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!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

From Denial to Acceptance

For Father's Day, we took a trip up to the property with Wendy's brother, Glen, his wife, Julie, and their daughter, Renata. They wanted to see where we are going to build before they head out to Germany for a year while Glen finishes his Master's degree. After checking it out, we all went to Grafton Lakes for a BBQ and some swimming. Here is a photo we took of the same view down the road (to the North) as seen in the Higher Ground post. Look how lush and lovely it is!

Country Road
We finally put the application in for the driveway permit. We found out that our dirt road is a town road, so we need the permit before doing anything. As soon as we get it, our neighbor who is doing the work for us is ready to get started, but we haven't heard anything back yet, despite it being in for a few weeks. Here is a photo of where the driveway will go - behind us, between the birch on the far left and the birch on the far right. The birch you see between Wendy and I will have to go...

Happy Landowners
A big change of direction has taken place in the past few weeks on the house-front. I have been trying to get serious about coming up with a plan for our house recently,. I was looking for post and beam house plans on the internet a few weeks ago (for inspiration) when I ran across a blog of a fellow who is building a post and beam house. After reading through his site looking for the plans or links to plans, I found that he is building a kit house from a company called FirstDay Cottages.

Immediately I thought to myself, "A kit, eh? This could have potential for that garage and apartment we have been talking about." I checked out the site and was pleasantly surprised to find that their houses are all wood (no plywood, sheetrock or particle board), use post and beam construction (using laminated dimensional lumber for economy), and designed to be affordable, small and durable for owner-builders. They even have a garage kit!

I mentioned it to Wendy as a possible solution for the garage, and finally got her to take a look at it. Once she did, things got quickly out of control. She loves the look and design of the FirstDay, and told me that she thinks we should build one of these for our house.

Well, let me say that I was floored. I had my head and heart set on cordwood masonry and I thought it had been cemented with our Earth Day trip to EarthWood. I was pretty sure that Wendy liked what she saw there (at the time) and that we were all set to build cordwood. Later on, thinking back on the gleam in her eye after looking at these, I know for sure that cordwood had been OK with her only because she hadn't seen anything else she liked better.

Let me be honest. Things were tough for a few days after that as I tried to work FirstDay into my world view. I was a bit snippy, as my plans seemed to twist and writhe out of my control while their contents changed entirely. I went through the classic stages of grief for my plans:

1) Denial - No way. NO WAY. I have plans and this doesn't fit in. She will lose interest and things will just go on the way they have.
2) Anger - I can't believe you don't see how ridiculous this is! These houses are too small! 16 feet wide - there is no way we can live in that. We can't afford that anyway. The whole idea of building cordwood was to minimize expenses. If we do this we might as well get a mortgage on a McMansion in Loserville! Is that what you want? To beg the bank to chain us to the grindstone so they can suck us dry for the next 30 years? FINE! Snap, snap, grumble, grumble.
3) Bargaining - Well, if there is one that is the right size, I might consider it. And if they aren't too expensive I might consider it. But we'll keep the cordwood on the back burner for when this falls apart.
4) Depression - I can't believe this. My plans, my glorious plans, all dashed to smithereens on the sharp rocks of reality! Sulk, sulk, grumble, grumble.
5) Acceptance - Ok, these are pretty cool, and I like the look, and you are happy about it, and...

By time I got to Acceptance I had realized a few things:

1) Both Wendy and I being happy with our house is our highest goal, and this is the first time I have really seen Wendy be excited about a house design since we started.
2) I do like the FirstDay Cottage. It isn't cordwood, but it is a beautiful home and I think I would be very happy building, owning and living in one.
3) Cordwood masonry does have its own problems, such as leaky walls that need to be resealed over time, wood shrinkage and expansion (contributing to the leaky walls), a variety of issues with wall thickness, including dark interiors, loss of floor area to walks a foot and a half thick, and interior air dryness due to the end grain of the cordwood sucking up the moisture in the air, among others.
4) I am guilty of handwaving these problems, and figuring that they will take care of themselves eventually.
5) I can build other structures with cordwood masonry than the house, structures that may make more sense to be built with cordwood masonry

Eventually I came to terms with the change in plans, and I eagerly await our upcoming visit to Walpole, NH (home of FirstDay Cottage) to visit them and see a house first hand. Meanwhile, we got their information packet and Wendy and I have spent every free moment checking out the plans and photo CD that FirstDay Cottage sent, as well as various FirstDay builder blogs. Our visit is scheduled for July 14th, and we hope to know better by then if this is the house we will build.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

FirstDay - Wendy's point of view

It all started one evening, when Sean showed me this website he had found. At that point we were still seriously considering building our house with cordwood masonry. He had stumbled upon it looking for house plans for our cordwood house. He had me look at the plans. I started looking at the plans and then the pictures of finished houses and the descriptions. I quickly became obsessed. Up till this point in the planning of our house Sean had done most of the dreaming and planning. When we went to Earthwood I agreed that a cordwood house was nice and livable but I realize now I didn't have a spark for it. I thought I was just to busy with the kids to really be concentrating on the house like Sean was. But once I started looking at FirstDay Cottages I got the house planning bug. I started reading every thing I could about them on the site and on FirstDay Cottage builders blogs. I started calculating how much we could save and how quickly we could do it. I began telling everyone who would listen about FirstDay cottages. And when we were out and about I started noticing houses roofs, lay outs, wood siding , beams etc. I started acting like Sean and Sean started getting cranky.