Tag Archives: timber frame

Lake Effected

Well dang if that didn’t just take an extra long while for me to actually write again. It’s not that I’ve been just sitting around, watching the leaves turn pretty colors and fall to the ground, because I have been doing a bit of that. No, it is said that a rolling stone grows no moss. Some times, though, occasionally, the rate of roll slows to the point that moss can just barely start to get a toehold. This summer presented me with one of those periods. The challenges and complications of existence can, at times, obscure the path ahead. At times like those, it can be wise to simply stop staring at the scenery and all the gee gaws there-in and focus on the spot where my foot will next meet the earth. One step. One step. One step.coop-the-girls

Great picture isn’t it? You can almost tell what happened back there

The Rocket has been buried. I added the small can so that I could keep litter from catching sparks. That and it allows me to stop the airflow altogether. I ran long screws through the metal can from the inside towards the outside and they are held in the  compressed soil around the can. This will keep the can set.

Finally finally finally got the metal roof over the new addition installed. Part of that includes the chimney flashing having been set in the roof. This means that all I need to do is connect the long pipe from the floor to the ceiling. This is only hampered by the issue that sweet little Viann appears to have caught her reflection in 2 of the 4-foot sections of pipe that I had left in the room. Being the hell-spawned monster that she is, she must have recognized that her reflection actually revealed her true form. As everyone knows, duh, demons hide their form from humanity. Rather that allowing me to catch a glimpse of her form, she proceeded to SMASH SMASH SMASH the pipe. And once she had satisfied her head butting, she then proceeded to do the tap-dance-o-death on the smashed pipe. Luckily she only weighed 45# when she did this. This means that the creases aren’t hard folded and that I can get them hammered out without a lot of deformity. Maybe today.

In addition to setting the rocket in the floor, I went and cut some more Phrag. Before you tut tut tut me for cutting it 3 months early, let me just say, Yes, it’s not dry yet. The inner parts of the bottom end of this year’s reeds are still green. Even some of the leaves are green. Just a little. As I’m not using this stuff in any way that resembles thatching, or exterior exposure, I decided to just go for the lesson and find out what happens with a far less than perfect set of reeds. I’m facing an issue this year that I hope to resolve in a definitive way. The patch of Phragmites you drove by yesterday (if you have or were in a car and near any amount of standing water) is filled with all the previous years dead reeds. That one is no different from the one in the Andes mountains or Sri Lanka or here at my place. This plant tends to mono-crop itself. Come to find out, it actually releases antialgel allelochemicals.  Pretty neat. Allelopathy is far more common than I at first realized. Certain plants, basically, “salts the earth” or lay down it’s own herbicide specifically crafted to ward off it’s primary contenders. Because of this, the dead reeds mostly get hung up in the 3-6″ between the next closest batch of reeds. They are just forced to stay standing. Heavy winds will snap them off, or someone walking through. These dead reeds further block sunlight from the ground with inhibits evaporation and germination of anything else. The bottom 4′ of the reeds tend to be packed in with all this dead stuff, tighter and tighter as you get closer to the surface.  This year though, all the best and tallest patches will get sliced off at the dirt which will allow everything to lay over and get pushed to the soil where it can rot. I think that is carbon sequestration. Something like it happens in mob-grazing ecologies. Here is the thing though. NEXT YEAR will mean a cleaner harvest, cleaner and far easier. The footing is remarkably treacherous. Oh yeah, and there are 2 common lengths of dead reed, eyeball level when I have my hands on my knees while I’m gasping for breath from all this work, and eyeball level when bent 90* at the waist when I drop the Kama, again. Pokey stabby slicy stuff. If you’ve ever played hide and seek in an endless ocean of field corn in shorts and short sleeves, you begin to understand. Of course sweating immediately describes the exact dimension of each and everyone of those minor lacerations. They itch and burn. Time well spent. And I need to take a final moment here and recommend that each and every person who reads this go out into or at least next to a patch of Phrag. A day with a light breeze is best. The sound of the long dry leaves whisk swish whisking against each other is pure auditory heaven. It’s hypnotic. I highly recommend it. It might change your life.

The lower section of the wall is 3 garage door insulation panels thick. The inner layer is part of the wall holding back the infill. I figured that since I’ve got these things laying around, they won’t speed up heat loss through the floor. So why not? The outer panel is about 4″ taller than the inner floor.

west wall exterior
coop north wall with window Phrag bundles

The rest of the wall is made up of the bundles of Phrag. The bundles average around 4″ in diameter. Leah and I tied them up. One on each side, hold the bundle in place, weave the baling twine over around under through over tight, pick up all the reeds that fell, repeat 4x per bundle. It got a lot more straightforward after a bit. This will get covered with the same sort of earthen plaster that is inside the Seedhouse. I haven’t figured the outside yet. The eaves are pretty deep so I might try straight earthen plaster outside too. Or maybe a mix with just a little lime to tighten things up. I can’t grow or mine plaster lime here. Ever. And the trick is as small a footprint as possible. The insulation panels are/were garbage.


