Halfmoon's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:10 pm

George the original one wrote:Here are some huge rounds I split before wife helped carry them out of the dry channel to a sunnier location, temporarily stacked because they were too heavy to carry as rounds.
Such a lovely and familiar photo. :D You're lucky (as is your wife) to have a partner who shares the work.

True enough that alder burns clean and hot (though I actually miss the spitting sap of conifers, which feels so homey). I sometimes don't appreciate alder enough, but when I recall our first winter in residence on our mountain property....suddenly it looks good. We were burning aspen because it was close to the house, and we'd been working right up to the snow season to get the house insulated. Heating with aspen is like fueling the stove with cardboard. We had to empty the ashes almost every day, and as a bonus the smoke had a sickly-sweet smell. Blech.

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by George the original one » Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:59 pm

Oak is better for heat, but has to be imported from 40 miles away rather than being "found" and is nowhere near as easy to split (always buy pre-split oak!). I save it for the night burns because it makes coals that easily relight the fire in the morning.

Big leaf maple is the other hardwood in abundance here. Splitting is a little tough, but not too difficult. Leaves too much ash for my preference.

I tried burning sitka spruce, but after cutting & splitting the first 10' of the tree, quickly came to the conclusion that this is far too fibrous to readily split by hand.

I'm getting tempted to try making a coppice. Plum seems nearly impossible to get rid of unless you dig up all the roots, so I'm thinking about using it as the foundation planting for coppicing. Wild cherry seems similar, but not quite as vigourous.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Feb 22, 2017 10:34 pm

I'm embarrased to admit that I had to google coppice. Are you thinking that the small trunk dimension will eliminate splitting, or are you just looking for a faster-growing firewood crop? We burn all the residual wood from limbing trees and cleaning falls, so we have a small-scale diversity policy going. ;) The black locust and willow burnt hot and fast (WHY did we ever plant these??), the walnut is dense, and the plum has a gorgeous scarlet core that keeps prompting us to set it aside in case we want to do...something...with it.

Sitka spruce sounds like Ponderosa pine. The pine is soft and fibrous and has an inherent twist that defies a clean split. Wood has such individuality.

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Farm_or » Thu Feb 23, 2017 8:29 am

Ponderosa pine, white fir, Douglas fir, lodgepole, tamarack, and cotton wood are in supply in these parts. Thought I'd hit the jackpot discovering locust about five years ago.

There's a nearby post and pole business that sells firewood also. Took me a while to figure out the shift the guy that measures in my favor worked.

Have a buddy that had a big stand of old locust he needed to thin and we've been benefitting from that.

Cotton wood is so abundant that we have several sources of free firewood for it. It's very difficult to split, burns fast, and makes a lot of ash, but works good when combined with something better.

Funny story about Douglas fir: named after a biologist who trailed with Hudson bay trappers. He had to be rescued from a native American pit somewhere by Rogue River? Then he fell in a similar pit years later somewhere in Polynesia. He didn't survive the second time.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Feb 23, 2017 9:22 am

Farm_or wrote:Ponderosa pine, white fir, Douglas fir, lodgepole, tamarack, and cotton wood are in supply in these parts. Thought I'd hit the jackpot discovering locust about five years ago.
We like to burn locust, but it's nearly impossible to split. We use a wedge and sledge hammer. Good for rattling your brains. As far as I understand, tamarack and larch two names for the same species. Tamarack/larch is the best all-around firewood imho: easy to split, burns cleanly, the logs are nice and uniform, and lots of times the bark will fall off when the wood dries. This makes for less mess in the house.
Farm_or wrote:Funny story about Douglas fir: named after a biologist who trailed with Hudson bay trappers. He had to be rescued from a native American pit somewhere by Rogue River? Then he fell in a similar pit years later somewhere in Polynesia. He didn't survive the second time.
So of course I had to look this up on Wikipedia, which says 'He apparently fell into a pit trap and was possibly crushed by a bull that fell into the same trap.' Talk about bad luck! I would much prefer to fall on top of the bull.

George the original one
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by George the original one » Thu Feb 23, 2017 11:26 am

halfmoon wrote:Are you thinking that the small trunk dimension will eliminate splitting, or are you just looking for a faster-growing firewood crop?
Faster growing firewood crop, one that self-replaces easily.

