Back to the land...

This blog is an account of our experiences trying to homestead in Eastern Tennessee. We've bought almost ten acres with power and a well, and a small shed for the well pump. Half the land is already cleared.

This year we haul out 10 tons of trash from an old burned down home. We plant a large garden, and fruit trees, and build a compost bin specifically for humanure. We build a small pad for a gazebo up under the oaks, and begin building our house/barn, with grading, a stone foundation, a concrete stem wall, and the modified post and beam frame. Everything is done by hand. We also dig four thirty foot swales across the top of the clearing and plant the berms with blueberry. A lot of work, and a lot more to go . . .

I'll also cover the process of picking out a piece of land, the negotiation, and "where to begin?" phase, at least how it all went for us.

[YEAR 2] - We build the shell of a 16'x25' two story cabin from scratch . . . check out how it was built.

[YEAR 3] - We try to finish the cabin . . .

[YEAR 4] - I move up permanently to the property to homestead full-time . . .

[YEAR 5] - Rachel and I try to make it as homesteaders . . with a wood cook stove, dairy goats and a cow, finish the barn, expand the garden, fence pastures, plant more fruit trees, build a flock of healthy layers, grow our own animal food - in other words . . . WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK . . .

[YEAR 6]
'Homesteading in Tennessee' is now HOLDOUT FARM. Check out our new farm website. We produce premium quality raw dairy products from our fodder-fed goats, pastured eggs, organic fruits and vegetables, and offer a seasonal list of classes on Permaculture Homesteading.
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Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Harvest

We're returning to Atlanta for the winter on September 9th. Patty and I will both work full-time, and try to save as much money as possible, and come back up next year on the 1st of April to remain permanently.

I take some last shots of the property before we leave. Here's looking towards the gazebo:

Looking down from the gazebo:


The fireplace with the tent removed:

Closer:

A shot of the barn:

Another:

The compost bin:

Next year we'll let the left chamber sit, and begin filling the right. The year after we'll have compost.
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I drain the water out of the hose and disconnect it. I duct tape some insulation around the exposed pipes so they won't freeze and crack like last winter. There's another sheet of insulation up in the attic of the shed. I pull that down, but when I open it, guess what I find:

Baby mice. They are adorable. I carefully fold the insulation and put it back up where it was.

It all started when I noticed something was moving our beans around. Brooke one time heard scurrying sounds. Then they saw a mouse leaping from one plywood sheet to another up in the attic. They even saw a mother mouse running up the wall with a baby in her mouth. I wonder if they've stashed enough food for the winter.

I organize the inside of the shed, bring in the wood remnants, and lock it up. Here's the inside before I lock it up:


You can see the pipes above the well casing covered in insulation.

Most of my tools I'm taking with me. Here's the pumphouse from the outside, locked up:


The morning we leave the kids gather up all the ripe fruit in the garden. There are two large bags of tomatoes, and several cantelope:

We camp one night in a state park outside Atlanta after the three hour drive. The cost to set up a tent is an unbelievable $22. I guess what we're saying is our public lands are only for the rich.

We find a good site off the lake:

And go out and swim:


I take a photo of our fruit from the garden as it was getting smashed in the canvas bags - I need to repack it:

We get a thunderstorm and it rains, so we go in the tent and play cards. There's a break in the rain and we go hike a short loop trail to see an old log cabin. It just amazes me what people were able to accomplish in the past with simple hand tools:

The chimney alone was incredible:

Here are closer shots of how all this stone was meticulously packed together to form the chimney - and all of it square and plumb:


The pier foundations for the massive chestnut sills were made the same way.
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Brooke found some oyster mushrooms:

Here's Rachael on a stump:

The next morning we gathered two gallon bowls of muscadine grapes, and headed to Atlanta.

Country Neighbors

The first neighbor I met was back in the fall of 07', when we were first cleaning the burn site. He pulled up in his big white pickup. His name was Brent, with his wife Sandy beside him. He had a big white beard. They lived a couple hundred yards down the road, on the opposite side.

He knew the last owner, and was just checking on the property, seeing who we were. He hadn't known it was sold. The last owner had said he could have all the downed wood on the property, and he asked me if I had any use for it. I told him we were going to try and use everything. If not for logs, at the very least I'd use it for cordwood masonry or firewood.

He said he was a Vietnam vet, permanently disabled. I learned later he had lost a leg, and it's why he never got out of the car - and in fact I never saw him but behind the wheel.

He and his wife were very friendly. Our dogs played for a while. Brent and his wife raised bees and sold honey. They'd built their large beautiful cabin by themselves. And they're actually from the North, like us. One's from Jersey and the other upstate New York, if I remember right.

I didn't see them again until the next summer, driving down the road. They offered to give us a ride out to a mountain spring where they got all their drinking water (the well water being too metallic). I'd hoped to join them, but Patty came up and we were often out so we missed them.

I later learned that Brent also has chickens, and he got them because chickens eat ticks. Even though we've been vegetarians for over 8 years now, this might be a good reason to raise some chickens. Maybe they'll even pick them off the dog [Mishka was so covered in both hard and soft-bodied ticks that Patty kept him down in Atlanta for the last month, after having him dipped at the vet]. We can always sell the eggs, if we don't wish to eat them.

I liked Brent and Sandy a lot, and felt we probably have more in common with them than anyone else around here, but never got a chance to know them better.


