Thursday, March 22, 2012

A New Chapter

There will be more to come on New England Road. However, my plans to create the now .88 acres as a homestead have been postponed. I hope one day to build a small house on the property and I will continue to keep an eye to Permaculture design on its ideal southern facing slope. For now, I encourage you to follow my current exploits on another farm just 5 miles away called Moondance. Here I have partnered with Katie Kasch to start Wildwood Harvest CSA and have around 10 member families to feed this season. I invite you to click "Follow" and keep updated on our progress there. There are a lot of great things happening and I would like you to be a part of it. Peace and Love,


Thursday, February 18, 2010

More Sawmilling

This is just a quick entry to narrate the few new pictures. What wasn't cut into beams was cut into 1-1/4 inch (or 5 quarter) boards that will be the roof under-layment on the house. They will be laid over the timber framed rafters. These boards will be seen from inside, so we will probably want to get them milled again before we use them, i.e., planed on one side and possibly shaped on the edges with lap joints. But that is a decision we don't have to make right away. You see a lot of off-cuts in a pile in the first picture, but most of that has already been cut into 1 inch square "stickers" for spacing the lumber in the stacks. There is still some waste that will go to the fire pit for campfires.

Green lumber takes about 1 year per inch to cure in a solar kiln. The first kiln we built worked well. The beams we stacked in November 2008 all look great, so we built another one for the 5/4 boards and we will be piling all the new beams on top of the others in the first kiln shortly. The fresh cut beams weigh an estimated 500 to 800 lbs depending on the dimensions and wood type. All but one of the beams is pine. There is one 8x12 beam cut out of a large oak. I am betting that one weighs at least 800 lbs. Now we have to start looking for some more logs to drag over here so we can start the process over. I think we have about half of what we need, so the search for more lumber is on. Most of the pine trees that went down last year from the wind events are already going to be full of pine bark beetles, so hopefully we can find some more oaks and poplars for the next round of cutting.

There are still a lot of unwanted trees laying around and we have started making some inquiries and scouting around. This recent progress has been rewarding. It is exciting to see all the hard work of getting logs here finally made into the wood products we will build with. We may not be able to make the entire house from discarded forest products, but we have already made a good start toward lowering the environmental footprint of the house. Recently, a friend of mine worked on the construction of a 3500 square foot house. The owners were able to occupy the new home in less than 4 months. The embodied energy of that home with all its industrial wood products and other modern chemically laced materials puts it in an entirely different energy class than our home of less than half it's size. Our timetable may be closer to 4 years than 4 months, but it is comforting to know our house is part of the solution and not part of the unsustainable building model we have adopted over the past 75 years.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Milling Timbers

We finally started getting some timbers out of the logs that have been laying on the ground since the summer. There were about 30 in all. We were a little worried that they would have started to rot or have pine bark beetle infestations. There were a few of the beetle grubs throughout, but not enough to worry about. The wood is beautiful. We got about half way through before weather and some mechanical failures on the saw slowed us down. After a tune-up, the saw is running great; then more weather delays. This has been a very cold and wet winter so far. It may not be out of the ordinary historically, but probably the coldest in a decade or so. We have also seen more snow than us transplants are used to.

The house plans came a huge leap forward when we consulted with a professional timber framer based in Maryland. He was willing to look at our plans and tell us where we were right and where and how we could improve the engineering. You can find more about CraftWright Timberframes @ This consultation gave us the information we needed to make the best use of the logs when cutting. Our cut list for this round is mainly 8x10 and 8x12 timbers at 16 feet lengths. We still need a few 8x8's which is good because not all the logs are big enough to get the larger sizes. Ultimately we will need a few more of the big timbers when this cutting session is done. Also, we will need more long logs to cut the 6x8 rafters in 20 foot lengths. We need about 12 of them. I hope to be making some more trips into the woods for recently downed trees before the winter is over. There are still a lot of them that came down last March in the windstorm we had. I dragged out a lot of the easy to reach ones already, so there will be some creative log moving going on.

