2016 July 24: Schedule for the rest of 2016

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I got a little raise at work. Yay! Now, hopefully, our account will still be hundreds in the black instead of just tens a week before payday. It’s sort of self imposed: we committed to saving a small house payment-like amount when we started the build. We are counting on this amount to supplement our savings that we used to initially start things off. But I also have some student loan payments and we have the land loan every month, along with our utilities, groceries, gas, and the normal bills everyone has.

I’ve been worried about finances on the build for a few months now- the city charges $5,000 to hook up water, power, and sewer, and this amount will just about clean out our savings for the next few months, and make it difficult to get concrete poured (I’m thinking thousands for the concrete). But we can’t get a building permit until we have utilities, so it was becoming a roadblock to progress. With my little raise at work, we now have some breathing room on our build, although we won’t be able to do the concrete right away.

I’m still cleaning up tree debris from cutting twelve trees a few weeks ago- not ready to move logs, but hope to do so later this week. And the debris piles are getting huge. Even with saving the bigger branches, things are still piling up. I’m probably going to end up with ten or more debris piles. There is currently an annual “burn ban” for the summer in the county we live in, so no burning until October. And I think I’ll be required to have running water on hand while burning brush.

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I also need to borate the trees I have. Borating the trees stops mold and bugs (mostly termites) from setting up shop in your house. Borating only really needs to be done once if your logs are already stacked and dried in (protected from rain). My logs are laying around exposed to the elements, so I’m going to have to treat them twice- once now, and once again when they are under roof. Once they are under roof, further borating is not necessary. The boric acid discourages insects, while the glycol causes the tree to suck up the solution much farther than just water would do. For LHBA members (password and membership required), I like the thread “NOTICE – Borate Mixture- Notice” under the “log home construction” folder. Three ingredients- borax, boric acid, and some kind of glycol. There are some surface mold spots on the logs I’ve peeled (thank you,  ‘The South’, and your overly humid weather). I bought a metal bushel, but I still have to buy the borax and the glycol (both available at Walmart). I also have a sprayer (thank you, Harbor Freight, for having extremely cheap tools). Just need a few hours to boil up some brew…

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All of the above has caused me to think about a (very aggressive) build schedule for the rest of the year:

  • July
    • continue to cut trees, clean up brush.
    • Hope to end the month with 18 existing + 15 new = 33 trees on racks, and half of them peeled.
    • borate the trees I’ve peeled.
  • August
    • cut and haul more trees- hopefully, by end of August, get 20 more trees for a total of 53 trees- enough to start the build. I think I only need 48 for the walls, but I want some breathing room. I also still need a bunch for the roof purlins, lifting logs, cap logs, ridge poles, etc, but I can at least get the build going once I have the minimum.
  • September
    • Peel all trees, and borate the remainder once peeled.
  • October
    • pay for water hook up
    • submit plans and get building permit
    • dig and pour foundation
  • November
    • lay first logs for walls. This also means I’ll make this blog public- that is the goal- make it public after the first few courses of logs are laid.
    • burn brush piles and maybe stumps
  • December
    • Lay last log for walls
  • January 2017 (or whenever I have funds)
    • Get the freakin’ roof on!

At some point, I need to get more tools and materials. Items I’m still missing:

  • plywood for foundation forms ($200)
  • concrete ($2400)
  • rebar (about $1200)
  • 2 3-ton chain hoists ($160)
  • rebar cutter ($150) or chop saw blades ($50?)
  • styrofoam for roof (I don’t know- probably $200-500)
  • roof panels (probably metal roof – $3000)
  • T&G roof decking ($2000)
  • plywood roof underlayment (I don’t know)

It’s obviously very ambitious for one person, not to mention one person that has never done this before. I’m sure there will be delays due to finances or hassles with the city, equipment breakdowns, etc. But if the schedule needs to be adjusted by two or three months, that’s ok- I need to wait for a tax return for a boost to my finances anyway.  It still appears that I can “git-r-dun” within my goal of 2-3 years.