The next neighbor I met is a woman who stopped by when I was out digging a hole for the mailbox. She lived a few miles down the road, and had horses. They'd been here 7 years. They started out in a camper, then built a small cabin. They're now building a house up on top of their barn. She's the neighbor who said if I cleared the land and kept it short it would help with the ticks.

She wanted to see what we'd done with the property so far, so I took her for a tour. She was impressed with how pretty it was from up there. I didn't intend to take her inside the shed, but when the kids started talking about the eggs in the nest I thought it would be neat to show her. However when she saw our toilet in there she froze and backed out. She wondered why we hadn't connected to the septic yet. I didn't even bother mentioning the idea of humanure. And the funny thing was, being so pro-septic, she went on to tell me a horror story about how their septic backed up, and they had sewage going down a hillside, and how expensive it was to take care of it.

She used horse manure to fertilize her garden, and said she swears by it - she's got rich black soil, and can grow anything. She said I could come up and have as much manure as I wanted. All I'd need were bags. She'd planted the idea in my head to go gather composted manure from the hillside above to use for my garden. And I think she's right, it works.


I also met a guy named Vic. He and his wife are retired doctors from Knoxville. When I was down by the mailbox he stopped by with a friend. He asked me how the ticks were, and his friend said something about how this place is Tick City.

I later visited him and his wife and his cabin and found them to be wonderful people. They gave me a lot of information about the area. And they were very enthusiastic about having us as permanent neighbors, maybe because we're from the big city too. When I asked his wife if there were any Girl Scouts' programs around here, she said there was Boy Scouts in Deer Lodge, but no Girl Scouts that she knew of - but she said she'd start one, if that was so. Vic said the area had many programs for children that most people didn't take advantage of.

And Vic said the last two years had been highly unusual as far as ticks - they were never this bad before. Somebody'd told him it was the summer drought of the last two years that really brought them out. This was good to hear.

Vic and his wife were also adamantly against our dirt road being given over to the county for maintainence. They liked the fact that this area was ours, and let's keep it that way, not try and bring the government in to manage it. I agreed and admired that. I looked forward to getting to know them better.


I met another guy named Jim who didn't impress me much. He was also from the North, in fact, Erie, Pennsylvania. He was the one pushing for county maintainence of the road, and was prepared to start a lawsuit over it. He had a lot of negative things to say about a lot of people, and was rather belligerent. Being originally Pennsylvanian, he reminded me a lot of backwards Northeasterners who think everybody they don't like or who doesn't agree with them is either a drug dealer or a devil-worshipper. I only saw him once, so my impression is pretty limited. Though he's somebody I will probably avoid. He lives far away anyhow, a couple miles up the road.


My next door neighbor George stopped by once in the spring. He's also from the Northeast. He lives beside us to the west. But with the trees, and the size of the acreage, I never see or hear him. He is exceptionally friendly and polite. He tells me about the great old trees that used to be here, before the last owner had them cut and sold. I guess the fire that burned down the home also happened under suspicious circumstances. I try and not let the past affect me. What went before has nothing to do with what I'm doing now.

I go visit George in the fall before we leave to go back to Atlanta, to ask if he can keep an eye out for the place. I also invite him over to see what we've done with the property so far. He is very impressed, says I can use his equipment whenever I like, and when he hears that only a lack of work is keeping us from living here full-time, he offers me a job at his plant of which he's the supervisor. This is great news and incredible generosity. It will give us some kind of income and break our dependence on Atantla.

He also says if we want to raise chickens, he'll give us chicks in the spring. And if we want to try growing grapes, he'll give us cuttings from his grapes to plant.

The other thing about George is that he's totally for what we're doing, as far as homesteading, and raising our kids in the country. He believes it's the best life for them. This is the kind of support we need. George had originally tried to purchase this property, and planned on growing a Christmas tree farm, but at the time the owner was not ready to sell.

What we've learned is this: we originally assumed that rural people would have nothing in common with us, and be ultra-conventional, and frown on what we're doing. So we set out to keep a certain distance and privacy. But we've now realized this is untrue. They are all semi-homesteading themselves, and believe devoutly in country living, and being close to the land, and keeping it simple. So instead of staying isolated, like we have for so many years, I think we're going to mix with our neighbors and form some community bonds. We could make our lives much easier, for one thing, but mostly I think it will help us settle in and identify ourselves with Sunbright. You can't both homestead and be cosmopolitan and zipping around the globe.

09' is the year we'll give our best shot at settling down in one spot, and quenching the wanderlust and elsewhereness.

Clearing the Land

A neighbor had once said that mowing would probably be the best way to keep the ticks down, as well as other insects. And I've noticed a lot of woody plants coming up in the field, so I think it's important to clear it, at least once a year. I've also got to come up with some low-budget activities since we're here another week, and out of money.

We don't have a mower, or tractor, or anything like that. But we do have a weedwhacker. I tried a cordless trimmer and it had absolutely no power - the battery was dead in 30 minutes. So we got the most powerful corded trimmer available, about $70. This works phenomenally well, though of course you've got to drag the cord around. We've got 300 feet of 12 gauge extension cord. Cordless just never has the power of AC, unless you spend four times as much.

I start with clearing our high-use areas, around the garden first. Here's a few photos of it finished:

You can see the persimmon has put out several big leaves, and the perennial thyme is doing very well. These plants started out in a little tray of six.