Coop interior Phrag bundle detail
coop interior west wall Phrag bundles

I doubt I can pull off plastering this thing before the freeze is here to stay. Maybe the inside only as I have the capacity to heat that room. The exterior walls will remain covered with a membrane for the winter. Something to cut the wind. I would like to get birds in here fairly soon so, I’ve still got a bit of work to do to pull that off.

Oh, and I redid the kitchen some.


Building with Grass, Sticks, and Mud

April 17 and May 1

Sunday, 12-4 PM
Trillium Center, 715 Furnace Rd. Conneaut, OH 44030

Want to get dirty? Here’s your chance to practice experimental building technologies at BLD farm. The first project this year is an addition to a barn. We’ve been filling in the  earthen floor, and the rocket stove is mostly complete, so the walls with Phragmites grass are next. We will be cutting the Phrag on an adjacent farm. It’s going to be wet and muddy, the mosquitos and ticks will be there too, so wear sturdy cloths and footwear.Work parties will happen on Sunday the 17th of April and the 1st of May from 12 PM-4 PM. Send us an email, if you want to be on the email reminder list.


sliced kiwi
sliced Kiwi


Seedhouse shed

Just because I’m not writing things, doesn’t mean things have stopped around the farm. Things never stop around here, even though I might occasionally want that.

Once Viann turned 2 weeks old, I started separating her from Ann overnight allowing Ann’s milk to accumulate for our consumption. Pretty much why she is here after all. I won’t go into detail about milking a goat. Suffice it to say that the books never seem to address the problems I have with my livestock, except to say the casual reference to “stubborn animals” or “the difficult ones.” Allegedly there are flocks of goats that are just begging someone to come along and milk them out. I have never met one of these goats. Most likely this is because I am not one of those goat whisperers that magically gets the goats to just stand there and that can somehow get them milked out before their food is gone. Once the food is gone, they get stompy.

Whatever. Goats.

Timber farming. That has kept my eyes bouncing for a bit now. I’ve set the basic frame to the Seedhouse shed. An almost flat roof. the shed won’t actually connect to the Seedhouse. The roofline’s will overlap slightly. As I don’t have the cash yet for the roofing, I held off on the milled boards that the roofing will attach to.

SE seedhouse shed

This bad boy is a mortis and tenon with a 3/4″ shoulder. Afterwards I came back through and pegged with Locust pegs. It’s truly amazing to me that I can do this.

The KEY to the whole thing is keeping the cutting edges keen. I’m not master anything, but I’m getting decent at sharpening my chisels and drawknives. It’s this whole round pole thing that is the tricky part. Working from fully milled timbers, the layout is ever so much easier. As long as the sawmill was fairly accurate, the sides are obvious. Straight is easy. Level is limited by the condition of the floor, the sawhorses and the cutters willingness. With round poles, especially ones that aren’t really straight, it’s a bit more complicated.

Here is one of those great tradeoffs. Milling timbers takes a fairly decent saw. Nothing I own can do it, and I have heated my house with wood for over a decade. There is a bit of infrastructure here. The alternate to owning a mill, is having access to a mill. Which generally entails owning a truck and or trailer and some way to get the logs onto it. The logs tend to be significantly larger to start with in order for the finished product to still be stout enough. Round pole on the other had only really requires a mallet and chisel and some way to get the tree down. I can get a tree down with an axe if needed. I can square a log with a better axe and a different set of muscle memories that I’m not interested in having. So right now, I’m doing round pole.

My next step doesn’t really involve timbers so much. The frames are fairly easy and quick. It’s all the other stuff that is slowing me down.

Hauled 2 more loads of soil back to the barn. It’s coming along. I’m going to begin looking into my Phrag supply. I have a social agreement with a local (ACTUAL) farmer. He laughed when I asked him and said I could have all I wanted. Haven’t seen the patch he’s talking about.

In other words, a new learning curve to scramble on. Yippity-go

coaster 2

early days of the BLD studio roller coaster from 2001


I’m not shaving a horse

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Trying out this slideshow thing.

Quite a day. I’ve been thinking and looking at shaving horses since the comment in my last post brought it up. Wether it helps or not remains to be seen. I made it from Locust I just cut. First was splitting the seat. Haven’t done that in 25 years. Getting the split to stay centered in the log is tricky. The clearer the log, the easier the split. The legs are shaved down branches. The only part that isn’t Locust is the 2 vertical arms that hold the treadle and the brace. After the 2nd split log cracked too, while drilling the 1″ peg holes, I decided to go with some Oak from the blow-down last summer. I’ve got to replace the short log section laying on the bench attached to the right side. It’s about 2″ too short and won’t brace the piece properly. Pretty slick piece of work if you ask me. Gave me ideas..

It would have been easier to make this thing if I had a shave horse to make the parts on.

