Monday, December 01, 2008

Log Cabin Fireplace

From the very beginning, log cabins in America, were built with fireplaces/chimneys. Most early chimneys were built of stone or brick.

Later, log cabins were constructed with metal stack chimneys to accommodate wood burning metal stoves.

Today, chimneys are built on inside or outside walls of the cabin and are stone. The stone fireplace/chimney is a major architectural feature of the cabin, giving the cabin a rustic look which appeals to our emotions.

Many fireplaces/chimneys are built of native small, medium and large flat faced rock, mortared together. These stone chimneys are large and are great works of art establishing a strong sense of substance and scale. The stones are natural color, usually from river rock.

Other stone chimneys are cut to form small or medium size rectangular pieces giving an ashlar style look to the fireplace/chimney.

The stone of the fireplace/chimney is extended to the facing on the foundation walls, piers, retaining walls and, at times, to porch/patio details and plant edging. The stone gives unity to the architectural look of the cabin and landscaping.

A local stone supplier has an interesting variety of stone that is manufactured from natural ingredients; that is, lightweight aggregate, portland cement and iron oxide pigments. The stone is a cast element into many rock shapes. The backside is flat and the front side looks and feels like stone.

Thickness ranges from one inch to three inches, depending on the style of stone to be used. The stone is applied similar to a veneer to a sheathing, concrete or concrete masonry unit back up. The sheathing must be covered with a moisture barrier to protect the sheathing from any possible moisture that may get into the wood sheathing. The concrete or concrete masonry units need no moisture barrier.

A mortar scratch coat is applied over metal lath when sheathing is used as a backup. The mortar scratch coat is applied directly to the concrete or concrete masonry units when they are used as a backup. The veneer stone is then applied directly to the mortar scratch coat using mortar joints between the individual stone pieces.

The types of stone facing are varied, from uncoursed fieldstone (rough or ordinary), coursed rubble, squared-stone masonry, random ashlar (interrupted coursing) or range ashlar (coursed). The look and feel of natural stone are best color- blended together during installation to achieve the desired results.

A beautiful stone fireplace establishes a strong sense of substance and scale for the cabin.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Building With Logs

Whether the log cabin or home is being built with cedar, larch, pine or oak logs, the structural strength of the proposed log specie may be in question. Of course, certain portions of a tree can be used as structural members in building a cabin. Good rules of thumb have been used in the past by experienced log home builders.

At present, a new building code is being used to provide answers to the question of structural strength. That new code is the International Building Code, 2006. (IBC). This code may or may not apply to certain counties or states as the IBC must be adopted by the local building authority.

The IBC requires inspection by a certain grading agency or a structural engineer of record to estimate the structural strength of the log and the suitability of logs for structural application. This is covered in the IBC, section 2303.1.10.

The grading agency establishes the criteria to guide the strength reducing log characteristics such as holes, splits, checks, and knots allowed for the proposed log specie. The grading agency determines the stress grades and, in turn, derives the strength values.
Of course, the grading strength values are important. Other issues are to be considered; such as connections of round or non-standard shapes because they are custom made and are used without experimental testing information.

The International Building Code (IBC) is not available to all log home builders, as the locale that the builder builds in may not have adopted the IBC.

The best approach to using logs in constructing a log cabin or home is to use the expertise of any experienced log home builder. An alternative would be to obtain the expertise of a licensed Structural Engineer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Memories of a Great Woodsman

Once in a life time you meet a great woodsman and story teller. My father met one. They were contemporaries that probably met in their younger days. The times were in the late 1920's or early 1930's, hard times for many. My grandfather owned an old log cabin and a large acreage of wooded land.

My father (on the right in the photo) was one of the lucky employed and his friend (left) was unemployed. We call my dad's friend 'Buck'. 'Buck'was an excellent trapper at the time. My father asked 'Buck' if he would like to go up to the old cabin to continue trapping and to use it as long as he wanted. 'Buck' knew that trapping would be good, so he took up my father's proposal. The old log cabin was primative as it had no well water and only an outhouse. The heating was an old oil drum stove and needed a constant wood source. That kind of cabin living appealed to 'Buck', so he felt at home.

At that time, the timberwolf population was large and growing. The state had a bounty on the wolves so as to control the wolf population.

'Buck' took up trapping timberwolves and other fur bearing animals such as mink, beaver and ermine. Trapping was 'Buck's' main source of income. He trapped out of my grandfather's cabin for a number of years, probably up to World War II.

I met 'Buck' when my father and I visited the old log cabin 'Buck' and his friend now lived in a rented farm house not far from the old log cabin. The farm house had well water and better toilet facilities. My father and 'Buck' would sit for hours telling trapping, hunting, fishing and outdoor stories. I sat back and only listened, being only 10 years old. The stories were more interesting than anything I ever read.

My father and 'Buck' planned many fishing and hunting trips during these visits, and I was included on these trips. We had a 12' fishing boat and an outboard 2- 1/2 horsepower motor with the usual fishing gear.

One fishing trip I remember was a two week trip to a remote great fishing lake in Canada. Many walleyes were taken and again the stories told around the canp fire were wonderous. My father caught a 32 pound lake trout, the largest of the trip.

