A chronicle of Mike and Julia's adventures creating a home on the Missouri range...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Raising the roof

     A week before Thanksgiving our house looked like the above images, framed out roof with bottom fascia attached, about... oh.... one month behind schedule. Daytime temperatures were between 15-35 degrees the week leading up to this point, Mike had left to begin work in NYC, and I was beginning to feel a bit hopeless and worn down from weeks of pushing hard to get it even to this point. Enter: my super family. I suspect that my parents and sister possess the same "fool-hardy determination" DNA that I have that seems to lend itself to giant DIY home projects, because we all gravitate to them in a big way. And my sister's handy boyfriend Danny? This is the second major Jack-Scott family home-renovation project that he has been coerced into, so I suspect by now he knows full well what he is getting himself into with my sister, or rather her family. But if he thinks she is worth clambering around on a steeply pitched roof in below-freezing weather until he can no longer feel his extremities, then we think he is worth her... and she is pretty awesome.

     So in short, for a week, my parents, sister Emily and Danny all helped me get our roof ready for the final layer of metal to go on. First we had to lay down our 2" rigid foam board, tape the seams, and staple tar paper over top. After that was down, we screwed in oak furring strips parallel to all the rafters. These provide an air gap between the metal and rigid foam board so that air entering the bottom eaves (there will be some grill-type material so mice/birds do not get in... hopefully) can move up to the ridge cap, which allows the air to pass back out, keeping the whole roof assembly cool in winter. If it gets too warm from hot air in the house rising and leaking out, then you get roof snow melting into ice, and forcing itself under the roof, into walls, and generally reeking havoc. Hence, the extra step. On top of the oak furring strips, we ran 2x4s perpendicular, every 2 ft. up to the ridge. As they went on, we could use them as a ladder, working our way up to the top. Their actual purpose is to fasten the metal roofing onto, and level out any minor inconsistencies in the levelness of the rafters below.

     As the days went by, the weather started warming up, so that by Thanksgiving day, we could be outside comfortably (thirty-forty degrees?) We took the day off to cook and spend time with our neighbors at the Possibility Alliance, where we experienced a true Thanksgiving potluck feast. Turkey, duck, chicken, venison, mincemeat pie, a dozen vegetable, mushroom and grain dishes, homemade bread, butter, cheeses, preserves, pickled things, deviled eggs, on and on... ALL raised/grown/gathered from the land! Even the "cranberry sauce" was substituted by a very tasty wild autumn olive sauce. Our community tradition is to spend a few hours walking the land, giving thanks for all of the abundance we receive from it, and with such a feast to be had, it is not a stretch to feel in touch with such gratitude. After the walk, we had all cleared appropriate room for the many pies, cookies, whipped cream (from Leila the cow) to follow. Candlelight from handmade beeswax candles lit the whole affair, and as the night went on, stories, singing, instruments came out and more friends stopped in to visit. I love Thanksgiving in general, and this year felt even more special somehow. I suppose it's because both Mike and I have a lot to be thankful for, between Mike's recovery from a serious accident and the fact that we have received SO much support from our families and community in our home building efforts. What a year!


      And the support was not to end yet! A few days later, our roof was fully ready for the metal to go on. We finished on the last night by flood light (run by generator) in the dark. My parents and Danny had to return the next day, leaving my sister and I to the metal roofing, which had arrived just in time. Mike and I had decided on a standing-seam metal roof, because it would be easy to install (haha), relatively affordable, and we could collect drinking water in a cistern from it, and oh, it is pretty darn long-lasting. We reasoned that we want our roof to be functional as long as possible before being replaced, and while asphalt shingles are much cheaper and easier, they last only 15-20 years before hitting the landfill. On the other hand, a slate single roof that lasts multiple centuries was a bit out of our price range, hence the second best option: standing seam. My grandparent's old farm house has a standing seam metal roof that has been around for their entire lifetimes and still going strong with only periodic need for repainting. Ours came with a forty year guarantee on the baked-on paint finish, with hopefully many more years after that once repainted. As for the color? We actually had an instantaneous agreement for once in the entire building process... burgundy. Settled. I ordered the metal and it came, and then I started worrying... what if we got down to the last piece and we were short still? What if I didn't order enough? Or the lengths I ordered were too short? Plagued with such anxieties, I was not sleeping very well at the time. It felt like the next few days were going to make or break something. Probably our bank accounts since it would be an expensive mistake if I mismeasured. And only one way to find out for sure.