Yes, the plum has pretty heartwood, but I've not found a way to preserve the beauty. Could be I'm just crap with finishing.

The alder trees throw down a lot of limbs. We get about 1/3 to 1/2 cord of wood per year just from those windfalls. I stack them up through the year and then cut them to length in a homemade sawbuck like this one (not mine, random internet pic) that I put on wheels to cart from pile to pile:
Image

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Feb 23, 2017 7:47 pm

George, this is a GREAT idea. I can't believe we never saw it before. Holding onto the floppy pile of sticks while DH ran through them with a chainsaw was always my job, and believe me...I'd have been glad to resign the chain-side position. :D When I showed the photo to DH, though, he said: "I'd have to start up one of the larger saws again." Due to nerve damage in his arm, he uses a small Stihl saw now that has a compression assist for easy starting, and we cut things one at a time. Our two heavier-duty saws sit idle now. Adaptation.

Just in case anyone wonders why I don't operate the saw, let me assure you that it's not a gender thing; it's a klutz thing. If there is bizarre a way to hurt myself, I will find it. Using a chainsaw is just making it too easy.

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by George the original one » Thu Feb 23, 2017 9:23 pm

"electric chainsaw"... they work well for this lighter duty work and come in 16" size. Only catch is having an electric outlet within reach.

P.S. Give him time. He'll think of how to make it work for him and then put you on the duty of collecting the cuttings.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Feb 23, 2017 10:23 pm

George the original one wrote: P.S. Give him time. He'll think of how to make it work for him and then put you on the duty of collecting the cuttings.
:lol: It's almost as if you know him!

Seriously: the electric chainsaw isn't a bad idea. I will introduce it gently.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sun Feb 26, 2017 5:43 pm

I was looking through my old print photo collection for ones to illustrate the mountain house foundation, and I came across this one of the woodshed construction. The whole woodshed topic is out of sequence, because we built the house first. I blame the diversion on people here. You know who you are. :P

Image

The tanks in back (big plastic one bottom right and vertical steel one behind the ladder) were part of our outdoor shower setup. Very big rock on the left declined removal, so we built around it. As previously mentioned, the squared-off beams were milled with our Alaskan Mill chainsaw attachment. The rafters are purchased lumber. Logs are from the property.

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Farm_or » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:59 pm

Amazing story. Incredible ambition and application of talent.

Sorry about the sidetrack, again. Not really! :-)

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sun Feb 26, 2017 8:38 pm

Never be sorry for the sidetrack, Farm_or (not that you really are :D)! Life is all about the sidetrack. Thank you for the kind words also.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sun Feb 26, 2017 8:54 pm

BUILDING THE HOUSE

With the all-important outhouse resolved, we began to prepare the building site for our home. We’d chosen a large, gently sloped shelf on the mountainside with a view of another mountain across the narrow valley. It would have been easier to build on the almost-flat back of the shelf, nestled against the slope, but that space was reserved for the tower we planned to hold our solar panels. Since the property had a northern exposure, we were going to need every solar ray we could get in winter when the mountain shaded the ground. Besides: DH always wanted a tower. Vertical gain…it’s a guy thing. :lol:

Our building site was part of the area primarily saved from logging because the previous owners had also planned to build there. Our goal was to insert our house in the trees with a minimum of disruption. We ended up cutting one large aspen that was broken off at the top and a small fir. All the other trees stayed. There’s a lot of talk about “defensible space” for homes vulnerable to forest fires, but we’ve always liked having trees around us (why move to the forest and then change it?). It’s a risk we could live with, especially since we wouldn’t be endangering any firefighters. Our property wasn’t served by any fire district, and the surrounding land was administered by the Washington Department of Natural Resources. WA DNR firefighters are prohibited from fighting structure fires.

We originally hoped to form and pour a full concrete foundation with basement, but that fantasy was soon dashed. We talked with the local company who had delivered the concrete for the log cabin on the parcel below us. I pretty much think they had the entire private land inholding pictured on their wall with a big red NO scrawled over it. Their truck had taken hours to make it up the steep mountain road to deliver that load, and they had no desire to try it again.

