Sunday, January 14, 2007

With a new saw in hand it is back to the lumberyard...

We headed back to the "lumber yard" on Saturday. With a new chainsaw in hand (more on that later) we decided to start working our way around the house taking out the dead and dying pine trees. They ranged in size from about 12 inches in diameter to 20+ inches. It has been about a year since I took a tree down and now there are a lot more tagets to hit when a tree goes the wrong, way with the house complete and two tractors and a solar kiln.

The final tree of the day was about 90 ft tall and after counting the rings we found out it was about 90 years old. Stephanie and the boys spent the time on covered porch and just before the tree went down the boys ran to the basement.

Taking down this tree was pretty technical (for me that is). The solar kiln and 1941 Farmall were directly behind the tree and the house was about 40 ft to the right. We had a 15 ft wide path for the tree to fall down to keep it from getting hung up into any trees. If the initial notch in the tree is too large (about 1/2 into the tree instead of 1/3 of the way) the tree can fall backwards. Don't how I know this. Having the tree turn on its stump and go to the right or left is a lot harder to do so the house was pretty safe, but this has also hapened to me before. Finally, the entire base of the tree was surounded by slabs from the saw mill so we needed to cut a lot of that up to create a good escape route.

Well to make a long story short ... the tree fell exactly as planned. Woo hoo. I guess practice makes perfect.

Stephanie was pretty happy that all the trees came down safely and that she would have me around for another day. Before I cut these big trees down I always think about how this is the one thing that I do around here that has the best chance of killing me.

After limbing the big tree we called it a day. Joshua and Jacob proceeded to make play forts and a castle in the tops of the trees and spent a good portion that afternoon and today climbing on the logs.

About half of the logs made it down to the sawmill thanks to the new Jinma tractor with bucket mounted forks. I used to be so proud of the log draging abilities of the 20 hp Farmall but now with the forks on the 45 hp tractor a lot more can be done. I am still getting used to being able to move log after log by picking them up (1-4 at a time) and carying them to the mill and stacking them. Sorry Farmall.

Jacob also spent part of the day making water bombs with ziplock bags. He had a blast tossing them off the porch as we tried to convince him to not trow them after our new dog Gustav.

Okay, now to the new chainsaw. I have purchased my previous saws off of ebay and have had to do a lot of work to keep them going. The first was a Stihl 046 which I used for our old chainsaw mill. It is a beast and is overkill for the size trees around here. I also picked up an older 029 for small work. Both saws are currently on the fritz. Over the holidays I ordered a Husqvarna 353 from Baileys. The power to weight ratio on the saw is great. With a sharp chain it is all I need for most of the trees aound here. It feels like it is about half the weight of the 046 and will make a great saw for around the saw mill and to take into the woods. One of the future projects I would like to do is to make a tool rack for the back of the tractor for holding a cant hook, shovel and chainsaw, but that will have to wait for another day.

Well, now with all these logs and some milling to do I need to decide what to do with the lumber before I get going on the sawmill.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Our new security system.......

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Anyone going to the 20th Annual Arts and Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn in Feb?

I just got word that there will be a small group discussion regarding house blogs at the 20th Annual Arts and Crafts Conference at the GPI in Asheville NC Feb 15-18. A while back I emailed Bruce Johnson, the head of the conference, and asked him about house blogs at the conference and he asked if I wanted to lead a small group discussion on the topic. It should be fun.

The items to be covered will be 1) selected house blogs at, 2) background on the houseblog movement, 3) how to start your own houseblog.

If you are planning on going to the conference and would like to join in the discussion, blog at the conference, help lead the discussion or meet up leave me a comment with some contact info.

See you at the Grove Park Inn.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Copper Rain Chain

When we were first planning and building our house the two guys that we got our land from were anti gutters. Dave, the more eco friendly of the two, felt that the way gutters direct water from the roof to a single point would lead to water accumulation and erosion.

After a few rain showers we realized that we would need a gutter on the porch side of the house. With a good rain and a breeze the first few feet of the porch gets a good mist. This is a problem when you want to sit out and enjoy the rain on the tin roof.

To keep with the design of the house using galvanized metal surfaces on the exterior (galvalum roof, galvanied RLM light fixtures and conduit) we used a custom fabricated 6" galvalum half-round gutter with aluminum rafter end gutter hangers.

Instead of the traditional down spout we went wwith a copper rain chain. It is not actually a chain but a series of 4 inch cups that filter the water down to a catchment basin that is piped into the woods. The basin was filled with fist and larger sized rocks that we collected from the "lawn" (aka muddy grass area around the house). Now that the copper has a good patina started it is great to watch. The pictures herewithin do not do it justice. Even after a rain the water continues to cascade down the chain as the roof and gutter drains of its last rain shower.

While the rain chain cost was 50% of the overall gutter system cost I would highly recommend it to others. We got ours gutters and chain from a local firm that fabricates architectural metal work.

P.S. Joshua and Jacob love to climb around the outside of the porch as we spend lazy "winter" mornings eating breakfast outside. We still have to move the last of the tools and wood off the porch and get the extra wood-burning stove hooked up out here along with our vintage Chicago porch swing and we will be in good shape.

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