Building my House


Just the process of how I built my house. Now, I’m not a very good carpenter and had no clue what I was doing, and I did use allot of materials like glass windows and plywood, and I did use a chainsaw for most of the cutting (I used a crosscut saw too…but back then I didn’t know how to properly sharpen it so it took a lot longer than it should have I realise now, haha), so it’s not entirely coherent with our beliefs. But like everything it’s a step closer and a work in progress.


Almost all cedar, cut 12 and 14 foot lengths. The interior of the cabin is 10 by 12.


Maine Aug - Sept 2011 001

Maine Aug - Sept 2011 005


This is what I was living in through the Summer while I was building my house. The actual cabin itself only took 14 days altogether to build, but they were spread across the whole Summer.

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Maine Aug - Sept 2011 055

I didn’t do the roof in any way I’ve seen it done before, but it seemed like the most intuitive way to do it to me. It’s very strong and has held up well in any case. There’s a little loft two-thirds of the way across the inside that you can’t see in any of these pictures.


Maine Aug - Sept 2011 058


Some of the cedar shakes I was making. I tried so hard to make enough to cover the roof, but I was running out of time before Winter and really needed a roof, so I went with some plywood a neighbour had left over from a project of theirs they never ended up using and gave me. Between how twisted the cedar was (they logged all the best wood off the property before I got it) and how bad I am with a froe, they didn’t turn out too well. I still have the pile, I split it into kindling and use them for plates to eat off of and such. Ah well, I’ll count it as practice for next time.

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24 Sept 2011 041

And the inside. It still doesn’t look too much different from that in there, asside from the massive pile of books. I ended up building it for next to nothing compared to how much it usually costs to build a house except the cost of chainsaw gas, most of the materials that didn’t come from my land I got for free from other people. The windows came from the dump, all the 2×4’s I used in building it were excess from building my goat barn on the old property I lived at before this one, the stovepipe and a couple rolls of tarpaper came from a shed a friend of mine was tearing down, and my father had the fitting for the pipe to go through the roof. I did buy the plywood for the floor and the screws, though.

Next one I build will be ALL the right way, with nothing but an axe and materials all straight from the land. I’m away working to pay off my land right now, but when I get back I hope to finish building a wigwam I was working on and move in there instead.


15 thoughts on “Building my House

    • Eastern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) comes of fairly easy, it’ll come off readily in strips if you pry with a knife or stick. And you can even twist cedar bark strips into twine. I really ought to make a post about making a cedar twine sling from scratch with no tools at some point, useful stuff.

      All I used to get the bark off was a hatchet and a spud (it’s like a large chisel used for prying), or just fingers. The log is wet, kinda slimy, when it’s green and freshly peeled. The sap doesn’t actually doesn’t taste too bad either, I licked it just to try haha. You can roll up little pieces of the inner bark and put them in cavities when eating to prevent food from getting stuck in them if you need to, too.

      • Ewwwwww…you licked the sap? LOL I probably would have done the same because I am overly curious about things. You did a fantastic job on your cabin. Thanks for getting back to me with an answer.

  1. Hi there, just followed you back from FarmGal’s post to have a bit of a peek and a few things came to mind… Wondering what you used for chinking; I know you want to keep costs at a minimum, but there are some amazing products to help with the less forgiving spaces and overall a great investment. These guys seem to have a good selection…
    You mentioned doing a few things differently “next time” and I couldn’t help but notice the snow coming off the roof and melting down onto your firewood. Perhaps a longer run (next time) would give you a nice overhang to keep the wood dry – ’cause I know there’s nothing more frustrating than fighting with wet wood): but for now, building a little roof under the existing eaves could get the same result. Eavestroughing can often be reused to suit your purpose (and also save the runoff to a rain barrel for washing, watering, etc.
    Re your cedar shakes… Better to have a metal roof, if at all possible; just in case of sparks landing on the roof, right?
    Good luck with all your endeavours!

    • Hi!
      I used pure moss for chinking the first Winter. It worked great in that it kept the air out and seemed to adjust as the logs shrunk. It’s only downfall was the goats used to like to follow me down to the house and pluck out all my walls, so for allot of the first Winter I had huge gaps in the walls.

      I used cement for the back wall behind the woodstove, though, cause I was afraid dry moss might be too flammable. Turns out that wasn’t an issue and I should have chinked it with moss knstead of clay, which crumbled and shrank and fell out in places. I currently have insulation spray foam filling the larger gaps that were harder to fill. Not because I wanted to have it, but because my father came up to visit once while I was away in the woods for a couple days collecting and processing cattail root flour, and filled all the empty chinks with that without my permission thinking he was helping…boy that sure annoyed me. It works ok, but the mice like to chew holes through it. I can’t help but wonder where all that’s ending up in the land, doesn’t seem too good in any case. I’ll be punching that and the rest of the remaining cement out this Summer to use a moss/clay mix all the way around. That’s what I’ve had the most luck with.