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2016 July 05: (Almost) a disaster

I haven’t felt like writing much since last Wednesday. Besides, I haven’t been able to. All work stopped on the build Wednesday (6/29) about 5:50 pm. I almost lost a finger. And I typed this entire message with 9 fingers: #10 is in a brace.

I was trying out the arch- and it wasn’t going well. After I built it, I re-calculated the vector forces while lifting- and found out they were almost double what I was expecting. I thought that by having the weight of the log carried by the arch, it would reduce the force needed to lift it. But friction is also a force, and in this case, it was working against me- adding to the weight of lifting the log. Not only was I lifting the log, I was having to drag it at the same time, so the 2,000-ish lbs of friction was being added to the 6,000 lbs of lifting- and not just regular addition- vector addition: the weight was really much greater- probably around 12,000 lbs.

I was using a 4-ton hand winch to pull the log arch upright with the log attached. The arch was awesome. The winch was too short, so I had attached it to the tractor and used a tow chain to attach it to the arch. Lots of moving parts in a heavy duty operation is a bad idea.


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It wasn’t a very smart set up. Because of this, I was really straining the winch- the cable began to fray, which was very frustrating, along with the log not getting off the ground at all. But before giving up completely, I decided to get the log arch in a more vertical position. I looped the tow chain through the hook on the winch and started winching, but the loop was not evenly tensioned on both sides of the hook, so I stopped to adjust it. The links were getting caught in the hook, so I tried to adjust it and give it some relief- and the weight of the arch started the chain moving through the hook. It started moving so suddenly that I wasn’t able to jerk my hand out of the way, and the chain caught the finger of my glove and pulled it through the hook- and my left index finger with it- before pulling the glove completely off my hand. I screamed in pain as I looked and saw the back of my fingernail pulled out of my finger, and blood running everywhere. Afraid I might pass out, I called my wife, and said I had an accident, and that I was probably going to the hospital. I made it to the neighbor’s house, and almost passed out on their patio.

After getting some ice and a few towels to wrap it in, I felt like I could drive myself to the hospital. It was 30 minutes away, and I had to lean on the steering wheel the entire trip. I told my wife I was on my way, and she met me there.

Of course, there’s always a waiting line at the E.R. and people with so many problems.

My wife was there with me. We discussed the accident. I got some x-rays, and they confirmed the finger was broken- halfway between the tip and the first knuckle.

Maybe this is too hard? My wife was justifiably upset and scared- I use my hands for a lot of things- I fix my own cars, play piano, ukulele, sax, and right now, building this log home. I’m down for the count- can’t peel logs, can’t cut them, can’t move them. It’s a three day weekend- July 4 on Monday- and I’m sitting around on the couch, not working. I’m ambidextrous (use both hands equally), so although I write with my right hand, I eat with my left. And brush my teeth, shave, cinch up my belt on my pants- all with my left hand. It’s really caused a lot of thought. What if I had lost a finger? What if it had been worse? We discussed my recent injuries- head smack, possible broken rib, and now this broken finger- none are life threatening, but they could have been. So the risk is very high.

They finally call me back for stitches. I hate shots. I’ve nearly passed out from just the sight of a needle.

The nurse is saying “don’t watch”.

I’m saying, “that’s going to be hard. Don’t you have some sleeping masks or some way to block my view?”

She gets some safety glasses and puts gauze over the lenses and says, “how’s this?”

“Great,” I say and put them on, “now I won’t faint on you. These work pretty well. How many times have you done this for patients?”

“The goggles? You’re the first.”

Pause. Yup. I’m the only wimp out there who can’t watch someone sew up their finger. “Well they work pretty well,” I repeat, quieter.

