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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cordwood Saga - Part 2

Well the saga of the cordwood continues...

October 16th:

We got back at it on a cool Tuesday. 

Bob was back with his usual gusto and it was back to move - cut - stack - repeat.  The remainder of the stack of 12' lengths went pretty fast.  Bob could only stay till 1pm and when the last log was cut he looked at his watch and it was 1:01pm.  Couldn't be better timing.

Denise and I stacked and stacked while Bob did most of the cutting.  When we were done we felt a bit like we were in the miracle of the "loaves and fishes".  We had thought we'd only get about 4 more cords but when we were done we had gotten 5 1/2.  We even had some help from Zane!

After Bob took off our friend Terry showed up to help clean up.  Like usual we forgot to take pictures of Terry working....but trust me he did (there were a lot of pallets to clean up and stack).

So now we have 14 1/2 cords of 18" logs as well as 4 1/2 cords of 16" logs (that we cut months ago)....what's next?

Well we have decided that we will move to a 2 year plan for building the house.  We will keep trying to sell our current home (remember to pass the news on to your friends - as well as this link) - and as soon as it sells (and the weather breaks) we will build a "Grouse" to live in and work at procuring more logs, pouring a foundation, getting up some timber framing, and hopefully by the end of next summer be laying the first floor walls......just relax....it will get done.

What is a "Grouse" you ask?  This a term coined by Denise and I.  A "grouse" is house that will one day be used as a garage.  Think of it as an over-sized micro-house.

We'll see what happens!

Thanks for reading!

Click on any picture for a larger view.


Cordwood Saga - Part 1

Well all of our 12' lengths of wood are now cut to 18"....but there is quite the story behind how it got that way.  The next couple of posts will tell the tale.  But to tell this tale we must first travel back to...

October 2nd:
On this day my father-in-law Paul and I started building the nursery.  No we aren't expecting another little kiddo.  We were expecting about 27 cords of 18" wood.  We started building "cradles" to hold all of those bundles of joy and so the area where we were working was dubbed "the nursery".

October 3rd:
Nate finishes the cradles and the nursery is ready for the wood.  Each cradle holds 4 cords of wood - 7 cradles were made - thus 28 cords of wood could be stored.

October 6th:

We invited anyone who was interested to come help cut our log pile down to size (complete with bribes of chili and coffee).  Well we had two takers (plus Lloyd and Edna showed up to check in on us - thank goodness Edna had a camera with her - our batteries had gone dead.)

So like we said...we had two brave souls.  Brave because it was raining for most of the day...but that didn't stop the amazing Bob and Tim from working with a smile.  Actually Bob's first words when he got out of his car were, "What a great day to cut wood!"  And he meant it!  His positive attitude got the day started right.

Both men - as well as Denise and I worked hard all day.  Bob is a machine with his chainsaw and Tim can get logs onto the cutoff table as fast as you can cut them.

Lloyd had to stack a little wood while he was there.

And now comes the sad news.....when we started cutting up this huge pile of logs  - (27' by 4') we figured there would be about 25 cords in it.  Well about about 3pm we were about 2/3rd of the way through the pile and we only had 8 cords!  We couldn't believe it!  All we could figure was that with the 12' lengths in a big pile there was a bunch of dead air space that threw our calculations off.

We know that we need about 30 cord if we are going to do all 1 1/2 stories of the home we are designing.  We figured we would have about 25 cords this year, cut another 5 or so in the early spring, dry it fast (quaking aspen dries really fast - plus we know someone with a solar wood kiln), and we'd have enough to build in the the summer of 2013.

The one thing that we are learning in this whole processes is to take one thing at a time...and to take the challenges as they come.  The next logical step is to finish cutting what we have... and start thinking about how this may change our timeline for building.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Cordwood Catch Up

It is time to play a little blog catch up...

On Labor Day weekend Denise and I headed 3 hours up the road to Plattsburg, NY to take a Cordwood Masonry class with Rob and Jacki Roy at Earthwood Building School.  Rob and Jacki have been building cordwood homes for over 30 years and have literally written the book(s) on it.  It was a great experience and well worth the time and money spent to attend the class.  There is nothing like hands on experience and being able to talk face-to-face with the people who can best answer the plethora of questions we have about building this way.

This is Rob and Jacki's home.  It is a two story, earth-bermed, round, cordwood home.  They built it on the site of an old gravel quarry.  Beyond having this one cordwood home there is also a cordwood sauna, bookstore, office, three guest cabins, a mess hall, garage, a children's playhouse, and a strawbale/cordwood guest cabin.  They are also helping their son build cordwood home next to theirs.  That is the house where we got our "hands on" training.

The strawbale/cordwood cabin that we stayed in.

Here is half of the interior....notice the great bottle-end window over the beds.

Some of the cordwood cabins making up a little cordwood village.

One of the interior walls of the "Hermit's Hut" cordwood cabin.  Look at all the fun stuff you can do with wood and bottles.

Rob and Jacki were gracious hosts.  Every morning we'd meet in their house for the classroom portion of the day.  Rob would teach and Jacki would supply an endless flow of coffee, tea, juice, and baked goodies.  Seventeen of us would squeeze halfway around their pool table, which was covered with wood samples, computer, books, diagrams, models, and teaching aids.  Rob would teach and generously answer our questions and put up with our interruptions as we bounced our ideas off of him.


Rob would use his own home as an example of different things he was teaching in the classroom.  Here he is explaining how he installed the windows.

After a lunch provided by Jacki, we would head over to the work site and start learning how to make this cordwood thing work.  We were taught how to mix two different types of mortar, how to lay mortar, sawdust insulation, and logs.  We learned how to "point" our work to get the mortar smooth.  We were warned about "pitty-patting" the mortar too much and causing excessive moisture to rise to the surface.  There were lessons on prepping the wood, making bottle ends, installing windows, and much more.

This is the home we worked on.  The first floor is a 20 sided cordwood structure.  The second floor will be a Geo-desic dome (in this picture it is covered with a tarp).

Learning how to lay M-I-M (mortar - insulation - mortar) and place logs in their cradles.

A bit more of the first row of logs and starting up the second course.

Denise and I worked on two different sections of wall.  The first was where they wanted some very specific patterning done with wood and bottles.  It was a slow go for novices but good experience.

Here's what it looked like when we left it.  All of the dark gray is what Denise and I did.  It wasn't much to show for for 2 days of work but like I said they were looking for something specific.

We also worked on a panel of bottle ends that went up next to a window.  This was done with a different type of mortar.  So it was good to work with both kinds of mortar and we're still deciding which we'd like to use in our house.  Here Nate is pouring sawdust insulation.

Denise is pointing around the bottle ends.  Bottle ends are usually two glass bottles put mouth to mouth in the wall.  The "butt" end of the bottle is visible at the wall's surface.  They let light in from the outside and makes some cool designs and colors.

Here Jacki gives Denise some pointers on pointing knives....specifically how to bend the end of a butter knife to make a good knife.

Here is a close up of some bottle ends.

The 2012, Labor Day Cordwood Masonry Class.  We were impressed at how diverse the class was.  From socioeconomic to geographic and religious perspectives, this class brought a lot of different types of people together around a common interest.

Jacki, Rob, Denise and Nate at the end of the school.  Denise is holding her MMS degree from earth wood Academy (Master Mortar Stuffer).