Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spring is in the air..

oh wait that isn't spring it's....

Started the day with rain coming down steadily if not too heavy. Slid the tractor all the way down the ramp taking a large round bale of hay to the cows. Cows crowding the ramp slowed my progress and kept me from sliding off of the ramp into the trees lining the steep hillside. Managed to get the bale unrolled and spread out for the cows before retreating from the cold and wet back to the cool, but dry inside of the caravan.

fast forward past a delightful morning of reading a book on mushrooming, and another by Edward Abbey, and..


The howling wind and icy blue clouds over the mountain are raining down fairly large snowflakes. Well maybe not down so much as horizontal, but they are in the air nonetheless.

Just a few days ago I was thinking of getting photos of the emerging spring flowers, and the vivid green of the new grass.. Spring was here, so I thought at the time.

Tonight's low? They are predicting 25F.. not exactly spring like weather..

No more work today other than the near constant relighting of the pilot light on the water heater so I can get in a quick warm shower. Time to once again bundle up for a few days..

Update!: They have lowered the forecast to a mere 20, and winds are still howling!!

Slid down the ramp again to make sure that the cows were fed, they graciously slowed my momentum with their bodies.. The wind was whipping snow into my face making seeing ahead of me near impossible, in the very same pasture where two days ago I was feeding them in a Freeb!rd's t-shirt and jeans.. Must be the "global warming" that Al invented..

Keep warm where you are!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


While talking to some neighbors recently I discovered that they owned a great deal more land than had the previous owners of their house. Over the few years that they have been here they have bought up surrounding land so as to prevent development or the presence of perhaps unwanted neighbors..

These are really friendly folks and they welcomed me to hike their property, an offer I took up the very next day. It was a cloudy day, with rain threatening, but I took off to climb a wooded hill that for reasons I cannot really explain, has fascinated me for years. As this hill will be directly across from my house, I decided it was time to check it out. So following some old logging trails I took off without a real plan beyond checking out the hill then just going wherever seemed apropos at the time.

So I got to enjoy some new views, including some I actually forgot to get pics of, the interesting mix of piney woods and hardwood forest, a good hike which I needed in more ways than one, and even got a bit of a surprise on the way back out:
Who would have thought that there would be an old Cadillac so far from any road?

Washing machine

In taking another look at doing a totally off the grid power system for the house, I began searching for alternatives to the conventional washer and dryer since these are energy hogs, and have a spike usage at start up which I read can dramatically shorten the life of batteries.

I had seen some non-electric washing machines before in my various reading and surfing, but I had not really taken the time to examine the neat small hand crank designs I had seen. Well today that changed. While looking for a photo of one of these to show a friend, I came across this site:

After reading a bit more about this, and doing some froogling, I opted to buy from these guys. This is what ultimately sold me on it:

"The Wonder Wash washes:
7-8 dress shirts or
10 T-shirts or
30 pairs of socks or
2-3 pairs of blue jeans

Near as I can tell without trying it yet, this ought to be just about perfect for me. I will have to use some other method for washing comforters and the like, but I might have had to do that anyway with an energy efficient washing machine connected to AC power. All in all, I expect this to be a great find.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A slow day

I guess that I have been pushing myself harder than I thought because today I just could not get going at all. I fed the cows, twice (well three times if you count the supplemental protein cubes) as I have to do for my "rent," but no other work..

I did scout out an area I had more or less overlooked because I thought I could see into it well enough to know that it offered nothing I needed, but it turns out that I was mistaken. This area is in the pasture that the cows are in now, and they have revealed the wide paths through the forest area by trampling down all of the vegetation in their way. As a result on my third trip down to them, I walked through this area and discovered two good hardwood snags, and one dead fall all of which I will hopefully harvest tomorrow. While walking through this area I noticed a stump on which a squirrell has clearly been cracking hickory nuts.. Nice to see signs of the wildlife..

In between feeding cows and looking after the dogs, I found that I was so tired I fell asleep in the middle of the day, which is unlike me. Like I said, maybe I have been pushing harder than I thought trying to get this house built.

