Friday, July 19, 2013


I went out to the land yesterday to meet with the septic system contractor, and figured I'd throw up another little building that I've been dreaming about. It's just a simple lean-to at the end of the driveway. It will function as a dry spot to use tools in if it's raining, during the framing process of the house. And once the house is complete, it will be a spot to store a wheelbarrow (for getting groceries from the car to the house), stroller, bikes, extra firewood, and other such things.

There seems to be quite a bit of fallen cedar in the woods, ready for harvesting! Cutting through a cedar log is one of the prettiest, and best-smelling parts of country carpentry.

Tulip poplar from the forest.

didn't quite finish with the metal roof before the day ended...


Today I built another little roof, this one here at the Carlton Project. The back entrance will be a lot dryer during a rainfall.

posts in place

fancy rafter tails

oops, I forgot to trim my rafters properly and they ended up the same length as the metal (and the metal needs to overhang on each end). So I had to trim off 4 inches after they were already up, and then re-prime and paint.

Here's what the front of the addition looks like:

I framed a built-in gutter with wood, and then wrapped the hanging EPDM over this frame to create the gutter:

Here is the detail where my home-made gutter meets the store-bought downspout (it looks ugly from this view, from you don't ever see this view unless you're on a ladder or the roof):

finished all the soffit and vent details:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Permit in Hand

I just yesterday received the wonderful news that my permit to build our home has been authorized by the planning department! Here is a big chunk of the plans that I submitted in the building permit application. It's an 800-square-foot cabin, with a conventional stud-frame superstructure, and earth-plastered strawbales acting as insulation/finished walls.

Cedar garden gate

I built a cedar garden gate at Pickard's Mountain Eco-Institute, in Chapel Hill. Megan caught me in the middle of attaching the roundwood to the rectangular frames in a very orderly  and parallel manner, and encouraged me to let go of my desire for straight lines make it look ALIVE! It turned out to be a fun project.

The first building (and start of the second) at the new land.

We have some land to start the natural building school!!!

I have been wanting to write a blog post about being a landowner, and about the excitement that sends electric vibrations through my body each time I think about the future on it. The closing was March 27th, which was quite a long time ago at the point, but it has proved to be too magical and too open-ended of a topic for me to muster enough confidence to write.

I'll start with the facts, not the feelings:

It's 11.4 acres on Lindley Mill Road in Alamance County, NC. The land was heavily cut-over 8 years ago, and so much of it is new-growth forest. I'd say 9 acres are wooded, and 2 are cleared around an incredible little pond. The pond is set back 500 feet from Lindley Mill Road, and our house site is right next to it. The ecology of the pond is astoundingly diverse - the frogs population is booming, and the whole thing is lined with a circumference of cattails. 

There are some huge oaks in the forest, and a good number of beautiful, largish cedars. I feel forlorn when I think about how gorgeous it must have been 8 years ago, before it was cut for timber - however, there is a certain excitement surrounding this new wave of growth. I think we are lucky to have such variety of species in our young trees. Oaks, maples, gums, tulip poplars, redbuds, dogwood, sycamore, holly, birch, cedar - those are some that I can recognize. There are many others that I don't yet have the knowledge to identify.

Like most places around here, the soil is heavy clay. Most of it is dense, poorly-draining yellow clay - not the crumbly red clay. Despite the gentle slope across the entire property, water tends to sit on the surface of the ground, for quite a while sometimes. Crossing the field the day after a rain can be wet and muddy. We hope to direct this water into a whole series of terraced garden beds. We have just begun thinking about our permaculture design for the homestead/building school. The water contributes to abundance of mushrooms in the forest. These I know very few of, but am eager to learn more - we've identified morel, reishi, lion's mane, and a couple others.


I spent a number of days out at the land to oversee the driveway being put in. During this time, I spent my days building a little shade structure by the pond. The Pond House. There is no electricity at the property yet, so it was all chainsaw and hand tools. It's mostly roundwood harvested from the forest - I ended up spending about $250 on the building in materials (cedar deck boards, metal roofing, and fasteners).

The other day I weathered quite a powerful storm in this structure. I was expecting a pleasant evening of camping by the pond, but was instead treated to forceful gusts of wind, pounding showers, and plenty of thunder and lightning. I did the best I could to create some temporary walls. It was wet and a bit terrifying at certain points, but loads of fun in hindsight.


The next building I've been working on is ultimately going to be my pottery studio, but will act temporarily as a tool shed during the home-building process (eerily similar in concept to the shed in the backyard here in Durham where my pottery wheel has been sitting under a pile of tools and boxes of nails for two years...).

It's made almost entirely out of: two old telephone poles that came with the land, and all of the concrete forms that you see below (under our little fig starts!), which have been used a couple of times each in the past couple years, and were ready for a new life.

The telephone poles provide the beefy foundation, and the concrete forms are the floor and roof systems.