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DayCreek Journal

September 2, 2001

In Search of the Lost Cord (Or Two)
This title is a bit obscure, but for anyone who is a fan of the Moody Blues, you'll get this pun. Anyway... The fifteenth wall was completed this week. Only one more wall and I'll be a quarter of the way done or if you want to look at it from an optimists point of view, half way done with the exterior of the house.

With this accomplishment almost in hand, it has become apparent that I will not have enough wood to complete all 64 walls. I'm about two full cords short, the way things look. The reason for this is twofold. (1) When I bought the 32 face cords (debarked and cut to 16"), the wood had been stacked and dried outdoors. Some of the pieces were in contact with the ground, but we loaded them up on the truck regardless of how they looked. Once I started cutting the 16" pieces down to 8", I started finding a few "punky" pieces. These were the pieces that had been in contact with the ground. Although this accounts for only about three to five percent of the wood supply, it still has an impact on the supply. (2) Using Rob Roy's book, I had originally estimated how much wood I needed. I knew that 32 face cords of wood, would be cutting it close, but Ed McAllen had this wood to sell because his estimates from Rob Roy's book gave him a large surplus. With the number of windows and doors, I figured we might be okay.

Now that we're a quarter of the way done with the house, I can tell that we will run short. There's plenty of wood to do three quarters of the house, but after that, our wood supply looks to be inadequate.

This pile of wood may not look like much, but there's gold in them piles. It takes a bit of searching, but there are whole logs, round shaved logs, hexagon shaped logs and plenty of thick slabs that can be used to build a cordwood house. The beauty of it all is that it is scrap wood that would otherwise be burned after the season's first snow.

Our land has a quite substantial tree stand, but about ninety percent of the wood available is hardwood. Great for heating the house, but not so great for building a cordwood house. This led me to research where I could find a supply of soft woods. Our location in southeast Minnesota finds us within 40 miles of pine forests, so I set my sites north of us.

Through a friend of a friend's cousin, I was able to locate a source of scrap pine that could be had for "free". I put the word "free" in quotes, because there's that labor factor to think about. The wood is mostly slabs with a few rounds and can weigh up to 75 pounds or more. The wood needs to be cut, split, stacked and dried, so there is the inherent cost of labor.

The wood is scrap material from a log home company. Their mill has about 2 acres of scrap material and if you look hard enough, there's plenty of pieces that can be used in a cordwood wall. Some pieces are round, some hexagon in shape while others are thick slabs from the sides of trees. The slabs still have bark on them, but the bark peels off quite easily.

I want to start stock piling this wood ASAP. I figure that one year from now I should be starting the interior walls of the house and I want to start incorporating this new wood with the old when that time comes. This will keep the look of the walls consistent.

The fifteenth wall was completed this week. This wall is the last of the kitchen walls to be completed and has a small window that will be directly above the kitchen sink area. (This way Jo can keep an eye on me while I'm working out in the field somewhere.) It's one of the few walls to have a window on the north side of the house. It provides a bit of added light into the kitchen, but I purposely kept the window small to prevent too much heat loss.

My goal is to get a pickup truck load of the wood once a week until November. The log home company that has this scrap pile burns all of the wood after the season's first snow, so I must act quickly to procure as much of this as I can. The wood is white pine and will blend nicely with the red pine and cedar that I have been using up to this point.

This will slow down progress on the next walls a bit, but that's okay too. The weather has already started cooling down and it won't be too long before wood cutting will replace cordwood wall mortaring. Depending upon the weather, I hope to work up until November.

Now that it's been a number of weeks with walls going up consistently, I spent Friday installing two more windows. These windows are two out of the three windows that are located in our living room area and the effect of putting in those windows was immediate. What a beautiful view we will have out of these windows of the Root River valley. They will also bring in ample winter sunshine too. I can already picture myself in a rocking chair in front of the fire looking out at the valley below. I can't wait until that day!

Up to the Second Floor
There's only one wall left to do on the first floor. This is the front entrance to the house and this winter I plan to design a door for this last side. Besides the fact I haven't designed the door yet, this nice big opening makes it easy to bring supplies in and out of the house with the Bobcat. Since I have delayed mortaring this wall, there's no choice but to go up.

Before I start mortaring on the second floor, I needed to move my "assembly line". This was accomplished by using the Bobcat to level a small area in back of the house near the bridge. This will serve as the mixing and slurry area for the mortar. The mixer, slurrying barrels and sand were moved into place with the Bobcat. As usual, the Bobcat has made my life much simpler.

The bridge in back of the house and the walk-around deck will also serve nicely as scaffolding and will make the task of building cordwood walls on the second floor a lot less painless. Wheelbarrows will be used to haul mortar to the wall segment and also used to haul the cut cordwood blocks. By next Wednesday I should be starting the first wall on the second floor.

Their paws are a bit too short to reach the pedals yet, but pretty soon they'll be mowing.