Notes from Windward: #68

Another Unexpected Windfall

bringing home another large pine

  November 22:

     We're on a fairly tight timeline these days as we work to wrap up summer projects and get the fall chores done before the weather enforces a three month hold on outdoor work, but just as last week we stopped to take advantage of an invitation to glean a hundred gallons of windfall apples, today we took out time to bring home three 13' logs cut from the trunk of a single pine that was felled by the county road crew two days ago, about two miles towards town from Windward.

     The pine had grown at a bend in the road about ten feet back from the gravel. There's been a good deal of beetle kill in our area recently do to dry conditions, so the county crew was out looking for dead trees that could fall and block the roadway when the wet snows come. While that wasn't likely to happen this winter with this particular pine since it has just died this summer, the equipment was here, so they went ahead and took it down. Their usual proceedure is to cut the trunk up into 12' plus lengths and leave them for folks to use as firewood, lumber, etc.

Andrew sets up the steel loading ramps

     One of the subtle differences between living in deep country and living in the city, is that city folk tend to be very concerned about property lines, access issues and such. Out here, the general concern is that of generating enough income and resources to support living in deep country. That difference is seen in traditions such as the open range law which allows privately owned cattle to wander these woods eating what they will. And if we don't want them eating our fruit trees and gardens, it's legally up to us to fence them out. In this case, the tree was on the public right-of-way along undeveloped property, so it's available for whoever wants it.

     Since I knew that this tree was newly dead, I was eager to get it home and milled into lumber. This year, instead of continuing work on Octangle, we've focused our construction efforts on getting secondary roofs built on the two shipping containers down on the landing. But come next spring, we're looking forward to getting Octangle framed in and ready for its outter cladding of compressed earth bricks.

     One of the guidelines we've worked out with the county is that we don't use on-site milled lumber for structural purposes. Commercial construction lumber--referred to as "No. 2s and better"--is inspected and graded as suitable for load bearing work. Since a structural failure could mean harm to a member of the community, we welcome the professional guidance and oversight--the building inspectors have seen about very way to build something wrong, and I'm happy for them to tell us how to get something built right. And since they've come to see that we don't scrimp on the essentials, they tend to be open-minded regarding our efforts to build in sustainable aspects.

Andrew and Oana pose to show the size of the logs

     Octangle is a "pole barn" type structure in which the weight of the roof is supported by treated poles resting on concrete pads, rather than by the framing as in a "stick-built" building. As a result, we're free to use wood cut on-site to fill in the walls and mount the windows. But not only does the wood need to be cut to the same size as commercial lumber, it also needs time to dry out. If we were to cut down a live tree and mill that into lumber, we wouldn't be able to use the wood until it had dried out since "green wood" shrinks too much during drying to use immediately.

     When you buy boards at the lumber store, you quickly learn that a 2x10 isn't two inches thick and ten inches wide. Those numbers refer to the rough sawn dimensions as boards are cut from the cant. After cutting, they're usually stacked to dry, and only later are they run through a planer that creates the smooth surface you see when you buy lumber at the hardware store. The planer trues up the edges, but it does so by cutting away material to the point where what was originally a two inch thick board is only about one and a five-eighth's in thickness.

     Since this tree had died during the summer dry season, it's already pretty close to dry. There'll be some wetting from the water used to cool and clean the bandsaw blade as it cuts the logs into lumber, but we've generally found that to not be a problem. In this case, more because of time constraints than anything, we'll cut the logs into the 2x6" boards that Octangle will need, and sticker them up to wait out the winter. We'll also use that opportunity to cut the 1x2" battens that will secure the 20'x40' plastic cover to the faux roofs' newly installed glue-lams.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68