The large shed frame went on hold yesterday as we accidentally invited the entire Courier readership to a Potluck here last night. Leah had one of her Newsletters reprinted in the paper instead of an actual press-release. Oops. No harm done. The gathering went well. No fistfights, no puking, 911 was NOT called. We all got to meet folks we had never met before. A couple from Chardon showed up offering even Leah and I a chance to make new friends. Someone came up from PGH. Bit of a haul there. The folks from CHEF (Cherry Hill Ecological Farm) came over for the first time. All in all a  pretty awesome time.


Spring Events

Although we still have cold temperatures ahead, it’s clear that spring is upon us. I have seen turkey vultures, geese, bald eagles, and robins. I have seen the tips of crocuses poking through the snow. The maple sap is running slowly but surely. What signs of spring have you seen? Please join us as we celebrate spring with classes on plants and trees.

Work Exchange Program
We are so close to having work parties to finish the Seed House, our straw bale sunroom and greenhouse – we just need the freezing temperatures to vanish so we can start getting our hands dirty making cobb for the walls and the bench rocket stove. But don’t let that stop you from contacting us to start banking work hours in our Work Exchange Program – we need help getting seeds started, planting the green house, preparing seed beds, making trails, and more. Write to trilliumctr@gmail.com to schedule your visit.

Volunteer Program
For those who’d like to get involved and volunteer, there is no requirement to participate in the Work Exchange Program. If you simply want some time out in the woods and have a strong back or some busy hands, let us know. We always have things to do!


Monthly Plant Walk and Making Maple Syrup
March 22 – 1 PM-2:30 PM

Join us for the second plant walk of the year, which is actually a tree walk. We will be identifying trees that have medicinal and edible properties.  We will also demonstrate our process for making maple syrup. Plant walks are $10 – all funds go to the Seed Fund for the Trillium Center. Send an email to trilliumctr@gmail.com to sign up.

Serpentine Project Plant Study Group
March 22- 3 PM -5 PM

The Serpentine Project is a monthly experiential study project that allows participants to learn about plants directly from the plants. Read more about the study groups at: http://serpentine-project.org/. The cost is $10 and includes a 2-hour workshop and a sample of the plant medicine to take home. Space is limited, so please send us an email to reserve a seat at trilliumctr@gmail.com.

Community Herbal Intensive
March 29 – 10 AM-6 PM

Monthly series that includes basic identification of wild edible and medicinal plants, herbal medicine making, basic anatomy and physiology, frameworks for developing community projects. Cost per workshop is $75, but early birds get a special price. Full description is on our Programs page.


Plant Walk
April 5 – 1 -2:30 PM

Ever wonder what that weed is growing in your back yard, or that flower that blooms deep in the woods in the spring? Learn to identify plants and trees at the monthly plant walk led by herbalist and community health educator, Leah Wolfe, MPH. She will point out wild edible plants, plants that have a history of being used medicinally, along with folklore and some of the latest science on the wild things growing around us. Cost $10. Dress for outdoors.

Cleveland Museum of Natural History: Field Trip to the Trillium Center
April 12 – 10 AM-1 PM

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History will be bringing a van from Cleveland to the Trillium Center for a tour and plant walk. Come learn about seasonal medicinal and edible plants. In early April, we expect to see the spring ephemerals, the forest dwellers that begin to emerge before the canopy fills with shady leaves. Register at http://cmnh.org/site/ClassesandPrograms/AdultFieldTrips.aspx

Plant Walk
April 12 – 1 -2:30 PM

Ever wonder what that weed is growing in your back yard, or that flower that blooms deep in the woods in the spring? Learn to identify plants and trees at the monthly plant walk led by herbalist and community health educator, Leah Wolfe, MPH. She will point out wild edible plants, plants that have a history of being used medicinally, along with folklore and some of the latest science on the wild things growing around us. Cost $10. Dress for outdoors.

Serpentine Project Plant Study Group
April 12, 3-5 PM

The Serpentine Project is a monthly study group that allows participants to learn about plants directly by using their senses, such as taste and smell. Cost $10 – includes a sample of the plant medicine to take home. Read more about the study groups at: serpentine-project.org.

Community Herbal Intensive
April 26 – 10 AM-6 PM

Monthly series that includes basic identification of wild edible and medicinal plants, herbal medicine making, basic anatomy and physiology, frameworks for developing community projects.  This series is closed for 2014, please send us an email if you’re interested in attending in 2015.



the bench is born

still grinding away at things here.

this week we have a house guest who is more than a little willing to get his hands (and feet) dirty for the cause.

with his help, we have gotten the base layer of the Rocket Stove with Thermal Mass Bench started.

it’s coming along well

we’ve mixed up our very first batch of cob.

(he mixed it with his bare feet!!)

more to come

check out the flicker page for images

detail greenhouse view 3

the Seedhouse has its winter coat on!!!

NW corner viewwell, we finally got it plastered.

not 100% finished and done yet, but we got the plaster “brown coat” on the entire exterior of the structure.

and let me tell you not a minute too soon. Chance of “snowy mix” tomorrow.

anyway, here are our latest images

next step is closing in the greenhouse and setting the south and eastern walls for the seed house

one nail/screw/bale at a time

slow and steady wins the race