        Okay, never fear, everything works out for the best, usually, and our roof was no exception. Turns out our wonderful Amish neighbor Jake called in two of his talented young sons (of a fleet of six, all exceptionally good at building and such) to help with the project... he foresaw that we would need backup. Smart man. We did. Joe and Amos took to the roof like mountain goats--while Danny and I had been moving slowly and cautiously around up there, maintaining three points of contact at all times, not to mention wearing safety harnesses, Joe and Amos would run up and down the purlins, dangle half off the ridge ends, or straddle the ridge as you see in the above photo. As one of them told me, "well, in the spring, when I've been off a roof for the winter, I am a little slower up there, but then I get used to it after a few weeks and its nothing." Yeah... that's how I am in the spring too.

      Anyhow, we all made a good team. Emily and I were mostly on the ground custom cutting each weird notchy triangular piece for the dormer, while the boys ran around up top. Jake slowly chipped away at the massive inconvenience of the dormer and all its trimming. (See that small little triangular protrusion on the one side? It single-handedly turned this from a one day to a two long day project. Think twice before popping one of those suckers in your building plans!) But it came together. The weather was cooperating beautifully, with balmy temps in the fifties and no rain. As we were closing in on the finish the second day, the most amazing sunset lit the low hanging clouds ablaze in pinks and oranges, which was good, because we needed as much light to finish as possible. It ended an hour later, in darkness, with the lightest/youngest guy wearing a headlight being lowered by rope down the side of the last panel, screwing in the last little piece. Thank God. Hallelujah. The next day, temperatures plunged thirty degrees in almost an hour and stayed low, we got our first snow flurry a day or two later. In those next few days, Emily and I did the most insane close-up-camp sprint you can imagine (with help from saints in our community who braved the freezing cold to come out and help us) and then we were on the road headed east. A week sitting in hot tubs at Myrtle Beach in the company of our wonderful aunt and uncle thawed out all of our frozen bits and aching muscles. I guess it doesn't take much to bounce back to new. Still, I am glad I don't have to face our house again for another season. May it still be there, standing, when we come back!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Roof framing

Mike pegging in the ridge poll ahead of the first rafters going up

        For the last few weeks we have been working almost every workable hour of every day, rain or shine. Make that the last month. This definitely constitutes "the final push". For that reason, I am sorry to be a few weeks behind on my posts, and I am rewinding somewhat to get caught up to the present moment!

      Framing out the roof has been a challenge to say the least. It has been the union of square, dimensional roof planes and factory milled boards to our curvy, irregular round-wood timber frame. Imagine if you will what would happen if an uptight, orderly banker-type had an arranged marriage to a free-spirited, woodsy folk artist-type. The union would not go smoothly, without a modicum of frustration and struggle, and neither has our roof framing. 

Julia notching wall plates so that rafter birdsmouths will have a seat to rest on

      Mostly, we have had to figure out how to define level and square within our long, curvy wall plate timbers. Typically, in a conventionally framed house, you are working with straight and level 2x6 or 2x4 wall plates that run the perimeter of the walls. The rafters each get a little notch called the "birdsmouth" that keeps it from wanting to slide off the top of the wall plates, and the birdsmouth is notched at exactly the same place on each rafter, screwed or nailed into the wall plate and a perfectly level and consistently pitched roof is achieved. Wah-la. But not so with our  wall plates. Fifty-some individual notches in our timbers at varying depths later, I can say with some certainty that ease of roof framing is not one of the advantages of round-wood timber framing. Perhaps we should have stuck with roundwood rafters and embraced a curvaceous roof line. But since we are putting on a metal roof, we needed something really, really straight. 

