Category Archives: The Story

Describes the foundation and beginnings of Stout Grove.

Planing Maple Baseboard

As always, things have been pretty busy over here at Stout Grove. Besides being 37 weeks pregnant right now and trying to finish up as much of our house as we can before the wee one is born, my husband and I have committed to milling up, drying, planing, joining, ripping, sanding and routing all of the baseboard and door and window trim for the new house. Its been incredibly time intensive, but will be worth it in the long run seeing all that beautiful maple in the house – maple that we had to cut down to build the house, which makes it even more cool!

Check out this video of us planing down 1 of the baseboards!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgsTrW98m84

 

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Growing Things on the Farm

My, oh my, has it been a while. I swear it is for good reason. For the last 19 weeks I have been growing a human. Within the first few weeks exhaustion hit and all motivation went out the window. What little energy I had went to working my regular 45+ hours a week and the rest  to any little help I could be at the property with barn building, house building preparations, chicken and bee tending, garden growing, and entertaining any people that stopped through town to visit this amazing region we call home. I had also just started the adventure of making soap in hopes to create a new business venture. My ultimate goal was to get enough made for Christmas season. Unfortunately, the last batch I made, and Almond Poppy Seed soap, which everyone tells me smells amazing, makes me want to gag even thinking about it. Not the best way to run a business. Luckily the energy is slowly coming back and the nose, while still in supersonic working condition, isn’t quite as repelled by a lot of smells (although as I write this I keep getting whiffs of some perfumey scent from down the hall that is making my nose burn and stomach churn slightly).

First batches of soap.

First batches of soap.

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But enough with the complaining! There has been a lot of things happening at Stout Grove since July. The biggest, and most recent development (besides getting pregnant) is that we finally have started to build our house! Hopefully by the end of the winter we will no longer have to call Stout Grove “The Property” but instead can call it “Home”. With the exception of the looming mortgage in our future, this has been such a huge relief to have it finally under way. It is amazing how quickly a small crew of experienced people can build walls and get a structure built!

We have a house!!

We have a house!!

We have lost our queen bee, which is not to say a bad thing necessarily. We had been debating if it would be best to get rid of her and buy a new queen bee since she was not doing a very good job making the rest of the hive work hard and get enough food stores for the winter. There are 2 main schools of thought on this matter: One of, pinch her head off and get rid of her! The other being that the bees know what is best for them. If the queen isn’t performing they will eventually realize and get rid of her themselves and “grow” a new queen. Out of lack of knowing which was the best route, and sheer forgetfulness, the bees took care of the situation for us. What exactly happened is still a mystery to us however. It sort of appears that the old queen died and then the worker bees built an Emergency Queen Cell to quickly replace her (More information about this in a later post – I don’t want to get too rambly right now).

New Queen Bee cell.

New Queen Bee cell.

The vegetable garden has slowly dwindled down, although we still have some carrots and potatoes in the ground waiting to be picked. Since this is the first year the garden has been in this location and the soil has not been amended at all, and since we don’t currently live there and are busy as heck, we started this season knowing that the garden probably wouldn’t perform optimally. In some aspects we were wrong, but it others, we were dead on. After a heavy rain storm in mid-July all of our tomatoes got what appeared to be late blight. Within 3 days they were deader than dead, all the fruit rotting off the vine and pretty much unsalvageable. From everyone else that we talked to in the area, this was a common occurrence. Our beans also got bean beetles, a creature I never knew existed until they were covering our plants with their unique pointy larva. The corn we planted never got very tall. When we finally checked some of the ears to see how they were doing on their miniature stalks, we noticed that the kernels were way too large to be tasty. Apparently all the energy that wasn’t going into stalk growth was going into ear growth and we never realized it until it was too late. Yet another lesson learned. On a positive note, our okra went wild. I had never grown okra before and had no idea that their production and growth was so high. There is a lot of frozen okra in our freezer for the winter. Our potatoes did pretty well too. We definitely don’t have enough for the whole winter but for the next few months we will be enjoying good, homegrown taters with our meals. The squash also went crazy. I don’t know how many spaghetti squash we have. More than enough, that is for sure. The pumpkins didn’t produce a ton, but we will have enough for a good number of tasty desserts, that is for sure. Overall we are pretty pleased with the garden this year. We wish that we could have devoted a little more time to it and not ignored it as much as we did, but there is next year. It will be hard to ignore when it is steps from our front door.

