on the footings were, and which corner was the lowest and which was the highest.

Guess what? The footings were perfectly level.

I mean to say, there couldn’t have been more than 1/16th of an inch difference over the entire course of footings!¬†¬†The¬†skill of the Reynoso Bros and their crew made our lives so much easier!Faswall stemwall

We bought 10 sacks of mortar mix and started at the southeast corner. It wasn’t long before we got into a rhythm and had half that wall done.¬† When laying Faswall, you MUST start in the corners and work your way toward the center, so when almost we reached the center point, we started setting the Faswall on the other corner working in to meet at the center of the wall.¬† The second corner didn’t go as quickly because this was where we have one of the structural walls engineered into the build.¬† You can see in the picture above that we cut the¬†end out of the corner block. More would be cut later when we started working on that wall.¬† We then used a high strength, low VOC glue and glued all the ends together as we set them into the mortar.¬† I will post pictures soon about cutting and glueing and screwing Faswall.¬† We also had one of these structural walls (called SW2 in the plans) in the middle of the wall, but that one didn’t seem as difficult because it wasn’t on a corner.¬† When this section of wall is infilled with concrete, we will have to support these walls with plywood and 2 x 4’s.

How is it to cut the Faswall?  Well, let me tell you, we were worried in the beginning about how we were going to do some of these cuts, but we were promised by the Faswall guys РTom and Paul Рthat the blocks cut just like regular wood.

Cutting Faswall Blocks

You don’t need any special tools to work with Faswall. They cut, nail and screw into just like wood.

They do.¬† Maybe a bit easier.¬† Ray used his Sawzall and cut through these blocks like butter!¬† But, the truth is, once the blocks¬†were cut, they became fairly fragile. This may become a problem later in the build, because we also noticed that the blocks seem to be a bit more fragile when they are wet, also, and we hoped to get our walls up this winter… rain or shine.¬† So, the jury is out on that one.¬† One caution:¬† You MUST wear eye protection when cutting the Faswall!¬† Look at the all the debris in the picture above…’nuf said.

We ended up getting all four walls done in four days.  Boy were we sore and glad to see that last block set!Faswall Footings

Our next task is to get the second row on, then call the plumber back so he can get the stuff that needs to be in the walls (vents, water lines, gas lines) set, so we can build the blocks around them.  We will also have the electrician come up and give us some recommendations about where to put everything.

Footings for Faswall

First layer of Faswall Done! This is actually¬†the Stem wall and once the concrete slab and perimeter porches and sidewalks are poured, you won’t even see it!

One final note.¬† As my readers know, I have always tried to write down EVERYTHING in this blog, including the good, the bad and the ugly, so I must say one thing.¬† It’s a bit difficult to say, because I have had so much faith in building our home with Faswall.¬† But, I have to be honest because I know several of you who have written to me and have stated you are considering also building with Faswall, so here goes…

It looks like Faswall has dropped us off their contact list.¬† You see, Paul is supposed to be the “go-to” guy for any questions while building, but Ray and I have each had a question in to Paul – one by text and one by e-mail – and we have yet to hear back.

It’s been more than a week. :-/

We’ll see what happens and I’ll let you know.¬† Until then, have a great Thanksgiving!

My party list:  Thank Goodness It’s Monday; Grand Social; Mix It Up Monday; Create, Link, Inspire;  Amaze Me Monday,  Over The Moon, Hearth and Soul;  Show & Share Tuesday;  Brag About It; Tuesdays with a Twist; The Scoop;  Inspire Me Tuesdays; Tuesdays at Our Home;  Party In Your PJ’s;  Make, Bake and Create;   Wined Down Wednesday;  Fluster’s Creative Muster;  Homestead Blog Hop; Wow Us Wednesday;  Waste Less Wednesday; AIM Linky; Talk of the Town, Healthy,Happy & Natural; Our Simple Homestead; Share Your Cup Thursday;  Home and Garden Thursday;  Think Tank Thursday;  Homemaking Party;  This Is How We Roll; No Rules Weekend Party; Blogger’s Pit Stop; Friendship Friday;  Family Fun Friday;  Awesome Life Friday;  Home Matters; Traffic Jam Weekend; Friday Features; Saturday Sparks;  Dare to Share; Scraptastic Saturday;  Happiness is Homemade; Anything Goes Pink Saturday; Simple Saturdays; Saturday Shuffle; That DIY Party;  Snickerdoodle Sunday; Dishing it & Digging It


Zucchini Chips

Probably like you, I had an overabundance of zucchini this past summer, and I was on an endless quest to find different ways to cook the little (sometimes not so little) courgettes.