Mark and Mike installing the first rafters

     Thankfully, we have had some really great hired help for a few weeks in the form of our friend Mark and his brother Kent, both very skilled builders of a more conventional type. Mike worked the ridge poll, I notched the wall plates, trying to keep ahead of the rafters as they processed down the length of the building, one by one. Kent manned the cutting the station on the ground and Mark up along the wall plate. And somehow, it mostly has worked, with a minimum of undulation along the roof line (nothing a few shims couldn’t take care of anyhow). We got the last of the rafters in just as Mike had to depart early for his early migration east. Thanks to his Dad Sam, who came out to help us for a few days, we also got the last of our pegs in, thus officially completing the timber frame portion of our building. It looks beautiful, for all of the occasional frustration it has caused us. I think I would still choose to build this way, if I had it all to do over again, but, well, let’s hope that’s not anytime soon. 

      At this point, Mark and Kent and I have framed out a finicky little gable dormer in the center of the south roof side, we have our sub-facia and facia boards attached to trimmed rafter tails, and we are preparing for our final week of roof work. I am wearing down stamina-wise and budget-wise at this point, and each day gets a little harder to get through as the temperature drops and working conditions are less than ideal. Far less. What I wouldn’t give for another month of September. But thankfully, my wonderful family is coming in to reinforce me and help me get through the last hurdle—the roof purlins and metal. As my sister Emily said to me on the phone the other day, “don’t worry Jules, the cavalry is coming…. ” An alternative Thanksgiving gathering is in the works, and for that I am most thankful!

Mike pegging braces and jowls into wall plates

Mike's dad Sam came to help us for a few days, here planing down pegs

      So I am preparing all the ingredients here—rigid foam boards (expensive!) oak nailing strips, purlins, tar paper, plenty of fasteners, and oh, the roof metal. The single most expensive purchase of my lifetime so far and I had to pay in cash to a local Amish distributor, thanks to my checkbook run prematurely dry. Imagine the funny interaction between his sweet, polite wife laden with small babes and I, as I nervously passed her a very fat envelope to give to her husband, out hunting or something. Me: “Uh… could you make sure he gets this? It is important.” Her: “Oh yes… (as she checks it)… oh my! Yes, that’ll be fine.” The Amish are a rather understated, even-tempered bunch who rarely demonstrate emotion in word or facial expression so it can be a bit hard to read them sometimes. Still, I think that was Amish for surprise. 

      One final note—thanks to our neighbor Beth, we have been tiny house-sitting for the last few weeks, and thus, staying quite warm and cozy on these freezing nights. Two years ago she was doing her own mad-house-building-marathon as I recall, so it is nice to be reminded that it really does end at some point, with a beautiful and cozy place to call home as a result. Home, sweet home... here we come!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Raising Day part II

      It's a rainy day, it's a rainy day.... finally, a day to get caught up on blogging! I apologize for the long hiatus, we have been very, very busy working toward our roof goal on our house. And we have gotten a lot done! So much that this is going to be one long blog post. So let me back up. Here is about where we left off, with our jowl posts raised and frame pegged, with weeks of prep to do for our wall plate raising. Note the weather... we experienced many rainy, yucky days where our options were not getting much done or getting wet doing it. But we had many sunny days too, and so we proceeded slowly, bit by bit. My mantra lately has been a Creole saying, "piti, piti, le wazou fe nicheli" (translation: little by little the bird builds it's nest).  How true. If I allow myself to consider the whole of the work ahead of us, the project seems totally overwhelming and hopeless. So I break it down mentally into small goals, and then smaller steps to reach those goals. And the goal of this next phase was "wall plates".

     The first step toward the "wall plate" goal was notching the tops of our jowl posts into tenons. We used a string to lay out straight lines and square up our frame. (What a simple but invaluable tool a length of string is! I have lately been appreciating its virtues in building.) Then we chiseled out our tops to a consistent height. (We used a transit level to determine level from a nearby hill.) So here I am, adjusting to the height of our new working level. As you can see, a length of rope gave me more confidence working out on the ends of our scaffolding.