Bountiful harvest!

Bountiful harvest!

Another exciting thing to happen over the last few months is that our chicks are now chickens and laying eggs. The months of feeding them with no return on investment is done. Now we are swimming in eggs and giving them to anyone who wants them. Out of the original 17 chicks we got, 1 died in the first week, we gave 4 to a friend, 1 ended up being a rooster, and the other day another unexpectedly passed away. So all in all, there are 10 laying hens producing eggs of all different sizes, shapes and colors. We will no longer have to buy eggs from the store and are one step closer to self-sufficiency.

Different size chickens lay different size eggs; its a fact!

Different size chickens lay different size eggs; its a fact!

Double yolk!

Double yolk!

So for now, the garden has slowed down, the bees are hunkering down for the winter and the chickens are laying eggs like crazy. Winter has finally made an appearance this last week with a fresh cover of snow and daylight savings time has turned our day-lit work days a little shorter. Life is good. I can’t really say that it has slowed down to a standstill, but there is definitely more time spent relaxing on the couch at night when it is too dark and cold to be working outside, and I am not complaining about that. However, the addition of electricity and a wood burning stove to the barn has been a tremendous help in getting last minute projects done when we can. In the meantime, I will let my husband pick up my slack while I keep busy growing a child and helping here and there where I can. . . . and I promise to not be such a stranger again.

 

Turning Logs into Lumber – Part II

So, after my last post about stacking saw milled lumber, you should all be experts in the first steps of getting ready to crank up that sawmill and get to work! When my husband and I realized that we would need to cut down a dozen trees where we planned to build our house, a friend mentioned having someone with a sawmill come in and cut them up into lumber for future building endeavors. As this idea started to morph and become its own beast, we suddenly became the proud new owners of a Wood Mizer LT15 sawmill. Why pay someone to do your dirty work when you can slave and sweat over it all summer long yourself? 😉 And so the story began where every spare moment was spent cutting down trees, cleaning up their tops, having huge bonfires, stacking loads of firewood and cutting lumber out of the wide bottom trunks.

The sawmill we own is a hand cranked and manually adjusted model where the log lies stationary on the mill and the human pushes along the gasoline powered ban saw blade, taking off slices of wood one by one, picking them up and moving them to the side. While not extremely hard, it was a loud and dirty process. I got more sawdust in my eyes that summer than I ever hope to get in there for the rest of my life combined. When we first started we also ran into the problem of how to get a round log into a bunch of rectangular pieces with the least amount of waste. On top of that, with a motor running and earmuffs protecting our hearing, it was pretty difficult to discuss with each other the best plan of attack for each log. Eventually we figured out a good system, and learned a new silent language we devised, composed of pointed, head nods and facial expressions.  We were on a roll.

Ready to go. Make sure your mill is on a level surface.

Ready to go. Make sure your mill is on a level surface.

The first thing you need is a plan for what dimension lumber you want cut. Without that already in your brain it makes it the whole process much more difficult. Coming into the process all willy-nilly just doesn’t cut it. Since we were building a barn with all of our wood, we needed wood in all shapes, sizes and lengths. Hmmm, lengths: that brings up another point I forgot to mention before. When you cut the length of your log, it is best to make it at least a foot longer than the lumber you need. For example, if you need 8’ long boards, you should cut your log to at least 9’ in length. This is in case the ends of the boards split while drying. Painting the ends of the logs before milling will also help keep the boards from splitting since rapid moisture loss (the main culprit in board splitting) is stopped with the paint barrier at the end.