Time to regroup.

We decided to go with a post and pier log beam foundation. The previous landowners came to the same conclusion; they had the first row of piers already dug and poured and the first log laid. Of course, that was the low-hanging fruit. ;) Because we were working on a slope, every row had to be more elevated for the top log to remain level. More elevation = an increased need for pier integrity. We dug the holes by hand, making them extra wide and deep just to be sure. Then we mixed the concrete in a wheelbarrow and sunk a rebar rod in the center of each to peg the posts. Next came the posts with logs pegged above, and finally the logs were flattened on top with the Alaskan Mill to achieve a level surface. Phase one complete.

(Apologies for the first blurry photo, but it shows how we lifted the logs onto their piers.)

Image

Image

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sat Mar 04, 2017 9:55 pm

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

CHANGING COURSE:

With the foundation (such as it was) in place, we began to prepare for the major building push. Preparation entailed hauling most of our materials six hours east from western Washington to our new property east of the Cascades and securing them out of the weather until our planned July construction. Almost every weekend (4 days off/week at this point) involved loading our truck and trailer, hauling the loot over the mountains, unloading it and driving home.

One memorable trip:

Okay; some background needed before the punchline. We designed our house to be as easy and inexpensive to build as possible, with all dimensions a multiple of 4 for maximum utilization of 4x8 sheathing. We planned to use ¾” OSB sheets for the floor and roof, but we found a great sale on ½” at a local lumber store. We paid $2.99/sheet for ½” OSB! Granted; this was 1991, but it was still an unbeatable price. We decided to double up the flooring and roofing to get a thicker total layer for less money. Allowing for some cutting loss, this meant we’d need 330 sheets of OSB. :shock:

We drove to the lumber outlet with our truck and 2-axle trailer, paid for our 330 sheets and waited to be loaded up. We decided to put 110 sheets in the truck bed and two piles of 110 each on the trailer. The warehouse manager was clearly uneasy about the weight. When it was all loaded and tied down, he said, “I hope you don’t have far to go.” We replied, “About 300 miles.” He started sputtering and avowed that he wouldn’t take any responsibility for the load. Fair enough.

All went okay on the trip over the Cascades, though we went up the pass at about 20 mph full out. Then it was smooth sailing down and through the mostly flat land in the east. We finally came to the gravel road that comprised the four last, mountainous miles to our property. We made it up the steepest part; only 2 miles to go! Fate was smiling on us…

*THUD*!! We jerked to a halt. One of the wheel bearings had seized and started turning the axle in the U-Bolts.

Here we were in the middle of a remote road with a seized wheel. There was no way we were going to unload all that OSB and leave it on the roadside. DH jacked up one side of the trailer, removed the wheel and chained the axle on that side to the trailer frame. We slowly limped the last 2 miles on three trailer wheels.

I’m betting that AAA couldn’t do that for you. 8-)

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:15 pm

What a solution! I would have just ditched the trailer, and relayed the OSB a truckload at a time, all night long. Your solution is so much better!

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sun Mar 05, 2017 9:13 am

Not my solution; I was in the relay-all-night-long camp. ;) DH doesn't believe that things are impossible, so he's free to invent.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Sun Mar 05, 2017 11:02 am

My best friend's uncle, when he was young, built a log cabin. He used his jeep and winch with pulleys for raising logs. Why use the tripods, and for that matter, how did you raise them?

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sun Mar 05, 2017 5:16 pm

@Riggerjack, we didn't have a winch*. Also, the tripods and come-alongs allowed a very slow, controlled descent for each side of the 40-foot long logs. We had to level them, so elevating the ends simultaneously was useful. We erected the tripods by lashing two logs together and tipping them up, then bringing in the third and lashing it in from atop a ladder.

This was a minor matter of leverage. Wait until we built our two-story log shop and raised the 48-foot-long center 8x10 beam! Oh, and then there's the 60-foot tower I've been teasing for awhile. 8-)

*(1)Too cheap to buy the good one we wanted and too snobby to buy a cheap one; (2)Didn't want the huge battery drain of a 12-volt electric one, so considered a hydraulic one for the tractor; (3)Would need to install another hydraulic pump on the tractor to pull the winch; (4)Did nothing. Dithering is a great way to save money.

