Ever try to get the attention of a plumber, or electrician, or a structural engineer? It’s too early for the first two – for our project – but the third is who we needed – and got last week. We’ve been having on and off email forays with Tim Krahn (Building Alternatives from Ontario) since January. Not only is he a friend (from years back) and an alternative building professional, he’s also one of Canada’s lead engineers on rammed earth building. He’s a busy guy. We like his attention when we can get it.Tim Krahn

Maggie and I made two significant, clarifying decisions while Tim was here. One, we won’t be putting up a sod roof. He figures we can get R 80 insulation in the roof easily and that soil won’t add much to that. And, experience says that sod roofs need repair at about 20 years – right when we won’t have much enthusiasm for it. Two, we won’t store summer heat under the house. The new MB Hydro offer to pay 25% of the cost of solar electric panels means that our desire to generate enough electricity to heat water for in-floor heating becomes more affordable. The under house heat sink would have cost $10,000 at least. We can buy a lot of extra photo voltaic capacity for that, and not have to dig to China.

The garden and our greenhouse business are absorbing a fair bit of time right now, but we’re making progress cutting saw logs from the trees we harvested. I’m enjoying this part a lot. Up till now we haven’t been able to see inside the tree to verify we’ve harvested healthy ones. So we start at the bottom end of the tree trunk (that’s now lying down), cutting off firewood blocks until the core wood looks solid. We then use a measuring tape to determine how long a saw log we can get out of the straight part of the tree. We’re going for 12’ and 17′ but taking shorter ones of 6 and 8 foot as well.

Henry unload logsI then use our tractor with custom made loader forks to load them onto a heavy trailer our neighbor Henry made for this use and haul them to his yard, about 4 miles to the east. A trailer load is upward from 15,000 pounds of wood. (I’m trying to imagine doing this with horses in days gone by.) Henry unloads the logs beside the sawmill with his little red workhorse of a tractor – where they’ll sit until we find time to saw them into posts, beams, 2x6s, 2x4s and tongue-and-groove ceiling planks. Hopefully we do it by the end of June so they benefit from summer curing time.

If you’re keen to learn the sawmill process from a master, let me know and I’ll invite you to join us.