Get the most out of your log.

Get the most out of your log.

The single most important tool you will need is a “cant hook”. A cant is the term for your log once the rounded edges are cut off and it is more square in shape. A cant hook is a simple tool with a hinged hook on one end that digs into the log while you use mechanical leverage to help roll the log. It’s pretty amazing and makes you feel super strong when you are able to move a humongous log by yourself.

A simple Cant hook

A simple Cant hook

So right now, you have your drying racks set up, know what dimension lumber you want, have cut the length of your log longer than necessary and have both ends painted, and you have your handy cant hook in hand. You are ready. Using your cant hook and some ramps (or the forks of a tractor if you are that lucky) get your log up and onto the sawmill! Ideally you want to have the narrower end of the log at the beginning of sawmill track; this allows you to have an idea of just how much the logs needs to get whittled down when you start the blade up.

Always wear your ear protection!

Always wear your ear protection!

This is how we went about making our round log into rectangular pieces with the least amount of waste:

The first cut you make should be shallow. Since the log is tapered and wider at the end of the log, starting with a ½” cut could still result in a 4” thick slab at the end, which can be pretty heavy and awkward to move.

Start making your cuts.

Start making your cuts.

After you make the first cut, you need to think: Do you need to make a second cut on this same side again? Remember that ideally you will end up with a square(ish) log with little bark remaining on it. Most likely you will need a second cut. Cut thickness can go in any increment that you want. If you are interested in cutting a bunch of 2” thick boards, then maybe your next cut should be 2” thick. It will take a lot off of your log, but the scrap could be set aside and trimmed into a board in the end.

A second cut to get enough bark off may be a good idea.

A second cut to get enough bark off may be a good idea.

Once you are satisfied with your top cut(s), get out your trusty cant hook and roll the log 90° so that you can trim off another side. Just like before, take a thin slice at first and then decide how much to take on a second cut. Continue this all the way around the log. When you get to the last side, remember what dimension lumber you want in the end.

You got to love leverage!

You got to love leverage!

Make that last cut to get your square cant.

Make that last cut to get your square cant.

Most likely there will be one or two sides of the log which will have more bark on it than the other sides. What size do you want your cant to be before you start taking slices off of it for your boards? Are you cutting 2”X6” boards? Then you should aim for a cant that is 12” in at least 1 of its dimensions since that will allow you to get 2- 6” boards. Are you looking for 1”X5” boards? Aim to have 1 side of your cant 10” so you can get 2- 5” boards out of each slice. Sometimes it is not that easy and you may have to mix and match your dimensions you end up with. Maybe a few 2”X6” boards and some 2”X4” boards if your log is only big enough for a 10” cant and not 12”. Remember to save any worthy trim pieces that could get trimmed into lumber at the end.

Make any last cuts to get your cant the right dimension and get rid of any last bark you don't want. Remember to save these trim pieces for the end!

Make any last cuts to get your cant the right dimension and get rid of any last bark you don’t want. Remember to save these trim pieces for the end!

Perfect 12"X12" cant.

Perfect 12″X12″ cant.

Once you have your cant to the right size, you will want to start double flipping your log after each cut. Since the tree you are cutting has been growing for decades under all sorts of conditions, it is likely that there will be a lot of tension in the heart of the tree. You will be able to notice this tension being released (much more in some logs than others) when you take your slices off and the board bows up. By flipping the log twice after each cut, you are alternating cutting from the top and bottom of the cant, releasing the tension in the log equally from both sides and hopefully cutting down on how much bow you have in your boards. As you cut your slices off each side, set them aside if they need to be cut in half again.

Taking a slice off 1 by 1.

Taking slices off 1 by 1.

