Saturday, August 25, 2018

Tools Matter

This is my drawknife.  I call her Helga.  She don't take shit from no log....

Less than a hundred logs to go!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Peeling, Peeling, Peeling, Peeling.....

Our life completely revolves around peeling logs right now. We're going to the property every weekend and at least one night during the week.

Scott tried out the bark spud and liked it, so we got a second one.  Now we have his and hers bark spuds - it's so romantic....

We have abandoned any cutting or splitting and are focused exclusively on peeling. We figure we can do everything else once the logs are naked. This weekend we're already noticing that they are getting harder to peel than they were in the beginning. We also got our hands on a couple of draw knives, and I'm getting the feeling that the later we get in this project, the more we will be using them - they can muscle off what the spuds can't get under any more, and can deal with the bark that shreds when you pry it off.

This is a hard, miserable, hot and sweaty process. I can't say for sure, but I have to believe this is the worst and hardest the labor will ever get on this project.  Raising the timber frame and the roof trusses will be heavy lifting, but there's so much less of that.  Otherwise, everything else will be smaller after this. :)

I also have to believe that if you can get through this process, you will know that you have what it takes to build the house.  I'll revisit this statement when the house is done and let you all know. 

This weekend we had a great time, and got a lot of work done. Friday, we were joined by my cousins, who wanted to see the property and try their hand at peeling.  Saturday, we put up our new awning (with a massive amount of swearing, shouting and bickering), and worked under that until late in the evening - after which we sat dazed in front of the campfire and scarfed down half-heated hotdogs before falling into bed.

(I know I sound like I hate this process, but actually, I'm loving the HELL out of it!!! Grousing is just part of the fun.)

When we started, we were putting the peeled bark into our trailer and trying to keep things relatively contained and organized.  Now?  We have gotten to the point where we don't give a shit where the bark lands  - it's a total free-for-all, and we'll deal with the mess later, after the bark is off the logs and we don't have to worry about that anymore.

On Sunday, some friends of ours came down and helped with the peeling, AND we got several more logs cut up into 16" pieces.

I was told I should title this section: "Friends We Used to Have"

Our friend Eric, in the second picture there, was around when we did the apartment buildout and he said that he's going to punch Scott in the face if we try to move again after this. He's really enjoying himself, I can tell.  :)

While we cutting up some of the logs, we found this awsome face in the logs:

We're saving these whole, and I'm hoping that when they dry, the faces will still look good. I'm also hoping they don't crack while they dry or any other random self-destruction.  I would love to be able to put this into my walls on either side of the front door.

We're well over half way done now.  We haven't been able to get a solid count, but we figure we started with around 400 hundred logs, and we have about 114 logs left to peel. If we don't finish peeling next weekend, we'll at least be really, really close.  After that, all the cutting, splitting, dunking and stacking seems like child's play.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

House Plans

We've been steadily peeling logs, and I'll take some pics when we're out there this weekend and talk about that.

But now, I wanted to share a few kind of big steps that have happened.

Thing 1: We talked to Rob Pichelmann about doing our professional house plans/drawings for us that we can use to get the building permits and use with any trades we need to have in.  He's very reasonable, and he KNOWS cordwood - plus he's in Wisconsin and has dealt with Wisconsin codes both from building his own home, and from several other Wisconsin based ones he's worked on.  This also really gives us an edge with the building inspector.

Thing 2:  We FINALLY agreed on a floor plan.  We've been going around quite a bit on some issues, such as overall dimensions, how the bathroom would be laid out and how the pantry and laundry rooms would work.  We had some base disagreement in the beginning just coming up with a size because I wanted to make sure we where choosing something that would be right size for us and do everything we needed it to, and he kept dramatically complaining that I pushing out bigger and BIGGER, like I was trying to build a cordwood McMansion. I finally had to remind him that while he was blithely carrying on about how we really don't need that much space, he also has a giant building already on the property just waiting to become his workshop.  I need space like that, too, and mine will be INSIDE the house. I get a workshop, dude.

So, we mowed the area where we want to build, and staked out the largest of the possible dimensions we came up with.  We have a max of 36' wide in order to preserve the two large trees that are on the hill (I HOPE) - that's as wide as it can be and fit between them nicely. What we settled on is 34' x 52'

Scott's so cute rumbling around on the mower.  But then, I have the benefit of being able to SEE, just from his posture there, and knowing how utterly obsessed he was with mowing out that space that day. We couldn't get to that part fast enough.

In the end, this is what we came up with for a floor plan:

The bottom edge is the front of the house.  There are two bedrooms (one is really going to be my workshop, but we'll have a way to set it up as a quick guest room when needed), one bathroom, a walk-in closet for us (because I am now spoiled and hang up nearly everything I own), pantry, large and small storage closets (because that's all the storage we get - no basement, no attic), laundry/utility room and a great room with kitchen as part of it.