Zucchini gone wild

Uh-Oh. Big zucchini РBIG ZUCCHINI! This one was apparently hiding from me for a few days!

Zucchini muffins, zucchini bread, deep fried zucchini, roasted zucchini with parmesan, zucchini lasagna…

Yeah… you get the picture.

I actually read somewhere on a gardening blog that you should only plant ONE zucchini for every two people, lest you have too many to store.  I planted two.  I just couldn’t live without zucchini, and after I lost all my zucchini plants to squash mosaic virus a few years ago, I have planted at least two zucchini every year since then, one as a back-up for just in case.

Um-Hmm.  Then this happened…

homemade zucchini chips

The plants grew lush and full, and I was soon harvesting that many (above) zucchini almost every other day!¬† It reminded me of the great zucchini invasion of 2014…

too much zucchini

Then I saw a recipe for oven dehydrated zucchini chips.

‚ÄúSeriously?‚ÄĚ I said to myself, ‚Äúis this the holy grail of good tasting, good for you snack foods?‚ÄĚ

Almost.¬† On further reading, I saw that olive oil was involved.¬† Don’t get me wrong… I adore olive oil!¬† I just wanted to see if I could make a chip without oil and save a few calories.

If you know me, you know I absolutely adore experimenting in the kitchen, and my dear hubby is the best guinea pig ever!  So I dove in.

First, I used my handy-dandy mandolin to slice up the pretty green squash.¬† Easy enough.¬† Except, I will say, as my experiment with zucchini chips progressed, I found that the fresher the zucchini, the harder it was to get perfectly Sun Oven dehydrated zucchini chipseven slices.¬† The zucchini that had already spent a day in the refrigerator didn‚Äôt tend to crack or chip off as easily. Strange, but true.¬† However, you don’t want to wait more than a day or so from harvest to slicing, or the zucchini can get limp, and that makes slicing with a mandolin harder, if not dangerous!

I started out slicing the zucchini on the thin setting because I figured this would make the crunchiest chips. Well, at least I thought it would.

The sliced squash was laid in a single layer on parchment and sprinkled with my dry homemade taco seasoning (I got the recipe HERE), then placed into my SunOven.  I left the glass door of the Sun Oven slightly ajar so that the moisture could easily escape, and directed the oven just slightly off of direct sunlight.  Why?  I wanted to dehydrate the chips, not cook them!

Dehydrated zucchini chips

Zucchini chips just placed into the oven. You can see the temp gauge is right at 150, which is where it stayed most of the time.

They were done in about 2 hours, and they were good!¬† Not the best chip I had had in my life, but they were good and didn’t taste at all like zucchini.¬† The taco seasoning pretty much stuck to the chip, I assume because I sprinkled it on the chips as soon as I sliced them, so they were still pretty wet.¬† Aha!¬† See… no oil is needed!

Just a bit too thin. And the thinner they were, the faster they cooked…almost too fast!

But they were just too thin.  They were crunchy, but only the first bite into the chip was crunchy.  You see, first I got the crunch, but then I got a melt-in-your-mouth when you don’t really want melt-in-your-mouth kind of feeling. Harrumph! Besides, there was no way this chip would hold up to even the thinnest dip.

But the flavor was great!

One thing I noticed, also, was that the thinner chips dehydrated A LOT FASTER than the thicker chips.¬† Yeah, I know, Duh… but what I mean to say is that it dried exponentially faster!

So, I sliced some more zucchini on the medium setting this time, and with this batch I sprinkled on some Lawry’s Roasted Garlic Salt (my new favorite seasoning).

Yes, yes!¬† So Good!¬† Perfectly crunchy, and thick enough to use a light dip. And again…no oil!¬† I also tried a batch using just sea salt and then another batch with salt¬†and black pepper.¬† Meh.¬† The truth is, the zucchini has such a mild flavor that you need stronger seasoning on the chips. So far, my favorite zucchini chip flavor is the Lawry‚Äôs Roasted Garlic Salt.