Here's the fireplace and pool area:


Rachael gave it a shot for a while:


I then started clearing the hillside, working behind the barn and to the west of it. Here's a pic:


It was interesting to have so much lawn. I missed the lush fields of clover, though of course they'd be back in seconds. There was suddenly so much space we could actually walk across and use.

I continued to work west, clearing towards the gazebo:

I came across several mantids, working the high grass, and brought them down to the garden. Here's one on Brooke's wrist:

Here's the area around the gazebo cleared, a big job:

Clearing all this land with a trimmer was slow and arduous, and of course absurd. But I felt it needed done so that we'd have a good field next year.

Here's the field cleared down the hillside south of the gazebo:

I stopped about right there.
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I got stung by wasps on the section leading up to the gazebo. I got simulataneously stung on the arm and on my cheek. My cheek killed for a day. And then when I walked down to the fireplace I got stung right in the chest. This was very strange. We'd lived in peace with the wasps in the fireplace all this time, and now all the sudden one went up and stung me. He must have sensed something, or there's some kind of wasp communication, and I was now a threat.

Rachael also got stung a few times. It really hurts. We drop the trimmer and run screaming. I've been stung by hornets before, but this is worse. They're some kind of ground-dwelling wasps. The only sting it's not more painful than would be a bumblebee. You think of bumblebees as being so docile, and harmless, and in general they are. But I had one sting me in the knee once, and it's like a gunshot. For 24 hours the pain was unbelievable.

There's a funny story in connection with this. The girls and I were camping up at Graveyard Fields, about an hour west of Asheville, N.C. off the Blue Ridge Parkway, on the edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness. We'd found a secret camp in a grove of maple. The trail was so close I could see it well from camp, but nobody on the trail could see us because of the trees.

I saw an Indian guy go by, with a bucket, and his dog. I started thinking about how close even modern day Indians are to the land. He's probably up here every year to get a ton of berries. I envied him, and admired him. They seem at home outside, at peace, and seem to listen to what's around them.

Later that day as the girls and I were walking the trail back up to camp, coming from swimming below the waterfalls in the creek, we encountered this Indian again. This time he was with another person, joking and laughing, and before he could even greet us he started swearing and yelling and wrestling to get his shirt off. I saw a bumblebee drop out, and he cursed it and stomped on it. I didn't despise him, because I knew how painful it was from getting stung myself, and hugging my knee all day. But it did temper my admiration, and make me rethink what I imagined was his unattainable connection to the land.

As I finished the clearing, some interesting things occured. For one the puffballs came back. We saw them everywhere.
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Here's a photo:

And you know that line from FIELD OF DREAMS, "if you build it, they will come"? Well in this instance, it was, "if you clear it, they will come."
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We first saw a groundhog out eating the young grass sprouting back up. Rachael stalked him and got very close (about 8 feet away), and took several photos, but in every one he's in the shade of the tree and hard to spot. Here's the picture where he's most visible:

You can see him there with his head up if you really study it.
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And then a yearling fawn showed up. He came and grazed every evening, sometimes in the early evening, very close to us. His presence became commonplace. We saw him nearly every day, morning and evening. Sometimes he'd spook if we got too close, and bound off into the woods. But he'd come back, shortly after. Here's a couple of photos of him:


One time two full grown doe came down early in the morning to graze.

I think if we had Mishka here we probably wouldn't have had so many forest visitors. He would have chased them out.

Hanging the Joists

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The first step in hanging the joists was figuring out where to put them. Rachael and I spent almost an entire day with the laser level, shooting level and marking it on all the posts, then measuring up. Because all the 2x10 boards that were used for the beams were crowned (bowed slightly with the arch up) I wasn't dealing with straight horizontal beams. We're talking fractions of an inch here, not inches, but I did need to decide what exact elevation for the floor would work best with the beams I had up. I didn't want some hangers partly below a beam, or a joist rising too high above one.

Ultimately I decided to go with a higher elevation for the floor, rather than go for an average. I knew I didn't want a joist hanging below a beam anywhere, and where the joists rested above a beam, I could build the beam up with a little plywood, which would actually strengthen it. Wherever a beam arched slightly above the joists, I could shave it with a planer.

So once I decided on the spot, I went around marking it. Since I couldn't really shoot and mark the mid-beams, because they had no studs, I would have to use a 4' level and hang the joists level with the 4x10 doubled joists.

All of this work was done before I put up the 4x10 doubled joists for the roof. The whole floor would be hung at the level they were at.

A 12 foot 2x10 is heavy. Especially when you've got to put it in 12 feet above you. And I had 47 to put up. So I had to formulate some kind of technique for getting them up fast and easy alone. After wrestling with the first few joists, and spending 90 minutes getting each one in, I got a certain series of steps down which I mechanically followed and cut the time to about 60 minutes.

Here are the steps in order:

Step 1:

Mark the spots for the hangers. I usually did this step in mass, measuring a 12' section at a time. I stretched out my tape 12 feet along the beam, then went marking the spot every two feet (as my joists are going in 24" on center). Just this step alone meant getting up and down the ladder and moving it three times. Then I went over and did the opposite beam.

Because each board is 1.5" wide, I made marks 3/4" from either side of the center mark. These outside marks are what I used for location of the hanger. I took my torpedo level and drew lines plumb and vertical down from these marks. I did this along both beams. Then I knew where my joists would go.