I ordered metal for the final stage of the barn repair, to be picked up Thursday or Friday, depending on the weather. I harvested a forgotten turnip from the neglected garden, as well as some rape (it is a leafy green), and checked out the bok choi but none of what is left looked worth harvesting. I did collect some more henbit to go with the turnip as well. So I prepared a nice little dinner of sauteed turnip, cabbage, and henbit with garlic and olive oil, finished off with a dab of butter, some salt and fresh ground pepper. Wonderful impromptu dinner..

Tomorrow will have me running into the "big city" to get a few things, then probably into the closer small town to pick up some groceries, though this latter may wait until I go get the metal later in the week. Harvesting wild foods, and scavenging for the left overs from the garden has really helped the gracery budget..

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chasing Monsters

Though I awoke to a very cold morning, and just could not get going today, I did force myself to get out and get some work done. Back up the hill to the cedar grove and dropped three more trees that will make several timbers, mostly the 12+ inch diameter posts I so desperately need. On the last trip up I noticed off in the distance at one of the creek crossings that there was a down tree across a dry part of the washed out area. It was pretty well hidden by the undergrowth between it and where I had been traveling, but once I did finally notice it I just had to go take a look..

Turned out to be a fine old oak that had been uprooted sometime in the last several months. Here again was a monster tree for me to harvest! It was 22 inches in diameter where I cut it at the base, and to tell the truth I forgot to measure the diameter where I cut the top off, but I know that I could have cut it ten feet longer and still had greater than 12 inches in diameter! I cut this as a single 30 foot piece, knowing that this would allow me to span the greatest length of my house (in the uphill/downhill direction) as perhaps the main girder. 22 inches thick of Oak will certainly hold just about anything I might ever consider putting on top of it. Of course now I will have to use the monster cedars I harvested to support this monster girder, but hey I knew that was part of the deal.

For some of this I am overbuilding it and I know it. Do I need a 22 inch thick girder? No.. do I need 20+ inch thick posts? No.. but if I have the former I do need the latter.. still, what I am doing is taking what is available. I do need greater than 12 inches in diameter for some posts and some girders, so these fit that bill.. Heck I might put more earth on the section with these monsters so as to add to the temperature stabilizing effects.

Fortunately this oak was already laying down. I am not sure I would have tried dropping this one given its diameter and height. Still it did fall into what is essentially an arroyo, and I had to pull it out. This proved to be a great deal more challenging, exciting, and time consuming than I expected. The challenge was to lift the oak up out of the dry wash and keep it from digging in ant the same time. I was above it in a rocky area with the tractor, and could lift some, but as I was lifting it was also pulling the timber towards me, which made it dig in. I had to work it with both moving the tractor back, and lifting with the front end loader, then reposition and repeat. Did this for more than an hour just to get it up the 5-7 feet of incline (horizontal distance was about 25-30 feet) Another 45 minutes saw me make a makeshift sling off of the unroller on the back of the tractor, to hold up one end of the timber as I tried to drag it behind me across four water crossings, up and down several small inclines, across rocky patches and pastures, up the ridge, then finally across the good hay meadows (which I had to make sure not to tear up as they are not mine!) to finally rest for now just past the other stacks of timber.

Not the most productive day, but still a great day in my book given the discovery of this monster and getting it to its next to final resting place. There was also the bonus of having the bark largely stripped off of one side as I was dragging it up to the site. This will certainly save me some time!

Saturday, February 21, 2009


The weather is interesting to say the least.. from 60 and sunny to 22 and raining..

Still I was able to get a few more timbers up to the site, including two which were part of a tree that made my day interesting.. The tree was 22 inches in diameter where I cut it, and I needed it to fall in a particular direction given the trees around and the way that I was going to have to pull it out of the forest. So I notch the side on which I want it to fall, and I check the limbs to see where the weight is on the tree. The limbs seem to be evenly spaced and the trunk straight so I ought to be able to make the tree fall by cutting away one side low and the other high and the tree will fall into the gap..

Ought to.. Really ought to..

Do I need to say at this point that it did not? As I spend quite some time cutting through this large trunk, which turns out to be mostly heartwood-which is good for me-, I get around to the backside to cut away the far side from where it should fall.. I keep on cutting until I hear that first crack which is the tell-tale sign that the tree is coming down.. I pull the chainsaw out quickly and check to see which way the tree is falling.. I cannot tell except to note that it is NOT falling the direction that I needed it to fall..