     We also had to cut mortoises for diagonal bracing coming off each jowl post. Again, more drilling, and cleaning out the holes with chisels and mallets. On rainy days we would work on cutting the corresponding tenons on our braces under the cover of our outdoor kitchen roof. Eleven braces and eight jowl posts later, we were... well, closer to ready. We began to start mentally preparing and scheduling our next raising day, when we would lift 36 ft. long logs horizontally in the air and set them down on the post and brace tops. This seemed even more daunting than our first raising day, and thus our thoughts ran toward hiring the help of some heavy lifting machinery. How much this would cost us, we didn't know, but a chance encounter with a friend of our neighbor Don Miller at a Halloween party brought the answer. Tom lives not so far away and was in the possession of a large tractor with a lifting arm and when he heard our situation, he generously agreed to help. We set a day, far enough off that we thought we'd have enough time to finish all that needed to be finished and then we continued work with new-found urgency. Braces had to go in and get temporarily braced in position, and our wall plates needed ten mortoises each. It was a stressful week of working every day lit hour, until we couldn't see anymore in the evenings, and sharing company with the early morning frost at the start of each day. But more than the stress of trying to meet our set raising day, was the stress of not really knowing if it would work to hoist the wall plates in the air and gently set them down onto ten little pieces of wood sticking up. A lot could go wrong....

      Around this time, I began resenting framing in round-wood. How much easier it would be to have a square-milled timber to prepare for such a raising! No irregular measurements and notching requirements. Our 36 ft. oak wall plate timbers were anything but straight, with a long taper and slight to not-so-slight bends along the whole length. We had to figure out the best side to position down to give us the straightest line across the top, and then we had to notch out a shoulder around each mortoise to make each brace and jowl hit at the same height. Again, ode to string! We strung a line on both sides and leveled each shoulder cut to those lines. And then drilled and chiseled. We were running out of time, and friends were generously helping to feed us so we could focus all of our time on getting things ready for our Saturday raising day. Saturday morning rolled around, a beautiful warm day, and our friends Brian and Dan, and then Mike and I were all chiseling out the last of the mortoises when Tom showed up. Like a storybook cliche, with not a minute to spare we were just barely finished in time to raise! But, would it work? Or would our hopes and dreams be dashed? (In case you can't tell, I am trying to recapture the suspense we felt that morning!)

      But, never fear! Yes! It worked! Tom centered the boom arm of the tractor on the log so that the weight was equal on either side and then chained it on. Then we started on the south side, the tall side, and Tom was just barely able to reach up high enough to get the log over top. Three of us were up on scaffolding, ready to do... something. We were deviating somewhat from what our guide book advised, and we weren't sure how it would go, or what we would actually do to get the wall plate to fit down on. Here was this heavy log dangling mid-air above ten little tenons. We figured out quickly that the heavy side wanted to drop on first and slowly, Tom was able to lower the log down so that it dropped inch by inch across, working from one side to the other. We prodded and poked tenons into position until we had the last one on. What a feat of measuring! We had gotten every mortiose cut just right to line up with each tenon! Even though this was our intention, even I was impressed that it had actually worked. And to say Tom was a wizard with this huge awkward machine would be an understatement. We were clearly sent the right help for the task: he was able to nimbly adjust height and depth positioning to the quarter-inch and dance around little trees we had planted below. It was like a tractor ballet. Encore! Literally. We had to do it a second time. 

      We entered our second log with much new-found confidence, and good thing, because we were off on some measurements this time. Two of our mortoises were cut an inch off, the result of haste and stress, and day-before debate about where to start measuring. I had drawn out several sets of measurements the night before and we had forgotten and drilled the wrong ones the next morning. Ugh.  What to do when your  800 lb. mistake is dangling in the air in front of you? Tom had the idea to move the post and brace over an inch. Strange that our seemingly solid frame is still so adjustable, but it was. We unbraced it and moved it with a single ratchet strap! And then repeat side one, drop down and sledge hammer into position. At this point, it occurred to me to grab a camera and start snapping the last five minutes so that we had a record of our hair-raising day. So here it is!