Also: DH says I'm going into mind-numbing detail on this journal, so it's good to know that someone is still awake. :D

Also also: I really liked your post in @brute's journal about finding meaning in life. Very similar to us, minus boot camp.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Mar 06, 2017 12:01 pm

Yeah, while experiencing dirt, sweat, and pain, it's hard to imagine looking back fondly. But most of my best memories feature at least one of those.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:49 pm

Riggerjack wrote:Yeah, while experiencing dirt, sweat, and pain, it's hard to imagine looking back fondly. But most of my best memories feature at least one of those.
So very true. Memories derive from intense experiences, and I don't mean playing Grand Theft Auto or sitting on the porch. DH and I talk about certain things to this day; some of them aren't "good" memories, but they evoke a time and place that can't be recreated. A few random and trivial examples:

1. One of our worst breakfasts ever was in a small E WA cafe. I ordered a veggie omelet, and shortly afterward the waitress came back and asked if I wanted veggies with it. :( When the omelet arrived, the eggs were horribly undercooked. I brought this to the waitress' attention, and she snatched the plate with profuse apologies. She returned a few minutes later with the same omelet, which had been microwaved to death along with the hash browns, toast and ketchup. :lol: We still laugh about that and remember it more vividly than all the good meals.

2. Driving a forest road that no one (including the Forest Service) told us had been closed on the far end. The road became progressively worse, but the deterioration was gradual enough that we pressed forward for hours instead of turning back. When we inched across a treacherous washout and were literally 100 YARDS from the intersection with a through road, we encountered a combat-level tank trap. No way we could go back over that washout. We spent over an hour digging dirt and rocks to fill the trap in enough to traverse. Don't tell the Forest Service.

3. Pretty much every 'dirt, sweat and pain' project we've ever done. Some were brutally difficult, some were scary and all were memorable. These are the building blocks of our satisfaction with life.

*Edit: I recognize that #1 is very trivial, and I'm not suggesting that eating a horrible meal is necessary to life satisfaction. :roll: It's just an example of something that isn't fun at the time but becomes a colorful memory.

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Go, go, halfmoon!

Post by Lucas » Tue Mar 07, 2017 7:49 pm

Like I wrote elsewhere, my presence in this forum is sporadic, and my visits short, so I lack the context of the journal and have not much knowledge of your trajectory up to this point; nevertheless, I really liked to read about the house you are building.
halfmoon wrote:We’d chosen a large, gently sloped shelf on the mountainside with a view of another mountain across the narrow valley.
That, by the way, sounds amazing—which brings me to once again praising your writing: reading the above gave me a warm feeling; it was rather pleasant.

And, of course, the place looks fantastic; I believe the two of you will build a lovely home, God willing—oh, and as an aside, I enjoyed how your connection as a couple shines through the text and enriches it—the fact that you form a "we."

I am cheering for your happiness.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Tue Mar 07, 2017 11:19 pm

@Pagliaccio, thank you so much for writing this. It's remarkable that you can step outside of the challenges you face and give encouragement to others. Also: the comment about our connection as a couple really touched me, because it's the bedrock of our life and the fuel for everything we've done.

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by 1Vikinggirl » Sun Mar 12, 2017 2:51 pm

Truly inspiring (and for reminding me what the real survival deal is about). Hat off to you, halfmoon.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:30 pm

Thank you, 1Vikinggirl! I found the link to your blog and enjoyed it hugely. I particularly loved this part about coming home after a trip:

- Remember whose toothbrush is whose so that you don't have to share toothbrush the first night at home (because you threw the old ones before returning home and) because both claim the good tooth brush was theirs. Salomon's decision to share did not change the claim of either.

:lol:

This shows me just how trusting DH is, because he always asks which toothbrush is his (the green one) and which is mine (any other color).

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:25 pm

So...work and a new dog intervened. Maybe some obsession with political drama. Okay; there was also a laziness factor. :D These old stories require looking through print photos, then scanning and uploading the least blurry ones, then matching them with my blurry memories.

Enough excuses. Story update will happen tonight with 75% probability. ;)

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