Step 2:

Measure the length for the joist. This is actually a tedious step for me, because as one person, I have to secure the body of the tape measure somewhere, then stretch out the tape, stick it in place, and go back and measure. I first climb the ladder beside a beam and set my tape on it. I stretch out the tape about 12 feet. I climb down my ladder and move it over to the opposite beam. I take the end of the tape carefully (to keep from pulling the tape-body down), and get it snug somewhere on this beam. If there's nowhere to stick the metal end so it won't move, I use a hammer to hold it down. I then go back over to where the body of the tape measure is, pull it taut and measure.

However, this length I've established is for the top or crowned side of the joist. To find the length of the bottom I use my torpedo level. I set it plumb against the beam to check if the board in the beam itself is not exactly plumb. If it isn't I measure the gap, either above or below. I also do this on the opposite beam.

The point of all this is two-fold. I want the joist to fit so tight I have to beat it in with a rubber mallet - I don't wan't it just hanging there loose. It's also much easier to get the joist precisely in place and to fasten when it's stuck between the beams.

And the other reason is for what I call the "keystone cut". If the beams, on either side, are not quite plumb, and there is in fact a greater distance between the top of the beams than the bottom (even so subtle as a 1/16"), I can, if not on both sides, at least one side, cut the board with a keystone cut, so that it drops into place and can go no further down. This way as the weight of the floor pushes on the joist, it has nowhere to go, because it's a little longer at the top, and drops in like a keystone.

If conversely the beams are further apart at the bottom than the top, I just ignore it. One reason is I don't get the keystone effect if I cut it flush, and secondly I'm dropping the boards in from above - impossible to do if the bottom length is greater than the space for it at the top.

So this meaasurement's crucial and I try to get it right. And if you consider what a hassle it is to get this board up in the first place, I certainly don't want to bring it back down to recut it.

One last reason for the keystone cut is that since I'm trying to drop the boards in from above, if the bottom of the board is a little shorter, I can get it in easily, then start beating it down. But if the bottom measurement is not shorter, it's very difficult to even get started and wedge the board between the beams.

Step 3:

Cut the joist. I go pick out a 2x10. It's very important to have your wood covered or the sun will warp it, and make it very difficult to install. I've got mine covered with old tarps.

I hold the board and sight down each side to see which is crowned. It is almost inevitable with a board of this length that it will have some kind of crown, or arch. Once I've seen which side is the top of the arch, I carry it over to the saw station, and set it in place with the arch towards me, every time, so I don't make a mistake and cut the wrong length for the top and bottom.

Often a board will not be cut square at the end either. If you can use it, and it works for your custom measurement, great, if not, the first step is to use a speed square and circular saw to cut one end square.

If one of my cuts is not perpindicular, due to trying to keystone the board, I draw a line for the cut on the board and cut it freehand (without using the speed square as a rail). For a while I was using a framing square clamped down for the saw to run along, on a perpindicular cut. But ultimately I decided this step was too tedious and unnecessary for something such as framing - nobody's going to see this cut anyway - and I can do a fine enough job just sighting the line and running the saw along it.

Once the board is cut I carry it crown-side up over to the barn, again so that I don't make a foolish mistake and forget which side is up on the board. I also set it down crown-side up. It seems anal, but it's this sort of mindless routine which quickens your pace and lessens mistakes.

Step 4:

Putting up the hangers. This step can also be done before or after you measure the length for the joist.

I climb the ladder with the 2x10 hanger (got them for 60 cents a piece at a local hardware store, half the cost of Lowe's). I have a small C clamp attached to the top of the hanger so that the sides of the hanger are parallel (they bow out normally). I position the hanger right on top of the lines, and try to guess where the height should be, going by the last joist, and the trend, and then clamp it in place with a bar clamp. It's better to guess too low for the hanger than too high, because it's easy to beat the board up and insert a shim or two, than totally detach and move the hanger down - but I'll discuss this later.

I put in only two 1.5" screws on either side of the hanger, since this is only temporary. Once the joist is exactly in place the hanger will be moved flush with the joist.

I now go over to the opposite beam and put up the other hanger, the same way.

Even though the joist is cut tight, I need hangers to drop it in, to keep the board from twisting left to right and out of plumb. The sides of the hanger keep the joist vertical, then all I have to adjust is height.

Step 5:

Getting the joist up. This is where technique really improved my efficiency. What at first was a monumental obstacle in the process became quick work.

I set the ladder close to one of the beams in line with where the joist will go overhead. I take my joist and pick up one end (crown-side up), and walk it up the ladder and set it on top. Usually it will stay there for a moment, but sometimes I have to hold it. I take a rope and tie it to the last joist I put up. I tie the other end of the rope to the joist end sitting on the ladder. What's key here is choking up on where you tie the rope - don't tie it towards the end. The reason for this is you won't have enough board end beyond the rope to reach up and sit on the beam over the hanger - the rope will want to pull it off if it's not choked up.

I then take my ladder over to the opposite beam where the other end of the board is sitting in the dirt. I take it and walk it up the ladder, holding it carefully, and set it right on the bottom lip of the hanger. It's only in at an angle, just on the edge, because of the way it's tied to the last joist. But it will stay there from weight alone. I never had one fall.

