Cottage Sunflowers

Cottage Shaded by Sunflowers

Hope, in green, blends with the sunflowers we planted this spring. As the summer warms they grow tall enough to shade our cottage from the summer sun.

Today we cut down several standing dead trees for firewood.

One of them is a huge sugar maple, both tall and thick. The base is a weird shape with buttresses. I used a hinge, plunge and release cut which has always worked before. This time I suspect my hinge wasn’t deep enough to account for all the buttresses. The tree creaked and started down before stopping. Now it is standing there pointed in just the right direction I want it to go but not yet quite fallen. It’s in a closed of pasture and I’m just going to leave it alone. I suspect a wind will give it a nudge and help it along without my needing to be there to hold it’s hand, and possibly get thwacked with the butt. If it doesn’t come down of its own accord I’ll have to go release it.

I’m very good at getting trees to hit exactly where I want, that is when they actually come down. We joked that if I was any better the tree would come down already blocked up into woodstove lengths of firewood. Then when I dropped the next tree it broke up into lots of short lengths. Wow. Holly clapped. She said I was impressing the ladies.

So why is Holly sitting around playing her penny whistle while I cut down dead trees? I figure that when you’re doing something dangerous it is good to have someone there to hold my hand. That way they can keep it on ice on the way to the emergency room.

Outdoors: 75°F/52°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 70°F/67°F

Daily Spark: “I’ve never killed a man, but I’ve read many an obituary with a great deal of satisfaction.”
—Clarence Darrow (a.k.a. Mark Twain)

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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9 Responses to Cottage Sunflowers

  1. Jared says:

    Walter, Why do you have plastic over the cottage roof? Is that for temperature control in the summer? Thanks. Always enjoy your blog. Jared

    • Right now the cottage roof is a 1.5″ thick ferro-cement barrel vault covered with a layer of insulation. On top of that is a billboard tarp to protect the insulation from the sun and weather. At some later date we’re going to insulate the roof more thickly and add more concrete which will give us wide eves. Then above that we’ll put an earth cover and grow plants so the house will become earth bermed. That has always been the goal. However, there are some additions to the house we plan to make, such as the tower, and it is best to wait to do the earth berm until after those are done. Meanwhile we’re building the butcher shop which is also built into the hillside and earth bermed on the uphill west side. Later we’ll berm it on the north too and we have space for underground ‘caves’ that is to say tempered rooms for aging sausages and such. On the cottage the billboard tarp does well for now. It is amazingly tough. The other side, the non-white side, is an advertisement for Sky Vodka. Never heard of the stuff until we got the tarp.

      • Kristin says:

        A tower?! How exciting. We have a tower. It holds our water tank (among other things) so we can gravity feed it to the houses. For us, it also acts as a cooling tower of sorts, funneling hot air out and buffering us from the west sun.

        So what will this tower do for you?

        • We haven’t yet decided exactly which things it will do. There are so many possibilities to combine: water storage at the top, passive air ventilation, space for solar panels to preheat incoming air and water, a space for quiet reading, contemplating New Hampshire, a central entry great hall for the various parts of the castle at the base, climbing on the outside, dangling braids down to entrap passing errant knights and just pure fun folly. Our cottage is actually just the first part of the “castle” we’re building. The castle design spirals around the tower up the mountain, climbing the bedrock. Some portions will be cold year round for storage.

          One of the challenges in our climate will be to keep the tower from being too cold or sucking out too much heat from the castle, er, cottage in the winter. It’s sort of a thumb sticking up in the cold north winds. Thus my design entails a tower inside a tower separated by an air gap of insulation with fire breaks. This is a bit like our construction of the butcher shop which is like a thermos with bottles within bottles. We practiced this on the cottage too and it has worked very well on the more limited scale we did there.

          For now it is all fantasy and sketches – something to motivate us and dream about while we do other things.

          This is “build the butcher shop” year. We hadn’t planned on this until 2014 but with the loss of butchering facilities in the region we realized we had to move sooner.

          Next year is more “farm infrastructure” year. That was supposed to be happening now but the Butcher Shop took priority – fencing and sheds are “good enough” for now.

          Then we want to get back to the cottage projects such as the tower.

          It is a juggling act of time, money and other resources. The good news is that building the butcher shop is letting us practice some of the techniques we plan to use for constructing the tower and other things. Everything interlocks.

  2. Peter says:


    I would really love to see your plan of the finished castle. I want to build a castle too, sometimes in this life. -And too beginning with one module like your cottage…
    My cottage will have a arc-roof too. :)
    But my cottage will be burried half in the ground and will become later part of the souterrain/cellar of the castle…
    I enjoy the detailed butcher-shop-postings and construction-plans too very much!

    best regards!

    • Actually, our castle will have large sections bermed too. The roof of the current cottage will have sod on it when we are done as will each of the wings of the castle. The top of the tower won’t since it will be so high up in the sky. Additionally the north and west sides of wings of the castle are to be bermed as that is where our storms and cold winds come from. This leaves the light and summer breezes coming in the exposed faces. Sometime I’ll post about the castle to be with drawings. Over the decades I’ve made many sketches. This is a long term plan and we’re getting closer to it. Close enough to taste…

  3. mellifera says:

    I helped my dad cut a tree down once. This particular tree was right next to a concrete shed with about 2-4″ of clearance between the trunk and the shed wall– not enough room to stick a chainsaw blade in there and cut so the tree would fall away from the shed. Right, and the shed had a soft tin roof, so dropping branches/tree on it was a no-no. What to do?

    Fortunately dad is pretty handy with a chainsaw & its accomplices. We had to climb up in the tree and take out each limb one by one, *after* leashing the ones that hung over the roof to the trunk with a rope and some crazy sailor knots, so that they didn’t drop butt-first onto the roof. Then once the trunk was nekkid we cut it down in a series of two-foot chunks. Jeez. I can totally see how people with little practice in such matters get themselves killed doing weekend forestry.

    • *grin* I’m glad you both survived the adventure! We did a similar one. In the space which is now our lairage of the butcher shop we had a court yard, an atrium. Inside that space which was 22′ x 28′ we had a swimming pool, garden, sandbox for kiddlin and such.

      There was also a very tall tree which was about 36″ in diameter at the base. Unlike yours ours was 6′ from the glass window walls so I had a little space to drop the tree into – I couldn’t go the other way as the pool and stuff were there. Like with yours we couldn’t bring it down as it was in the corner of the house and shed with glass windows on two sides of the corner. I ended up, after putting plywood over the windows, cutting it down starting at the top and dropping similar sized chunks to the ground from about 40′ up.

      As I dropped each one Holly and Will would move it out of the way so I could drop the next chunk in the same 6′ square spot. Amazingly every one landed precisely and no damage was done. It was an interesting experience. Especially since at one point, after changing my chain and failing to tighten the nuts enough, the chain saw came apart in use while I was near the top!

      Like you we survived our adventure. Let us all make prayer, sacrifice and give thanks to the gods of fools such that we continue doing foolish things to amuse them!

      Not that I was inexperienced with a chain saw but I’m sure that it looked crazy from the ground. We actually have video footage of that event. Will edited out the extra and ran it backwards so the trunk rebuilt itself from the ground up. That’s one of those things to put on YouTube with a warning “Don’t Try this at Home!”

      • Sean Govan says:

        Please do! I love watching the pros bring down dangerous trees. Gives me the same sort of thrill some people get out of bullfighting and high-speed chases.

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