Building a Homestead – Part 2

In order to finish our porch, which was 13.5 ‘ by 40’, we would need a way to saw the logs.  We began our search for a saw mill.  We attended a local farm show to see some of the saw mill vendors that were demonstrating.  It was very interesting and very expensive.  A few inquiries and we soon had different brochures from various manufacturers.

I started browsing some of the woodworking forums and the EZ Boardwalk  Jr. Portable Sawmill was discussed as a well built and affordable alternative.  The company is owned and operated by Mennonites, who are known for their hard work ethic and quality products.  The company is located in Missouri.  The owner often make trips South to assist with storm cleanups and often makes deliveries on the way for a small fee.

After investigating other saw mills, we settled on the EZ Boardwalk Jr.  The price was lower and the quality superior to anything else we saw. We were able to coordinate a delivery of the mill off a nearby Interstate.  My husband had never operated a mill in his life, but he is very mechanically inclined. With a short learning curve he was ready to begin sawing logs. He found a planer and some other wood working tools for a small price at a local estate sale.

During this same time period, we found a reputable local builder who was able to correct the problems we had with our porch, framing it in, installing windows and a door.  Our dreams of a sun room were beginning to materialize.  We insulated it ourselves, installed sheetrock and plywood. My husband and a friend ,an electrician,  installed the electrical wiring.  I ordered the lights online, found the flooring from a nearby business and painted the ceiling. In three months he:

  1. sawed the logs
  2. cut and planed the boards
  3. applied Helmsman Spar Urethane,let it dry, sanded each board and start the process again three times.  This produced a beautiful shine for the final finish.
  4. Measured and cut each board.  Unfortunately the porch was not square although the window openings were corrected.
  5. Made window frames, floor molding and quarter round molding.
  6. Installed plywood for subflooring.

My husband is a hunter so his “trophys” are now hanging up and look quite appropriate with the Eastern Red Cedar.  Before you get upset about the displayed deer and turkey feathers, we eat everything that is hunted.  For one year we had no other meat but deer. Deer is very lean and a healthy red meat. Our ancestors survived off the land by hunting and fishing and we carry on that tradition.

Later we found an electric fireplace at an outlet store.  The fireplace was in working order but the cabinet was missing pieces.  That is why we got such a good buy for it.  John built a corner cabinet that would also hold a television and DVD player.  John found a used pool table and our family room was complete.  This makes a wonderful play room for our 4 grandchildren that are ages 8, 6, 3 and 1.  They are really what this is all about!

Building a Homestead – Part 1

When we moved here in 1995 the land was covered with junk cars, remains of oil field drilling equipment, old appliances and trash dumped in ditches.  When my husband brought me to see the home and land, my first response was “You’ve got to be kidding!”.  But, what I’ve learned over these past years is that my husband is a man of vision.  He immediately could picture everything cleaned up, fences repaired, a pond in front of the house.  All of that, except the pond, has been accomplished.  Single handed with dogged determination and back breaking hard work,  John has cleaned up trash, hauled off old cars and anything else he could take and sell for scrap iron.  I wish I had before and after pictures.  Driving fence posts by hand thru sand rock and stringing fence around 110 acres is a blog post by itself.  He did all of this while holding down a full time job that he worked 40-50 hours per week. I am in total awe of what he has accomplished.  At the same time we slowly remodeled our fixer upper.  One of the remodeling projects that took the longest to accomplish is the point of this post.

I need to back up a little and explain when we first moved here another thing that covered the land was the Eastern Red Cedar.  For those not familiar with this tree, it is considered a noxious weed to cattle ranchers to be cut and burned at every opportunity.  When given a chance it spreads like wildfire.    It looks like an innocent Christmas tree. Some have used it for that instead of buying a tree. This is no innocent tree.  According to OSU Department of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources, one tree 12 inches in diameter can drink up to 48 gallons per day.  Vegetation cannot grow under the trees destroying acres of pasture land for ranchers. Because red cedars have volatile oils,  they contributed to the major wildfires Oklahoma experienced in 2011.  After years of severe drought and fire danger, the USDA decided something had to be done. A Federal grant was offered to entice landowners to clear off the cedars.  ALL of them!  This would mean more usable pasture land for us so that we could keep more cattle and a little extra money for our trouble.

The project was split up into two parts.  Our home and the original 55 acre tract and the 60 acre tract that we purchased later. We would have to pay for expenses to hire dozer work and hired hands up front to be reimbursed when the job was completed and final inspection done by the local USDA agent.  The dozer could get large trees, but small trees would have to be taken down with either a machete or chain saw.  There were thousands of small trees!  John, along with a hard working teenage neighbor of ours worked on this for about a year.  Blood, sweat and tears. When it was finished and the final inspection was done, we were given approval on the first inspection.  Some of the land owners had 3 or 4 inspections before approval becaused they wanted ALL of those trees gone!

There were thousands of trees laying on the ground and we had to decide how to dispose of them.  Many of the small ones were piled together and burned.  The large ones were a different story.  The Eastern Red Cedar may be a nuisance to the rancher, but it has some of the most beautiful wood God has ever created.  Burning something that could be used to create something of beauty just couldn’t be allowed to happen!  Which brings me back to that remodeling project we wanted to do.

Just a few of the red cedars of the thousands that were removed.

On the south side of  the house was a full length attached porch that had been built with cement blocks and openings left for windows.  We had attempted to frame in the windows ourselves but nothing was square and the window openings were all different odd sizes.  So the porch set unfinished for years. Over the years we had a couple of people give estimates to finish it and the prices were too expensive. So hope of ever finishing it had pretty much died.  We began to envision this room being completed in red cedar.  This is the room I wrote about in Sacred Spaces.  To be continued.



Sacred Spaces

Sacred – set apart for – Do you have a place you go to daily to recharge your batteries, rest your mind, speak to God and listen for his Holy Spirit?  Each morning I go to my special place to praise and give thanks to God.  I pray for my family, friends and God’s work and purpose here and abroad.  This is a peaceful beginning to my day and prepares me for whatever the day may bring.  I then begin my daily Bible study and homework from Bible Study Fellowship.

If you don’t have a special place, think about where that place could be for you.  It could be a comfy chair next to a sunlit window or even a place outside where the view will draw your mind upon God and away from the daily grind.  Susannah Wesley (1701 – 1800) bore 17 children, two which were John and Charles, the founders of Methodism. When she needed time to pray, it was said that she would take her large apron and cover her head.  Her children knew this meant not to bother their mother during this time.

Another person that comes to mind, is the fictional character, Clark Davis in the movie, Love Comes Softly.  Set in the wild prairie of Montana, with no church buildings, Clark had a special place with a panaramic view where he would pray, sing and worship.  It was on a wooden bench similar to this one.wooden bench

The wood on the walls and bench is Eastern Red Cedar.  My husband cut the trees, sawed on his sawmill, planed and nailed the boards.  If you have ever dreamed of building your own home or finishing a room like we did, I’ll be giving more details soon.