But it is precarious and I do hurry for the next step. I move the ladder back over to the beam where I tied the joist, and pick the end up and set it up on the beam right above the hanger. If possible I try and shove the board away from me deeper into the hanger it's already sitting in. Since the board is now straight I can usually shove it in another 1/2".

I position this joist end so it's exactly over the hanger, so it will drop in. I take my rope I had tied and untie it. I retie it around the joist end sitting up on the beam, as tightly as I can to the beam. I don't want this joist end to be able to wobble. The reason is that as I pick up and pull on the far end of the joist, this end will drop into place - but only if the rope's tight, so that it won't turn left or right.

Once it's tied up I go back over to the other end of the joist that's sitting in the hanger. Now because this board is cut exactly to length, I can't force it in diagonally. So I have to slowly lift this board in the hanger, and pull it flush to the beam, until the other side drops into place. If I've done everything perfectly right I'll hear and feel the other end drop in as I lift my end of the joist. However sometimes that doesn't happen. So I put a block into the hanger to keep this end up, go over to the other end and start beating it down.

Occasionally the joist end that drops doesn't land inside the hanger, but slightly to one side or the other. However it drops with such force that the bottom of the board digs in to the top side of the hanger, holding it there. I never once had a board miss and drop to the ground.

Once both ends of the joist are in, I go back and forth from one side to the other beating each end down until it's down where it needs to be. The reason you have to go back and forth is that as you beat one end down, the other rises slightly. After a while I noticed that instead of moving my ladder over and over again, if I positioned it towards the middle, I could beat towards one end for a while, then towards the other end, and usually get the same results. But much faster.

Step 6:

Getting the joist into position. Now I use my level to figure out exactly where the top of the joist should be. I beat it with the mallet to get it there, or if it's loose, use shims below it in the hanger to raise it to the exact right height. The edges of the hangers keep the board from leaning to the right or left - that's the problem with having a hanger set too high. You've got to totally detach it and then the joist will immediately warp one way or another, and it will be difficult to get the hanger back up straight over your initial lines.

Once the joist is at the right height, I then go for perfectly plumb. This is where my 3' pipe clamp comes in. I use the last joist put in 2 feet away, and tighten the clamp from this joist to either the bottom or top of my new joist to move it. Once I get the board plumb with the clamp, I again check level with the last joist. Typically moving for plumb offsets the height and I've got to tap it back either up or down. Once this joist end is both level and plumb I secure it with toenailing.

I usually use one screw on either side, though I experimented with spiral nails - the idea is to put as little stress on the board as possible so it doesn't move. Ultimately I decided screws were best, as drilling seems less jarring than hammering.

Once the board is toenailed into place, I can begin fastening.

Step 7:

Fastening the joist in place. The first thing I do is unscrew and detach the hanger. I then move it up tight to the joist, and use a 3" C clamp at the top to pinch the ends of the hanger together, flush with the board. Typically one corner of the bottom of the hanger will need tapped up to the board to get it snug. I then put in the bottom screws. I check again for plumb, and possibly adjust the pipe clamp, before putting in upper screws. Since you're dealing with shear force on the fasteners, from the weight of the floor above, I like to mix up the fasteners I use. Actual joist hanger nails are fat but short and expensive. So I use 2 1/2" to 3" drywall screws alternated with 3" ring shank nails. This way I don't have to worry about nails migrating out of their holes, nor the shear force being too much for the screws.

Once I have one end in I go over and repeat everything I did for the other end. And that's that, it's in. You can see why it takes 60 minutes. With another person it'd probably be more like 15, at the most 20.

But there's nothing wrong with something taking a lot of time.

Here's the barn with the first round of joists in, and bridging:

Here's me sealing what I'd done so far:


The purpose of bridging is to stiffen the joists and keep them straight. It also provides more nailing surface for the flooring above.

I cut the bridging from the 2x8 stock (a little cheaper, unnecessary to use 2x10, and you get a reveal, instead of fighting for flush). I gang-cut the pieces and use clamps to hold them in place. I run the bridging in a direct line from front stud to back stud, alternating each piece so I would have a place on the joist to nail it. Here's a shot of the bridging from above:


I rotated either 2 or 3 fasteners to hold the bridging, careful to avoid the same grain in the joist, so there'd be no danger of splitting. The whole idea behind bridging is to strengthen the joists, not weaken them, so I think it's important to be conservative with fastening here.

Here are two shots from below of the joists:


The hangers tie directly in to the blocking, as you can see above:


Here's me sealing the back left corner:


I'm actually a little disappointed in this back left corner. When I got this corner post plumb, and cut my beams for it, I noticed the boards were rather long compared to the rest. In fact my 12' stock wasn't enough, I had to use a 14 footer. But instead of pausing here, and thoroughly examining this, I just plowed on, and ignored it. Never do this in building. If something doesn't add up, it matters, you've got to figure it out. It's like your car making a noise - something is wrong, you better believe it, even if the noise goes away. For me denial almost automatically kicks in.

What happened I realized when I got the last joist in place. It was that the original builder hadn't set the post in exactly the right spot, probably as he was going up the hill with his pole placement. He was an inch or two off. It's just cosmetic - I could come back and spend a day messing with it, to get it perfect - but who knows, that may not be possible, considering all the framing I already have tied in to this corner, and that the post is set in the stem wall. I may just ignore it. I might not have been able to do anything about it in the first place, except set the post at a lean in, and boxed around it - not very structurally sound.

