Notes from Windward: #66

Siding the Yurt

from standing tree to installed siding

     Siding the yurt is a good example of how we endeavor to integrate our work in as sustainable a fashion as we can figure out. In this case, we wanted to put a "board and batten" siding on the yurt; rather than purchase commercial lumber, we undertook to use on-site materials.

     We have almost a hundred acres of forest land, and some trees die every year for any of a number of reasons so there's no need to take down a living tree just to mill out some lumber. In this case, we selected a tree that died last year so we knew that the wood would still be in good condition. We also selected this tree because if it fell the wrong way in a wind storm, it could have taken out the new solar woodshed we're so proud of.

Virgil and Tristan stand by with ropes to guide the tree
towards falling in the desired direction

pic by Jillian


     In order to make sure that he tree falls where we want it to fall, we "cheat" in that instead of relying on my skill as a tree feller, we use a tall ladder to attach a rope to the tree about twenty-five feet above the ground. Then as the final cut is made, two people will pull on the rope which will get the tree leaning the way we want it to go. Once it starts to fall in the right direction, it's time to back away and let gravity do the rest.

down it comes, right where we wanted it to fall
pic by Jillian


     It's always quite a relief to have a big tree like that come down where you want it, instead of doing something unexpected. This is one of those situations in which surprises are rarely the nice kind. Sometimes a gust of wind can come along at the wrong moment and move the tree in a direction you didn't want, or there can be hidden stress in the truck such that the tree pivots and falls in some other direction. In this case, nothing untoward happened, and after a few minutes with a chain saw cutting off the limbs, the trunk was ready to be cut to length -- in this case, into fourteen foot long sections that could be transported to the sawmill via the backhoe.

Virgil starts the process of slicing 3/4" boards off the felled log
pic by Jillian


     The next step is to debark the trunk since there tends to be a significant amount of sand incorporated into the bark and the saw's blades last a good deal longer if the bark is stripped away before squaring the log into the cant from which you'll cut the final boards.

     Because we cut the felled log into fourteen foot long sections, each pass of the saw yields two eight inch wide boards for the yurt. Our saw isn't any where near as fast as the saws they use in a commercial mill, but as long as one takes the time, it produces good work, and board by board, the stack grows.

Jacki putting a quick coat of sealer on the newly installed siding


     Since the saw blade is water cooled, the cutting process dampens the wood considerably, so we're careful to stack the wood tight, keep it in the shade and install it as soon as possible. And even then Jacki came right behind me to put a coat of sealer on the freshly cut wood to insure that it didn't dry too quickly.

     The part of the trunk that's too small for making lumber will be cut up into firewood, the bark will be shredded and made into mulch, and the branches will be chipped and used to fuel our pyrolitic heater next winter. And next spring, the ash from the firewood and the wood chips will be spread out in the garden to sweeten the soil and provide needed minerals.

     No waste, no worry :-)

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 66