A wood mill

At 6:30 a.m. Caden was peeking out the window to see what was making the early morning din.

This time it wasn’t the bear who has been lumbering through the woods in the wee hours.  This time it was his Dad, lumbering.

Did I mention the 6:30 a.m. part?  The man does not stop moving, planning, doing…  He’s always puttered, but now his puttering involves chainsaws and sawmills.  Very productive, very noisy.  Thank goodness we no longer have close neighbors.  Although I’m afraid with all of that racket he’s dramatically decreasing the chances of us getting any occupants in here:

I joke of course, because loud, early, fairy deterrent or not, we have a SAWMILL!  How great is that.  Yet again, something we had not expected even a couple of months ago.

We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do about wood:  the wood that we had on our property where our house site would be, the wood that we need to build a home.  We hoped the two would end up being one in the same.  But how?  Again, let me reiterate that we did not know anything about lumber, milling, etc.  Many of my family members did.  I was not one of them.  We’d always been the ones to pay someone to handle these kind of logistics.  But we were determined to try to figure this out, to take ownership of this process.  Our progression went something like this:

  • A local sawmill:  What if we had the wood we cleared from the land brought to a nearby small-time sawmill that could turn the wood into the boards we’d need to build our wooden tapered yurt?  This seemed like a straightforward, logical, local-benefiting plan.  Josh even spoke with the man who would mill the wood.  But there were two things about this approach that held us back.  First, we really disliked having the wood leave the property – one of those seemingly irrational but nagging gut feelings.  The trees stood here, they fell here, and  we wanted them to stay here and become our home here.  Second, we didn’t have the full materials list for our tapered yurt design, so the wood would need to be transported and sit at the mill indefinitely, possibly getting mixed up with other wood.  Oh wait, there’s a third too.  There’d also eventually be the process of transporting the wood back from the mill to the land.
  • A local sawyer:  Nearby farmers told us of another local farmer who milled wood in the off-season.  He had a reputation for being really good with his portable mill.  Again, Josh spoke with him and we got in line to have him come to our land and mill the wood in the off-season.  This felt MORE right than taking the wood to the sawmill, but still didn’t feel quite right for some reason.  Then another friend mentioned that he knew someone who had to wait a year and a half before that sawyer was able to get to their wood milling…  This was a bit unsettling.  Once we had our yurt materials list, we wanted to be off and running with the wood preparation so the drying time for the wood could start ASAP.
  • Getting a sawmill, becoming a sawyer:  A friend who had previously used portable mills started talking with Josh about going in on a mill themselves.  He had a lot of wood from his landscaping business that he wanted to mill.  Suddenly everything clicked and THIS made sense.  The paths that put things more in our control ultimately seem to be the ones our guts say yes to.  Before we knew it, they were off on a day trip to take advantage of a Wood-Mizer sale, and back they came with this:

Somehow or another this is considered a portable mill.  Nothing is mentioned in the instructions about the amount of swearing that is apparently necessary to initially get it out of the back of a pickup truck.  But, from what I hear, once it is set up it will indeed become much more portable.  Before being set up, this was how portability happened:

Little boy excitement exuded from all the males around.  This was well and truly fun.

It took them some more time to assemble the mill and get it leveled out.  Yesterday they started it up for the first of what will likely be many, many times.

This is very much Josh and his friend’s project.  But me?  I love it.  Not the wood mill so much as the husband who is driven to use it at all hours, what the mill will mean for the  progression of our plans, and for yet more fascinating cyclical patterns…

Starting with the trees that stood here for decades, that created the dappled light and sheltered the mossy undergrowth I fell in love with here.  The trees I did not want to cut down, but knew we would need to in order to build a home and have a garden here.

The wood milled, so close to where the trees once stood (and believe me, I’ve been pestering about eye and ear gear, nagging being my contribution so far in the wood milling).

The boards created for our future home.

And even the sawdust byproduct, so symbiotic at a yurt with a  sawdust toilet… It will compost down, back to earth again in time.

Yes, so many great connections this wood mill helps create.  And so very entertaining for us all at the same time.

17 thoughts on “A wood mill

  1. I got excited when I saw another story on the Circle In. I continue to be amazed.

    P.S. “Circle Inn” would make a great name for the
    guest yurt)

  2. Hey there- I’ve totally been enjoying your blog! My husband and I are talking a lot about how to become mortgage free. It’s been a dream/wish for a long time and yurts have always been one of the big ideas to getting there. Thanks for your inspiration!!

  3. I wasn’t able to type anymore – so now a few more questions. I’ve read “A Handmade Life” and often thought of trying to visit Bill Copperwaithe. Are you going to be building a wooden yurt with him? Is it possible to just set up a visit with him?

    Also – I see in the top photo on this page that your son is loiking out a window that has what I think is invasivce bittersweet hanging in the window. Check it out here in the gallery of invaders http://www.vtinvasives.org if definitely is a huge problem and interferes with native tree regeneration n- – you do NOT want that spreading on your land> I work full time on invasive terrestrial plants for The Nature Conservancy here in Vermont and bittersweet is VERY troublesome. Feel free to email me about it at splumb@tnc.org


    • Thank you Sharon! VERY good to know about bittersweet. My mother-in-law has it growing (invading…) near her property and we always make wreaths from it. It’s such a fall tradition, but looking at your site and what it does to the plants/trees where we cut it…goodness I do not want that happening here! Do you know if it can spread from the berries? Thankfully my father just made us a winter wreath so the bittersweet one will be retired right off the property!

      • Hi there –
        Yes, bittersweet can and does spread crazily by seed. Have you ever driven the stretch of 91 between brallteboro through MA? Most of the trees along the highway are unrecognizable ause they are so covered in the vine. That’s happening deep in woodlands, too. They can get to be 6 inches in diameter – a lot of weight for a tree.

        Thanks for the tips on Bill – we’re hyeading to ME for vacation this summer and it would be fun to go there and Helen and Scott Nearing’s – all part of this adventure of trying to get out from under the weight of a mortgage.

        I wish you the best of luck! I look forward to returning to your website and seeing how things evolve.


    • And YES, Bill does welcome letters and visits. We just send a letter letting him know a few possible dates we’d like to come by and he’ll send back a note to let us know which works best for him. Requires a bit of advance planning… The walk out and the time with him are fascinating. We are planning to build a wooden tapered yurt and Bill has been helping us design it. At this point he doesn’t have the energy to fully take on the workshops that will be necessary for our building, but has looped in someone who has helped him in other yurt workshops.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s