First of all, here are three pictures from September 5, 2009, the day the plastering started!! The one below is a picture us gathering under the mixing tent while Matsubara-san & Fukazawa-san put the final touches around the exterior. The below picture is a zoomed up picture of Matsubara-san and Fukazawa-san putting the plastic around the base of the flashing to protect from the mud plaster falling on it. As you can see in this picture (click to enlarge), the flashing went up about 4~5 inches (10-12cm) with wire mesh/netting going another 4~5 inches above it.
Below is a picture of many of our wonderful volunteers at the workshop while Stefan leads from below
Now, fast forward to yesterday, April 30, 2010. A similar day, weather-wise, with heavy winds and rain falling down from time to time. Noda-san, our finish coat man, did some tests on the walls and found that the first layer of plaster is too crumbly and that the area on top of the flashing (mentioned above) will be especially vulnerable later when he adds the "tosa-shikkui" plaster. After a few visits, tests and discussions, we decided to tear up the walls around the entire base of the wall, cut down that flashing (click on below picture to enlarge), take off as much of the wire mesh/netting as possible and then re-plaster all the way around.
Below is the mixing station. We used a mixture of Portland Cement, clay (same local stuff as last year), sand, chopped straw and water. The ratio was close to 50% cement and probably about 40~45% clay with the other 5~10% being sand. We then just threw in a bunch of handfulls of straw at the end to finish up the mix.
Below is a picture of Noda-san hand-mixing all the materials into a nice mix that he can apply firmly to the wall where we had cut down the flashing and scraped off the plaster and wire mesh/netting.
And, after a long afternoon that went into the evening (finishing just before it got dark), we finished the perimeter of the house. Because of the high percentage of cement in the mix, the plaster is already drying quickly and will resist any water that falls on it. Because of the crumbly first layer of plaster, Noda-san would ideally like to go and re-plaster all the walls, but he knows and accepts that this isn't an option for us at this stage. Therefore, we will scrape the heck out of the walls with a wire brush (see area between window and fresh mix below that has ben scratched) and then apply the next coat of mix which will be a limewash of sorts that will prelude the "tosashikkui" lime plaster that will go on last.
Noda-san is a pleasure to work with. He is a workaholic (says he can't marry his honey of 10 years because he is too focused on his work all the time), does his homework (he even went to New Mexico last year and met The Steen's) and is a very strong plasterer. He laughs often, but also gives us direct feedback that isn't sugarcoated. He appreciates the delicate situation we are in, financially and emotionally, and is going to do his absolute best to put on a final coat of plaster that will defend against these crazy wind driven rains like we've been getting the last few days.
Again, we are very, very fortunate to meet such good people who can help our vision of Square One not only become a reality, but also make it so we can enjoy this dream for many decades to come...