Now this is why you always have a few "outs" when you are cutting down trees, especially 50-60 foot tall trees.. I bolted for the two closely spaced trees I had selected as my best out, and then looked back to see the cedar fall almost 180 degrees off of where I needed it to fall... Or to put it another way, fall exactly where I was standing moments before! Fortunately since this is thick forest I had no equipment nearby, except the chainsaw which was still in my hand (and running..) So I killed the saw, set it down, and damn near collapsed.. :) The adrenaline was coursing through my system at a break neck speed..

So rather than start in on delimbing the tree, I did a few jumping jacks.. ran in place.. and tried to work off the adrenaline.. Once more calm, I looked to see if I could still get this monster out of where it fell, decided that I could, then started in on delimbing it. After about two hours I had two very large 16 foot timbers pulled out of there, and one 8 footer left to get.

Ultimately this served as a reminder to never get too comfortable with a chainsaw or with dropping a tree. Usually you can easily tell which way a tree is going to fall (all of the limbs on one side, or it leans a particular direction) but sometimes something happens to change what you think will happen.

So too when I dropped a few other trees the day before when the wild grape vines, greenbriars, and other vines (including poison ivy 3 inches around!) held up a couple of trees, preventing them from falling down at all!

Finally to the stumps.. the photo with the red center is this large cedar which tried to end my life, the second is one I am asking for help with.. I am not sure what kind of tree this was.. One of the problems with getting snags (dead standing trees) is that they have no leaves and so the most common method of determining species is denied to us.. If anyone has any ideas jump in and offer them.. The bark is like that of an oak or a hickory, there is no heartwood, and the interior is almost brilliant white..

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A set back and discovery

Now that I have a significant number of timbers on the site, I have begun cataloging them noting length, type of wood, and diameter at each end. This has allowed me to begin the process of creating something I suppose could be called a "build by numbers" plan. Essentially this is a plan which will very clearly say that log number X goes in position here, connected to logs Y and Z.

I was pleased to discover that I am only missing two timbers of the roof structure, which has all along been my greatest concern as it will be supporting 18-24 inches of soil. What I did not expect to discover is that I am sorely lacking in the post department. Most of the posts I have gathered will actually work quite well as beams in the roof structure, but are undersized to support the 12+ inch timbers which constitute the roof system.

So I went out this morning to try to locate timbers with diameters near 12 inch, in lengths as follows:
4- 16 foot
6 each of 10 1/2'
12 1/2'
and 14 1/2'

I was fortunate that a couple of timbers I had already dropped but not hauled out of the cedar grove fit into that group. I was able to harvest two more of that group fairly easily and then marked a few more yet. If the weather holds, I will have a better idea tomorrow what I can collect quickly and easily.

I also need some smaller diameter timbers, on the order of 25 of ranging from 11' to 15' long. These will be slightly easier to find, and are sometimes found on the same trees from which I am taking the larger diameter timbers. Still, needless to say I was surprised and a bit disappointed to discover that I am almost 50 timbers short of being done with collection. This means that I am just over half-way done, unless I adopt the practice of tying smaller timbers together with either bolts or plumbers tape (not tape at all, google it..) and use two or three timbers in place of a single post. I am not very keen on that idea given some of the potential stresses, so I am going to try to harvest all that I can first.

But all was not gloom and doom.. while walking about the fringes of the cedar grove where it becomes a mixed hardwood/pine forest, I did discover a monster cedar which I dearly want.. It is two feet in diameter at the base!! I could get two of my thick posts out of this monster, and maybe even one of the smaller diameter posts as well.

Then as I was coming down from the cedar grove - this is always an adventure as the road resembles the down side of a roller coaster- I noticed at the turn back into the pastures there was standing a large hardwood snag. This one too was a monster measuring in at 18 inches at its base! So I moved the tractor out of harms way and proceeded to take the chainsaw to it. I am not sure what kind of tree that this is, but I can tell you that it is hard as nails and would not budge until there was only a quarter inch of wood left holding it vertical. I have never had a free standing tree hold on to well. Out of this one tree I was able to get a 16' piece with a diameter ranging from 18" to over 12", plus two other timbers around 7 or 8 inches by 12 feet or so. I do not have a place in mind specifically for these last two but they are beautiful marked by the worm trails on the surface (right beneath the bark) and I could not pass up taking them.

