When We Get Older

In September we passed the landmark of forty-five years since we started building our house. An amazing feat considering it is still standing despite our lack of building experience and the materials used – mostly scrounged. (For those interested you can see our story here – https://hardtocomebylifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/beginnings-2/)

The original part of the house was built on posts on un-level ground. One side of the house was almost ground level while the other was three feet off the ground. The house was a hexagonal and the framed foundation looked like a spiders web made from saplings.

Eventually we started to expand, first adding a bedroom, then a bathroom (a big upgrade from the outhouse) and then a living room. In order to accommodate these extensions, the easiest way to add on was to build the extensions below the existing roof line. This meant each new room was about two feet lower than the original floor – two steps down to the bedroom, two steps down to the bathroom, two steps down to the living room. So far, so good.

Forty years or so later I would lie in bed and think about what happens when we get older and can’t manage the steps. We could put ramps everywhere but they would take up the most of the floorspace in our small house. We could also drop the floor in the main house two feet which seemed like a fun and interesting project but wasn’t whole heartedly accepted by others in the house. That is when I thought of our guesthouse. With a bit of alteration and addition it could be turned into the perfect one level retirement home for when we get old (we’re only in our early 70’s right now).

The guesthouse was originally built as a workshop (https://hardtocomebylifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/hard-to-come-by-b-b/) and evolved into our bed and breakfast cabin which we ran for twelve years. It was two rooms – the bedroom/sitting area and the bathroom. Covid 19 came along and I wasn’t going very far afield and so I decided to tackle the project. The largest part of the venture was adding a bedroom and the remainder was a renovation of the bathroom.

Building the bedroom door
Handmade cabinet with live edge cedar
Shower with galvanized metal roofing
Live edge cedar counter and floating shelves
Handmade cedar French doors. A Cubic Grizzly mini wood stove to the left of the door
The extended ‘kitchen’
Milled board and batten siding from the property

So there it is. The perfect project for these times and a good solution for future times.

Cedar Fence from Scratch

It all started with a dead cedar tree and a need for a 42 foot long privacy fence.

I cut down a cedar tree that had recently died and cut it into eight foot long logs. I used the tractor to move the logs to the mill.

I cut eight 8 foot long 4 x 4 posts, fourteen 6 foot long 2 x 4’s, fourteen 5 foot long spacers and two hundred and seventeen 6 foot long 1.5 x 2 laths.

One of the logs about to be milled

Cut 2 x 4’s

Cutting the lath

Some of the finished lath

For finishing and preserving the posts, 2 x 4 cross pieces and 1 x 1 spacers I decided to try a Japanese woodworking technique called shou sugi ban. I used a torch to scorch the outer surface of the wood – just enough that the wood developed an alligator skin like texture.

The charred wood is wire brushed and then treated the wood with boiled linseed oil.

As the fence is for privacy I decided to go with a lighter build and make the fence with a ‘woven’ lath design. I made seven sections just over 6 feet in length.

The finished fence


New Door

For years now I had planned to repair the door to my workshop but I came to realize that the poor old door was too far gone to save. It had fallen victim to a momma bear that was very intent on getting into the workshop and the freezer we used to keep there. In the process she destroyed the octagonal window and removed the bottom panel of the door. Just before Christmas I built the new door and restored the old hardware.

Pieces of the new door with the old door in the background


The new door

The restored door knob

Catio (Cat Patio) – the Start

Mocha the cat’s catio is now under way.


This is the first time I have had an indoor cat. With eleven acres of forest it seems a shame to keep a cat indoors but it has now become a necessity with the increase of predators. The birds and squirrels will be pleased with the arrangement though! Mocha doesn’t show a tremendous interest in going outside but I think a bit of fresh air and grass between her toes will do her good.

The ‘room’ will be covered with wire mesh and have elevated cat walks, a tree trunk, platforms and a sleeping box if she is feeling adventuresome. Access will be through the living room window.

More later.


Completed Shed

Well, the storage shed is finished. It was an interesting first project using my own milled lumber – a bit of a learning process I must say. Like any homemade project it is hard to put a price on it. The money I put out for the plywood roof and floor along with the metal roofing came to about $500. A pretty good price for an 8′ x 12′ building. Adding the time factor of milling the lumber adds to the equation and if a dollar value is put on my time then perhaps not quite the bargain. However, time is what I have and it was extremely satisfying using our own windfall trees (brought down in windstorms) and turning out a pretty fine looking building.


Building Project

Over the past ten days I have been building a small (8 x 12 foot) storage shed from the first lumber cut on our mill. It has been a great project and very satisfying knowing most of the material was free and salvaged from our forest. I did use plywood for the sub-roof and floor and I will install a metal roof. Once all the exterior walls are boarded I will put 2 inch battens over the board joints.





Composter Experiment

One of the secrets of good composting is to turn your pile in order to add oxygen to encourage the composting process. We have some snap together poly composters that are awkward to work with and we never seem to get around to the stirring up process so our compost is usually less than satisfactory.

A while back I saw the idea of a rotating composter (Family Handyman.com/Garden Composter). I looked around the shop and found four casters that someone had given me. I had one 55 gallon (208 l) barrel left over from my rain water collection system that I just completed and, of course, lots of lumber from my milling. I spent the past couple of days putting it together a composter based loosely on the mentioned plans. One of those great projects using scrounged materials where all it cost me was my time.

Composter 06_watermarked

The completed composter sitting on a sturdy rough cedar base.

Composter 01_watermarked

An old plastic squared pipe cut diagonally and bolted inside acts as stirring baffles.

An old plastic square pipe cut diagonally and bolted inside acts as stirring baffles.

Composter 04_watermarked

Handles are spaced evenly around the exterior to make turning easier

The wheelbarrow fits underneath to allow convenient emptying

The wheelbarrow fits underneath to allow convenient emptying.