Wood and Stone

A site to track our progress as we build our FirstDay Cottage Canadian house kit. Come on in, get a cup of coffee, set a spell and follow along on our journey or join in if you like. Check back for the weekly update (usually by Wednesday when things are going right) to see what we are currently up to!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Earth Day every day...

Today we drove up to Plattsburgh, NY and went to the Earth Day open house at Earthwood Building School in West Chazy. Twice a year, they open their house up to the interested public. They give tours and talk about how the buildings were built, how the building work environmentally, big stones, solar electricity and so on.

Despite all our prior research and plans, we had begun to wonder if cordwood masonry was going to be a building method that we would like living in. I read about the Earthwood open house and suggested to Wendy that we go check it out and see a house that is lived in.

We took Quinn to Grandma Lana's for the day. It didn't seem fair to pack her up for a six hour car round-trip car ride and I wanted to be free to focus on what the Roys were saying without wondering where Quinn was. We took Emmet with us, being that he is still very Mama-centric.

We got to Earthwood around 11am and joined the tour (Rob Roy told us to remember where you came in and you can hop out when we get back around to this part). We saw their house (which turned out to be smaller than I expected from the photos I had seen) and bunch of the outbuildings they have built over the years. We heard about the big stones, living roofs, cordwood masonry, and the like. By time we got back around, it was 2:30! Time flies when you are having fun, I s'pose.

We are definitely down with the cordwood after the visit, and I am psyched to get up there and take one of the cordwood workshops. Now we need to get going on the items for this year.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

It's a stake out!

We decided to head up to the land the day before Easter, kind of last minute. I wanted to lay out where the driveway should be and how big before contacting our neighbor. We stopped on the way and I bought about 20 survey stakes, with the idea we could measure out and stake the corners of the house and garage to determine where the driveway should go. When we got there the kids woke from their naps (trust them to fall asleep as soon as we get driving. I guess it's actually a good thing that it is a 45+ minute drive from Voorheesville to the land). I fed Quinn the PB&J we brought for her while Wendy took the Coleman chair she was smart enough to toss in the back of the Matrix and sat in the trees and fed Emmet.

We finished up about the same time and headed to the proposed house site. I had brought a rubber mallet and 100' tape, so we started by measuring out the 36' for the front of the house, and shuffling back and forth across the N/S stone wall to see how far back off the road we want to be. We settled on splitting the house across the rock wall (which is going to need to come out anyhow for the septic) and pounded our first 2 stakes (pounding stakes into rock soil is tough with a rubber mallet and a 8 month old baby strapped to your chest). After measuring out 24' from each stake we got the other 2 stakes set. We measured between them to get a fairly square building and moved on to the garage.

I had hoped to offset the garage a bit to the north for 2 reasons. First, I thought it would be nice to expose the west side of the house (where the main entrance will be to the house) to the road a little. Second, I hoped to leave room for the driveway to come up right next to the garage (on the south), so as to have a spot that is not far from the house. This didn't work out with the stakes because there are some massive boulders in the ground right where the corners of the building would be. Once I shifted the garage back to the south, all visible boulders are out of range.

After this was done we wandered down into the trees to find a downed tree Wendy had noticed. There is a huge pine out there, snapped off 10 or 15 feet up. It has a small area that is oxidized or burnt, which is where I suspect lightning hit it and caused the break. Now I need to get me a chainsaw to be able to harvest this one - good first project wood right there. That raises the question of what the first project should be. Wendy is thinking a shed. I argue that by time we get the wood for the first cordwood project cut and dried, we will want to have a shed already. I am thinking that a screen cabin (a screened porch with a half wall that can have the top portion closed with shades in case you want to shelter there) would be a good idea. I'll have to propose that to Wendy.

By this time both kids were fairly crankity and it was getting late, so we head for home, another day done.

Saturday, April 8, 2006


A guy I work with has silver maple he is cutting on his property in order to make way for some utility lines. He has offered me as much as I want for free, so long as I come get it out of his way post haste. Being a thinking guy, I thought, "Sure, we have 9 acres of trees, but they are mostly standing. Here is cut wood, which will have a couple of month to dry, which could make for good campfire wood."

Suffice it to say, Wendy and I went out today and picked up a load of wood in our Toyota Matrix. By time we got to the land and started moving wood, we realized that we have lots of downed wood and lugging wood from another location is pretty pointless, so we stopped right there.

Before leaving, one of our neighbors stopped on the road and introduced himself. He asked if we had anyone to do excavation for us yet and I explained that we are looking. He offered that he has his equipment right there (2 houses down) and could use the work. Before I could say much, he also pointed out that he's 'not kissing anyone's ass, though.' which gave us one of our first tastes of the real local flavor. It also gave us lots of chuckles when reflecting on it later.

We got his number, although he is having knee surgery next week and will need to recover for 6 weeks or so. We need to call him and let him know how big of a drive we want and what type of construction (pea gravel or crushed rock), and he will work on it as soon as he gets back on his feet.

I need to look into a driveway permit in case we need one.