Last spring I decided that for DH’s birthday in July, I would build him a woodshed for his cabin and fill it with firewood. I finally finished it last week and he was surprised and pleased.
In April I telephoned a friend who had been laid off and asked him to cut down my Dr. Seuss “truffula trees,” the very tall, very spindly black cherries that had been left by the loggers in my back acres. He promised to come out with his chainsaw, but between weeks of rain and juggling job opportunities, he never got here.
In May, I rented heavy equipment for earth-moving. There was a morning when progress stalled and our hands were tied.
Allen looked out at the cherries and decided to simply uproot them.
He stacked the seven trees by the old pond.
My friend Mike stopped by to cut off the limbs and stumps for me, and saw the trees into log lengths.
I hauled all the stripped logs up near the cabin with my truck and chain. There were more than twenty heavy sections. After watching me for a while, Leon got off his bulldozer and walked over.
Leon showed me how to wrap two logs with a figure-eight that would tighten as I dragged. The biggest boles he rolled onto my chain with the blade of the dozer. I hauled all the logs up into the clearing.
In June, Mike came by again after work and sawed the logs into stove lengths. Most he cut to eighteen inches for the cabin woodstove. Two he sawed into 1-foot chunks for the sauna stove.
Over the 4th of July weekend, a friend lent me his hydraulic wood splitter. I drove into town to tow the splitter home. As I listened to my friend explain the controls for gas, choke, throttle, and hydraulics, I couldn’t decide if it was flattering or frightening that despite all evidence to the contrary, men simply assume I can do such things.
That weekend, between bites from blackflies and anxious checks on Katika in my sleepless pre-calving vigil, I split all the wood. I had a tremendous pile. Here it is at the halfway mark.
Now it was time to build the woodshed. My plan was to use mostly scraps I had on hand, to keep expenses around $100. I bought five treated 4x4s from the local lumber yard, a handful of 2x4s, some cheap furring strips, and a box of deck screws.
For the big weight-bearing headers, I found on Craigslist some used, treated, fourteen-foot 2x10s for sale in town. They were only $7. I bought two. A nice man helped me load them in my truck. Everyone I later told about my great deal explained that the man was a notorious drug dealer recently out of jail. Oh.
Allen kindly came out to the farm on a Sunday afternoon to help me set my corner posts.
It was very hot and humid. Like my own father, Allen is old-fashioned. Despite the sweltering weather, he wore his usual long-sleeved button-down shirt and undershirt. I sweated just to look at him. Allen paid no attention to the heat.
We got the corner posts plumb and square…
… and he helped me lift, level, and tack the heavy headers.
A few days later I hired Luke, 18, to help me for a couple of hours during a break in his summer job.
I’ve known Luke since he was six years old. When I first hired him on weekends, he and I were the same size and about the same strength. Now he is a muscled athlete and 6’5″ — a very handy guy to have around when you’re cutting and installing roof supports.
I didn’t really need the help of either Luke or Allen, but when you work alone every day, it’s nice to have the company . . . and someone to hold the other end of the board or the measuring tape.
By the time I drove Luke back to his real job, we had the rafters, roof nailers, and braces up.
For the side walls I planned to use clapboard siding that had been stacked outside last winter by my carpenter. The boards had not been covered properly and their smooth sides (not visible in these photos) had turned black with mildew. They could no longer be stained white for the garage. However I thought they would be fine for a woodshed.
I spent an afternoon cutting and nailing up siding on three walls, spacing it for airflow.
Allen had urged me to have an overhang along the front of the woodshed — partly to increase the weather protection, but partly just for “makin’ it fancy.” I had plenty of wood scraps: why not? I built the frame of the overhang. Here it is, not yet finished or braced.
The most expensive part of the woodshed would have been the metal roof. However I’d set this woodshed up against trees so that I could use various odd bits of roofing that I’d had stockpiled in the barnyard for years. No one would see the different colors — or the wrinkles where the sheets had been caught by the wind and bent.
I measured my “tin” (no one here refers to “corrugated steef roofing” — it’s all called tin) and found six-foot sections in each sheet that were still usable. I snapped my chalk lines and began cutting.
Circular-saw blades for metal are made of composite grit. As sparks fly, the blade grinds itself away. With just one long cut, your blade may dwindle to a two-inch nub. (The first time I used a metal blade, years ago, I was extremely startled by this disappearing act.) Luckily I had four used blades that had started out as 7.5 inches and been discarded by my carpenter at 6 inches. Given my tight budget, I was very pleased to be able to eke out all my cuts with these leftovers. By the final cut, my last blade was the size of a pastry wheel.
I had to lay out these cut metal scraps and piece them together on the roof decking like a quilt. Joanne’s son Alex, 15, jumped into the project for ten minutes to climb up the ladder and hold the pieces in place while I screwed them down.
From the back side, the woodshed roof is stripes of silver and mottled brown. But no one will see it from the back.
For the front overhang, I used one sheet of forest green roofing. All the roofs in DH’s Fossil compound are forest green. I stained the woodshed the same dark chocolate as the other buildings. From the front, my budget woodshed appears to match everything else.
So far half the split firewood has been stacked inside. I’ll finish the stacking tomorrow.
Happy birthday, DH! with lots of love from Sel… and the gang of guys.