And I have no worries about curing this last snag, it is so dry and has been so long dead that the bark is falling off of it. About 10 minutes work should clear it of bark and it is read to be used.

I am sore and physically tired again today, as I usually am after doing any logging, but all in all a good day. Tomorrow I return to it, provided the weather holds, and continue to make progress. If the weather does turn on me, I will return to the research I am doing again on solar, wind, and picohydro to see if there is any way at all I can generate sufficient power to stay off the grid, or perhaps to earn a slight income from generating power for the grid.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hard work on hardwood.

Before I was so rudely interrupted by the tractor getting bogged down across the gravel bar, I had worked on removing the bark from the hardwood timbers to allow them to dry more quickly. Here you can see the top two logs before I began working on them, plus underneath a Sweet Gum timber I stripped a few weeks ago.

This is the draw knife I am using. It has a 13 inch blade which you pull back towards you at an angle to allow for a nice slicing action to cut into the cambian (cambium) layer between the bark and the wood, and when it works right neatly pull off the bark.
After about an hour I had between a quarter and a third of the Black Walnut bark off, and as you can see some of the bark removed from the hickory next to it.
The black walnut bark is quite thick in places and stripping it is slow going, but will be very satisfying to see every time I look up in my home. All of the hardwoods have reasonably thick bark which can be difficult to remove, though I will say that the hickory stripped nicely. In another half hour I had done about a third of the total bark of the hickory. After a few experimental pulls on other timbers, I called it day deciding that two hours of pulling on the draw knife was plenty for me.
I will admit that my desire to not cut down living trees has helped in some cases with regard to the bark. Many of the old cedar snags I have harvested either already have their bark off, else have bark that can be very easily peeled with just my hands. The pine and the cedars which have not aged that long both strip much more easily than the hardwoods, provided that there are not a lot of branches as is often the case with cedars.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th Pt 2

The day pretty well continued on the same trend as it began: one thing after another going wrong..

I spent a few more hours trying to dig out the tractor, pull it out, lever it out, etc. Finally Rob showed up and between the two of us (read: with his expertise in handling equipment) we had the tractor out in maybe 15 minutes. Now even he will admit that the shoring I had done under the wheels just before he came played the largest role in getting the tractor out, but at the same time his knowledge and moral support went a very long way.

I did go ahead and finish the repair I had begun which lead to the tractor being stuck, and filled in one other low area with gravel as well, before switching back to the hay fork and heading down to feed the cows again. The cows were waiting at the gate, ready to push into a pasture in which they do not belong, so I went around to the other gate. This proved to be simply another disaster. Half way down the ramp into the lower pasture, the hay bale, still tied with twine, fell into a large pile and a fairly small roll. I took the roll on down to the cattle, and proceeded to take the utility vehicle back to the spill and make three trips picking up hay and taking it to the cows.

I am back in the caravan, showered, and ready for the dinner I have yet to fix. It is wonderful to be dry again, to be out of clothes which smell of stagnant water, and to have the relief of having all of the equipment out of the mire and in good working order.

Days like this push me towards wishing that I could adopt that trite belief that reality is not reality, but rather perception is reality. Imagine, I could choose to perceive that none of this happened, and that I won the lottery.. .ah but then I'd have to give up the real pleasures in life as well.. Guess I will stick with reality come what may.

I am going to end the day reading a book, and breaking my self imposed dry spell by enjoying a glass or two of wine. Here's to helpful friendly guys like Rob, to the success that comes from hard work, and to the relief which comes when all is done. Slainte!

Change in plans

Yesterday was to be a productive day of stripping the bark off of timbers and doing some odd jobs around the ranch.. I did spend two hours taking the bark off of timbers, but after only one load of gravel to fill in a low crossing between pastures, I was suddenly sidetracked. I had to spend over 4 hours getting the tractor out of a soft spot on the other side of a gravel bar. Through lots of digging, lifting, cutting, hoping, and maneuvering, I was finally able to get the tractor unstuck. Unfortunately I was still in the wrong place, and the pit where I was stuck was between me and the pastures where I needed to go. I needed another plan.