Here's a photo Brooke took just as I finished sealing the barn:


She also took a photo of me standing on top of the barn. We have a great view up there of rolling forested hills:


Here's a shot of the top of the joists:


These post-ends sticking up I then remove with a reciprocating saw. A few I keep to tie in to the framing in the upper story, but most go.

Here's a photo of most of the post-ends removed, and the barn all said and done for the year, as winter's ahead and we're broke:

Blog Index

10/30/08

BUYING RAW LAND

11/8/08

TRASH CLEANUP

11/10/08

WINTER IN ATLANTA

11/12/08

SPRING IN TENNESSEE

11/14/08

STARTING A GARDEN

11/15/08

BUILDING THE COMPOST BIN

11/15/08

THE FROST

11/16/08

GRADING THE BARN

11/18/08

DIGGING SWALES

11/19/08

PLANTING FRUIT TREES

11/19/08

BUILDING A STONE FOUNDATION

11/20/08

THE CONCRETE STEM WALL

11/21/08

BUILDING A SMALL 12'x12' PAD

11/21/08

THE GARDEN

11/22/08

BUILDING A DRIVEWAY

11/23/08

INSTALLING THE SILL PLATES

11/23/08

THE MODIFIED POST AND BEAM FRAME

11/27/08

FRUIT IN THE GARDEN

11/28/08

THE BARN FRAME

11/29/08

AUGUST IN TENNESSEE

11/30/08

HANGING THE JOISTS

11/30/08

CLEARING THE LAND

11/30/08

COUNTRY NEIGHBORS

11/30/08

THE HARVEST

12/1/08

PLANS FOR A CABIN

12/14/08

THE LAND IN WINTER

12/22/08

BARN UPDATE

12/29/08

WINTER PLANTING

1/4/09

EDIBLE PLANTS

1/10/09

WINTER TREES

1/12/09

WINTER TREES II

1/21/09

CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER

2/11/09

THE STRAW BALE CABIN

3/26/09

THE STRAW BALE CABIN II

4/2/09

1880 FARMHOUSE

5/6/09

HOMESTEADING / THE CABIN

8/13/09

THE POST AND BEAM CABIN

8/22/09

RETURN TO TENNESSEE

8/25/09

SITE WORK

8/30/09

DIGGING THE FOOTERS

9/4/09

THE PIER FOUNDATION

9/10/09

911

9/11/09

FINISHING THE PIER FOUNDATION

9/12/09

THE GIRDERS

9/13/09

FRAMING THE FLOOR

9/16/09

DECKING THE FLOOR

9/17/09

THE POST AND BEAM FRAME

9/19/09

THE RAFTERS

9/20/09

INSTALLING THE METAL ROOF

9/21/09

FRAMING THE WALLS

9/26/09

DOORS AND WINDOWS

9/27/09

TENNESSEE IN JULY - OUR LAST MONTH

10/2/09

TENNESSEE IN OCTOBER

10/10/09

THE BARN FLOOR

10/15/09

PIGEON MOUNTAIN

11/10/09

NOVEMBER

11/16/09

PERMACULTURE: ANOTHER ROUND OF FRUITING SHRUBS

11/22/09

DRIFTERS

11/30/09

THE BARN ROOF BEGINS

12/20/09

'DRIFTERS' PART I

12/30/09

WEATHER

1/1/10

NEW YEAR'S IN TENNESSEE

1/25/10

DRIFTERS: PART II

3/2/10

MY SISTER'S WEDDING

3/21/10

FERTILIZING WITH HUMANURE

3/28/10

THE ADDITION FLOOR

4/19/10

THE ADDITION

5/11/10

RUNAWAY

6/13/10

FINISHING THE ADDITION

.........................The Timeline.........................

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1992
-MAY . . . for Patty and I's first date, we skip school and go to the Pinnacle - a wooded overlook off the Susquehanna River.
-SEPTEMBER . . . I leave our hometown of Lancaster, PA for college - Penn State in Reading, 45 minutes away.

1993
-FEBRUARY . . . Patty and I both drop out of school, and camp in some woods behind a grocery store in Lancaster.
-MARCH . . . Patty steals her mother's credit card, and with it we take a train to Utah. We ultimately end up on the Northwest Coast, living in Port Orford, Oregon.
-APRIL - OCTOBER . . . We join a traveling carnival and work in it for 6 months. We sleep in the back of a Ryder truck, and go through California, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. I run the guns, and Patty does the goldfish. We save $9,000.
-NOVEMBER . . . We return to Lancaster and are arrested for stealing the credit card.

1995
-OCTOBER . . . We bike from Lancaster down to Charleston, South Carolina. Patty wrecks in North Carolina, and a friend drives us the rest of the way. We live in Charleston for 2 weeks.

1996
-JULY . . . Our first daughter June is born in Lancaster, PA.

1997
-MARCH . . . We sell everything in our apartment, and hike out of Lancaster with backpacks and our 9 month old daughter. We reach the Susquehanna River.
-APRIL - JUNE . . . We get a canoe and paddle 500 miles up the Susquehanna River to its source. We camp on islands. We get a ride to the Erie Barge Canal and paddle west.
-JULY . . . We are arrested in Little Falls, NY. Our daughter is taken, we're charged with neglect, and we fight the courts for months. We are cleared of all charges, but never get her back.
-SEPTEMBER . . . We take a bus out to Ruidoso, NM and camp in woods just out of town. We return to Lancaster and camp in the Brickyard for the rest of the month.
-OCTOBER - FEBRUARY . . . We live in an apartment in the Amish community of Strasburg, PA. Amish go by in their horse and buggies every day.