      That log jam stuff looks pretty good except for two reasons: I’m a terrible carpenter and when it was all finished it ended up with a couple spots with three inch wide spaces between logs that that would be hard to fill with, and that our goal as Ryups is to eventually produce everything we use (or atleast, everything we use for purposes of survival, like shelter and containers) from scratch off the land ourselves.

      As far as keeping the wood dry goes, I found that out the hard way the first Winter, haha. It was actually worse than leaving wood uncovered, since it all melted and dripped on the wood creating a huge block of ice that needed to be smashed to take any wood out and was terrible in the stove. I’ve since built a woodshed off the back part of the house. It holds about four cords which is a little more than I run through the whole year with heating and cooking. I still don’t have any insulation under the plywood though. I’ve been tying wool up there as I get it, but that’s going slow. Sometimes my neighbours with sheep trade me their fleeces that are too felted to be useable otherwise, and they suit the purpose. I also plan on switching from goats to sheep, but my land’s all wooded so I’ve been working on clearing enough pasture first, and that’s been a very slow process.

      Actually, I think the cedar shakes wouldn’t have been too much trouble with sparks. Cedar shake roofs are the traditional style roof around where I’m at, if it had been an exceptionally common issue I imagine it wouldn’t have been. Though I don’t know for certain. I did plan on using them as the base for a sod roof, though. I’d have used bark instead but the ceder bark from the logs peeled split too readily and I wasn’t sure it would hold and while I probably have enough large birch for the whole roof I tap them for syrup and didn’t want to take that many down. Thank you for the tips though, truly!

      You sound very knowledgeable in this, these are the types of things I’ve only seen people with person experience in this regard mention. Do you live in a little cabin of your own?

      • No, lol, not a log cabin in the traditional sense; but we do primarily heat with wood.
        Why do I sound like this? Well, some of my first/best memories are of helping Dad while he renovated and expanded a tiny summer cottage. I look back now and realise that life was run on a shoestring; growing and harvesting whatever, whenever possible. Summer holidays were spent canoe camping in increasingly “interesting” places and visiting relatives “up north” who were, of necessity, very self-reliant.
        I’d also suggest, if you can get your hands on any of the original “Harrowsmith” magazines or publications, they’re worth their weight in gold: ) One of my favourite online sources of information is, a MASSIVE database on (7000+) plants and their myriad of uses…
        You say your carpentry skills are horrendous? I would respond that “skill” is acquired through many hours of practice while striving for improvement; having the right tools (handmade and WELL made are not an oxymoron) and learning from our mistakes; )
        Cedar shake rooves were used because of availability of materials. Yes, they are wonderfully long-lived, as are split rail fences, because of their water repellency; BUT also make a wonderful kindling wood for the same reason. If you’re in the right places, and look around long enough, you’ll see that there are many settler’s homes where naught remains but the stone (oldest fireman’s joke ever? Never lost a chimney yet!): but, the overwhelming majority of log buildings that still survive have metal clad (fireproof) rooves.
        “Hope for the best – but be prepared the for the worst” OR Health & Safety = Preparation & Prevention…
        If you’re ever north of the border, the Ottawa Valley in Ontario has many wonderful examples of original log construction still in use today.

      • Just had another thought! What if you take the strips of cedar bark and “weave” them to enhance their strength (and water shedding ability)? Making a Soddy? What a wonderful idea. If you’ve a good balance of shade, rainfall, etc… ‘Course you’d need to ditch the plywood and go with cedar boards (or small branches) for underlay as well, right? Can’t help but thinking a layer of tarpaper couldn’t hurt either. (Hey, I know it’s a cheat, but being dry is vital to being warm, sorry; )
        A chunk of cement board (think ReStore: ) behind your stove would not only dissipate the heat (safety, safety, SAFETY), but also be a mini heat sink as well…

  2. Oooh, it never occured to me to weave the cedar bark into a roof, that’s a really good idea! I’ll start stripping the trees I use for firewood before bucking them and save up enough to do that, it’ll probably need two or three layers like that before I’d put sod on top; I certainly know what you mean about being dry means being happy.

    Plants for a future has got to be my favourite site on the internet! I just wish they had a hard copy, the times I most want to consult it are also the times I usually have least access to electricity. And I already follow Girl Meets Bug, very good blog. Have you seen this one; ? Something I like to do but I’ve heard talk about far less than eating insects, is eat earth worms. Have you ever tried? They’re so easy to gather and I like easy meals. You set them in a container of wet cornmeal for a couple days to clean out their digestive tract, then you boil them in a change of water to remove the slime on their skins, and use them as you would any other extra lean meat.

