Saturday, December 11, 2010


Our winter weather is finally coming on! About time, too. I'm tired of listening to old-timers at church explain about how the snow used to be a foot or more deep on Thanksgiving Day, "way back when." We have had a dusting of snow, but it's been cold several days in a row. We're starting to see things like the stream freezing up. It's gratifying to see, I must say. I'm tired of the lack-luster chill-but-not-cold of a played out autumn. As you can see, the freezing process is very beautiful, and it paints a lovely picture for those who pause to look at it.

The holes have been dug for my cabin, as I mentioned before, but I'm actually doing a bit of thinking before putting the corner poles into place. Wood (especially green wood) that's put into the ground just as it is will probably become food for either critters or bugs. Rot can set in, too. I have a variety of options, but haven't decided which one to use yet.

First, I could tar the ends of the poles where they'll go into the ground. that's what they do with telephone poles and it works relatively well. Nothing wants to eat it, and it'll probably repel rodents as well. This would also keep rot from setting in. However, it's also not so great for the soil and the environment. I'm questioning it.

Second, I could create foundation piers, similar to those pictured to the left (click image to enlarge). I could go the cheap route and put the sill onto flat rocks. I could make cement piers using a cardboard form extending out of the hole in the ground. I also could do a combination, of the wooden pole and the stone base pier, by putting my wood pole into the hole and then backfilling it with good quality gravel and fill. The sill would then go on top of the pole, or possibly be saddle bolted in place.

There are so many ideas involved in this whole process. I'm doing a lot of reading, because I am not interested in re-creating the wheel. However, I'm also not throwing out any ideas just because I can't find them online or in a book. My place is going to be so tiny that techniques that would be useless on a larger building might be quite practical for mine.

It's interesting. It's fun. I'm finding myself very involved in thinking it through and making plans. I'm actually contemplating making a little mock-up of the cabin using either small sticks or Popsicle sticks. This would give me an idea of what it would look like, and at the same time if I use a properly scaled size, will provide me with a good feel for the angles and spaces involved.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Build a Log Cabin for $100

Build a Log Cabin for $100

I think this article is a few years old, but it's still worth reading if you have any interest in log cabin building. They have some great suggestions. I especially like the idea for the stone pillars, and am considering what that would do for my own little building.

What I find interesting is that they don't mention letting their logs age. Apparently they cut them and put them up fairly quickly, without the dry time. This is what I will be doing. The pro is that it goes up much faster, and you aren't left waiting two years for the lumber to dry. The con is that the logs shrink (and can crack) as they dry, and if they're already on your walls, you may end up with holes that admit drafts (or critters), or even with a badly split log wall.

Since my own shelter is meant more to be a temporary shack which will allow me to learn better building techniques, I'm not too worried about it. My guess is that within two years I'll be in another place, and this isn't a primary dwelling place anyhow. On the other hand, one can always chink again.

Cabin Building

A few days ago, we staked out the ground guides for my new cabin. It's just going to be a tiny little thing, a mere 8' x 8' long. This is the view of the front of it, or what will be the front of it. The posts are gone as of yesterday, and instead there are four 9" holes in the ground. Into those holes will go poles, and then the building will begin in earnest!

I'm really excited to be doing this. I'm looking forward to having private space away from the family. I'm looking forward to having a place that I can go with the kids to have a fun night out. I'm enjoying the idea of going up to do reading and writing. Maybe I'll find myself an old manual typewriter and haul it up there. After all, I learned on a Manual Remmington!

As I'm cleaning up the space in preparation for the building, I'm finding a lot of dryish wood. I have been cutting it up using a bow saw I found in the garage, because my axe is both completely dull and too large for the job. I'm also nick-named "Lightning" around here, because I never strike twice in the same place... In any case, as the pieces are cut to length, I am stacking them on a pallet right next to where my door will eventually be. The interior space will be too tiny to hold more than a few pieces of wood, so I figured a nearby pile would be great. If I put a tarp over it, the wood will be both convenient and dry. Maybe I can devise a "roof" for it of some kind, so I don't have to fumble my way beyond a plastic barrier.

Here you can see my wood cutting set-up. The stump there has been sitting for many years, and has a jagged back edge which lets me keep logs from rolling around. All I do is wedge it up there and put my foot on the log to keep it steady, and saw away. It's not the greatest way to do it, but it does work well enough. I've gotten most of the first level of the pallet cut, completely on my own (which is a bit of a feat considering how out of shape I am, how large and heavy the trees are, and the fact that I've only put in about six hours total). It might not be much, but the area around my "house to be" is much cleaner than it was, and now has the start of a wood pile that will feed my stove in winter to keep me warm and happy.

Here I am, your noble author, in my winter work-out gear. My jeans are too big since I lost 15 pounds, but that's okay because I have on knee high socks, extra shorter socks, long johns, and a tucked in thermal shirt under those jeans. It keeps them from falling down... mostly. In this pic I've ditched my winter jacket. I need the warmth of it for travelling up and down the hill, but once I'm there and working it takes only a few minutes to take it off. I try to leave the hat on unless I'm really sweating, because I know that's where I lose most of my heat. I stay hydrated by making sure my canteen has nice clean water in it, and if I run out the river is just behind me.

It is my hope that the end result will be somewhat like this log cabin. I won't have the two slope roof, though, just a single slope from the back to the front (and the door will be on the side). We'll see... we'll see... Wish me luck!