     It took a little adjusting later to get the wall plate to sit down just right on each tenon, but we got it in place and were able to take a little break for the rest of the weekend. So much to go, but so much behind us also! Our roundwood timberframe portion of the building triathalon (or is it a decathalon?) was finished (well, almost, only a little more pegging to go). Surely the roof framing would be but a moment's work in comparison.... Surely. Ha ha. Okay, I think the roof saga merits it's own post. Soon. It has stopped raining and I have some more framing to attend to! 

From the south
From the south-east

From the west, road-view

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pegging and posting

       The weather today has sent me scurrying to the library in town to stay warm and dry rather than get work done on our house frame. This isn't always an unwelcome change of pace, however, lately it seems to be proving the trend. Sunny, dry days seem harder and harder to come by, and it is taking us longer and longer to warm up and get going in the morning. All of this seems to signal the winding down of our workable season. On the one hand, I feel ready for a season of turning inward and staying cozy by the stove, reading and painting and cooking hearty things. On the other, it would of course be nice to have a home to do that in, hence there is no letting up yet.
      Our hope is to get some sort of protective roof covering over our frame before we leave, perhaps an ambitious goal given that we have only a month to go before migration time. The past few weeks since our raising day we have been dotting our i's and crossing t's on the frame. Our neighbor Jake whipped us up bucket fulls of oak pegs which Mike has slowly been adding to the connection points of our frame. Out came the metal pins, in pounded the pegs. The first few split from the pressure of being squeezed into impossibly small holes before we figured out some tricks to prevent the splitting.
      Another detail we finished was cutting support
 stumps to tuck under our floor tie beams, which will help keep our floor from sagging. And probably the biggest other addition to our frame we have added since raising have been our eight large jowl posts. Like almost everything about this process, the first jowl post took us about four times as long to set up and raise than all the others, but a lot of that was figuring out how to utilize the right combination of lifting devices to do the job. Our winch and cable got some more use in the process, and the rigidity of even our temporarily braced frame has stood the test of the post raisings. One by one, we looped the cable over the second floor beams and around the tops of the jowls and up they pulled (with several people supporting the posts from swinging wide). Once up, we ratchet strapped and pinned the joints in place, sledge hammering the base into position. There were some tight fits due to some checking the twisting in the wood over time since cutting, but overall, the post raisings went smoothly. Now that all eight are up, our frame looks more stable and house-like. Still, it is something new and different and a bit curious looking. We have noticed an increase in traffic past our house and slow-downs to check out the strange new addition to the landscape. Our local friend Mark Grindy has apparently been telling curious townies that we are building us one heck of a deer stand. Indeed!

       I have been working on preparations for our next step, adding on the knee braces and long wall plates.... namely, debarking. More quality time with the draw knife and oak wood! The nice thing about the braces has been the fact that they are a manageable size for one person and are green and young enough that the bark comes off relatively easily. We have just started cutting the bottom joints in them and will hopefully have them mounted up in the jowl posts in the next week. Hopefully.

     Despite all of our hustling and bustling on the house and the occasional damp, cold day, this past month has been really quite beautiful, the best of weather of the year. And, of course, being the wild edible lover that Mike is, he has been foraging in the woods, seeking out the best of the fall harvest for our dinners. It is a good time for mushroom hunting, the fall rains having flushed out the decomposing downed log, and Mike has been bringing many types back. Fortunately, we have a good guide to local Missouri varieties, so I am not quite the guinea pig you might thing. The other day, some friends of ours came over to forage with Mike and they found a new variety we hadn't seen before, called, in the guide book, "Big Laughing Gyms," no joke. Apparently they are mildly hallucinogenic (and toxic) and cause laughing fits, though we didn't care to find out. Several other varieties proved to be quite savory, and Mike's biggest load discovered was a collosal grouping of Chicken-of-the-Woods, which taste, as you might expect, quite a bit like chicken in texture and taste. Other choice finds have been wild salad greens, wood ear mushrooms, Blewit mushrooms, and acorns aplenty! Mike is excited to try leaching the tannins from them and grinding them to a flour, though probably saving the exercise for one of those rainy cold days to come. 