    I haven’t had much luck drying cattail potatoes, they tend to brown when left out in the air like potatoe-potatoes do. I think maybe baking them at a low temperature first might solve this, but I don’t know, haven’t tried it yet. You know what does work well, though, is taking the cattail shoots and slicing them lengthwise like noodles, and then drying them like that. I don’t know if they’ll go moldy, I don’t dry them out completely and I haven’t kept them for more than a month or two, but they’ll keep for a little while atleast. I cook with them a little bit like beansprout noodles. This year I plan on drying much more than usual so that I may have them year round. I do eat jerusalem artichokes, I actually have two kinds growing on my property. Some wild ones I found need a river that I replanted back home, and sunchoke domesticated variety. The sunchokes are considerably bigger than the wild jerusalem artichokes, but they don’t do all that well on the wet soil of my land. The tiny wild ones took off pretty well, though.

    “Sphagnum moss is between about half of the logs, another third has white unspun wool stuffed into the cracks, and the rest pink fibreglass.” (Quoted from the article you linked on Yukon chinking) Hahaha, that sounds just like my house as it currently stands, plus the cement. As far as using a cement board behind the stove, that’s what the steel sheet is for. I was actually surprised at how well it works, even when the stove is all cherry red it’s still cool behind that sheet.

    On the topic of dental health, well, you’ll probably think I’m a bit crazy, but I strive to live in such a way that natural selection would still apply to me, in a sense. It’s the same reason for why I use technology the wierd way I do, I believe it is more adaptable when considered over many generations as opposed to one’s individual benefit. I try to use only things I can replicate myself for this reason, and in this case I fill my own teethnusing zinc oxide. I haven’t made it myself, but I’m reasonably confident I could. A friend of mine is showing me how to smelt iron this next Summer, so I figure I’ll try to oxidise some zinc at the same time. I’m not very good at it, though, so my fillings are prone to falling out every couple months or so, and the inner cedar bark rolled up helps as a temporary patch until I get back to a place where I can refill them.

    You are a wealth of knowledge! Thank you for all these links and ideas and information!

    • You’re quite welcome!
      Re tooth decay: as I said before, it’s really important to get rid of the diseased tooth material/tissue (and most definitely before filling) or else your body is fighting constantly against a low-grade infection which can lead to a compromised immune system>dead or dying nerves>infected bone/bone loss>blood infection and so on and so on… and all SORTS of trouble later on down the road (seriously, just look up “dental decay/health effects”) here, check it out…
      Having proper fillings are like changing the oil in your truck regularly: a small amount of maintenance is a good investment, whereas shortcuts will only end up costing you (a lot) more later. Btw, I think it was the pfaf article that mentioned white cedar bark as an antibacterial (and may be the reason you’ve still got your teeth in your head; )
      So, are you heating solely with a softwood like cedar? THAT would explain why you’re using four cord of wood to heat your cabin… Also be a little hard on your poor stove (and it’s emissions): wouldn’t it?
      Re earthworms: the Harrowsmith Magazine I mentioned earlier had a article PLUS recipes for using various insects and dew worms in your diet – one of which was a an “enriched” Chocolate Cake; )
      Thanks for that link too btw: )
      Found this bit on Healing Tooth Decay just now:
      Good luck!

      • Yeah, just heating with cedar. Pretty much all trees on my land are cedar, there’s a small amount of birch, spruce, and balsam poplar, but not quite enough to burn reguliarly. I typically burn about half a cord less than that, but split four each year anyways just to be safe. That does include all the cooking wood for the year too, except when I’m out working somewhere in the woods and just find dead stuff to burn on the spot, which is pretty often so I guess I can’t really say that’s all the cooking wood for the year then. It’s all green, I haven’t built up much of a buffer yet to let it dry. But because I haven’t been there this Winter I have one now, good.

        I’ve been reading allot about dentistry, confusing stuff. That seems to be accurate to what I’ve found happen with my tooth, after twice the filling falling out the pulp had sealed over itself. Have you ever heard of the book “Where there is no Dentist”? That’s been an extremely good introduction for me. I can’t read over your links right now, but thankyou for showing them to me, I will read them when I have more time.

        About the bone knife, it was from a dried old piece of moose bone I found in the woods. The fresh pieces are much harder, and while that knife wouldn’t be too good for scraping a hide I’ve used shards of fresh bone without too much trouble. Then again I’ve also used a piece of slate a couple times, so it’s not too hard to find something useable.

      • Regarding the fleshing knife (and most of the things we’ve been discussing here): to me at least, these are the kinds of things we need to (watch and) learn from the experience of our Elders…

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