Congratulations. You now have a stack of lumber! Do you still need to trim them up a little more to get your desired dimensions? Maybe you wanted a stack of 2”X6” boards but you currently only have 2”X12” boards. Don’t turn that sawmill off quite yet! Bring a few of the 2”X12” boards back over to the sawmill and lay them on their 2” sides stacked next to each other. Clamp them in place and set the sawmill blade at 6”. Now you have a bunch of 2”X6” boards. Remember all of the trim pieces that I told you to save? You can do the same thing with them too. Lay them on their sides and trim off the remaining bark to get usable lumber. Viola!

Lay the slices on their side and cut to the desired width.

Lay the slices on their side and cut to the desired width.

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Lastly comes my least favorite part: stacking the wood on those beautiful drying racks you already made and covering them with sheet metal and a weight to help them dry straight (I don’t know why but I really dislike stacking the wood. I think it is because when the sawmill gets turned off I think I am done for the day, only to realize there is still more work waiting). Wait a few months for them to dry. You can buy a moisture meter for pretty cheap to see how much water content is still in your boards. 10% is pretty darn good for air dried lumber. Now get to building something!

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*Another thing that we ended up doing was buy an hour meter for our mill. This helps keep track of how long your machine is running which is good for maintenance and resale purposes.

Turning Logs into Lumber – Part I

In past posts I have alluded to a sawmill that my husband and I bought last spring; one which took over our summer last year and resulted in us building a barn in the fall. With the exception of a few small sessions using it to trim up some boards, the sawmill hasn’t really been fired up since this winter when we cut wood for our chicken coop (remember when I wrote a post about how cold days and sawmills don’t work? Funny enough, a week after that post we cut most of the wood for our chicken coop….in the snow). The newest task which my husband and I have taken on is committing to cut all of the window and door trim as well as the baseboard for our house that we should be breaking ground on at the end of this month. Unfortunately, the sawmilling isn’t really the ambitious part of the project. All in all it took us 2 days to cut the 1,500+ linear feet of wood we need. What worries us is that in a few months, once this wood is dry, we need to send it through a planer, joiner and router to make them house-worthy trim. And to make matters even worse, we just realized yesterday that while we are plaining, joining and routering all of this wood, we will most likely be doing it in our barn….and if all goes well, by then we will have sold the house we currently live in and we will be living in the barn. See where I am going with this? Look for future posts discussing the trials and tribulations of that!

Wood, wood and some more wood.

Wood, wood and some more wood.

But really, how does one take a big ol’ log and turn it into usable lumber? The process is not really that difficult. It took us a little bit of time to figure it all out, become efficient and waste the least amount of wood as scraps, but after cutting enough wood for a barn we have gotten pretty good at it. It also took a few attempts to figure out the best method for stacking all the cut lumber; trial and error and re-stacking lots and lots of wood. And while we may not have been rock climbing as much all summer while we were stuck working, we still managed to stay in shape and “farm strong” from lifting so many boards.

Stacking Lumber

We had read many places the proper way to stack lumber: Make a level surface above the ground, place 1 layer of pieces of lumber on the surface with approximately 1” spaces in between the boards, place 1”x1” pieces of wood (AKA Sticker) on top of that layer perpendicular to the lumber to keep airflow, add another layer of lumber, repeat.  We created the stacks by using 6 cinder blocks (1 at each corner, and 2 at the center edges) and laying 2”x6” boards on their side (they are stronger that way) width wise on top of them. Make sure that the 2”x6”s are level, and that they are all the same elevation – these are what the lumber will lay on for the remainder of the time drying. See the illustration below.

Stacking Wood Diagram

What wasn’t specified strongly enough in everything that we read, some of which caused us great difficulties later, were a few things:

1)      Make sure your initial level surface above the ground is a few feet above ground to increase the amount of airflow moving through the pile of lumber from the bottom.

2)      Keep all lengths of lumber on the same stack. Since you will only have 3-4 bottom supports (i.e. the 2”X6” on the cinder blocks), it makes it difficult to put lumber that is shorter or longer than the stack on the pile. If you do, the end(s) of the lumber won’t be supported and will end up drying crooked.

 

Stacked maple. Note the stickers between each layer and evenly spaced.

