Monday, October 22, 2018

DONE!! (Technically)

This was a HUGE weekend, y'all.....HUUGE.  We got all the wood split and stacked. We are DONE! (For the most part)

This weekend, we had no other plans, so we got to spend the whole 3-day weekend at the property completely focused on getting the wood put up.

(Well, almost completely focused - I did take a moment to put up a little nod to Halloween decorations.)(look at the windows)

Friday was an absolutely BEAUTIFUL working day. It's what I'd been envisioning all along, with the sunshine and the fall colors, and a little fire going all day. It was sweatshirt cool when we weren't working, but once we got moving and warmed up, we were down to t-shirts.

A few weeks ago, we bought a second cart and developed this great system with the two of them, where Scott has one by him that he throws the split logs into. When it's full, I grab it and pull it to where I'm stacking, while he fills up the second one.  By the time I've stacked everything, and get back to him with the empty cart, there's a full one waiting for me.  (There's always a full one waiting...).  It worked out very well - we work at roughly the same speed, so I just kept going around and around and around with full and empty carts.  Sometimes, I'd get ahead of him if the logs were particularily snarly and he had to fight to get them split.  During those times, I'd start cutting up the lumber and building the frames for the next stack.

About mid-afternoon, we took a break and had lunch by the fire, just the way I wanted to. We stoked up the fire, turned on the tunes, and ate cheese and salami and crackers while we admired our hard work.  We even decanted some nice wine to enjoy fireside. (Apparently, my daydream never included packing glasses).

I will still say that if we had perhaps been a little more patient and planned to get logs in the spring and put up this wood over a summer, in a SANE fashion, where we weren't under such a deadline, we would have been much better off.  We'd also be a year further away from our awesome house, so I have no regrets, but still.....

There may be room for regrets yet, I don't know.  I confess to still being worried about not doing the Borax dip this fall.  And there's no doubt that having to peel all the logs first, and then cut them and split them caused some issues.  In hindsight, we should have gotten everything peeled, and then cut stacked and split each log, so we didn't end up with logs ends laying all over the ground for weeks. At the time, we were thinking - we need to cut all these up so we can get at the rest of them to peel them. But it would have been better to suck it up and just move and restack the heavy logs.  Lots of the wood has been actually ON the ground, With all the rain we've had, it's gotten pretty swampy and quite a bit of the log-ends came to me slimy or muddy.  We hadn't been worrying about this because they were going to get dipped and scrubbed off in the Borax.....NOW they are getting stacked slimy and will dry that way until spring. I'm assuming/hoping most of the crap will dry up and flake off, and they will get pretty well cleaned up when we Borax them in the spring. It doesn't matter if they get stained or discolored - only the ends will show, and those will be either sanded or shaved off.

This is what I mean.  Oh, WELCOME HOME....barf

So, Friday was great, we killed off one whole wood pile (the biggest one), and ended our day in the traditional way in Wisconsin - eating fish fry in a bar.

Saturday, we woke up to THIS:

We had been expecting it, but it's still very ugly in the middle of October. It was also really cold and windy too.....However, the snow part was supposed to pass over and the rest of day only cold and windy. We forced ourselves out of our warm bunk house and down the highway to the gas station for coffee, and then buckled down and got to work:

We actually got two full ranks filled up before we got cold and hungry and decided to call a break for breakfast.  Work like that in the cold and the wind earns you a hearty breakfast at the diner in town. (I wouldn't ordinarily show you our breakfast, but I found this pic when I was loading photos off Scott's phone from the weekend.  He apparently thought it was worth documenting, so now I share it with you).

We went back and worked until early afternoon, by which time, we had filled up two more ranks and run out of materials to make any more frames. WE HAD TO QUIT, Y'ALL. We HAD NO CHOICE.

Naturally, we went out to the bar. We met up with some friends who have a cabin on the same lake as ours and had an awesome time. (You can do a respectable amount of bar hopping in Barnes, WI - who knew?)  My point being, even in the midst of all the hard work, we still manage to have fun.

SUNDAY was the big day!! With the extra work we'd done on Saturday (we'd really been thinking the day would be a wash), we were well ahead of the game. We ran to Menards for more framing materials, and then got set up.  Work-wise, it was nearly a carbon copy of Friday - sunny, cool but not uncomfortable. Sweatshirt weather.

Here's the start of the final day:

I made many many round trips with my wagon, and Scott split many many pieces of wood.  We had a fire, ate snacks for lunch and by midafternoon, it looked LIKE THIS:

It's a fact of life that you can't tarp anything large without the wind blowing off the tarp before you can secure it - at least once. So we wrestled with that baby, but in the end.....

