Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finished Cement, Doorways & Windows

As we prepare to leave Mexico I wanted to show more of
 their mastery at cement ( or concrete ) as a finish material.
 I may have to take a short brake from blogging as we will be on the road.
 Above and below were taken in San Carlos, Sonora.

(Please Note: to see a reworking of this post go to

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stone Work in Guanajuato

From time to time I like to acknowledge some of the 
beautiful stone work we have run across in our travels.
 The photos for this post came when we were in 
Guanajuato, Guanajuato two years ago
 and took a walk from our campground.
 Guanajuato is a state full of stone quarries
 and the city displays much of that.

(Please Note: To see a reworking of this post go to:

Friday, February 26, 2010

Stone and Ceramic Tile 831

Back in the early 90's I talked my wife into letting me buy
 a used wet saw for tile and brick. 
What a good purchase it was as I have used it a lot over the years.

(To see a rewrite of this post please go to 
Discount Ceramic And Stone Tile Work.)

Formed and Finished Concrete

All over Mexico one sees beautiful examples of preformed concrete work. 
In this post I will concentrate on chimneys, skylights, and cooling vents. 
I have never watched how they make these but
 I am assuming they are indeed preformed and out of concrete.
 I will continue to study this in the future.

(Please Note: To see an updated version of this post go to
Concrete Chimneys, Skylights And Cooling Vents In Mexico.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Trail Work

Allison and I found ourselves at Valley View Hot Springs 
in Colorado last summer volunteering to do some trail work.

(Please Note: To see an updated version of this post go to
Trail Work At Valley View Hot Springs.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stone Carving in Mexico

I love working with stone but I am not a stone carver,
but I certainly love carved stone.

(Please note: to see a reworking of this post go to Carved Stone In Mexico.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Formed Roof

The last post showed how the walls were made,
 this time I want to show how the roof is formed up and poured with concrete.

(To see an updated version of this post go to
A Concrete Hip Roof In San Carlos, Sonora.)

Building Mexico

I have been very curious about building in Mexico and 
this winter I have been trying to learn more about the various facets.
 They rarely use wood because of termites and the cost of lumber.

(To see a rewriting of this post go to Building A Brick House In Mexico.)

The Old Home Place in Ruins

We were walking around Alamos recently when 
we ran into some ruins of an old building.

(To see a rewrite of this post go to Adobes In Ruins In Alamos, Sonora.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Garden Ornaments- High Style to Low Brow

The last couple of posts have had too much text and not enough pretty pictures. Time for pretty pictures.
Above and below is in Oceanside, Oregon.

(For a reworking of this post go to Garden Ornaments- Fine Art To Folk Art.)

The Portal

Since my last post was on the hip roof I thought this might be a good time to add a couple of thoughts about the portal or porch.

To see a rewrite of this post go to: Ideas For The Portal.

The Hip Roof

When we built a two story addition on our first house in Santa Fe ( background, above ) I tried to keep the overall look as low as possible because there were only a few two story homes in our neighborhood and I didn't want to stick out any more than I had to. So started my infatuation with the hip roof.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Mexican Style Mortared Stone Wall

An interesting style in stone work we have seen traveling around Mexico is inserting small stones in the mortar joints.We have noticed this in both Patzcuaro, Michoacan and Alamos, Sonora. Above is a wall in Patzcuaro designed and built by Hernan Pimentel who I mentioned in the post on Adobe Brick Making in Patzcuaro.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


     I would like to do something a little bit different this time and that is talk about some of my influences in building.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Glen Burnie Gardens

       Being that it is a very hard winter for some folks and
 that we are well past mid winters day let's think of gardens.

(To see an update of this post go to 
Glen Burnie Gardens In Winchester, Va.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fixer Upper in Alamos

     We have been in Alamos, Sonora for almost a month and last week we met some folks in the campground who had friends who had fixed up a run down house here. Naturally we were interested and they introduced us and we were invited over to see their work. Pat and Steve live part of the year in Abiquiu, New Mexico and and the rest of the time here.

     (Please note: To see a rewrite of this post please go to Fixer Upper In Alamos, Sonora.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Woodworking at 831

     I am not a great woodworker but I have been at it for a long time and I like working with wood. And I have strong opinions about the use of wood.