So plan B was to work my way upstream of the usual crossing, and find another. I hit pay dirt with a good rocky crossing with a hard bottom. Well I thought I hit pay dirt.. Once across that bit, the last 15 feet to the pasture turned into pure bog. Before I could begin to back up the tractor sunk in about a foot. I worked at trying to get it out for about an hour or more, before giving up for the day exhausted, frustrated, and wondering just how I was going to get this beast back up onto dry land once again.

That was yesterday. Today began with a trip down to the tractor, and a few hours of digging, bracing, moving timbers under the tires, and trying to use a come-along to pull the tractor out. The end result: I am more tired than I was and the tractor is still where it was yesterday.

I have a call in to a neighbor who helps on the ranch and who borrows equipment from time to time in hopes of getting his tractor over here to get it stuck as well.. sorry I interjected a prediction there.. the hope is that he will be able to use his tractor to pull this one out.

In the meantime I still had to feed the herd of cows, but without the tractor to move the bales down to them. So in the barn I began taking apart a large round bale and moving it by hand to a small four wheel drive utility vehicle. Once that was full, I took a load down to the cows. 5 trips later they are fed.. for the morning. I will need to do this yet again this afternoon. The end result" I am even more tired yet.. and expect to simply collapse, probably from a stroke or heart attack, immediately after feeding the cows this afternoon.

As they say, some days it does not pay to get out of bed.

Tomorrow will be better. It is what it is.. any other suggestions for platitudes?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

From peaceful to pummeling

For a day that began with such tranquility, it ended with great violence. The evening began with a enormous flash of lightening, a mad dash for the caravan to shut up windows, and rain suddenly coming down in buckets. Quite damp I got inside, shut up the windows, and quickly checked the radar online. A line of severe thunderstorms from south Texas northward well into Missouri at least was bearing down on me. With the immediate storm passing, I relaxed, enjoyed the last of my Henbit curry dish, and returned to reading, while listening to the wind rip and roar outside. Within a few hours, it was whipping the caravan enough to bring about some concern, though not enough to leave. I decided to turn in knowing that we were under a tornado watch, and that further storms were bearing down on me.

Well they hit with a vengeance. I could not have gotten more than a couple of hours sleep total in the entire night. I was first shaken awake but the winds increasing in their fury, then by rain which seemed to be boarding on being hail. From there it only got worse.. at one point I got up and got dressed fearing that I would soon have to bolt for safety, though I had little idea where would constitute safety (if only my u-house were already built.. it would be perfectly safe from such stormy shenanigans). So dressed I lay back down to drift in and out of sleep until about 6 am when I once again undressed, slid under the covers and slept for about 40 minutes in the relative calm. The rains had eased to sporadic showers, which ended about 7:30 am, when I had to get out to take care of animals..

Not the sort of night I wish to repeat any time soon, though I do love storms. The final result of that night is that I am turning in quite early this evening, while hoping that tomorrow will bring a day suitable for more progress on the house.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dreary? No, peaceful.

After a full day of rain yesterday, ending in a wonderfully vibrant red sunset, we began the day with early morning showers ending to leave a foggy and very still landscape. There is full cloud cover and we are in the mid 60's F, all of which many folks would consider dreary or depressing, but I find such days to be rejuvenating and so peaceful to almost be meditative. The rain has kept animals down or inside, so there is no barking, nothing from the cows, and only some modest chirping and calling from the forest birds.

With the quiet, the featureless sky, and the still air it is almost as if time has stopped, letting us get caught up to it, leaving behind that feeling of being behind. Though the metaphor says something ill about our culture, it is apt here: a day to recharge one's batteries.

So today will be filled with catching up on some reading I have set aside for far too long, working a bit on drawing up the specifics as to what timbers are needed where in the house, and enjoying the peace and quiet which seems to get ever more rare as we "advance" as a culture.

It is for days like these, and others of course, that I have chosen this path and decided to take on this experiment of living simply by my own efforts, and why so many have chosen to go back to the land, or get out into the wilderness whenever they can. Peace and time are far too rare to be squandered working to support the things of our modern lives.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Some Assembly Required

I have been asked for more recent photos, so here is the only relevant shot taken this very morning before the rains came on. This is my home. Or it will be in time. What you see here are 64 timbers over 5 inches in diameter with some as much as 16 inches in diameter, plus a number of smaller timbers which will be used in various supports. I am not quite done harvesting timbers, but this is certainly the bulk of those I need to build my underground log home.

The delays in work can be seen here in the form of two different ice storms:

In between these storms I was drafted into a repair project:

What you are seeing here is an entire 60 foot section of the barn roof which was picked up and flipped over onto the remainder of the barn. Needless to say this repair took some time. In fact there are still 12 pieces of tin to put on in order to be done with this repair. We added some strapping to ensure that this sort of thing will not happen again.

Friday, February 06, 2009

A brief aside

One of the perhaps foreseeable but yet surprising "issues"I have run into when describing the house to folks who though either related or otherwise somehow involved, though not what I would call close to me, is a near constant fascination and focus on the television. They would seemingly abandon the house in order to save the television.

The source of the issue lay in the fact that I have no plan for a television (I have never owned one) and that they see it as not merely "a"crucial element, but "the" crucial element of life, even here where they could go outside and admire the night sky, or walk some wildlife trail to see where it leads, or merely sit and watch the life around us go about its business.. Heck they could go out and gather in free wild food to eat, or enjoy the sounds of the forest. The point is that if one wants to live inside a box, why not make it a box in the city?

Do not get me wrong, I enjoy the mindlessness of some television, and I will watch some things on the computer once I get settled, but I will not allow this to rule my life. Even now, when I step outside on a night such as this when the moon is shining so very brightly, I spend some time marveling at the fact that I can see for quite some distance, my best guess is a quarter mile, in the moonlight, not because of street lights but because they are missing..

One more step closer

Another day of simply moving timbers from one location to another, the house site. Still the more timbers I get on site the easier it will be to calculate what I still need, as well as to begin marking timbers for specific locations in the build.

Not all which have been cut are on site yet, but many more are. I have two stacks to move the final leg to the site, one already up on the ridge, and another composes mostly of smallish cedars (5-8 inch diameters) which are still down below, but which I should be able to move all at once using a truck rather than one or two at a time using the tractor.

And yes dear readers I am using machinery to accomplish some of the tasks necessary for building this underground log cabin. I was reluctant at first fearing a loss of some of the experience, including some personal association with each log, and the tactile sensation of moving each, but given that some of these timbers weigh several hundred pounds, and are best used whole where possible, I overcame this reluctance and realized that I will still be laying hands on every timber more than once regardless.

For those concerned with the environmental impact of using machinery, well that impact will be minimal in the big picture, and more than compensated by the energy efficiency of the U-house, the radically reduced energy costs in transportation (my timbers travel feet and yards, perhaps tenths of miles, unlike most dimensional lumber which travels thousands of miles.. ), and by the fact that I am using snags (standing dead timbers) , discarded timbers from logging, and timbers which otherwise would go to waste. To the last of these, some neighbors have given me three nice pine timbers which had to be removed so that they could build their shop last year. I have yet to pick these up but will soon. This is the ultimate in recycling: I am using that which others consider waste, in order to build my own home. In fact I am even using the polyethylene cording used to hold round bales together to cushion the backfill process. I am collecting that twine now, putting it into the otherwise discarded feed sacks, and when the time comes I will place these against the polyethylene on the outside of the shoring so as to protect the polyethylene sheeting from any punctures.

So I can say with some confidence that I have no apologies to make with regard to the environmental status of my home and its construction. Yes I could do it all by hand and perhaps buy a mule to drag timbers to the site, but I can guarantee that it simply would not happen under those criteria. Were that necessary, I would build a different sort of cabin which would require more use of wood for heat, and perhaps even some form of air conditioning..