HOUSE: some assembly required

So what's with all the "technically" crap, and "nearly done" stuff?

OH yeah - we really haven't gotten our heads on straight yet, and when a friend started to clear land to build a garage, we offered to help him if we could have some of the Poplars.  We didn't get many rounds from the logs we have because they were all pretty big, and needed to be split in order to dry soon enough.  So, we wanted some smaller ones that we can cut and leave whole and still be able to use next year.  Also - Scott wanted to do some built in shelves, which is done by using a flat sided log-end that is longer than the others so it sticks out, making a shelf. Only.....we never saved any logs to cut longer.  So we took the 4-wheeler and went down the far end of our property, where we dropped one good sized tree we can use to make shelf logs.

So - after all that hard work and angst, and the feeling of accomplishment when we tied down the last corner of the tarp....


And next weekend? You guessed it - we will be peeling logs....

(These are all optional logs, though - the pressure is off, and doing these won't be anywhere near as bad.  And if we don't get to them, it's not a big deal)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sure, we know what we're doing. Yep.

So, last weekend was an interesting one. Let's just say there were many adventures, but some good things came of it.

We've been arranging work so we can take Fridays off and have 3-day weekends to work on this, which is good because other stuff keeps coming up on the weekends (GOOD stuff, stuff we want to be doing...), and having the Fridays always gives us a little edge on the weekend.

It's also nice because the weather has been UTTER SHIT this fall.  I'm not kidding - in ONE week we went from pretty consistent days of 85 degrees and humid, to very consistently 30's (THIRTIES, PEOPLE), and DRIZZLE. It's just been miserably cold, and damp and crappy every weekend, and pretty much all the days in between, too.  It breaks my heart - I had visions of glorious, sunny Autumn days of crisp leaves and sweatshirts, taking a break from splitting to share sandwiches and beer sitting on logs and admiring the fall beauty. NO.

On the weekend in question, it was drizzling and gross when we arrived at the property - which sucked enough, but when we turned into the driveway, we were greeted with this:

Our awning completely died (I mean, LEGS UP IN THE AIR dead. Like a bug.), and one of the stacks collapsed. That last bit isn't so surprising, the previous weekend we had run out of cinder blocks and did a couple of makeshift ranks on some pallets with 2x4's nailed to the ends. (None of the awesome design ranks failed.)  (And you can't see the crappy drizzle in the photo, but it was icky).

After a bit of time pouting in the truck and licking our wounds, we finally ventured out into the drizzle to rebuild the spilled rank  - which involved a ratchet strap to keep the whole thing from exploding we'll get that back next summer.

Next, we made an executive decision. One I hope won't bite us in the ass.  We're going to do the Borax dip treatment next Spring. Everything we've ever read talks about doing this as part of the splitting and putting up process of readying logs to dry (The Borax treatment does several things - it helps to protect logs against rot and insects and it's also a fire retardant. And in our case, we're also kind of excited about its mold killing properties.)  However - it also talks about the logs needing to be somewhat dry so they can soak up the Borax solution and draw it deeper into the wood. Well, thanks to the shitty weather we've been having (and the hot humid summer we had last week), our logs haven't been dry since...EVER. Not since they day they were a twinkle in their seeds' eye were they EVER anything approaching even slightly dry. If we threw them in a vat of solution right now, they would proably ADD to the level of water.

SO - next spring, it's not like a 30 second dip in some solution will take us back to square one moisture level wise, and we think if we do this early, once things stop freezing, they should have plenty of time to finish drying by July or August when we're likely to start the actual infill.  Plus we have a moisture meter - if they don't pass muster by then, we spend a couple weeks in a bar getting some zen perspective on an additional summer of cordwood, and all the awesome opportunities that will afford us.  (Like putting up new wood if we have to burn half of ours due to mold).

I'm pretty sure leaping into this half-assed and unplanned part way into AUGUST has created shitloads of extra work for us.  But then....I did say this was a test of whether or not we could handle the build.  If we can't deal with this, and the Borax in the spring, we should give it up and start selling campfire bundles at the KOA. (Ya know - look at the pics below - if we did that, we'd be fucking millionaires and could buy damn near any house we wanted.)

ANYWAY - we got that stack fixed and ratcheted, and then recycled the awning into a tarp and put all those ranks to bed for the winter. (And concerned as I am about the Borax, I was SO DAMN relieved that I won't be touching those logs again this year.)  We draped the awning canvas over the stacks and used boards to nail it down so the wind is less likely to destroy it over the winter. Screw you, wind, we're not putting up with your shit.