But, now I have a new quest… I need to find more flavors for my chips! I will spend some time this winter gathering recipes for chip flavors (please help), and then experiment again next summer when I have another over-abundance of zucchini. No oil zucchini chips

I would like to find a recipe for a homemade dry powdered ranch dressing mix to try as a flavoring for these chips.  I saw a recipe for this a few years ago, using powdered milk and other spices, but alas I did not save it and can’t find it anymore.

Sea salt and black pepper chips.

I wonder if it’s possible to make a nacho chip with homemade ingredients, or even sour cream and onion? Maybe barbeque? Perhaps you have a good homemade recipe for one of these flavors or maybe you have another suggestion?


Where I party:¬†¬†Thank Goodness It’s Monday;¬†Grand Social;¬†Mix It Up Monday;¬†Create, Link, Inspire; ¬†Amaze Me Monday,¬†¬†Over The Moon,¬†Hearth and Soul;¬†¬†Show & Share¬†Tuesday;¬†The Gathering Spot;¬†Brag About It;¬†Tuesdays with a Twist;¬†The Scoop;¬†Two Cup Tuesday; ¬†Inspire Me Tuesdays;¬†Tuesdays at Our Home; ¬†Party In Your PJ’s;¬†Make, Bake and Create;¬†¬†¬†Wined Down Wednesday; ¬†Fluster’s Creative Muster; ¬†Homestead Blog Hop;¬†Wow Us Wednesday; ¬†Waste Less Wednesday;¬†AIM Linky;¬†Talk of the Town,¬†Healthy,Happy & Natural;¬†¬†Our Simple Homestead;¬†Share Your Cup Thursday; ¬†Home and Garden Thursday; ¬†Think Tank Thursday;¬†¬†Homemaking Party; ¬†This Is How We Roll;¬†No Rules Weekend Party;¬†Blogger’s Pit Stop;¬†Friendship Friday; ¬†Family Fun Friday; ¬†Awesome Life Friday; ¬†Home Matters;¬†Traffic Jam Weekend;¬†Saturday Sparks; ¬†Dare to Share;¬†Scraptastic Saturday; ¬†Happiness is Homemade;¬†Anything Goes Pink Saturday;¬†Simple Saturdays;¬†¬†That DIY Party; ¬†Snickerdoodle Sunday;¬†Dishing it & Digging It



The Red Gate

I love driving down beautiful green country roads in the springtime and looking at all of the gates along the road.   I enjoy dreaming and wondering about the lives that live beyond them.

Gee, what do you think is going on behind that gate? ¬†They certainly don’t want anyone to know, now do they!

Unfortunately, it’s just one of the many “we-have-marijuana-plants-but-don’t-want-you-(or the code inspector)-to-know” type gates we see in our area.¬† Sheesh!¬† Only in California.

One of the first tasks we completed when we bought our property years ago was to install a gate.  Our eldest son, Stephen, took a day out of his busy schedule to help us. We bought the gate at Tractor Supply and it has served us well since then.

Ray and Stephen installing our gate more than 11 years ago.  Boy has that area changed since then!

But now we are in the process of building our new home, and needed to expand the width of our gate, otherwise a cement truck would have some trouble squeezing through. And we are going to need lots and lots of cement trucks!

This wildfire was coming up and over the ridge next to us… a bit close for comfort!¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† “There but by the grace of God, go I”

We also needed to make sure a fire truck and/or other emergency vehicles could get through. We have had three wildfires very close to us this year, and had to evacuate once, so we want to make it actually INVITING for fire trucks and emergency personnel to get into our property!

Several years ago, my sister Deana gave us a few small “garden type” gates, which¬†are actually meant to be used with a chain link fence.¬† But, when you have limited supplies and don’t want to spend money, you “make do”!¬† So, my dear hubbs and I decided to use that as a temporary fix to widen the entrance to our property.

Now our gate opening is about 14 feet wide. Look at the difference in the size of the trees from the picture above when we first put in the gate!¬† It doesn’t even look like the same place, but it is!

Once our new house is done, we plan to replace the gate with a prettier gate and install a solar automatic gate opener.¬† I found these gates below on and really like the first one.¬† I’m not a real “frufru” type of girl, but a little bit¬†more design than our current gate would be nice.

Since we installed that first gate more than 10 years ago, it was starting to lose some paint where we chained it to the post, and I thought that since we were widening the gate, we would update the whole kit and kaboodle.