Speaking of such concerns, I have been eying a spring fed pond and creek on the property for possible use for a micro-hydro-electric system. This seems to be a real possibility given what I have read about the modest needs of some of these efficient systems. Some require as small a drop as 4 feet, which is doable on this site. There are two downsides that are immediately evident: Rural electric is heavily subsidized with our stolen income (tax dollars) so electricity is cheap (thus everyone wastes it around here.. ) and the distance from the nearest possible generating site to the home site is significant. Still I am going to price this, along with some wind generation possibilities for which I do not hold out much hope given what I have read so far and given the sporadic nature of wind here. Solar remains a possibility, but of course is still very cost prohibitive. There might be the future possibility of some rebates, but I would be very seriously troubled about the idea of taking any such rebates from the feds given that it is not their money to give in the first place.

Still I am working at every opportunity to find ways to reduce my impact on the world (including other people) without sacrificing the important aspects of living.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Another day of logging..

I have commented before about harvesting snags, standing dead trees, and other dead trees for my home, but what I have overlooked is the transportation of those timbers. Today I spent several hours on heavy machinery, okay.. a tractor, moving timbers from many places where I dropped them to one of three places: two places where I stationed timbers which require some other action to move them to the site -either the moving of the herd of cattle (not mine) which stands between the timbers and the site, or finding a way to move timbers up a road going up the ridge which has trees closer together than the timbers are long.. , and the third place being up by the house site where I was able to drop off a few timbers in a new stack for just the snags which are already ready for being treated through charring to become posts.

Most of these were moved one at a time over rough terrain. Thus a handful of timbers might take an hour to move any real distance..

The next few days will likely be much of the same. Once I can get most of the posts on site I can start to mark them for specific placement in the design, thus allowing me to know what I need to finish the build.


CYNIC n. A blackguard whose faulty vision causes him to see things as they are, not as they ought to be

Ambrose Bierce

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Weather challenges

As I noted last week, I am back up and running with a new fan installed on the laptop so all is well with regard to computers anyway..

This week has brought yet another round of ice storms, cold and wet weather, and now coming nearly full circle, we have enjoyed two days of sun and 60+ degrees.

The good weather has allowed me to get out and make some progress on additional clearing of the site, made necessary by a better understanding of the necessary design, as well as some important changes in the design of the home upon completion of the Underground building course. My previous design would have sufficed, but this new design allows in a great deal more light and views, including two directly downhill views.

Those downhill views come with some challenges, which became very clear today as I hauled logging chains up and down the ridge. The primary of these will be a need to take care when exiting downhill. The ridge slope at that point is greater than one to one, meaning that for every one foot forward you climb a foot or more.

The days of ice and cold allowed me to refine the design of the U-home to what I believe is a design which I will find very comfortable, efficient, and yet live like a house close to twice the size. 30 linear foot of running windows, plus at least another 12 linear ft of windows and doors elsewhere should allow for ample natural light, as well as for cross ventilation.

I have included a generous area for cold storage, earth cooled of course, which will also double as support for a loft area. The loft area itself will do double duty in that it will be overflow for storage, as well as a sleeping area for guests, should I have any. Then again, depending on the season I may decide that the loft is my preferred sleeping area, and so will give over the main bed area, with its own wonderful views.

Notice that I have not used the term "room" when describing these areas.. The primary reason is that I am trying to build a life, not a group of segments. So too with the house. The cold cellar will be closed off in order to keep it cold, the toilet area closed off to keep odors out of the house, but these are the only two interior doors in the entire house. Other areas can be screened off for privacy, but most of the time the house will live as one large open space, "divided" if you will be the view presented or the function of the space. There will be a long sitting/lounge area along one wall of windows, which is at the same time open to the kitchen so that no one is separated from anyone else by the "chore" of cooking or prepping food. The large table, approximately 8 ft long, will serve as dining area, but also prep area especially during harvest and putting up of food.

Most of the walls which do not contain windows, will be shelves, almost certainly mostly containing books, but also some collections such as the mementos of the trip to China and Mt Taishan.

So where I sit now is that I need to finish dragging some timbers up the hill and off of the site, strip them of bark, allow them to dry then prep them for installation. With any luck the next several weeks will bring on the excavation, which will allow me to start setting the posts for the uphill and down hill walls.

As I have been asked, the last post referred to a wonderful pet of some dear friends of mine. She passed far too young doubly so for such a fun loving and caring soul She holds a special place in my heart and her passing lessens the world a bit. Love the animals around you while you can. Time is your more rare resource..