Planning ahead

There is a project we’ve started talking about, potentially to do this coming summer. I wasn’t going to bring it up here on the blog yet, because I know how quickly plans can change. After our latest escapade with the septic troubles, however, we’re extra motivated to get it done, as quickly as possible.

The idea came to mind a while back, when I was thinking of all this friggin’ wood we’ve got all over the place. Since we don’t have a wood burning furnace, and have not been able to use the fire pit much at all due to weather conditions, using it as fire wood was just not going to make a dent in it all. Some of the wood will be used for crafting purposes but, again, that is quite limited. Plus, as I continue to clean up around the property, there is going to be more and more of this wood added.

I was also thinking ahead to when we have to clean up the old log cabins. While most people I’ve talked to about them have suggested we just light a match to them, I have no intention of doing so! I’m hoping we can restore at least one of them, but others are beyond repair. However, some of the logs are still salvageable. Could there be some way to re-purpose them? These buildings are actually older than the log portion of the house – at least one of them was a house before the family that owned the property at the time built a larger house, on a basement and everything, that we’re in now. That lends an element of history I’d love to salvage in some way.

At some point, years in the future, we’re thinking of building another house on the property. A barrier free house that my husband and I can live in, since it’s easy to foresee a day when we just can’t live in this one anymore.

Maybe we could find a way to use the logs from these old cabins, and the wood we’re collecting as we clean up, for that?

Which is when I thought of an old pioneer building method that would be perfect for using up all this wood.

Cordwood, or stackwood, building.

After doing a bunch of research, we thought it would be a good idea to first make some practice buildings. We need a new garden shed, so why not build one using this method?

Eventually, I thought, maybe let’s start with something smaller. We need to replace the old outhouse. It’s really disgusting inside, and a hole into the pit is forming under the door. Why not build a new one, but instead of a pit, we could have a composting toilet.

So that’s what we’re going to be doing (if all goes well) this summer. We’re going to find a spot, lay a foundation, and build a cordwood outhouse.

If you’re not familiar with the technique, here is an example.

Do check out the site. There is LOTS of information there. Also, here.

What we’re thinking of building isn’t going to be quite like what’s in this image.

The plan is to re-purpose as much as we can find around the farm. There are doors all over the place, for some reason, so we won’t have to buy or build a door. Instead of windows, we plan to use bottle bricks. These will allow light in while still allowing for privacy. We plan to dig 6-8 inches down and layer gravel and sand, first. Once we get that trailer fixed up, we should be able to get the sand and gravel from what’s left of the old gravel pit. We will most likely buy sidewalk blocks to put on top of this base, rather than pouring concrete. We also want to build on a base of concrete blocks. That will keep the wood well away from the ground and any potential water accumulation.

These blocks are 8 inches wide, so we’ll go with walls 8 inches thick. For a house, I’d probably want to do as much as 24 inches thick. This would involve 3 inches of mortar at each end, with insulating material in the middle. For walls only 8 inches thick, we’ll just use mortar only, with no gap. Insulation will not be a priority for this first practice building.

We’re still working out how large it will be. It will need to have room for the composting toilet, plus something to store sawdust or whatever we will be able to use to cover the… deposits… made. I also want room for a surface of some sort, with a basin to wash up in, and likely a shelf to hold a container of water with a spigot. Space to store toilet paper and hand towels would be good, too. All of this can be really compact, though, so the building will still be quite small. As long as it’s under 10 square meters, and isn’t wired for electricity, we don’t need a building permit.

It will have light besides the bottle bricks we plan to use. I’ve found solar power pendant lights online that would be perfect for this.

The roof will be a sloped roof. We have sheets of metal roofing left over from when the barn and garage roofs were done that we can salvage. I think we’ll even have eaves troughs and downspouts we can use. There will be ventilation gaps under the roof that will need to be screened off to keep out the critters – both the furry kind and the multi-legged flying kind! 😀

The big job we’ll have to get to early on, is to select and debark the wood we’ll be using. It’s recommended to use softwood only, as hardwood expands and contracts too much. We plan to build a frame and fill the gaps with cordwood, rather than using just cordwood. At least for this building.

There will be very little we should need to buy to build this, and even a small building should use up a decent amount of the wood we’ve got lying around. Since it is stacked wood, we can use quite a variety of wood sizes, too. Also, since we’re not going to use a pit, at some point the composting toilet or whatever else we put in there can be taken out, and the building used for… oh, I don’t know. A potting shed? Anything we need, really. It’s basically going to be a simple rectangle with a roof and a door.

All of this is still very much in the planning stages, so lots can change before we finally get down to building.

After the outhouse is built, I want to build a larger garden shed, next. For that, I would want to include at least one window (we’ve got lots of those lying about that we can salvage, too), and have the thicker walls with insulating material in the middle. Sawdust is the usual material mentioned, but we’ve got bags of insulation suitable for the job in the hayloft of the barn. Again, these will be practice buildings. How they work will help us decide if we do want to go all out and build a small house with this method.

Other things we’re looking to figure out what to do with are things like all the rocks we’ve got. We’ll be digging rocks out of the garden, for sure – that’s unending – but we also have rock piles all over the place, including one right next to our main power pole. Perhaps with the garden shed, we could use rocks as a base, instead of cinder blocks. Or we could use them to start building dry stacked stone walls along some fence lines? Or maybe an outdoor cooking area, complete with wind blocking walls? Who knows.

We are definitely looking at multi-year projects, here. Ideas and suggestions for future projects or techniques are, of course, very welcome!

But first, getting an outhouse built.

Because, as much as I appreciate having it when we needed it, I never want to use a honey bucket again!

The Re-Farmer

8 thoughts on “Planning ahead

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