Building for Ice Giants

With the turn of yet another season, fall has arrived and winter has reared its frigid head (at least for those in the Northern Rockies). The temperature here along the southern shores of Lake Erie are still in the upper and middle 70s, but the trees have noticed the shortening of the day and the leaves have started to put on their fiery going-out colors. This summer has been very busy around the farm, and for the first time in my life I uttered the sentence, “I’m actually looking forward to winter.” Not because of the crucible of working out in the brutal cold or having to slog through snow. I’m looking forward to not having to build anything for a while. Having to make all the design decisions for my own non-standard buildings is exhausting. It’s not like I can really just ask someone how they did it because I don’t know anyone who has dared to try what has been built. But build it I did. With no small amount of help from my friends. That said, my mind has turned towards those cold days fast approaching with the knowledge that I have almost no firewood put up. I know where a bunch is waiting for me to come and cut it up. Not that I’ve actually laid eyes on it or anything, but I have it under good authority that it’s there. Another farmer/monkey beaver cleared a tree line a couple of years ago and it has been laying there ever since. He, Randall, says it’s a mix of Ash Maple and Cherry. And who knows what else, but those are the big 3 around here. At least for now, as the Emerald Ash Borer has laid waste to almost all of the Ash in the region. At work, we have a standing order to remove any and all Ash trees we can get at. Defenders of the Grid that we are, 70-100′ Ash make short work of tiny little copper wires when they come down. This is part of the irony of my job. I spend countless hours cutting other people’s firewood and yet have cut almost none of my own.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Rather say I’ve cut almost none for this year. Next winter we’ll be burning Hickory Red Oak Beech Cherry and Sugar Maple that have come down in the yard and the woods around the farm. Sad to see them go, but they will be much appreciated next January.

I’ve spent a bit of time now talking about winter and fire wood for 1 very important reason. The other reason I have been lily gagging on cutting firewood is that I had to finish the barn so that I could build the woodshed. And build it we did.

I decided to stay with the grain bin pieces because they are a wonderful material that I’ve got in abundance. The location is easy enough, I placed it right where the old one was. That thing was never really meant to last as long as it did and it never really worked all that well. The roof was a section of woven wire range fence with 3 layers of wrecked tarps on top. Not a great system but it was what I had at the time and I went with it for about 9 years. It just looked terrible. And it was too small and didn’t really keep the wood dry. The new woodshed is a beast. With a footprint of 9×24′ (216 sq ft if you are counting), this monstrosity is nearly 9′ at the open end and just about 4′ at the back. I’ve yet to put the end walls on but that’s nearly incidental. The open back and large front will allow for greater airflow and make loading and unloading significantly easier.

I used Black Locust poles that have been laying around for a few years (or longer, I’ve lost track), because Locust only gets harder the longer it’s exposed to the elements. As I’ve mentioned before, elsewhere, there are fence posts along the property line that are over 70 years old and are more likely to snap any screw and bend any nail I try to put into them. They’ve even claimed several drill bits that I used to pre-drill holes. I know how old they are because I once met the man who put them in, and he was O.L.D.

The bin sections are from near the bottom of the 3rd bin. I chose the bottom ring sections as they are thicker. You can see the ring numbers spray painted on the panels. The pile for the woodshed sat on the edge of the driveway since the bins arrived last year. Now I’ve got to clean out the midden that’s accumulated next to it.

Once we got our system down, the thing went together in an afternoon. Switching from horizontal to vertical is a little tricky. But it moved along.

With the roof up, that left the floor. In the old woodshed, I used wood pallets which I would replace whenever they gave out. They’re a pain in the neck to walk on and made stacking a challenge. That and the poor design made for a sodden muddy mess on the bottom in the back of the pile, which is not a great way to end winter. This time I’m continuing with the grain bin theme by using the metal drying floor rather than wood pallets. I laid out 6 in each bay running from front to back and then just set the interlocking floor panels in place. This way, running a wheelbarrow into the shed for a load of wood will be significantly easier as the panels are only 1″ thick.

Just like how I’ve come to see the barn fire as a way to improve upon the system I had before, replacing the woodshed after all these years has given me the hindsight to know what works and what doesn’t.