'Buck' was a true outdoors man. Others say he was one of the best trappers in the state of Minnesota. 'Buck' was also a great story teller as he experienced and lived these great stories of the outdoors. If he had written a book, it would be a great best seller.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Anatomy of the Well

Usually ground water is found in the underground formations called aquifers. The soil and rock that lie between the ground surface and the aquifer act as a barrier against any possible contamination to the aquifer.

The well that was installed at our cabin is 225 feet deep. The well was drilled thru both soil and many feet of rock into an underground stream of water. After the drilling was complete, a submersible pump and motor were installed into the underground stream inside a casing that keeps debris from entering into the piping. Connected to the submersible pump and motor is a drop pipe that extends up to the pitless unit at ground level.

The submersible pump and motor are powered by electrical wire that runs down and parallel to the drop pipe from the pitless unit at ground level. The electrical wire is connected to an electrical control box and the water flow is controlled by an automatic pressure switch.

The water is pumped into the cabin from the drop pipe into a discharge pipe placed below the frost lines. The discharge pipe is connected to the pressure water storage tank and is controlled by an automatic electrical pressure switch. The water in the pressure tank supplies the cabin plumbing fixtures, such as the shower, toilet, sinks and hot water heater. (See sketch for the anatomy of a well).

This type of well is powered by electrical power supplied to the cabin. The water supply is contingent on a continuous flow of electrical power. At times the electrical power is down or interrupted for short periods of time; therefore the water supply is off.

It is still possible to obtain water from this type of well. A PVC pipe shaped well bucket (4 1/2" diameter for 6" pipe) can be sent down the drop pipe into the aquifer or underground stream and pulled up to the surface with a rope attached to the bucket. In the case of our 225 foot deep well, this method is impractical. Therefore, some bottled water for drinking is a must. Of course, the electric power is usually down for only short periods of time and is not a major inconvenience.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Animal Tracks

The story of an animal traveling through a forest is left by it's tracks. At times the tracks are difficult to see. Tracks consist of bent grass, a dragged leg, or a foot print of the animal.

There are three types of tracks; the nail walkers such as deer or horse; the flat walkers like a squirrel or bear; and toe walkers like a cat or dog.

In our forest, where white tail deer are abundant, the prints of the deer depend upon: the material it is walking on; the movement of the deer; whether walking or running; and the size of the deer. It also depends on the season of the year.

The prints vary in size depending on fore or hind legs. For example: fore: 3"x 2" - hind: 2-3/4"x 1-1/2".

White tail deer track looks like this:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Surprising Challenge

Many times surprises occur when one goes into the woods. The surprise is often the sight of a beautiful deer or a red fox.

Recently, we arrived at the front gate of the driveway to the cabin and, to our surprise, a 12 inch in diameter balsom had been blown down and blocked the driveway.

It was 4:30 p.m. and it would be dark by 5:30 p.m. As we were surveying the situation, trying to decide how we were going to remove the tree, we heard this friendly voice. It was our neighbor who lives up the road. He had been hunting and had seen the fallen tree earlier in the day.

"Do you have a chainsaw?" he asked. "Yes, let's go get the saw from the garage." After putting gas and chainsaw oil into the chainsaw, we proceeded to remove the tree. My neighbor is a nice young man who loves the woods. He was very willing to help out.

He first worked on cutting off the branches. I grabbed the cut off branches and placed them into the woods away from the driveway. Soon, he started cutting the trunk into 16" to 18" pieces. These pieces were tossed into the woods and soon the tree was completely removed. All this was completed in about 30 minutes.

It's nice to have good neighbors who help with such surprises!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Burn Piles

It has been approximately a year since the logging operation in our forest. The logs were hauled away and new growth has begun.

A large pile of branches that were trimmed from the logs and some dead trees remained. It is dangerous to set the pile on fire during the summer months; but, the winter with 15 inch deep snow is ideal. A still day, without any wind, is just perfect to light the 15' high pile on fire. Our logger cleaned off some snow, poured some fire-starting liquid on the pile and lit a fire.
The fire was large and the ashes and remaining pieces of branches and trees were reduced to a pile approximately four feet high. After five days, the pile was still smoldering, but more snow fell, putting the fire out by covering the ashes.

Spring will arrive in a few months, the new growth will continue and the forest will renew itself. What a marvelous transformation!!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Gobal Positioning Systems (GPS)

A GPS is a positioning device that is a mini computer for road and water travel that can be used in the wilderness. It eliminates the need of using a map and a compass.

The GPS device will give your location per latitude and longitude with fair accuracy. The device uses signals from a number of orbiting satellites, usually a minimum of three satellites is required.

Our GPS device is an older version, hand- held, battery powered, Garmin, Model GPS12. It gives the satelitte status, our position in latitude and longitude, a compass navigation and map to our point of destination. We use our GPS for mapping and locating the boundary of our property.

Before leaving on your trip, plug into the GPS memory the location of your cabin, car or motel. Then proceed to travel, hike or boat ride. When you want to return to your point of origin, enter the cabin, car or motel from the GPS memory and the GPS will guide you back to that beginning location.

Of course, it is a good idea to have a good map and a compass with to see the overall picture of the trip.
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