Today was an exciting day.  Doug and I cleared overgrown trails and created new ones for the past few days so that today we could walk our woods with Roald Gundersen of Whole Trees Architecture and Construction  and with  his assistant Della Hansmann, who is designing our house.

We were looking for the trees that will be stripped of bark and allowed to season till mid winter, when they will be cut and dragged to the building site.  These trees will form the joist and rafters and beams of our house.  This is a wonderfully green way to build.

No transportation of lumber.

No energy consumed in milling and marketing it.

No waste product.

But even beyond that, the trees that we are removing from the woods to build our house will leave the forest more healthy and strong.  Every tree is selected with the dual purpose of being the right member for house construction and being a tree that was crowing others, or being crowded, or had some other reason why it’s removal will benefit  the trees growing near it.  Roald calls it “weeding the carrot patch.”

We identified 100 trees today, and we’ll be back tomorrow to  select the rest of the 140 specific timbers we will need to build our home.  Next they will be trimmed and peeled  so they can begin to cure as they stand.

These two oaks died of oak wilt last year. Many of their curved and forked branches will fit well into our house.

Part of our land was planted by the previous owner in pines, cedar and spruce that are crowding each other. They will make great roof rafters, and are being selected to open the woods.

Roald labels a pine after checking to see how easily it will peel.

This elm is starting to die from disease. It is a perfect candidate for the house construction.

This tree would make a great rafter, but this tree is not crowding anyone and has a great future in the woods. We won't use this one.

This tree would not fit the pulp lumbering equipment, but it will fit fine in our house.

Another tree whose unusual branching pattern will work in a whole tree house.

Della checks the list as trees are selected.

It’s a complex process to select lumber this way, but a very gratifying one.  So many times we paused to appreciate and express gratitude to these trees as we selected and labeled them.   Tomorrow when I start peeling, I will thank each tree I work on.

Peeling the bark off the trees reveals a smooth, sculptural beauty.  I know that there will be timbers in the house that I will identify, remember where they stood and how a team of green builders worked together in cheerful camaraderie as these beams were selected, prepped and moved along the short steps from forest to structure.

Roald estimates that we could remove enough timbers each year from our 44 acres to build up to four houses and that the woods would be healthier for it.

My post on Friday will detail the peeling process.

2 replies

  1. Denise,

    Its been a long while since I’ve commented, but just wanted to let you know I’m still following along. Great to see the progress being made toward your house. As a woodworker I can certainly relate to the methodical approach to picking lumber. I greatly admire what Roald, Della, and all the folks at Whole Tree are up to. Looking forward to seeing the process unfold for your home.


    • Nic!
      Really good to hear from you. I was sorry to miss your show. I had a very serious family health issue come up right then.
      I wonder what you are working on now?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s