     In search of doing something fun, I thought why not a posting on the "proper" use of color. Of course there is nothing proper or not about color, it is just who likes what. And when it comes to color there is no place quite like Guanajuato in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico.

     (To see a rewrite of this post please go to The Use Of Color In Guanajuato, Guanajuato.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Formed Stone And Concrete Walls

     Ever sense I first read about using a form to build a stone wall in the early 70's I thought it could be a good idea in the right situations.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Doors We Have Seen

     (To see a rewrite of this post with better photos please go to: Doors.)

     In our travels we have run across some pretty cool doors. Above and below is a door from Brattleboro, Vermont. This is one of my favorites because it is an eye catching door and very well made. It is in a protected spot which keeps the door in good shape.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Passive Solar

     I have been interested in the use of passive solar energy since the mid 70's when I lived in northern New Mexico. It is a no brainer to me anywhere that the sun shines. The house that we had in Santa Fe had two trombe walls and one small attached sun room that we added that supplied much of our winter heat.

     (For an updated version of this post please go to: 

Notes on Building a Drystack Stone Wall

     I spent many years as a self taught stone mason starting in Virginia and then in New Mexico. My specialty was random rubble dry stack walls. My style and technique are fairly unique and it is work that I just loved even though it took a toll on my body as a result of my own enthusiasm.

     (Please Note: To see a rewrite of this post with better photos and text please go to

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Garden Paths

Please Note: To see an updated version of this post please go to

     Just for fun I thought I would show some images of garden pathways we particularly liked. The above path is one of my favorites. It reuses cast off stone in an unusual pattern and it is not clear where the path leads. Oh the mystery. And it was designed and built by kids.Seattle, Washington

Monday, February 8, 2010

Notes On Building An Adobe Wall

(To see an updated version of this post go to:

     Before the days of digital photography I never took photos as I just couldn't get it about film. Then when we decided to sell our house and travel in 2007 we bought a digital camera and I started taking photos of my work. Finishing a privacy wall on the north side of the house was the very last project.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Japanese Style Shed

      Not long before we sold our house I wanted to build a "nice" shed not only to have extra space but also to the block the view to the parking area and a two story apartment next door.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tile and Mosaic in Mexico

     We were recently in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico and when we were out walking one day we passed by this entry way to house whose other side faced the beach. We both loved the tile mosaic, took a couple of photos and went on. Later we were walking along the beach when we noticed yet more decorative tile on the beach side. An accomplished ceramic artist was definitely involved either as the owner or as a project. We got more photos. These first few shots are all from that house. The entry is a mosaic but many of the tiles such as the fish were made for this project. Other shots show tile murals.
(Please Note: To see an updated version of this post go to
Tile Mural And Mosaic In San Carlos, Sonora

and Tile And Tile Mural In Mexico.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Adobe Brick Making in Patzcuaro, Mexico

(Please Note: To see an updated version of this post go to Making Adobe Bricks In Patzcuaro, Michoacan.)
 Since my last post was on bricks I thought I would follow up with one on making adobes (unfired) in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico.  We were fortunate to be able to spend a month at the Hotel Villa Patzcuaro RV Park right on the edge of town.  One of the owner's sons Hernan Pimentel was an architect and a contractor who lived on the same rather large piece of property.  He also had a couple of houses that he had designed on the property as well as a newer building that I think was supposed to be a kitchen area for the campground as well as for special parties.  He also had an adobe brick making operation for his business right beside the campground.  I couldn't believe my good luck.

(Please Note: To see an updated version of this post go to Making Adobe Bricks In Patzcuaro, Michoacan.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Brick Making and Kilns in Sonora, Mx.

     (PLEASE NOTE: To see an updated version of this post please go to: Making Fired Bricks In Alamos, Sonora.)

      Welcome to this new blog on alternative building which will cover topics such as earthen building, passive solar energy, energy conservation, owner builder issues, tiling, stone masonry, woodworking, and the trades in general. Mixed in will be design ideas and as we ( my wife and I ) travel we will be reporting on what we find on the road especially in Mexico. Comments would be very appreciated and please bear with me as I learn the ropes on blogging.
     We are currently in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico where there is much of interest for builders. A friend of ours at our campground was interested in wood fired kilns for ceramics and ran across some guys firing a brick kiln nearby. Having worked with adobe as much as I have in New Mexico I  was always interested in the "next step" of firing the bricks. Here is what we found: