Wood Stoves (And Woodsheds)

IMG_2266.JPGI’m one of those people who are always cold.

I honestly can’t even imagine living in any part of the world where the temperatures drop precipitously and the snow falls heavily.  Heck, even the eastern part of the Pacific Northwest sounds pretty awful to me in the winter!  I am definitely a West-of-the-Cascades sort of person.  I can’t handle much below 40 degrees.  In fact, I’m most comfortable around 70-75 degrees, outside and in.

Which is why I was so so adamant about having a wood stove installed when we built our house.  I can’t afford to use the furnace to achieve my target temperature (propane is expensive), but I sure can use all the free wood Jasper chopped this summer to stoke a blazing fire!FullSizeRender (7).jpgAnd I love it.  I love it every day and every night when it is crackling away happily and I am warm.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t admit that the wood stove didn’t quite go according to plan.  Actually, a lot of things didn’t go according to plan, but that’s probably a post in and of itself, and I am here working hard at appreciating what we do have (which is a beautiful new house and a warm fireplace) and not dwelling on what we don’t have (which is the pinterest-worthy house I dreamed of but could not realistically afford).

So.  Anyway.  The wood stove ended up standing alone in the corner instead of the middle of the wall in a fireplace surround, and that’s OK.  It works for us, and keeps the house cozy and warm and that’s the important thing.

FullSizeRender (4)To make feeding the fireplace easier on ourselves, Jasper’s very first project after me moved into the farmhouse was to build a new woodshed.  Most of our wood is stacked down in the woodlot past the lower field, in what’s left of an old metal pole barn.  That’s where Jasper and his dad dragged all the blown down trees last summer and did all the work of cutting rounds and splitting them.  But we needed something a little smaller and a little closer to the house, because walking a quarter of a mile down to the woodlot every night to get a load to fill up the stove just didn’t sound appealing.

In just two days Jasper built this little shed, using mostly wood and cedar shakes recycled from the old shed we took down last spring, or milled lumber we found down in the lower garage.  I think the only thing we bought were those hinges for the doors.

FullSizeRender (5)He also used some reclaimed wood from the original farmhouse.  The boards in the picture above were originally part of the walls and ceiling of the house, and were milled at the Crossett Western Lumber Company at Wauna at the turn of the 20th century.  They’re pretty neat to look at every time we open the woodshed doors.

He didn’t use any plans to build it, just a vision in his head, and I think it turned out pretty good.  But, as I’m sure will happen frequently on this journey of ours, we’ll need to tweak it a little come summer.  There isn’t enough of an overhang on the roof, and the doors don’t shut tight at the top, so water drips right in and gets the first row of wood a bit damp.  Also, the latch he made swells in the wet weather and makes it almost impossible to close securely at times.  For now though it works well enough, and there is so much else to do before spring comes knocking.

Not least of which is keeping warm in front of the wood stove on these cold winter days.


Windows and Tubs

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The windows are in, the roof is on, the plumbers are setting pipe and installing the tubs and showers as we speak.  The heating and the siding should also be done by the end of the week, and then it’s the electricians turn!

It’s hard to believe how fast it’s all coming together.  Every time we walk in there it looks more like a house.  The skeleton of a house, granted, but a house nonetheless.

Another Nest


Image by Andreas Eichler

“I don’t know if you know this, but somebody else is already living in your house,” our builder said to us.

Eyebrows raised quizzically, I looked at him.

“The barn swallows,” he said, gesturing to the shimmering orange and blue streaks in the air.  “They built a nest overnight!”

And sure enough, there is a little mud-daubed cup near the ceiling in the living room of the new farmhouse.  It is not lost on me that they are building a home to safely raise their children in the same place we are building one to raise our own.  As different as we are, our goals are essentially the same.  Our dreams not that dissimilar.

Still, I know the nest will have to go soon.  Before the swallows lay their eggs, before the windows are installed and the ways in and out are closed to them, I will have to climb up and carefully pry it from the wall.  It’s the kindest thing I can do.  But, for a little while longer anyway, I will stand transfixed and watch the pair dip and swoop through the empty rooms and the unfinished walls.

Energy and graceful half moons in the air; little prayers of hope on the wing.

Wood and Nails and Walls

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The house is real now.

It’s become actually real, where before it was still mostly just drawings on a blueprint and a hearty dose of faith.  Even when they poured the foundation, even when that first wall went up like a false front in a western town, it wasn’t quite palpable.  It was a dream.  It was something rich people did, not us.  It was not real.

But here we are now.  A real house.  Our house.

Soon to be our home.


0612 house0614 house0614 house2I know this is usual when houses are being built but, still, the sudden appearance of walls took my breath away!  It seems so real now.  And so, so exciting.

Remember when I thought the house was going to be too small?  It’s amazing how some walls suddenly put things in perspective.  I can start to picture things now – where the furniture might go, the paths we will take from room to room.  The living we will do there.  I think there will be space enough for all of it.

Jack, our builder, said that the trusses are set to be delivered on the 23rd – just next week! – so they will be working like crazy to have the second story done on time.  By the end of this month we should have a house with walls and rooms and a roof!

The beginnings of our home.

Moving Right Along

0603 house.jpgThe filled and leveled hole that we all found so exciting has become even more exciting!  Now it’s surrounded by a foundation wall!

Of course I had that moment of doubt that I hear is pretty common at this stage among people building houses.  The worry that it’s not the right size.  In fact, I think the first words out of my mouth when we drove up were, “It looks really small.”

I know, I know.  That’s just ridiculous.

This will not be a tiny house by any means.  However, it will also not be a mega-mansion.  The finished space will be on the upper end of 1900 square feet.  I realize for a lot of people that does seem teeny-tiny, but for us it should be perfect.  The last two houses we owned were 2300 sq ft, and 2600 sq ft and they were way too big!  Cleaning those suckers took forever, and there was so much space we just never used.  The house we live in now is just over 1600 sq ft.  It’s an OK size for us, although the layout is weird and choppy and there’s no storage, so it feels really cramped.

0604 wall.jpgI wish I could show you all the floor plan of this house, but because of Jasper’s job in law enforcement he’s asked me not to.  So you’ll have to just trust me when I tell you that there shouldn’t be any wasted space in this house.  The only room that’s bigger than we like is the master closet.  It’s really ridiculously big, especially since neither Jasper nor I are clothes people and only own a handful of outfits between us, but there’s no easy way to change it.  So we’ll have to leave it.  The rest is perfect.  There’s a living room, a small library (a house is not a home without a library), an eat-in kitchen with a nice work island, a walk-in pantry, a relatively big laundry room, three bedrooms and two bathrooms.  Just enough.

In other news, floors joists are on the docket for today and tomorrow, then the plumber is scheduled to come, and then they frame up the rest of it!  Things are moving right along around here!

Day One

0602 portapottyYesterday work started on the farmhouse in earnest.  The footings and the forms for the foundation are being built!  Of course it’s been raining again off and on, but not terribly, and hopefully it won’t slow things down at all.

Our builder said that this and the framing feel like the fastest parts of the whole process and the rest will just seem to crawl along.  I’m such an impatient waiter; I can already tell this is going to be hard for me to bear.  I want it all done now!

Of course, it won’t be.  Even if it all goes without a hitch, and goes quickly, I’ll still have to wait until late fall to move in.  My hope is that we’ll be able to have our annual Christmas celebrations at the farmhouse.  I can already see the tree in the corner, and the wood stove glowing, and my sister and I up late making goodies in the new kitchen with Bing Crosby crooning on the stereo.

I know, it’s a weird thing to dream about with summer right around the corner, but there you have it.  Come on, autumn!