1998
-FEBRUARY . . . Our second daughter Rachael is born. We try to deliver her on our own at home and fail. Patty ends up in the hospital with a c-section.
-MARCH . . . We get a ride from a friend down to Covington, Virginia. We stay a week, and look for places to camp in the surrounding national forest. We find nothing, and go to New Mexico.
-MARCH - MAY . . . We camp in the Gila National Forest, north of Pinos Altos, a mile from the nearest trail. We camp above a spring with an infinite view west. We start building a hogan.
-JUNE - SEPTEMBER . . . We live downtown in Santa Fe, NM. Patty markets her paintings, and I get a N.Y. literary agent for my first book 'Flesh Aflame'.
-OCTOBER - DECEMBER . . . We rent a house in Crescent City, California, on the Northwest Coast, a mile from the ocean, on the edge of a bird sanctuary. It's great until the rains begin and we run out of money.

1999
-JANUARY - FEBRUARY . . . We camp in the Uwharrie mountains of central North Carolina, and look for a place to build a winter home.
-MARCH . . . We get a canoe and paddle the Holston River down towards Knoxville, Tennessee.
-APRIL . . . We get dropped off in the Smokies and paddle Fontana Lake. We stash our canoe at Chambers Creek and hike in to the Smokies for a secret camp. Patty paints the creek, and we stay 3 weeks.
-MAY . . . We live in a trailer just off the ocean in Myrtle Beach, SC. The sky is beautiful after storms and we love the pelicans.
-JUNE . . . We camp in the Brickyard back in Lancaster, PA, saving money for an apartment.
-JULY - DECEMBER . . . We live in Lancaster and save for our trip back out to New Mexico. We also buy the jeep.

2000
-JANUARY - JUNE . . . We camp and travel all over the Southwest, from the Gila, to Organ Pipe, to the Weminuche in Colorado. Brooke is born in February in a motel in Deming, NM.
-JULY . . . We stay in condos with a friend in Aspen, Colorado. I do concrete work. We then go to California, and look for a place to live in the Russian River area.
-AUGUST - OCTOBER . . . We rent a small house in Tesuque, NM, just outside of Santa Fe. We hike up into the Pecos Wilderness. We become vegetarians.
-NOVEMBER . . . We visit a friend in Tucson, AZ, then drive to Crescent City and the Northwest Coast. The beautiful weather is over, and the rains have begun. We don't stay long.
-DECEMBER . . . We return to Pennsylvania, and live out of our car in the Philidelphia area while Patty works at a restaurant. We sleep in parking lots and rest stops. It's the coldest December on record for the area, with the wind chill it's -10.



2001
-
JANUARY . . . We head south for warmth, try the Chatooga area of South Carolina, then camp in the woods of northern Florida.
-
FEBRUARY - JUNE . . . We live in Asheville, NC, in the middle of the Southern Appalachains. We spend nearly every day out on the trails, hiking, and learning plants.
-
JULY . . . We get mountain bikes for touring, and bike the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Smokies.
-
AUGUST . . . We camp in the Weminuche Wilderness of southwest Colorado, and do a 6 day fast.
-
SEPTEMBER . . . We stay in Loveland, Colorado with a friend. We climb Long's Peak on the day after 9/11. We then drive to Vermont, and look for a place to live in the Burlington area.
-
OCTOBER - DECEMBER . . . We rent a house in Tucson, AZ, and try to become raw fooders.

2002
-
JANUARY . . . We hike in to Jordan Hot Springs in the Gila.
-
FEBRUARY . . . We bike in to Turkey Creek Hot Springs. We stash our bikes near the mouth of the creek, and hike the rest of the way. Many of the pools have been ruined from floods.
-
MARCH . . . We go to Vermont again, this time the Bennington area of southern Vermont. It's way too cold.
-
APRIL - JULY . . . We rent a house in Asheville, NC again. This time we have a large garden, and become 100% raw fooders. Every day I'm out hiking the trails gathering wild edible plants.
-
AUGUST . . . We cash out all our credit cards, and move up to Shining Rocks Wilderness in the Southern Appalachians, camping at over 5,000 feet. There are blueberry fields everywhere, and blackberry, and wild cherries. Not only are we mono-raw fooders now, much of our food is wild. I hike barefoot everywhere. We bathe in the pool below the falls.
-SEPTEMBER . . . We visit a friend in Atlanta, and on a night full of alcohol I break my foot in 3 places. I'm told I'll be crippled with arthritis, and ultimately never walk again.
-OCTOBER - DECEMBER . . . We rent a furnished condo in Tucson, AZ. I cut my cast off prematurely with tin snips.