This actually involved another executive decision I'm both concerned and relieved about. We're leaving those logs right where they are all winter. In a happy and just world this would be ideal, because they are already stacked and they are in a good place for next year when we do the infill - BUT, this being the real world filled with assholes and  also with people who don't make a ton of money and heat their houses with wood....I'm somewhat concerned that our wood pile is gonna get raided over the winter to the point that we won't have enough to finish the house. Our original plan was to haul it over the hill where it would be more hidden, when we did the Borax dip, and re-stack it there.  I confess to being deeply relieved we aren't doing the haul and re-stack bit.

But, let's face it - who really thinks we're going to get that whole cordwood infill done next summer?  Show of hands in the comments? Yeah, we're trying to get realistic about that, too.  If we can get the back half of the house done next summer, we could actually board up the front half and work on the interior walls, etc, over the winter. Not LIVE there, like I was hoping, but at least not have to just stop. SO, if we had to put up more wood next fall, it wouldn't be the end of the world.

Once all the damage was repaired, we said "Hey, we have a cooler full of beer and a woodstove in the bunkhouse, let's go regroup and figure out our next steps."  You can guess what happened right? I'll just say it's fortunate we had enough sandwhich stuff for lunch AND dinner. I mean, come ON, everytime we looked out the window the drizzle was WORSE.

Which is not to say we weren't productive - we did a lot of stuff to the bunkhouse that will make things nicer both this year, and next, since we'll be spending a lot of time there.

We put up hooks so we could hang up our clothes. This makes it look like coat hooks, but we pretty much wear the same jeans and sweatshirts all weekend and have been just draping them all over everything.

We got rid of the minivan seat we'd been using as a bench/place to put our duffle bags, and brought in an actual table and chairs. (Also, I added a smidge of Autumn decor - if you squint, you can see it over the window.  The sign, we got at Cable's Fall Fest the weekend before.)

And Scott was super awesome (because he always is, and now has a lot of DeWALT cordless tools), and built us a wood rack to hold all the wood for the stove, and clean up a mess that's been bugging me for three years.

Here's the before, so you can fully appreciate his awesomeness.  (And mine, a little - I helped wth some design choices.)

Here's the glorious after, which not only solves the wood issue, but also provides a place for some other stuff that was in the way elsewhere.

NICE, Yeah?

And we built this great cooler shelf, so we could have the "kitchen" close at hand without it taking up all our floor space, or being way out in the truck.

Saturday dawned pretty shitty, too, but quite a bit drier, so we got back to the business of splitting this:

We got lots of wood split, built several more of Scott's new and improved ranks, had brunch in a bar with our great friend Rusty (who is also our general contractor), and later in the day had to make a run to Menards for some more supplies for building ranks. (And seafood nachos and a great margarita).

On Sunday, we kicked ass and kept stacking until about 1:30.  We filled up two more of Scott's ranks - which is a LOT of wood.  I mean, these things are 7-8 feet high - it's GREAT. (You can see what's coming, can't you?  I know you can.  I just don't know why we didn't.)

They're 16" deep by 8 feet wide, by SEVEN FEET TALL. I'm amazed it took five of them before the inevitable happened (on uneven ground, no less).... One started to TIP OVER.

It was crazy - we were finishing up rank number five, Scott had even stopped splitting, and we were going to stack the last bit and go to the bar to see the end of the Packers/Lions game. (Why? I don't know - we'd been listening, we knew how ugly it was - but I always have hope. I HAVE seen miracles from them.)  I reached up to put one last log at the top, and slid it back until I felt it gently tap the top brace, and suddenly Scott says, "I don't know what you just did, but get over here I need help.  We have a problem."  I go around the end, and the whole thing has tilted backwards and is resting ever so neatly against its neighbor (who isn't really all that completely straight either), and Scott is trying to brace the damn thing. Nightmares of dominos are running through both our minds.

I'll spare you the play-by-play (it was as ugly as the Packer's game), and just say that after a lot of swearing, attemping to shim the stack (like we could wedge ANYTHING under 78 tons of logs), and nearly being crushed to death, we ultimately got a 2x4 nailed to the stack and to the one next to it, to brace it.  And then proceeded to nail all the boards in the immedate vicinity to it for good measure. (There's probably enough lumber there to just build the damn house)

The other side looks just as pretty.

We did get it tarped off and solid...and are going back to the shorty ranks from now on.  We are both intellient, experienced people, I have NO IDEA how in the hell we never thought these things might be a little too UNSTABLE TO STAND UP for a whole year. All I can say in our defense is that we've been a little stressed lately.

