One of the unexpected outcomes of building Underhill House was the bond that formed between our building crew members, and Doug and me. For some of the crew our project was the first time they’d worked together. This amazing team generated lasting friendships.
Getting together this weekend to help Prairie and his partner Lindsey raise a timber frame addition to their farmhouse was like old home week. Everyone from our project plus many more friends and relatives gathered to lend a hand.
Prairie started us out with a quick overview of the project, emphasizing safety precautions. Prairie and some of the others had attended a timber frame workshop, Bryan (Underhill’s construction manager) was the most experienced timber framer but this project was Prairie’s design.
The first bent was already assembled when we got there.
It went up quickly and easily.
Phyllis is 89. She lived in the house from 1950 until she sold it to Lindsey and Prairie a few years ago.
Timbers for the next bent were hauled up onto the deck.
The bent went together well.
Soon the second bent was hoisted into place.
The jin pole, a device used for hoisting was set in place between the two bents.
The block and tackle attached to the jin pole was used to lift the ridge beam so it could be lowered from above onto its pegs and form a strong frame.
The carefully sculpted ridge beam began its rise smoothly. (Cue the nervous violins that signal something ominous is about to happen.)
Oh oh! The straps used to lift the beam were a little too long, and the ridge pole was left dangling about a foot too low to be lowered into position on the pegs.
This was not good. The consensus was to lower it and re-tie it. But then we realized that the pulley rope had jammed. It was not going up or down.
Prairie tried again to unjam the pulley, but it was no go.
This was not good — not good at all.
Brad tried, but could not get his end lifted up and down on its peg.
A second ladder was raised to send Brad reinforcements, and Brad dropped the mortised beam down onto its tenon.
Then it was up to Prairie. He had to lift his end all by himself and get two pegs to fit. There are many physically hard and genuinely dangerous moments when humans are hoisting these kind of heavy objects about over their heads, with fragile fingers at risk of being crushed, or worse. This was the stickiest moment of the whole day by far. But he did it! Prairie did it.
We had just enough time and energy left for raising the final bent on Saturday.
Sunday some joists as well as the pre-framed east gable were added. Then the jin pole was brought back into play for the other half of the ridge beam.
Based on Saturday’s lesson, straps were set, and there was no repeat of Saturday’s drama.
Both halves of the ridge beam were joined.
The day ended with a ceremony that goes back into Scandinavian pre-history – placing a green tree on top of the house when the last beam is placed on top of a building.
How wonderful to get to share in this experience.
What is especially powerful about this whole process is watching Prairie and Lindsey build their home as part of a tight and loving community. It’s an honor to be part of that community.
Denise, Thank you so much for documenting this great weekend and telling the story so well! I missed much of it because I was busy at the shaving horse, making pegs. There are no words to express how immensely proud I am of Prairie, and how grateful I am the Prairie and Lindsay got together and eventually embarked on this homesteading project. It was wonderful to see so many of their friends and neighbors working together. Prairie is very modest about his leadership abilities, but he was the one who designed the house, measured and laid out most if not all of the joints on those irregular timbers, and provided the direction to get all those folks working together to solve problems as they arose and raise the house with no one getting injured.
Thanks for your comment, Lester.
Yes, Prairie is to be praised for his design, workmanship and also his leadership. It’s not easy to lead such a large, variously-skilled work crew, and he did a great job. Everything got done right, and everyone went home uninjured.
Doug and I were always impressed with his contribution to constructing Underhill House, and it was even more impressive to watch him take charge of the complex project he and Lindsey are undertaking.
It felt great to be part of it.
Didn’t realise the green tree was a Scandinavian tradition, here in Latvia it is a ring of oak leaves.