2003
-JANUARY . . . We camp off the Gila River at Box Canyon, just up from the city of Gila. I'm still on crutches. We meet Jabber-Mike, and Vet-Mike, and Doug. We trade juniper berries for Doug's black walnuts. We're still 100% raw fooders, and Doug teaches me the local plants.
-FEBRUARY - MARCH . . . We return to Atlanta for free medical care so I can learn how to walk again. PT is hell.
-APRIL - MAY . . . We go back to the Gila and camp off the Gila River. We gather cattail, nettle, primrose flowers, and harvest prickly pear pads. We find the most perfect hot spring in all of the Gila, man-made, at Brock Canyon.
-JUNE . . . We fall off our raw food diet, and camp up at Black Balsam again off the Shining Rock Wilderness. We gather wild strawberries. We then camp above the Amicalola Falls in north Georgia for 2 weeks. We become committed to the idea of buying land.
-JULY - SEPTEMBER . . . We live in Woodstock, GA, just north of Atlanta. I do a 14 day water fast.
-OCTOBER . . . We paddle Fontana Lake in the Smokies, on our way to Nova Scotia. We find a great camp and gather wild persimmons, but ultimately abandon the trip.
-NOVEMBER . . . We go back to camping off the Gila River at Brock Canyon. I begin 'June'. We run totally out of money, and gather and clean 10lbs of desert willow seed to sell to a local guy in Gila. He gives us $20/lb, and we use the money to get back to Georgia.

2004
-JANUARY . . . We go to north Florida, and check out the sinks, and the aquifer springs, and paddle the Wacissa River.
-FEBRUARY . . . We paddle the Suwanee River in North Florida. Patty makes a basket out of greenbriar.
-MARCH . . . We camp in the pine flats of Apalachicola National Forest. We make baskets from grapevine, cordage from the retting of Spanish Moss, and a mat from palmetto. We camp here for 3 weeks with no money while we wait for our tax refund. We're 100% raw fooders again.
-APRIL . . . We camp off Owl Creek and paddle the river. There are free hot showers in a nearby campground. There's a great trail with wild blueberry, and we gather the new shoots of bracken. We later camp in Tate's Hell.
-MAY . . . We camp at Sand Creek in the Ocala National Forest, an hour east of Atlanta. I gather cattail in the Beaver Pond. I edit and type up the 'June' book at a nearby library for a literary agent.
-JUNE . . . We drive out to Oregon and camp off the Illinois River in the Siskiyous.
-JULY . . . We camp in the Adirondacks off Jones Pond.
-AUGUST . . . We camp in the Jemez Region of northern New Mexico. We gather wild mushrooms, and sell lobster mushrooms to chefs in Sante Fe. We camp at San Antonio Hot Springs for a week, and Big Tesuque Campground outside Sante Fe.
-SEPTEMBER . . . We go back to the Gila and camp at Brock Canyon. We gather desert willow seed again. We swim and play games in the river. We see tarantulas. I gather prickly pear fruit in baskets we've made from willow. We take a trip up to Turkey Creek Hot Springs.
-OCTOBER . . . We camp in the Oconee National Forest southeast of Atlanta, under persimmon trees in a field. We also camp up on Pigeon Mountain near Rocktown.
-NOVEMBER - JANUARY . . . We live in Atlanta.

2005
-FEBRUARY - MARCH . . . We move to Portland Oregon. We paddle the Wilamette River, and go to the nude beach at Sauvie Island, just after Mt. St. Helens erupted.
-APRIL . . . We return to north Florida looking for land to buy. Everywhere is flooded, and there's been a lot of damage from the previous hurricane.
-MAY . . . We camp up on Pigeon Mtn. The weather's perfect, and there's more wild food here than anywhere else.
-JUNE . . . We go to Arizona, and camp in the Hannigan area of Apache National Forest. We ultimately try to get back out to Oregon, but car problems make it not possible.
-JULY . . . We return to Pigeon Mtn in Georgia. The blackberries are in.
-AUGUST . . . We stay in a campground off the ocean in Jacksonville, Florida, while we look for jobs and a place to live.
-
SEPTEMBER . . . We move back to Atlanta.
-
OCTOBER . . . We abandon the jeep with 320,000 miles in a motel parking lot.

2006
-MARCH . . . the girls and I camp up at Pigeon Mtn, in a secret camp we've made.
-JUNE . . . the girls and I go back to Pigeon and camp longer, this time starting a wigwam from red maple saplings, muscadine vines, and grass I collect naked in the field with a small knife.
-AUGUST . . . the girls and I camp up at Graveyard Fields off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Every day we gather the wild blueberries and swim in the pool beneath the falls. We hike all the trails, and establish a secret camp in a grove of juneberries.


2007
-FEBRUARY . . . We look at property in north Florida.
-MARCH . . . We look at property in Asheville, NC.
-JUNE . . . We look at the 10 acres in Sunbright, and make an offer.
-AUGUST . . . We close on the Sunbright property, and take the kids to Disneyworld.
-OCTOBER . . . The girls and I camp up on the property in Sunbright, and clean up the trash from the fire. I build a fireplace out of old concrete blocks.

2008
-APRIL - SEPTEMBER . . . The girls and I camp up on the property. We clean out the rest of the trash, build a compost bin for humanure, plant the garden, and fruit trees, I dig the swales, do the stone foundation for the barn, and the stem wall, and the post and beam frame. We build a pad for the gazebo.

2009
-APRIL - JULY . . . The girls and I camp up on the property again. We build the 2 story cabin from scratch, plant another garden, and more fruiting trees and shrubs.
-OCTOBER . . . I put the upper story floor in the barn.
-NOVEMBER . . . The girls and I begin building the barn roof.