All's well that ends well - no one got flattened, the stacks are stable now (and pretty hard to rob, I think)(Hell, if someone tries to take them apart and steal our wood, they are practically booby-trapped).

Here's a pic of the whole operation I took from up on the hill:

And this awesome little teeny oak tree I found in the grass there. He looks so damn proud of his colors, doesn't he?  (The pic washes him out quite a bit - he really was very impressive)

We have a weekend of cabin closing ahead of us, and then the next weekend is another one where we get to spend the whole thing at the property.  We're really going to try to get the rest of the wood split and stacked if the weather will cooperate.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Let the splitting begin!

Now that all the logs are peeled (WAHOOOO!!!!), and cut into the 16" lengths, it's time to start getting everything split up.

Scott found a pretty good idea online for wood racks. They're pretty easy to build and they keep everything up off the ground. We've started out racking them up under the awning so they can start drying right away.  We've had a LOT of rain, and we really need to get them out of the weather.

The first thing we did was to pick up all the stuff we split at the start, before we decided peeling all the logs would be a better approach. I hate to say it, but a lot of them are pretty black, and the ones on the ground were a little slimy.  We still have to do the Borax solution, so hopefully we can scrub them off and they will be okay.

We've been having an issue with the wood getting moldy on the surface due to all the humid weather we were having, and at the workshop, Richard Flatau thought we could probably scrub the mold off  -  but said that if we couldn't, we should just BURN those pieces. (I about fainted, since that could possibly end up being over half our wood if the stuff doesn't come off easily).  (I'm not actually all that worried, because a lot of it has kind of dried up and gone away on it's own as the weather has changed.)

You can see, by comparison that the newly cut stuff looks SO much better....

However, Poplar (Aspen) is pretty well known for turning black as it ages anyway, so we've been talking about what we're going to do about that. One option is to just let it go black, and allow that to be the look of the house. I'm not really sure I like that plan. I'm afraid it will just look like weathered shit - kind of like those cedar sided houses that have gone all silvery with black stains at the bottom and the top where the rain and show hits them the most. It just doesn't look good....

Another option we saw mentioned recently is to get a really good chop-saw (Scott is keen on this idea), and shave off the ends as we're building the house, so they're nice and white and clean, and then getting some breathable stain to treat the ends so they won't blacken again. We've talked about doing log prep on Friday evenings next year, so that on the weekends we can just really push on the actual mortar work, so that could work out pretty well.

OH! Check this out!  We got this perfect wagon to haul split logs from the piles to where we're stacking them, and it's exactly the perfect width for our log ends!!  

Also, Scott's been thinking about this log stacking stuff and how we want to cover the racks, etc., and he's come up with an improvement on the design that he believes will allow us to stack more wood and have a framework to drape the tarp over that will keep some air flow over the logs.  In fact, he was so proud of this, he actually came and got me from the bedroom and dragged me into the kitchen so I could take a picture of his drawing for the blog.


Check this out!!  We got enough of the naked logs cut up to expose all the unpeeled logs.  As soon as we got any freed up we would peel them and cut them up.

Here are the last three that were on the ground underneath the whole pile

And here?  IS ME PEELING THE VERY LAST LOG!!!!  I really wasn't sure if I was ever going to get to say that, y'all!!!!

Of course, I had seasonally appropriate peeling fluid available. Makes all the difference.

Progress report

Since the workshop, we've been diligently working on our woodpile - with a few intermissions for things like Scott's birthday.

We had his family out to the property to see the place, and get a look what we've been doing.  They've never been out there before, so it was really fun to show it off.

After that, we went to a country bar, where his sister ordered ALL THE FRIED THINGS. I've never seen anyone have so much fun with a menu. (She doesn't usually eat like that at all, so this was a huge treat for her).

Otherwise, we've been logging.  Most of the logs are peeled, other than about 12 or so that are buried at the bottom of the pile. We've switched to cutting the peeled logs into 16" lengths, at least until we get the last of the barked variety freed up.

We made a nifty cutting table that holds the log at a nice height.  I steady the log, and push it along as Scott cuts the 16's off.

There have been a couple of them that were so freakin' huge, we had to just cut them on the ground.  We had been referring to those as BFLs (Big Fucking Log), but then decided that a better name would LOH (Lots of House). Reminding ourselves that those giant hogs will actually produce quite a lot of house, makes them easier to deal with.

Then I usually toss the 16's on the pile, while Scott racks up another log for cutting. My levitating skills come in very handy for this.