It'll have a double shed/saltbox roof with a row of windows to let light into the great room, and catch the southern sun.

The sliding doors on the left are the master bedroom, and the windows on the right are nearly all in the great room, so the windows up in the roof there will shine down into it.

Thing 3:  We just signed up for (and nabbed) the final two spots in Richard Flateau's Coordwood Construction workshop in early September.  I'm very excited for this - we did a workshop several years before, and I really loved it - and could use a refresher, plus this is with Wisconsin based people again, which is really reassuring when it comes to the building inspectors. (I bear deep scars after working with the City of Duluth on our urban apartment, and know the kind of hell we might be courting).  PLUS - we get to stay with friends who live down in that area, and they believe they can score us all some tickets to the Packers/Bears game!!  It would be AMAZING to see a game at Lambeau in which I wasn't fully encased in Carhart. (It would also almost certainly mean that Aaron will injure something and be out for another season - we've gone to games twice before, and BOTH times Rogers got injured and was out, so we never got to see him play in person.)

Whether we do or don't get to see any football, it will be an awesome weekend!  And if we work very very hard, we will have all the logs peeled by then.....

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

We Have Logs!!!

Clearly, we have been going a little stir crazy, because a mere two weeks after resurrecting the cordwood idea, we are the proud owners of a semi load of logs.  That's about 11 cord.

Here's our thinking - if we want to build next year, we need to get these things peeled, cut and drying, or we're not doing ANYTHING.  So, we need to get our logs put up this year yet. And if our plans change again and we find ourselves not building a cordwood house, then we have a LOT of firewood for our backyard fires.  We figured it was a relatively inexpensive risk to take.

We only have seven acres - at least half an acre of which is road on our long side, and a serious chunk is field - so we weren't in the position to harvest our logs from our own land like a lot of coordwood builders have been able to do.

Our logs are Poplar (also known as Quaking Aspen), so they weren't very expensive, and so far they are peeling pretty easily.  We asked him for all fresh cut, if possible, which he said he could do - but even so, there are many logs which have clearly been on the ground awhile.

We got started on them this past weekend, and made a pretty good dent. I did most of the peeling, while Scott cut them up with the chainsaw (we are doing 16' logs), and we took turns on the splitter.

I have really been loving this tool we got, which pretty much just muscles the bark off the log. (It doesn't look as pretty now - I've rubbed most of the black paint off it).  We got a drawknife, but it's way too small. (Or technically, the logs are too big - they are quite a bit bigger than he described to us, or we would have gotten a bigger knife to begin with).  We know someone who has bigger ones and will let us use those, so we'll be trying that as well.

I'm also loving the log racks Scott built - which we can't seem to settle on a name for, and over the course of the weekend were called: log racks, saw bucks, saw horses, log bucks, log horses and that goddamn thing is in the way.

We ended with kind of an assembly like method going, with me bouncing back and forth on the two log horses peeling, and Scott cutting and splitting.

After seeing how much progress we made (or rather, didn't make), and having done 40-50 logs, we've decided that we're going to switch gears a little and both focus exclusively on peeling.  Since these logs are already cut, they only going to get harder to peel as time goes on, so we want to get the bark off as soon as possible.  Plus, if this ends up taking longer than we anticipate, and we're still finishing up when it gets cold - we can be cutting and splitting without too much trouble, but we do NOT want bark freezing on the logs.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Everything Old is New Again (except us...we're just older)

Okay....I started this blog a little over eight years ago when my husband and I were planning to build a cordwood home on our beautiful piece of property.  We were just getting started when things in life took a different turn for us, and we found ourselves on the verge of being empty-nesters. So we renovated the basement of our sign shop into an urban apartment and moved into the heart of downtown.  As you do, right?

So that was an awesome adventure for awhile. THEN...we both got outside jobs to help support the sign shop, decided we LIKED not being the bosses and sold the sign shop.  And we bought a four-wheeler.  As you do...

Suddenly, two years ago we realized most of our friends and interests were now back in the country, and the whole reason we'd moved downtown was gone. We're great at planning like that.

We decided it was time to get back out where we belong.  First, we were going to plunk a manufactured home onto that pretty piece of property we have - afterall, we just got finished with one huge construction project, we didn't really want to leap into another.

Then we thought maybe we should see what other properties were for sale in the area that might come with all the utilties in place and save us the hassle.

We actually did find a few we would have liked very much, but unless our buildings downtown sold, we couldn't do a damn thing about them.

Instead, we sat around torturing ourselves by watching Fixer Upper and Grand Designs on tv. During one especially cool episde of Grand Designs, wherein a couple built their creative adobe dream home...Scott said it was too bad we never built that cordwood house we wanted, and I said I wasn't necessarily opposed to considering that again...

And he lit up like a Christmas Tree.

Which means, we have come full circle....same pretty piece of property, same cordwood dream.

AND?  We still have all the bottles we collected eight years ago!