Builders We Must Learn To Be

Reader Contribution by Bethann Weick
1 / 2
2 / 2

Neither Ryan nor I are mathematicians.Neither are we carpenters.We are a forester and a farmer, an EMT and a writer, teachers, stewards, hikers.Building & construction are not our preferred activities.

The work of cutting and joining dimensional lumber to build the hat for our home-to-be is a task that has long loomed ahead of us – daunting given our lack of experience.Just to keep things interesting, I’ll offer the reminder that we live a third of a mile from a paved road and the nearest electric line.Power equipment is not an option.Hammer, nails, measuring tape, square, level, and handsaw are our available implements.

With these tools we built sills, creating a level top to our walls of stacked logs: logs that offered beauty, but certainly not easy geometry.The sills seemed easy, however, compared to the task of building trusses.We did enjoy a frontcountry excursion for the purpose of laying out lumber in the sloped driveway of a friend and making use of the rapidity of her circular saw.In this manner the first set of rafters were trialed late in the afternoon under gray skies and an impending dinner hour.Hunger and tiredness yielded poor results. Somehow the peak was noticeably off center! 

All reasonable thought pointed to stopping before we did more damage.Hot food and deep sleep had to yield a more encouraging outcome. 

The next day we also referenced a book.Surprise, this proved to be helpful.Before the morning was out, rafters for our 9-pitch roof were cut and loaded onto the truck.Back at Coösauke, we carried the lumber to our building site, excited for the next phase. 

That was Monday.By Wednesday we were back at it; thickly clouded skies turned to a steady mist as we set to work. We developed our rhythm over the course of the morning assembling rafters, joists, and crossties into eight trusses.Thank goodness our little house (16′ x 18′) is no larger!Ryan nailed, while I measured, cut as needed, and was all-around gopher.

The most encouraging part – it worked!Except for twice.In both cases, we were able to find errors in our angles, and thankfully, correct our previous cuts without much frustration.With one truss up on the sills, we took lunch.It hadn’t stopped misting (which was more like rain by mid-day), and hot food was much appreciated. 

At this point I must introduce my parents, Bob and Maria.They live on the other side of our hill, and are the faithful fans and chief supporters of our building efforts.We are so grateful for their abundant offers of (delicious) food, encouragement, and advice.Including, on this particular day, the pick-up of extra lumber, the contribution of tools to our cache, muscle, laughter, and – importantly – a hot meal.

Which was consumed rapidly, staving off the rain’s chill.Our break was short, however, as our attention quickly returned to raising the remaining trusses. It was a slow, steady, and grunt-filled process.

By 6 o’clock that evening, as the light began to fade and the steady rain ceased, we climbed down from the skeleton we’d assembled, clothes soaked through to our skin, hands like prunes, tiredness mellowing our elation.Our daydreams and imaginings had been given form.

For advice, stories, commiserations, consultations, or design work contact Coösauke at

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368