My wife and I have talked a lot the past few days. What I’m doing is dangerous- even with safety precautions (I’ve done some risk assessment, and I need to reduce the number of moving parts in all of my work). I need a term life insurance policy. But we both really want this cabin. I can’t rest- I get depressed when I’ve got nothing to do.

I’ve got to be more aware- and careful, but I’m not quitting- I’m reloading.

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Here’s the gory finger after the accident:


The ridge on the back of the fingernail? that’s the part that should be under the skin.


2016 April 24: More Work


I see it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, so here are some updates:

Weekly schedule

Lately, my weekly schedule goes something like this:

Monday – Friday:

Take Chris to school, then go to work from 6:30 to 3:30. Check with Julie- see if going out to the property fits in with our schedule – and it usually does, so – drive out to the property. peel whatever logs are out there, or clean up branches and debris from last cut.


Fell new trees.

I’ve cut a total of 8 trees, which is really behind where I wanted to be. I thought I would have all my trees cut by now, but there’s been some issues…

Hauling logs

Hauling logs has been darn near impossible with just the tractor alone.  I fixed the ditch, so it was easier to cross:


Before and after:

It took me almost a week to haul one I call “the monster”. It’s the biggest tree I’ve ever cut: 55 feet long, 26″ base, 10″ top, and branches all the way up. It broke my tractor jack (capacity: 7,000 lbs). Progress came to a standstill over this one log. I had to think of a solution- what if I got more like it? Barely being able to move a normal log is not a solution. Not being able to move a large log is complete failure, so I needed a log trailer or something.

trying to haul this monster with the tractor alone: fail. The tractor lifted up in front, and dug down in the rear. Log: 1, tractor: 0.

I began to scour craigslist for trailers. I needed one that was a maximum of 5 feet wide, as short as possible, and with a capacity of two tons at least. I finally found a military trailer in Hartselle for $175. I called the guy, but he had sold it. Then I found another one in Shelbyville, TN. The guy was nice, asked me what I was using it for. When I told him, he said he either had a trailer that would work, or we could make one. He said he was a house mover by trade. Perfect, because even I know that a house weighs more than a log, so this guy probably had the right solution.

I arrived at his house on a Thursday evening- he had pretty much a junkyard for a yard. He showed me a house moving trailer about two feet wide and one foot long- basically an I-beam with wheels welded underneath.  Capacity: I have no idea- a lot. But he was trying to talk me out of it for some reason by showing me all the other trailers that he thought would work. He finally admitted that he needed the house moving trailer because it was part of a set. He showed me a military trailer- the frame was metal, the bed was metal- every thing on it was metal. It was extremely heavy for its size. The only problem was it was so high off the ground, I wasn’t sure how I would get the log loaded into it. Almost perfect. I loaded it up, paid him, and got on my way.

I took it out to the property the next day, but couldn’t get the log up into it. Saturday, I got out there early. I spent a long time trying to load it, broke my farm jack, got a new farm jack, and finally succeeded in getting the bottom end of the log onto the trailer.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. back the tractor up to the side of the log; about 10 feet from the bottom.
  2. Place tractor jack on opposite side of log, and run a chain underneath the log.
  3. Using the chain as a cradle between the tractor and the jack, slowly jack the log up to about 3 feet off the ground.
  4. Slip (I use that word loosely- it’s more like “shove”) the trailer under the log, and strap the log down.
  5. Now remove the jack and tractor, and hook up the tractor on the front end.
  6. Pull up alongside the peeling area, unhook from the front of the log, and almost reverse the process.
Not as easy as it looks. This is tractor jack #2.

That monster log is about 95% peeled right now. I’m not sure where it will go on the house- maybe the first layer. But that means I have to find three more, and I’m not sure how I feel about moving more like that one.