Stacked maple. Note the stickers between each layer and evenly spaced.


3)      Keep all the same width boards on one stack, or if you really need to mix and match on a single stack of wood (e.g. having both 2”x4” and 2”x6” pieces), stack the same size wood vertically on top of each other. This will keep airflow moving vertically through your pile of wood. Ideally, you want to be able to see down to the ground between each piece of wood you stack. This is major thing that we did not do right and ended up forcing us to re-stack almost all of our wood after we noticed some had some black staining on it because it was not drying quickly enough.

4)      On the same note, keep boards of all the same thickness within the same stack row. The 1”x1” stickers used in between each row of stacked lumber not only help keep horizontal airflow, but they also keep weight from the rows above them on the stacked lumber to help them dry straight.  For example, you don’t want to have 1” thick boards stacked in the same row as 2” thick boards. The stickers will not be able to put any weight on the 1” thick boards and they will most likely warp when they are drying.

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Vertical and horizontal air movement is necessary for quick drying.

Vertical and horizontal air movement is necessary for quick drying.

5)      Have a heavy duty tarp, or better yet, sheet metal on hand to cover the wood. Rain on drying wood will not do it any good! Make sure that you have sufficient overhang on all 4 sides of your lumber stack and keep weight on top of it all to 1) keep the metal on the stack, and 2) to keep the boards from warping while they dry.

6)      Also, having your stacks of wood in a sunny, well ventilated place is good. Our stacks were under trees, but at the edge of the tree line so we still had a lot of good air flow to help dry them out quickly.

Always make sure to keep you wood covered too!

Always make sure to keep you wood covered too!

Once you have all of your drying areas set up it is time to start milling!! Stay tuned for the next post about the art of milling up your lumber.

Cluck cluck chicken

I have been excited to get chickens since before we bought the property. I grew up with chickens. I love chickens. There is nothing like knowing exactly where your food came from, and what it ate while growing up. Plus, they are low maintenance, good at eating table scraps and make really good, nitrogen rich fertilizer. Win-win all the way around. Right before we got the property we almost got some chickens to live in the tiny backyard of our current house. Once we dove into the realm of being land barons, however, we decided it was best to wait until we were living out there so we didn’t have to set up shop and then move it a few years later. So wait we did and now the time has finally come to build a chicken coop and get it filled with chickens! Once we were done building the barn last November, the saw mill was started up again and more trees from our future house site were turned into lumber (I promise someday I will get a post about milling lumber). All winter these boards have been slowly drying waiting for the day that they could be out to use. And that day is today! In the end, my husband and I decided on building a chicken coop/storage shed. It’s a 12’ X 8’ building with half dedicated to storage and half to our future clucking friends. You would think that being located 20 feet away from our barn, we wouldn’t need more storage, but if the wood is essentially free, then why not make it a little bigger? There are always things in need of storage!

Front door to the Chicken Palace.

Front door to the Chicken Palace.

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Looking into the chicken coop.

Looking into the chicken coop.

The chicken side of the coop is 6’X8’ with 2 windows, 4 nest boxes and a handful of perches for them. There is 48 ft2 of room for all of them and with 16 chickens they are a little under the recommended 4 ft2/chicken that most people say you need. The truth is, we never planned on having this many chickens. We had a gift certificate for an online order place so we used that, but the minimum number they would send was 15; so we ordered 15. A few days after they arrived one died, which is sad but inevitable. A few days later we realized that we somehow still had 16 chickens left in the box (it’s really hard to count those little buggers when they are running all over the place). So now we have more chickens that we anticipated, which is not necessarily a bad thing. While they may be a little cramped in the future when they get bigger, we may get rid of some before that’s the case; a few friends said they are interested in some, plus since they are still young we think that they are all females, but if 1 or more turns out to be a rooster, it will be the roasting pan for him.

Fluffy little chicks at 5 days old.

Fluffy little chicks at 5 days old.

