Archive for the ‘Timber’ Category

Chop, chop, chop. All winter long. Chop, chop chop. Not that I personally chopped a single piece of wood, but it seems like we spent the entire winter chopping firewood. I know that we were only unprepared because we were busy building a house, but it was really annoying to not have a solid supply of heat. Not to mention how little fun it is to try and lug wood around in a winter coat, gloves, and scarf. I did lug a ton of wood this winter.


Chopping on the new block

We are going to more than prepared this year. We have already started wandering around the property, gathering wood that can be used for fire wood. There are quite a few downed trees around the lot that were left by the logger. I have been moving all the logs out of the way of my many projects and into large piles where they can begin to dry out. Right now, the logs are in tangled messes coated in mud and buried in leaves. The cleanup process is quite a bit of tedious work, but there is at least a whole years worth of firewood that is easily accessible.

As I sort through the piles of random logs that are tossed around the lot, I am also finding quite a bit of building material. I can use the scrap wood for my outdoor kitchen, my outdoor shower, my garden fences, and a playhouse for the kids to name a few. We shouldn’t need to cut any trees down, and will still have more than enough to keep us warm and to finish my many projects.


Collecting and stacking the wood

I also have a nice pile of wood that is less than perfect that will make for excellent outdoor fire pit fires. One of my favorite things to do on a cool,clear night is to sit around a fire and just enjoy the stars, the fire, and maybe even a beer. We are going to have to have a few fires outside this year.

Summer bonfire stack

Summer bonfire stack

An important project that will come out of all of this is a wood storage shed. Here is the spot, right behind the chopping block.



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The Logging Begins


The soggy driveway


These trees were already dying

DSC_0181 DSC_0183

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DSC_0172My practice bath house is all finished.  I made some good mistakes, and I didn’t quite finish as I had planned, but it will work for a few weeks.  We have privacy to shower.

I built the whole thing out of the small trees that had to be cut to make room.  I did almost all of it with a hand saw, a chisel, and a sledge hammer.  I cut notches and fit them together (poorly) and ended up with a big heavy frame.

DSC_0109Here I am making the notches.  Now that I have put this frame together, I know how to do a better job next time.  I assume this frame will end up as firewood, but like I was saying before, we have privacy to shower.


Here is a look at the finished frame.  The picture makes it look like the man built it, but he just hammered in the couple nails I couldn’t reach.  (Sorry for the lousy picture, this was on my camera phone and it was the only picture I had of the frame.)


Nothing too pretty or too fancy, but it will work.  Given my inexperience, it is a bit wobbly.  I’m pretty sure that if I make the notches fit together more tightly, this won’t happen on the next one I build.  I think that is all it should take.  We will find out when I build it I guess.

Once the frame was up, I planned on using branches to make a wattle type of a wall on it.  If it had turned out perfectly, I would have put the time into that.  It didn’t, so I hung some tarps up just to get it finished.  When I build a good bath house, I will finish the walls.


In the final picture, you can see the rain barrel sitting under the roof tarp.  It is filling up nicely with rain water that we can use for the shower.  It’s a 55 gallon barrel and a 4 gallon shower, so we should be good for a while.  The shower we got was a propane hot water heater so we can use it for washing dishes and things too.  It is a good start and some good practice and learning.  I should be a pro any time now…


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Learning Tree Identification

Living on a lot covered in trees and planning to use anything we cut to it’s fullest advantage, we need to learn to identify what we have.  Each type of tree has different uses and each need we have can be best fulfilled by different species.  There is hardwood and softwood.  Trees that coppice well and trees that don’t.  Some trees are nitrogen fixers and some trees produce fruit or nuts.  The sap of different trees can be turned into soaps or drinks.  Some trees make good fence posts and other trees will rot soon after we cut them.  The list goes on.

So we are learning to identify the trees we have.  It is still pretty much winter here, so there are no leaves to help us in our identification process.  This makes it very difficult for beginners to identify anything.  All we are doing right now is trying to get a general idea of what we have in the area we plan to cut anyway.  That way, we know how far from our home site we will need to venture to get what we need to build.  It looks like the type of house we are building, we will need some hardwood for the frame and then softwood cordwood to fill in the walls.  Our current plan is to build a cordwood home.  From the information we have gathered, we are going to need a lot of softwood.  From what we have generally identified so far, we are going to have to do some hiking and lugging trees back to the home site.  Well, I won’t be doing much lugging, but the man will.  Either way, here are some shots of the trees we are looking at:

DSC_0071 DSC_0087

A couple of evergreen trees.  I think that these are the softwood trees that we will be mostly using for infill.  I don’t know much of anything about tree identification yet, so forgive me if I’m way off.  Also, feel free to correct me!

DSC_0055DSC_0054I’m fairly certain that these are both birch trees.  We have quite a few of these.  Some pretty big ones too.

DSC_0058 DSC_0067These are likely ash.  I have no idea what variety, or anything like that.  We should know a lot more once the leaves are out.

DSC_0057I think this could possibly be an oak tree.

DSC_0073I think this could possibly be a beech tree.

DSC_0065 DSC_0083And now I’m lost and confused.  This is actually really hard for someone who has never tried to do it before.  Hopefully, with the help of the leaves, and some practice this won’t be so difficult.  Clearly, we will be spending some time working on this.