6 acres next door sold (almost)

Meanwhile, I’m working there one night about a month ago, and Jerry (the guy we bought the land from) comes over and says I need to stop cutting trees on the property next door because he sold it. Wha???? I was planning on using that entire area for my house logs, and using the trees on my property for the garage. So without the trees next door, we don’t have a house. It was very depressing. The dream of a house made from logs began to look impossible.  I still had the two logs I had cut on the property, and Jerry said to go ahead and take them, but not to cut any more. He said he would talk to the new owner. I asked who it was- he said a guy down the street named Bobby. I decided to talk to the new owner myself.

I drove down to his house- he’s got a large cattle operation and about 80 acres. I guess he’s trying to add to it. Anyway, nice fella, but really wants to leave it up in the air with those trees. He’s afraid there’ll be a mess with the branches and stumps (I promised to clean them up- I want to be a good neighbor), so then he’s not sure where the property lines are, excuse after excuse. He did say he wants to mark the ones he wants cut, but the closing date on the property keeps getting pushed out- Jerry’s wife was in the hospital, Jerry’s knee surgery isn’t recovering as fast as he wants. I guess we shouldn’t hold our breath. On the bright side, I talked to him yesterday, and he has trees on another piece of property on Hobbs Island road that he wants to get rid of. He had a professional logger come get the cedar, but there are some 60 foot pines that he said I could have- but work out with the logger how to get them down in one piece. I went and looked- there are some power lines but it does look possible to get them down. There is a monster tree that’s even bigger than the one I cut, so I don’t think that one is a possibility, but the others maybe- probably about 6 trees. Anyway, I have about a month to decide- the logger only works weekends, so it’ll be a while.

When one door closes…

I got a flat tire on my tractor yesterday- so flat, I didn’t dare move it for fear the tire will come off the rim. None of the neighbors were home, and none of the repair shops had air tanks big enough to fill it. I was afraid I’d have to bring the trailer and take the wheel off- it’s too big to fit in the car. Did I mention my truck engine finally blew up? Got to fix the head gasket or something.

Anyway, I drove through the neighborhood, looking for houses that had shops next to them- and found gold: Shane is married to one of the Maples- the lady’s parents live across the street from our property. They are in their 80’s, so they don’t get out much. Anyway, they took me over to her parent’s and used the compressor in their shed to partially fill my tire. Then I drove it over to their house and finished it off.

But it gets better: Shane’s wife’s family all live around the area. The relative next door told Shane on Friday that he wished he could get rid of some of the trees on his property- there’s about 15 of them he wants gone. And when I told him what I was doing with them- he is really interested in it- asked me all kinds of questions, got excited about the plans. He said he’ll ask around and help me find some trees. The guy rebuilds classic cars for a living- they are super sweet looking rides.

Bottom line: looks like I’ll probably get enough trees right from the neighborhood.


The garage is on hold for now. I’ll build that once we’re moved in to the house.

Total trees needed: probably 120 or more. Total committed: 58 (40 mine, 18 other neighbors), Potential trees: 45 (10 lady from GA, 35 Bobby). If I get the ones I know about, that’s 108, but that’s thinking very positively.

  • number of trees needed: about 100 (for rafters, posts, who knows)
  • number needed for flooring, tongue & groove roof, joists: who knows- 20?
  • House logs:
    • number needed for walls: about 70
    • number of trees peeled: 6
    • trees on my property: about 40
    • number needed: from somewhere else: 30
      • number from Bobby (maybe 30):
        • from land next door: who knows? It’s possible he’ll say take them all- I mean, it makes sense if you have cows, you need pasture- and pasture doesn’t grow well in the forest, so he needs some of them gone, at least.
        • from Hobbs Island road: 4 (but getting them will be hard)
        • from somewhere else on his main property- who knows? He says he has some.
      • number from other neighbors (18 committed, 10 potential):
        • Jim has 3 I may be able to use
        • Shane says there’s about 15 from his neighbor
        • The owner next to me lives in GA, and has a 30′ strip between our land and Jerry/Bobby’s land. There’s about 10 trees big enough I could use – but I’d have to write her a letter and see.

Just keep cutting, peeling, and moving forward.