Homestead Progress – April 2015

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Hello, dear readers!

It’s been a very busy time for us here.  The month of April is peak musical theater season, so we were busy each weekend and most evenings rehearsing for and performing in the pit orchestras for several musicals.  It never stops around here!  We also had Easter fun in there.  Little Man had his first egg hunt and was definitely a man on a mission.



So in the midst of all of this, we have still been working hard on prepping the property and our plans for it.

What have we done this month?

  • Met with our excavator about site prep and septic installation — will not start until summer when the ground is drier
  • Plans in progress with an architect to develop our dream cabin plans
  • Continued meetings with the county inspectors to make sure our plans are up to code
  • Met with a rep from the electric utility to tell us what we already knew — the cost to run electric is too damn high!
  • Therefore talked to solar reps about options for going off-grid (which we already had done loads of research on in anticipation of this), which will cost us half of what it would to connect to the grid for our same power needs
  • Got a round estimate on running in-slab radiant heat (better than buying a dang furnace that’s for sure!)
  • Moved the pole barn from the building site to an area downhill (to use as a wood drying shed)
  • Started cutting and debarking the many cedars we will be using to build our home

Wait, hold up.  You said you’re using cedars from your land to build your house?  What kind of crazy house is this anyway??

Those who are close to us know what we’re doing, but many of you may never have heard of this type of building before.  Our home is going to be constructed from:

Cordwood Masonry in a pole frame construction

What does that mean?

Cordwood walls built 16 inches thick using cedar logs, lime putty mortar (4 inches on either side) and 8 inches of cedar sawdust/lime insulation in the middle. Click to learn how to DIY! #cordwood #diy

In a nutshell, cordwood masonry is using uniform lengths of dried and debarked logs (usually soft woods like cedars, white pine, etc.) set in a bed of mortar with the log ends facing out rather than lengthwise the way a traditional log cabin is.  There is a buffer of insulation in the middle of the mortar to make it super efficient.  Traditionally, this insulation is sawdust mixed with lime, but you can also use spray foam, cellulose, or any other modern type of insulation.  To be code compliant, our cordwood walls will be an infill between a traditional post and beam frame.

This type of building is inexpensive and relatively simple for a DIYer, especially if you have lots of useable trees on your land like we do.  It’s COVERED in cedars!  It’s a lovely and durable green option — we’ve read about it for YEARS and are so enthusiastic to actually get to build such a house.

But you’ve never done this before!

Well, no.  But that’s why you ask the pros.  We’ve thrown a few questions out to Rob Roy and Richard Flatau over the past several months, both of whom are renowned experts on cordwood construction who have built many structures and give clinics throughout the year.


Mark will actually get the opportunity at the end of May to travel to one of these cordwood workshops and learn how to really DO the cordwood technique beyond what we’ve already read.  I unfortunately can’t go since I’ll still have work responsibilities, so he’s going to report back to me with what I’ll need to know.

In the mean time, we’re cutting and peeling away.  The sunshine has been abundant the past few weeks so we’ve gotten in some good work days.


Mark in the process of rebuilding the pole barn downhill


Peeling in progress
Mark moving the log down to the shade by the shed so we can talk while we work!


Lots more work to be done, of course, but we’re making progress.  Thanks for taking the time to read, and as always you can follow our escapades on Twitter @accihippies or on Facebook!



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  1. Alice
    April 29, 2015

    How exciting! Love reading about your project.

  2. Thank you so much for the follow. I am really enjoying your blog, and really commend you for doing what many people want to, but get too caught up in the “societal norms”.
    I almost bought an unserviced bush lot a few years ago, did research on bringing hydro in, which was very expensive. It was 20 years ago, before solar was known as a viable alternative. Also researched cordwood construction, and was very fascinated by the quality and how solid it is, and lower costs using your own wood.
    So looking forward to your progress. 🙂

    1. May 25, 2015

      Thanks for the kind words! Having priced out and researched solar and solar/wind hybrid systems, it amazes me at how inexpensive it’s really gotten in recent years. We would pay 2-3 times as much to connect to the grid on our property, and then have monthly bills on TOP of that. We knew before we bought it that it we would likely be off grid but the utility company’s quote sealed the deal. It’ll be a while before we even get to that stage of the project, but you can bet we’ll put up lots of details about it when we get there. Thanks for reading!

      1. My pleasure. So looking forward to read each stage as it comes! 🙂

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