We can make use out of almost any log, however. The interior roof decking will be 5/4 boards that we cut from the logs while making timbers. So far we have a pretty big stack of those, but we will need lots and lots of boards. Almost all homes were sheathed with boards this way in the past. Now days plywood and OSB fiber board take on this function. When done right, some pretty solid homes can be built, but the old style wood board sheathing is far more resilient and structurally sound for bracing the frame. I have seen many conventionally built homes running into serious maintenance and repair issues in as little as 10 or twenty years. Conversely, there are countless examples in this country and around the world of traditional construction lasting well over one hundred years. Many still held together strongly with the original wooden pegs!

Our goal is to emulate this timeworn tradition and build a home with character and staying power as well as one which is very efficient and inexpensive to maintain. Integrating rainwater catchment, greywater recycling, passive solar home and water heating and lower embodied energy natural building techniques into the plan will ensure a low carbon footprint for years to come.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mini Orchard and December Snow

Right after Thanksgiving, we planted our fruit trees. We now have two peach, two pear, three apple and two fig trees. Peaches are Elberta and Contender, pears are Bartlett and Moonglow and apples are Gala, Granny Smith and Pink Lady. Brown Turkey figs apparently do well in this area. We planted the figs in a "sun trap" on the south side of our beautiful shipping container. We also planted raspberries and twenty asparagus crowns. We ordered our trees from Stark Bros. Nursery as we wanted to attempt to get the highest quality for our long term investment.

We woke the other day (Dec.5th) to a nice blanket of snow! A freak for N. Georgia. So much for global warming, hooray!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Finally Some Pictures!!

We have been on the land now for almost a month. I finally had the time to take some pictures (after we finally found where the camera was packed).

It feels like home. It is compact, but seems spacious enough and quite comfortable.
Most of the finishing touches are done on our renovation of the camper so we can start focusing attention on the house plans.

We have begun throwing ideas around again. Continuing to develop the land is also a priority and we plan to plant some fruit trees this fall. We prepared our first garden patch over the past few months and will put our garlic crop in next month.

Friday, September 18, 2009

We're in

Here is just a short note to say "We Moved". We finally renovated the camper and now call it home. Tonight is night # 6. It feels really good to know that we own where we are living. It is still a bit chaotic with our stuff piled up everywhere. The project list is a mile long. Everyone is asking when we are going to start the building project, and it depends on a few factors, but we hope to break into it sometime early next year. This winter will be all about planning the project and working out our financial abilities. The best news is that we only have the small payment to make on the land, and no more rent! We hope to be saving some startup money quickly. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Renovating the Camper

Well, I promised I would have photos up and I still don't. It has been a while since I posted anything, but a lot has happened. We are close to getting the camper liveable and our septic system is in. We built the smallest allowable septic system we could. Dade county had almost no building codes but they require a septic permit and inspection. We plan to build an outdoor sawdust toilet for humanure, but we will use the septic system for the indoor toilets in our house. We will make a greywater trench for washing machine wastewater and showers. We are still designing this system. Some of this "wastewater" may be recycled for irrigating orchard trees.

Our hope is to be moved in to the camper by September 1st, which means finishing the repairs to it and building a small addition for an second bedroom. We also have to trench the water line from the meter at the street. So far, all our improvements have been paid for as our funds have permitted and we will continue with this method of financing as long as we can. Eventually we will need to borrow money for construction. We are investigating ways of alternative financing through individuals, where we could pay 7 or 8 percent apr. These would represent investments from the individuals at a rate they would not likely see on the stock market or most other investments going these days. We are working out what would be the total amount we would be comfortable paying on while we build. We will be saving $500 a month as soon as we move out of the house we are renting and that could all go toward paying loans. Initially it will go towards our savings as we have depleted it with the latest improvements.

We are pleased with the progress. We have over 20 trees laying on the ground soon to be turned into more beams for the timberframe project. I mentioned in the previous post that these have all been recovered from nearby properties that saw a lot of downed trees from a windstorm. The framing system is mostly designed as is the floor plan for the house. It is going to be a great relief to finally be on the land. That's all for now. Until next time. Peace--