I decided to paint both of these gates¬†bright red – or as the paint can says – Satin Apple Red. ¬†Why? ¬†Because living in a forest, it isn’t always easy to see street signs, much less house numbers ¬†So, we have to explain our property whereabouts to visitors as “turn down the lane where you see the first brown gate”. ¬†Unfortunately, in the afternoon, our gate is in the shade, so sometimes it isn’t easy to see the¬†gate, especially since it’s brown! ¬†And our neighbor down the road also has a brown gate. And the neighbor below him!

So after clearing some brush and lower tree limbs, I painted both gates Rustoleum Satin Apple Red.

Doesn’t this look better?

Now, I can tell everyone that we are at¬†the only red gate on our country road, and they can’t miss it.¬† At least I hope they don’t!!

Here’s the Party: ¬†¬†Thank Goodness It‚Äôs Monday;¬†Grand Social;¬†Mix It Up Monday;¬†Create, Link, Inspire; ¬†Amaze Me Monday,¬†¬†Over The Moon;¬† ¬†Show & Share¬†Tuesday;¬†The Gathering Spot;¬†Brag About It;¬†Tuesdays with a Twist;¬†The Scoop;¬†Two Cup Tuesday; ¬†Inspire Me Tuesdays;¬†Tuesdays at Our Home; ¬†Party In Your PJ‚Äôs;¬†Make, Bake and Create;¬†¬†¬†Wined Down Wednesday; ¬†Fluster‚Äôs Creative Muster; ¬†Homestead Blog Hop;¬†Wow Us Wednesday; ¬†Waste Less Wednesday;¬†AIM Linky;¬†Talk of the Town,¬†Healthy,Happy & Natural;¬†Our Simple Homestead;¬†Share Your Cup Thursday; ¬†Home and Garden Thursday; ¬†Think Tank Thursday;¬†¬†Homemaking Party; ¬†This Is How We Roll;¬†No Rules Weekend Party;¬†¬†Friendship Friday; ¬†Family Fun Friday; ¬†Awesome Life Friday; ¬†Home Matters;¬†Traffic Jam Weekend;¬†Saturday Sparks; ¬†Dare to Share;¬†Scraptastic Saturday; ¬†Happiness is Homemade;¬†Anything Goes Pink Sat;¬†Simple Saturdays;¬†That DIY Party; ¬†Snickerdoodle Sunday;¬†Dishing & Digging It

Breaking Ground!

After years of waiting, worrying and wondering if we would EVER get our building permit, we are proud to announce that we have finally broken ground!

Building an ICF house

First things first… removing this cute little tree. I really wanted to save it, but unfortunately it would have been in the way of the heavy equipment and probably too close to the house.

                            WAHOO!       YIPPEE!        HOORAY!

The first step in building our new home is to form massive concrete footings for the foundation of the very heavy concrete walls.  We are using the Reynoso Brothers as our concrete contractor because we have been extremely happy with the work they have done on our building site so far.  Last year they prepared the building site quickly and efficiently, on time and at a reasonable cost, so it was a no brainer to have them back.

building a Faswall home

These footings will be three feet wide and two feet deep, with lots and lots of rebar!

The heavy equipment they brought seemed to be overkill at first, but then when I saw the size of the trenches they were digging, I understood.  The footings will be massive!

The tractors made digging through our clay dirt seem like a knife through butter.¬† Well… almost.¬† Until they hit a¬†huge rock right at the back corner of where our patio will be.¬† Luckily, it was a soft rock (sedimentary?) and the excavator was able to actually scrape most of the rock away.

Once the trenches were dug for the footings, they began defining the upper edges with some 2 x 6’s.¬† They used a laser on a tripod to get everything perfect, and the picture on the left shows what they were able to accomplish after just one day of work!

Then the rebar was installed.¬† Holy cannoli… 3 tons of rebar!

No joke.  Really.  Three tons!

Building a Faswall house

These are two guys from Reynoso Bros bending rebar.  Can you see the pile of rebar next to them?  Let me tell you, their work was cut out for them!

With all the concrete and metal that is going into this house, I truly believe it will last

F.  O.  R.  E.  V.  E.  R.

Once all the footings were dug and most of the rebar installed, it was time to set the rough plumbing.  For minimal intrusion into the Faswall itself, we decided to set the plumbing for the kitchen sink, the toilet in the 1/2 bath and the urinal in the master bathroom under the slab.

