TURNING TREES INTO UNMILLED TIMBERS part one

When we got out to our land last Friday it had been transformed into a winter wonderland.

Thursday we had been clearing and burning the tops and side branches of the pine trees that had been harvested over the last two weeks for use as un-milled rafters and joists as well as milled roof decking boards.  Overnight,  the moisture had been squeezed out of the air to form a fantastic coating of hoar frost on every pine needle and tree branch.  It continued to form as we watched, even forming crystals in our boot prints made only minutes earlier into fresh-fallen snow.

closeup of ice crystals on one of our timbers

The magical feeling was fitting because we were meeting with our architect, Della Hansmann and our construction manager, Brian Dalstrom to look at the tree trunks that have been selected, felled and dragged out of the woods and organized on the ground around the barn site.

Della, Doug and Brian confir

We were gathered on this crisp 20 degree morning to look at this arrangement of harvested trees and mentally organize them into the specific pillars destined for each spot that will hold up our house.

An example of forked timbers in another Whole Trees house, Tussen Tak.

Whole Tree Architecture and Construction   works with un-milled, often branching timbers. See my post The First 100 Trees for our House.

It was an exciting morning as we moved from tree trunk to tree trunk listening to Della and Brian  discuss how to fit these wild, natural shapes into the orderly structure of a human habitation.

The natural and beautiful variability of the tree trunks and branches require a lot of “out-of-the-box” thinking to place them where they will provide the most support and also highlight their powerful grace.   Each Whole Trees structure develops an individual character, and I am thrilled at the prospect of watching our house’s character emerge.

We are working with the same sort of computer-generated architectural plans in general use, but these paper plans will evolve as the trees are fitted together.  I feel like we are partnering with these trees rather than just using them.

Over the course of the next few months, these trees will be shaped  into custom-joined timbers and readied for putting in place once the concrete foundation is poured.

I know many of these trees personally.  We considered each one of them carefully before deciding which trees to harvest, and yet leave the woods in better ecological balance after their removal.  I remember standing beside each of them and marking them with a numbered aluminum tag.  I will still remember when I am standing next to them in my kitchen, office and bedroom.

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