Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
One of our projects is an 8’ by 14’ post and beam storage shed. When complete, it will house my welding equipment, generator, wood planer, and air compressor. I also promised Becky (my wife) that there would be room for garden tools there, as well. My experience with post and beam construction goes back thirty years when we built our house. That was also my first taste of sawmilling, assisting the sawyer on a very different machine from the one I now run. It was a large circle mill with an exposed blade and drive belt, powered by a Detroit Diesel engine that was always running full-throttle at a level that rattled my teeth. My job was to pull off the boards, help turn the logs and shove sawdust. Wherever I stood, it threw sawdust and wood chips at me.
Mills have changed a lot since then. I run a much more civilized band mill, which I can easily run by myself. The blade and belts are inside safety guards, and the engine makes no more noise than a lawn tractor. I can generally mill the lumber I need in less time than it would take to drive into town and buy it. Plus I know that the lumber came from a woodlot that is being managed sustainably so that it can be enjoyed and used by future generations.
Some of my construction techniques are pretty rough, and generally involve a chain saw, if I can manage it, though I have been known to use high-precision tools, such as a hand drill and skill saw when doing finish work or building furniture.
The shed’s foundation is a framework of white oak 6” by 6” beams sitting on cinder blocks. White oak is a rot resistance species that will hold its straight shape, if it is off the ground. The posts are black oak, which last indefinitely, if kept out of the weather. I experimented with cutting shoulder onto the posts by cutting them oversized, then making a second cut, and trimming them with a chain saw (the photo shows it better than I can describe it).
I also experimented with a “scissors joint”, which is used to make a long beam out of two shorter ones. I had seen this type of joint, and wanted to see whether I could build one with simple tools. Turns out that as long as you take your time and measure carefully, it isn’t difficult to make, and it is strong.
The next step will be to fit the beams to the posts, and install the angle braces, which I hope to complete in the next couple of weeks. After that, if my old Ford tractor is up to the task, I’ll top the posts and beams up onto the foundation. My neighbor has a bigger tractor with a front end loader. Always good to have a plan “B”. I’ll post photos of the “shed raising”.
Other than that, it is a busy season for Becky, who is a substitute teacher. She covers everything from Kindergarten to Sr. High math. Her favorite is high school history class, though. Some of the elementary students really take to her, but it can be exhausting. I don’t know how anyone has the patience and energy to teach elementary school full time.
Our animals sense that winter is coming, and the dogs seem to eat their weight in food every day. We’ve only used the wood stove a couple of times, but in a week or two, it will be going full time. We’ve got winter preparations yet to make. The main one is draining down our outdoor water collection system and covering up the outdoor water tank to protect it from freezing.