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When we first got the chicks in early May they lived in a box in the spare bedroom of our house with a heat lamp to keep them warm. They quickly outgrew that box and we had to move them to the back hallway of the house into 2 boxes taped together and window screens on top to keep them in. We learned the screens were necessary after one flew out and spent the night under a shelf…our dog quickly helped us find her in the morning during a quick and frantic 30 seconds of scrambling, pouncing and scolding. After that we also added a piece of plywood in front of the doorway to keep the dog and cat out of the chicken-room.

Fern the dog really wants to be friends with all the chicks.

Fern the dog really wants to be friends with all the chicks.

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Awkward first steps on the new perch outside the nest boxes.

Awkward first steps on the new perch outside the nest boxes.

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When the chicks got a few weeks old and they started to look like awkward teenagers with some feathers growing in all over the place and chick fuzz still poking out here and there, we moved them to the chicken coop. With the exception of the 10 minute car ride and the initial complete confusion of this huge new place, they settled in pretty happily and quickly. No more chick box! After another week, we had finished fencing in the outside chicken run and decided it was time to let them out into the great outdoors. Word to the wise, even if your chick looks like it won’t fit through the 2” wide wire fencing, it very likely still can. With 4 of the Compound dogs sitting on the outside of the fence staring intently in at all the new chew toys they thought we had brought for them, 1 chick decided to stray from the chicken pack, suddenly getting scared of being away, it darted to the fence and popped out. Luckily the dogs were all too stunned to do anything too quick before we yelled, frantically opened the gate and chased the little bugger back in the pen. The next day we added some chicken wire along the bottom of the fence.

Trying to figure out the Great Outdoors.

Trying to figure out the Great Outdoors.

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First exploratory steps outside.

First exploratory steps outside.

Teenage chicks loving life outside.

Teenage chicks loving life outside.

In a few more months they will start laying eggs and we won’t know what to do with them all; hopefully by then the dogs will have calmed down about these new toys and we can let them free range a little more to help keep the bug populations down. Slowly but surely our little homestead is coming together. Next all we need is a house out here and we will be all set!

Queen Bee and Happy Hives   

It has been 1 week since our busy little bees got mailed to us and they seem to be quite happy in their new Mountain State home. In my last post I might have been a little too excited and over exaggerated saying there are 200,000 bees in our boxes. I didn’t mean to lead you all on, I was just so excited for out bees! I should have used a word more like “shmillion” which usually accompanies my over-exaggerations. Truth is, each of our hives started with about 10,000 bees when they were mailed to us (in the middle of each summer, when the bees are the busiest storing up pollen and honey for the winter months, the hives can have up to 80,000 bees in them). Can you blame me for being so excited though? I have wanted bees for a few years. In fact (I feel like such a little kid admitting this), my parents gave me some birthday cash last year and I have been saving it, sitting on my dresser, since last July waiting for the right time to buy some bees. I am pretty excited!

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Three days after we received our package of bees and set them in our hives, we went to double check that they queen bee got out of her special little box. When sets of bees get sent out to individuals starting a new hive, it’s not usually as simple as packing up a whole hive and calling it good. Bee suppliers split the hives they have into multiple packages and send those off giving them the biggest bang for their buck and allowing them to keep sets of bees themselves so they can continue to “harvest” them and make a business. But remember, a hive needs a queen, and you can’t split her. Instead they allow queen eggs to hatch and ship them off with one part of the split hive (a queen egg, or “cell”, is much larger than that of a drone or worker bee, making it easy to distinguish. Usually queen cells are picked off and not allowed to hatch since there can only be 1 queen per hive). Since this queen bee is different from the one the bees in the hive had before, she has to be kept separate until they get used to each other and can become a happy hive. It also helps ensure that she survives the stress of being shipped. When you get a package of bees, the queen (and usually a few helpers) is in a small, separate box with a small piece of sugar candy blocking her exit. This little box is placed inside the hive until she is set free by the bees (or the bee keeper in some instances). Over a few days’ time, while getting used to each other, this piece of candy is eaten away and then she is free!