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This will be the first of many “spring plans” posts.  This is the early plans for our outdoor kitchen.  Here is a link to a bunch of sites and pictures that I have looked at to come up with this idea.  Anyway, this is what our kitchen may look like (unless, of course, I change my mind a bunch more times):

Scanned Document


All the way to left is the cob oven.  This will be in place of a conventional oven and should cost us close to nothing to build.  We will need to buy hay to make the cob and maybe some sand, but that is it.  We will need these things for other projects too, so I’m estimating about $5 for the oven.  The rest of the supplies will be found on the land.  Next to the oven is the rocket mass stoves.  I assume if I only make one burner that I will regret it, so I plan on building two.  I will need some of the cob to put the rocks together to build the base.  I will need pipe for the “rocket chamber” and grates for the top.  Maybe $15 for the whole project.  All other supplies will be found on the land.  Here is a link to various heating and cooking options that I have been looking through to decide on these projects for the kitchen.

Next to the cooking area, there is a small counter next to a sink.  We already have the sink and the counter will be made from trees on site.  Free, except a box of nails.  I’ll say $10 for nails for the whole kitchen.  On the counter I have a fancy dish drainer (I have to tell you this is what it is because there is no way you could tell from the picture, haha).  It is fancy because the water will drain onto a patch of moss or some plants to reuse the water.  This doesn’t really matter outside, but once we are inside I will want the dish drainer to drip somewhere other than a tray that will inevitably get moldy.  I’m hoping to build this for free, but I may need to buy the wood since we don’t have a way to mill the lumber that intricate.  We will see.  I’ll say $20, but this will be something that I can transfer to the wall tent and maybe even the house.  Under the small counter is a little compost bin.  I would prefer to throw scraps right into a big pile, but then we would have to worry about critters.  Once the bin gets full and has broken down some, I will transfer it to a big pile, far from the outdoor kitchen and tent.  Maybe into the food forest under a tree or something.  Here a link to some composting stuff.

The sink will drain into a very simple sort of greywater system.  Basically, the sink will drain into the guts of the nearby hugelkultur where the garden will soak up the water.  I will put the spout where the water is coming out deep into the hugel bed so that it will be filtered by the rotting wood and leaves, rather than just getting soaked up into our vegetables.  Here is yet another link, a bunch of stuff on greywater systems.  All much fancier than what we will have for the outdoor kitchen, but we will eventually have to build a more complex system for the wall tent and the house.  I really like to start out with the simplest version of any project for the experience of it.  We probably don’t need anything for the outdoor kitchen other than a bucket to catch the water, but the experience is what is important.  The same concept goes for the rocket stove.  We will build a rocket mass heater next, then a rocket mass water heater.  We could just have a simple grill for the outdoor kitchen, but where is the fun in that?

The rest of the kitchen is nothing much to explain.  A counter and shelves made from lumber we cut on the land.  Cast iron cookware hanging from the top shelf.  Some big, ugly storage bins under the shelf.  A peg board to hang knives, colanders, and things like that.  An ugly blue tarp covering the whole set up.  Maybe eventually the tarp will be a nice, wooden roof, but that is so unlikely this year that I didn’t even draw it.  I forgot to add this last part to the drawing, But there will be a rainwater catchment barrel to collect water off of the tarp to use for washing dishes and stuff.  I’m hoping that the sink will actually have the faucet I drew and it will like we have running water.  That will maybe happen later in the year if I’m lucky.  The water we collect will also get filtered in the fancy filter we have and be for drinking.  Here are some links about collecting and filtering water.

I will go into more detail on each aspect of the kitchen as I figure everything out for myself.  Stay tuned!

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Bushcraft Storage

Bushcraft is the ability to survive in any environment.  This includes skills in finding food, making fire, making shelter, and things like that.  It is about working with what the wilderness provides to you to do what you need to without destroying the environment.  This fits in well with permaculture in many ways.  While permaculture is a more permanent sort of living, many skills found in bushcraft can be useful on our homestead.  I am just starting to scratch the surface of  bushcraft myself, so I don’t have a ton of information to share yet, but here are some great links I found if you want to learn more:

Down to Earth Bushcraft

Craig Grant

Dryad Bushcraft

Wilderness Survival Skills

Since we need some sort of storage for over the winter after ours fell over, we look to bushcraft to build a small, sturdy shelter to protect our tools from the winter.  This is not something that will be water tight or anything like that, but it will provide protection from the harsh elements of winter.  It also is a great learning experience to build something like this.  It is a skill that could open up many opportunities for us as we go along.  The more skills we have, the more options we have.  Eventually we will be learning a lot more about bushcraft, but this is a start. So here is our project.  We veered from bushcraft at the end with the tarp, but we need this to keep our tools at least a little bit dry.  This type of structure is not generally meant to last an entire winter as far as I can tell, but since that is what we are using it for, we gave it a little extra.

This is the start of the lashing.

This is the start of the lashing.


The posts laid out to do the lashing.

Check out this pdf for instructions.


The completed lashing with the posts standing.


The tripod frame standing.


Testing the strength. 


With the sides on. I don’t think the sides always need to be tied on this way, but we wanted the extra strength.


Side view.


And now it has been taken over.


The not-so-bushcraft tarp covering.


View from the road.

And that’s it.  Our first attempt at almost bushcraft structure.  Now that we know that the kids love it, we can build one for them too.  I think we will do theirs with branches for covering and make it official.  (Through this whole post I may have said “we” in reference to building.  I did nothing but the “testing” of the weight it would hold.  And yes, I know the snow will be heavier than me)

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Knotty Wood

Just a quick view of why trying to use wood with knots is annoying:

DSC_0129 DSC_0131 DSC_0133If were were cutting with power tools, this may not happen so much.  However, working with an ax and chisel, this happens at every knot.  If it doesn’t happen, the wood tears and isn’t smooth at all.  I knew to avoid knots when I started, but now I really understand why and will be more careful to pick out smooth wood next time.  That’s all for today.  A quick but useful bit of information.


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