The temperature for March 15 around Madison WI typically varies from 27°F to 41°F. Today it hit 80. It’s never done that before.
All the more reason to build the most energy efficient, sustainable building practices house that we can. That meant working outside in tee shirts, although in the afternoon I put my long-sleeved shirt back on to avoid sunburn. Doug and I spent the day working with Bryan, our building foreman, Brad, his assistant, and Vince, the miller.
Most of the wood in our house is coming from our 44 acres. The oak, black walnut, elm, cherry and pine timbers that frame the house will not be milled. That’s the way Whole Tree Architecture and Construction builds. But there was a small stand of pine too big for timbers growing on the building site and blocking the solar exposure. These trees are being milled to provide the boards for the roof.
Doug and I also worked with a miller when we built our timber frame barn. We milled a stand of oaks killed by oak wilt for the roof boards of the barn. Doug and I spent two very physical days lifting each inch-thick oak plank off the mill and stacking them. Each cut revealed grain more beautiful than the last. It was like going to an art gallery of wood.
Working with the pine was a new experience. Freshly-cut pine almost glows in the sun and is dappled with the circular traces left by branches. Once again each new slice was like a work of art, and I found myself in a whole new kind of wood gallery. .
Another difference between oak and pine is that these pieces were sliced to 5/8 inch. They were shorter logs to begin with, and they felt like feathers compared to the oak.
When we realized that the pines had to be cut, we spent a long time thinking about how to use the wood. Roof boards will be perfect.
The shorter logs are cut into 2×2 stickers to stack the rest of the boards.
Milling generates a LOT of sawdust, which I am collecting and wheel barrowing over to the part of the barn yard where we compost. This bounty will keep the luggable loo dry and sweet smelling, and what we don’t use in the loo will add carbon to the garden beds.
The rafters of our house will be unmilled pines that we chose because they needed to be thinned for the health of the woods. They have been peeled and are stacked in the barn for the moment.
Peeling these timbers in the barnyard created a mountain of bark curls.
Several of the guys who are working on the house-building project have expressed an interest in growing a garden that they can each out of this summer. We have been preparing a garden spot by cover cropping it for the past two years. Doug and I actually thought we would not have time to garden while building, but with this little extra nudge, we are going to start the garden bed. That meant raking up the thick layer of pine bark that had been peeled there.
This building project is making us rich in compost materials.
We have known since we selected our building site for its great solar potential that the pines would be cut. It takes the sting out of the job to be putting every atom of them to good use.
Next week the miller will be cutting thick slabs of black walnut, oak, elm and cherry that will be used for counter tops, shelving and the deep window sills you always get when you build a straw bale house. These logs also came from our land, and were chosen to thin the woods. I can hardly wait to visit the wood gallery again.
Categories: TALES FROM OUR 44 ACRES