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The Queen and her helper bees in their separate box.

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Taking the queen box out to check if she got out.

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Empty Queen box!!

When we went to make sure that the queen in each hive was released, we found in each hive an empty box with no queen. At this point some people take out each frame in the hive to double check that the queen is there. Inexperienced as we are, we felt it best to leave the bees alone and not stress them out while we would inevitably spend much too much time picking up each frame and poking around for the queen that our untrained eyes have yet to master finding. Instead we will go back in a few weeks to check on them and see if there is brood (baby bees) being laid. If there aren’t any, then we know the queen either did not survive or is a very weak queen. If this is the case we have to get a new queen ASAP, or risk the bees swarming (leaving their hive in search of a new home and queen).

Honey comb created over 3 days time around the area where the Queen box was.

Honey comb created over 3 days time around the area where the Queen box was.

Our first piece of honey comb, attached to the queen box.

Our first piece of honey comb!

But for now we will assume that the queens are in place and laying and expanding our hives while the busy worker bees keep building honey comb and collecting pollen.

Cold Days and Sawmills

I guess I should have clarified the title a little better: Cold Days and Sawmills Don’t Mix. Like most of the country, we have been experiencing some cold, cold weather this winter. That mixed with some snow and I am a happy camper. Since moving to West Virginia year round I have often been heard complaining about the mild winters. It’s cold and snowy for a day, but then it melts and makes everything soggy. You can’t rock climb, you can’t ski, you can’t sled and, while you can still work outside, it’s just not that much fun in the mud that’s left in the wake of melted snow. That is where my husband and I are stuck right now. We still have some siding we need to cut up for our chicken coop we are going to build this spring, but the weather has not really been cooperating with us (when we get the sawmill running for that I will take some detailed photos and post about the whole process). The last set of logs my husband cut up when he had Christmas Eve off ended with a blanket of snow covering everything. It makes for pretty pictures, but numb extremities to say the least (although our dog was pretty happy…..even if she doesn’t look like it in the picture).

Christmas Eve lumber cutting in the snow.

Christmas Eve lumber cutting in the snow.

But enough with talking about how snow and sawmills don’t mix! Let’s talk about the sawmill. Yep, that’s right, we own a sawmill. If you would have asked me 5 years ago for a list of things that I would own in the future, I am pretty sure sawmill was not even close to being on the radar. The idea came when, like I talked about in the last post, we were cutting down trees over here and some more over there and a whole bunch in-between. While we burned the tops of the trees for lack of better things to do with them, and stacked the medium size pieces for firewood for our future house that wasn’t even close to having the ground broke on it, we were quickly being over-run with stacks of large, 20’+ long logs that we didn’t know what else to do with. We had talked about how cool it would be to have someone come in and mill up the wood for us to build a barn with, but what’s the fun in having someone else do all that work for you? Now this is the part where about 97.4% of you say “That sounds like a lot of fun to have someone else do that for you.” But then again that 97.4% probably also wouldn’t think that buying a large piece of vacant land and building it from the ground up sounds like fun either J And to be honest, I have those days too where I think the same thing, but then I look around at everything we have done so far, and how amazing it will look when we keep checking more and more off of our to-do list, and then I realize that I am being silly.

One of the many logs we cut up for lumber.

One of the many logs we cut up for lumber.

When we realized that the money we would spend by having someone come in and cut up the lumber for us would cover a large portion of purchasing the sawmill ourselves, it seemed like a no-brainer. Then we would have the mill on hand to be able to cut wood anytime for any project. Of course if you factor in the hours upon hours of cutting we did over the 2013 summer, I guess you could say that it’s not really that good of a price. But satisfaction in doing hard work is its own reward.