Note the new mushroom hunting bag I just finished knitting for Mike--the holes in the side hopefully let spores fall out and reinoculate new logs. I think it was lucky in the above chicken-of-the-woods find!
      We are not alone in our fall scramble--our neighbors Brian and Teri and their two kids are rushing to get in their new house soon since they have been alternately tenting and house-sitting and the weather is turning frosty. They are much closer than us to finishing a small guest house, and Brian was working hard to get it done when the building gods gave him a slowing blow with a falling-off-the-ladder injury to his ankle. A huge bummer for him, but he is now okay, and it has meant that the neighborhood has been pouring on the support and alternating shifts helping out in work parties. We spent a few days blowing in cellulose insulation in their stud frame walls and nailing up siding, and it seems, with all the additional help, they might be in a warm, insulated space by the end of the week. Teri has been documenting the process on her blog site- homestead-honey.com for more on their journey.
    Well, that is about all for this post! More to come soon and thanks for reading along!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Raising Day

       Finally! The day arrived! Saturday, October 5th, a miraculous thing happened in the history of our little homestead... with the help of almost our entire community, we erected something that actually looks like a house, well, the skeleton of a house. In the words of our friend John Arbuckle, "this may sound trite, but that was literally one of the coolest things I have ever experienced." I feel exactly the same, probably more so. It was incredible. To have over a year of planning and hard work hinge on a single day, well, you can imagine how intense the day was for us, alternately exhilerating and incredibly stressful. Let me back up a little...
      The day before the raising did not go as we had planned. There were a lot of little details we had shoved off to the last minute, including, oh... let me see... just that little inconsequential detail of the tripod we were going to use to leverage the cable and pulley during the raise.  Somehow in our minds it seemed but a moment's work to cut down a few trees, tie them together at the top and with the help of a few friends, push the whole thing standing. Wrong. It was a monstrously heavy and unwieldy and adrenaline-pumping nightmare of a tripod raising. Thank god we have some seriously strong, positive, can-do friends who keep coming to our aid. Dan and Sarah spent the better part of a day with us heaving and hoeing and problem-solving the below tripod creation into being. Then we had our neighbor Brian agree that he thought it wouldn't topple under the first ounce of pressure. With everyone's basic confidence, we were ready to move forward. But still, it was a big question mark in the raise... would it hold?

      The other big unknown is that we were basing our scant knowledge of how to raise such a frame out of a book (Roundwood Timber Framing, by British woodsman Ben Law), and although we have poured through the book enough times to sun bleach all the pages and have the binding almost fall apart, we still didn't know exactly how much each section weighs (is it comparable to Ben Law's raises using different wood species?), and thus, what to size our cable, winch and what to use as ballast. We gave it our best guess, with our neighbor Don's 2-ton tractor as our anchor. (By the way, a word about above-and-beyond neighborliness, Don came riding his tractor down to our aid at 9 am, only three days after finishing round 3 of chemotherapy, and still feeling like hell... on his insistence. What a neighbor! And on a good note, his test results are showing very positive progress.)

       As our neighbors and community members started arriving, we divided up roles, with various people manning ropes and tourniquets and pevees. Mike manned the very sturdy and expensive hand winch we just purchased for the job, anchored to the back of the tractor. We looped our cable through the pulley on the tripod and hooked it to the first section and started to crank... and... the tripod started pulling toward the frame! Ack! Fail. Because it wasn't a true tripod, it needed to counterbalance itself to an upright A. So we tried chaining it back to the tractor for additional stabilization and counter force, and it worked.  Up slowly cranked our first section. Because the first section pulls up the ridge poll, we had our friend Brady making sure the ridge poll was sliding smoothly against the other frames. This worked well until we ran out of frame to support it! The poll was on track to clear the cruck of the second frame, which is what needs to pull it up the rest of the way. Quickly we scrambled to screw on a little temporary extension to the end of the poll so that it would stay in place in the cruck of the second section. This worked and we were able to pull up the first section into a fully upright position.

