One month ago today the first walls of our houses arrived on the back of a truck. (More about that day here.) Today the structure is looking very house-like indeed, with walls and trusses in place, along with sheathing, house wrap, roofing paper, and windows. A front porch is even taking shape, all thanks to the talents of those at Penbay Construction Inc and Big Coast Construction.
Yes, there have been challenges. And we have made mistakes. (Note that “we” doesn’t include our intrepid builders.) But somehow this house-for-two-families has materialized.
Today, while painting barge boards for the crew to install next week, we stopped for a moment to admire the freshly sanded, site-milled beams recently erected as part of the front porch. After watching those beams sit under a tarp for eighteen months, I was overjoyed to see them in their rightful place, their warm brilliance shining through. (There is something spectacular about wooden beams, don’t you think?)
Getting our hands on this lumber came down to timing. Shortly after we purchased the property, the town where our acreage is located approached us with a request to remove some trees along our property line. The request included an offer to haul the trees to a more accessible location for milling, should we so desire. (We did desire, as it happens.)
Incorporating site-milled lumber into a building has a number of benefits. In our case, transporting less wood to our building site reduced fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. The trees were logged selectively, and none came from old growth forests. In addition, site-milled lumber doesn’t contain any of the fungicides or harmful chemicals added to some commercial lumbers.
Working with site-milled lumber comes with challenges, however. Our biggest challenge has been keeping the lumber dry until we were ready to use it. An aerial view of our property shows a city of tarp structures, each protecting its own precious pile from the elements. Stacking the original green lumber to provide adequate ventilation was also challenging. The occasional bloom of mildew is now surfacing as the lumber sees the light of day.
Yet this wood is adding warmth and character to our houses, and we are grateful for it.
So as these cold, crisp days turn into even colder nights, we move a little more quickly, get down to business a little faster in the mornings on weekends when we’d like to linger over that cup of tea. Because the days are short, and the sun will slant through our clearing just long enough to dry paint if you are ready for it. And so we brush on another coat, sand another board, and haul them to the right spot while tapping our fingers together to keep them from going numb. (More appreciation for the building crew, who does this and more all week long).
These two houses that have been taking shape in our minds and hearts for so long are now in front of our eyes. And that is something else to be grateful for.