Monday, August 27, 2012

Toad Houses

Variations on the toad house theme.
       Several months ago someone on facebook shared some pictures of toad houses. I thought them both lovely and intriguing and decided to make something similar. As so often happens with artsy projects, my houses turned out looking not at all like the ones shared way back when. These are mine; that is, they are my own "vision" as opposed to copies of what someone else did.
Stacked log house with log and mortar roof.
      I wanted to use mortar, stone and wood as my building materials, keeping the houses simple and utilitarian as well as sturdy and attractive. My first efforts were too cumbersome and crude. The mortar tended to sag as I added stones so I made a cardboard form covered with duct tape to make it sort of waterproof. This worked fairly well with the stone houses, but not with the stacked log ones. There wasn't enough mortar to hold the logs together. Since the log houses are the ones I like best, I plan on making hardware clothe forms instead of cardboard. I'm hoping the thick wire will support the house and, with the mortar oozing through the wire, with give better adhesion and support so the thing doesn't fall apart when handled.
       I've considered all sorts of variations on these houses using these materials. The lighthouse was one of the first I tried, and naturally, the most difficult. I used a plastic cup as a form, building one side at a time and turning the cup only after each side dried, then adding the top portions.
       Roofs remain a challenge. If I don't complete the entire house at one time, before the mortar sets, it lacks strength and falls apart. For a log roof, I've found that gluing on a plywood roof support in two pieces works better than attaching the roof directly to the body of the house. I use Liquid Nails. Gorilla Glue might work too, but I haven't tried it. For one house I opted for half a roof. I put in a floor to hold dirt or a potted plant for a green roof effect. The "floor" leaks, so the plant won't get waterlogged. Another roof option is a solid mortar roof constructed over hardware clothe. 
       For the wood in these domiciles, I'm using seasoned oak. The logs in the walls are all of three quarters of a inch long. My spouse had fun making tiny roofing shingles, which I've yet to use. Love the miniaturization!
       I've been so busy with yard work and food preservation that I've had no time for weeks to work on this project! I have thought about it a whole bunch, though. I'm looking forward to making some with chimneys, some on the roof, others along the side. I may wind up with a whole village of these things! If so, I hope they'll be inhabited.
       I keep expecting the grandchildren to inquire about making their own toad house. Hasn't happened yet. Most of the children may be too young. How young is too young for a project like this?

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