Brady supporting the ridge poll as it slides up
      The second section was probably the most anxiety-inducing of all of them, including the questionable first. This was because the second section raises the ridge poll up, and therefore the friction between the two causes greater tension on the cable and these horrible staggering lurches of progress as the pressure gives way in short jolts. We realized that the only thing we could do to help the situation was push on the ridge poll with long boards, bouncing it upward to release the friction in pulses. Even despite that, the cable tension was audible and we all held our breath until it was up fully, thank God. No snapped cables, no snapped timbers, just hungry bellies ready to break for lunch.

Adrenaline and muscles taking a lunch break midway through the raise

     The really wonderful thing about our community here is that when someone has a work party or event such as this, everyone plugs in perfectly and effortlessly, bringing and doing exactly what needs to happen. In this case, we had decided to make a big pot of chili and have folks bring whatever else they thought would help make a meal. This meant that I was frantically chopping vegetables at 6 am, and trying to alternately keep a fire going under the beans and help set up the raise.... for about a half hour... until help showed up. Thank goodness for our friends the Jones family who set up a cooking tent and helped the fire keep going, because, as luck would have it, it RAINED off and on for most of the raise! Not an ideal day for sure, cold and rainy... but people simply paused and retreated and then returned to keep it going. And the fires kept going, with more and more people jumping in to help the chili happen. By meal time, there were plates of cornbread, fresh baked brown bread, cut up apples and sorghum, and a huge salad grown and brought by our friends at the Possibility Alliance. Hallelujah! There was even a watermelon for dessert. Somehow a dish station got created and all was abundant and delicious. There were moments like this one throughout the day where I felt the grace of the community's help quite palpably. We really couldn't have done any part of this alone. And we haven't! (A funny side note, we made so much chili we sent everyone home with some and still ate it for every meal, two days straight. We probably won't be making it again anytime soon!)

Two-year old Everett getting creative with our shortage of plates!
      At the beginning of the third raise, we had to switch over the pulley from the tripod to the top of the second section, making for a better angle to pull up the third section from. Thanks to our neighbor  Brian for climbing up a tall shaky ladder to come to the rescue with that. Too shallow an angle on the cable makes each bent want to slide across the ground toward the tractor instead of pivoting. To this end, we had folks putting pressure on and roping the bottom of each section to coax the pivot, and that seemed to work, we never had a problem with bents sliding. What began to be a problem, however, was getting each section to line up with the already air-born ridge poll. As both section three and four came up (much more easily and swiftly than one and two), we had to push the ridge poll into place in the cruck of both! Scroll down to see a picture of Dan and Matt (two big strong guys) pushing with 20 ft. long boards at the ridge poll while other folks pulled with ropes on the other side. It worked... just barely on number four. But we ended the raise successfully in the afternoon with our frame standing, braced, roped off, and with a very excited and tired group of people who came through the day with us.
     I dreamed about the frame all night, after celebrating in the evening, and couldn't wait to get up in the morning to check that it was still there, still standing. Miraculous, but yes, it was and is. We have since figured out how to adjust the placement of the sections with sledge hammers, come-alongs and chains, and the ridge poll has settled down into place better. My first reaction to seeing the frame's proportions was a little embarrassment about how huge and looming on the landscape it is, compared with its surrounding squat Juniper trees, but now I am used to seeing it and can appreciate that it probably is sized just right, and may even in time feel a little small. There are eight more pieces to go on, our jowl pieces, and then two very long heavy sills and twelve little knee braces and then the ropes and temporary bracing can come off, it will be free-standing. Already folks have been asking us "next phase" questions like, "have you thought about what kind of stove you are going to get?" "What kind of roof and water system will there be?" "Can I see the floor plan?" We are probably most excited of all, with new motivation to keep going for another month and a half.... Back to stripping bark and cutting notches for a little while, but we are much closer! Just another year and who knows?

Matt and Dan jousting the ridge poll
Next morning, still there...