“Urinal?” you say?¬† Why yes!¬† No more fretting about poor aiming and no more seat up/down wars! Can you tell I’m a mother of four boys (including my husband). ūüėČ

Building a Faswall ICF House

I designed the house so that all the plumbing would be in one area. Originally I was going to have the kitchen sink closer to all the bathrooms, but I wanted to have a window over the sink, so it ended up being the only plumbing that was not in a 15 foot square area. Oh well.

Juan from ACE Plumbing and his crew did most of the work in one day, which was impressive.¬† Except…

The toilet was put in the wrong spot, and so was the freestanding bathtub.  You see, building a house with ICF is a lot different than building a stick-built house.  In our ICF home, the blocks themselves are exactly 2 feet long, with 1/2 blocks being 1 foot long (well, duh).

A Faswall Block. This one happens to be a corner block, which is why the insulation is in an “L” shape on one side. The blocks are 2 feet long, 12 inches thick and 8 inches high.

Anyway, because of that, when designing an ICF house, windows and doors are placed exactly on whole feet and not partial feet.  So, when the two foot wide bathroom window will start 14 feet from the corner of the house, with the toilet centered right underneath, the toilet needs to be centered on 15 feet.  Get it?

Well,¬†only having built stick houses before, they figured they would center the toilet on the wall, and the window could be built centered over the toilet. That’s the normal thing to do.¬† But we needed to have just the opposite.¬† They needed to center the toilet under where the window will be!

So, when we explained this to Juan, he had his crew up that very afternoon to fix the problem!  Yay!

One thing dear hubby and I have been doing is testing and checking, checking and testing everything!¬† That’s how we knew the toilet wasn’t right.¬† We put the Faswall block exactly where it will be placed on the footing, then measured twice from corner to corner, and toilet to corner, then bathtub to corner, etc.¬† I know that sounds a bit nit-picky, but the truth is that WE are acting as our own contractor and in the end WE are the only ones responsible.¬† So, it’s better to check and make adjustments now, before any concrete is poured!

Insulated Concrete Form building

The Southeast corner of our future Faswall home temporarily in place.

So, now you ask… what’s next?

Inspection!¬† Yup.¬† Our first inspection.¬† We are a bit nervous, though I don’t know why.¬† The two contractors we have had on site so far are experts in their field and are fully licensed, so we shouldn’t have any problems.¬† (Famous last words?)

Insulated Concrete Forms

When we pass our first inspection, we will celebrate with this bottle of wine our good friends Ronda and Leonard gave us. Cheers!

In the meantime, I have been moving my green plastic chair around in the house, pretending I am looking out this window or that window, getting a feel of what it will look like, and dreaming…..

Faswall ICF building

The chair is where our covered, screened in patio will be. Ahhhhhhh

Blog parties:¬†Thank Goodness It’s Monday;¬†Grand Social;¬†Mix It Up Monday;¬†Create, Link, Inspire; ¬†Amaze Me Monday,¬†¬†Over The Moon;¬†Show & Share¬†Tuesday;¬†The Gathering Spot;¬†Brag About It;¬†Tuesdays with a Twist;¬†The Scoop;¬†Two Cup Tuesday; ¬†Inspire Me Tuesdays;¬†Tuesdays at Our Home; ¬†Party In Your PJ’s;¬†Make, Bake and Create;¬†¬†¬†Wined Down Wednesday; ¬†Fluster’s Creative Muster; ¬†Homestead Blog Hop;¬†Wow Us Wednesday; ¬†Waste Less Wednesday;¬†AIM Linky;¬†Talk of the Town,¬†Healthy,Happy & Natural;¬†Our Simple Homestead;¬†Share Your Cup Thursday; ¬†Home and Garden Thursday; ¬†Think Tank Thursday;¬†¬†Homemaking Party; ¬†This Is How We Roll;¬†No Rules Weekend Party;¬†Friendship Friday; ¬†Family Fun Friday; ¬†Awesome Life Friday; ¬†Home Matters;¬†Traffic Jam Weekend¬†;¬†Saturday Sparks; ¬†Dare to Share;¬†Scraptastic Saturday; ¬†Happiness is Homemade;¬†Anything Goes Pink Saturday;¬†Simple Saturdays;¬†That DIY Party; ¬†Snickerdoodle Sunday;¬†Dishing it & Digging It

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