End of a Chapter

As it happened, 2015 was the year a number of chapters were closed. One chapter closing, that of my Dad’s life, was particularly sad. He was a big fan of Nerdwood and would have loved to have seen Clare and I move in. At least he went out with a whole lotta love all around.
There were some chapters that were much happier to close. I finally got my degree (Bachelor’s), and managed to do so before all my hair fell out. More salient to this story, however, is that we finished the last of the cordwooding, at least in Nerdwood proper.

The log and winding road
Why wouldn't we want to work on a wide wood wall?

We began in June, with 4 bays on the second floor to go. This year, we had plenty of logs and dry sand to complete the job. We took a week off to head to upstate New York, where we attended the 2015 Continental Cordwood Conference, which has been held around North America approximately every five years since the mid-90s.

It was at the 2005 CoCoCo in Wisconsin that we really got fired up about designing and building Nerdwood, and it was great fun to attend the 2015 shindig as grizzled vets rather than the dewy-eyed rookies from our previous go-around. So many great people in the Cordwood scene, we got to visit with old friends like Richard and Becky Flatau, and we got to visit Rob and Jaki Roy’s Earthwood, which for us was like visiting Graceland. Here’s a picture of Earthwood, as seen from the living roof of one of their many many cordwood outbuildings:

The cordwood home that other cordwood homes call home

Back at Nerdwood, we plowed through the panels, scatting and be-bopping, throwing in shelflets:
Three shelves to the wind

…and gewgaws:
Is it an owl? Or is it Zoidberg?!

…and bottle ends:
Time to eat some ghosts!

Our excitement built; we prepped the final wall while still working on other walls, since we would both be working a separate wall at the same time to move things along. In addition to the top-of-the-stairs panel shown above, we finished the French door panel:
Ooh, la log!

…and the panel with the giant bedroom egress window:
Oh, so close...

Finally, on a hot hot August day, Clare places the final log in Nerdwood,
One small log for wall, one giant leap for Nerdwood

and stuffs mortar around it.
Does this mean we can get our Master Mortar Stuffer certificates?

I had the honor of the last of the pointing.
Very impressive! Let's see how you do against my one-glove technique


We started laying logs here in August 2008, and seven years later, we put up the last one. A much longer process than I could have imagined. Now when we look at the walls, we remember what the weather was like that day, who helped us that week, what sci-fi podcast or outré music we were listening to when we did that panel. So many tidbits of stories mortared up with each log.

We have lots more to do before we can move in, and we still need to finish the shed (so don’t put away that mortar mixer just yet!), but we have finished a major portion of the work, and the end seems much more tangible than it ever has. We hope to move into an unfinished Nerdwood in December 2016, but in the meantime, we’ll enjoy some peppers from a great gardening season.

Booker T should have called it 'Green Peppers'

The Mysteries of Bottle-ends Revealed!

Bottle features are a striking addition to any cordwood wall. They add color and light and personality and are just all-around cool to look at. They consist of a clear glass bottle end on the outside of the wall and colored glass on the inside. In our case, all the clear glass is currently embedded in the outer wall, with a sleeve made of aluminum flashing sticking towards the interior. We just have to add the colored bottle ends as we build up the inner walls.

To do this, we had to find a way to cut the tops off of glass bottles that are too long. If you search the internet, you will find all sorts of ludicrous methods involving tile saws and candles and flaming string, but none of that is necessary (or practical). It’s really very simple, and thanks to this gentleman on youtube we found a very easy way to do the job.

You get one of these nifty glass cutting gadgets, and lightly score a complete circle around the top of the bottle.

The amazing bottle cutter, as seen on the internet!

Then you pour boiling water on the score, being careful to work your way completely around the whole bottle. We bought a cheap electric kettle to use for this.

Just add boiling water.

Next, run cold water on the bottle. The glass is stressed and the top just pops right off.

It's just that simple.

We had lots of lovely bottle ends in no time.

Cut bottles.

After all that, I match them up with a clear bottle as we build. Here’s a wall in progress.

Bottle feature in progress.

And here’s the completed bottle feature, with several different shapes and sizes and colors.

A river of bottle-ends.

Finishing the first floor (for now)

Time is getting a bit tight and we’re still working on the first floor walls. Fortunately, three of the south-facing walls are almost all window (to take advantage of free solar heating during the winter), so the “panels” we have to fill in are very narrow indeed. Each one only takes about three batches of mortar as opposed to around eight for the average wall panel. The leftmost window required tiny, tiny logs to fit:

Thin little panels? Or giraffe necks?

Working our way around the house, Clare decided to incorporate a bottle feature in the panel near the front door. The inside bottles will be blue and green – a river in the wall:

Still bottles run deep

Finally on to the fifteenth and final panel on the first floor – the front door panel:

The gateway... To Logs

So, mid-August and we’ve just finished about half the outer wall. Think we’ll finish the second floor before freezing weather hits? Nah, me neither. Looks like we may be doing a lot of cross-country skiing again this coming winter (oh, darn!).

Besides being the “Summer of Mud,” 2009 also seems to be the “Summer of Bees.” They’re everywhere right now – if you stand still you can hear the whole field buzzing with nectar-lapping fuzzballs.

Give us all your pollen...