In the end we decided on a Wood Mizer LT15. According to the Wood Mizer website, “The LT15 is an overachiever in its class and has produced more than 2.5 times its published board foot per hour in several industry competitive events. The LT15 is a powerhouse that will take on any size project, dream, or lumber demand.” SOLD!! How can you argue with a description like that? “A powerhouse that will take on any size project, dream, or lumber demand”?? Yes please! And so far it has held up to its end of the bargain. Over the course of 5 months (April – August 2013) my husband and I spent most of our free time milling up wood and stacking wood. To say that it was a learning process is almost an understatement. After eventually figuring out how we could get the most rectangular objects (our lumber) out of a circular object (the log), we made the mistake of cutting lumber that we assumed we would need without having an actual barn plan, only to find out later that we probably didn’t need quite all of those dimension pieces at those lengths. But, like they say, practice makes perfect, right? We also ended up having to re-arrange a few of the stacks of cut lumber more than once. While we knew to use 1” X 1” wood stickers lain perpendicular to the boards between each layer to promote horizontal air movement, we failed to realize the importance of keeping all vertical columns of wood the same width as well. By not stacking 1” X 6” boards on top of 1” X 6” boards, for example, we initially prevented vertical air movement between all the wood. A number of them got a nasty black layer of mold on them which doesn’t harm their structural integrity, but looks pretty bad. It also didn’t help that the summer of 2013 was a very rainy summer increasing the amount of moisture that was unable to escape from our slowly drying lumber. But we learned; and in the process we sort of stopped rock climbing, and biking, and going for hikes, and playing disk golf, and you get the picture. All spare time was spent cutting wood. Get up, go to work, get off work, drive home, change and gather supplies (i.e. beer), drive to property (luckily only an 8 minute drive away), start cutting! I should probably point out that we were responsible with our supplies– all beer was consumer post sawmill use. It just always seemed like a good idea 🙂

Poplar log slowly turning into lumber.

Poplar log slowly turning into lumber.

And so continued the summer. Even our parents got put to work when they came to visit. The same with a large number of friends; and they all continue to love us and be our friends, so I guess it couldn’t have been that bad. In the end we had cut:

Dimension

Length

Number Cut

 

Dimension

Length

Number Cut

2” X 6”

9’

48

2” X 10”

9’

8

11’

10

17’

9

13’

16

2’ X 12”

9’

9

15’

17

17’

36

17’

9

1” X 3”

9’

44

2” X 8”

13’

6

15’

9

15’

39

1” X 10”

13’

100

16’

11

15’

20

1” X 6”

9’

109

Wood, wood and some more wood.

Wood, wood and some more wood.

We didn’t keep exact track of how many trees that was, but it was probably close to 12 poplar trees (for framing) and 2 red oak (for the 1” X 6” loft flooring). We planned a “Barn Raising” party during 2013 Columbus Day weekend. We figured that would be enough time for the wood to dry and that we would be able to entice a bunch of friends to visit and work for the long weekend. My husband and I had gotten married Columbus Day weekend the year before, so it was time for another big party (Goal for 2014: House Warming Party that same weekend – I see a trend). In total, we had about 18 friends from out of town, a handful of local friends and both of my parents come help for the long weekend. I am pretty sure that my dad was almost as excited about the barn building as my husband and I were; he is a mason in Western New York, which is about a 7 ½ hour drive – in a normal vehicle. He ended up coming down with his work truck. Now, when I say work truck, I don’t mean his day-to-day pickup truck. I mean his big honkin’, semi-truck cab, diesel sucking, flat-bed and trailer-towing truck. And it had 2 scissor lifts on it along with a whole array of other tools. I almost died laughing when I first saw him pull in our driveway with that thing. That’s why I love my dad; go big, or don’t bother coming at all. But, that will all have to wait for another post….

One of the 2 man lifts my dad brought for our barn raising.

One of the 2 man lifts my dad brought for our barn raising.

My dad's large truck he drove 7 1/2 hours loaded with equipment for our barn raising.

My dad’s large truck he drove 7 1/2 hours loaded with equipment for our barn raising.