It’s groovy, man.


Wood. It’s expensive on many levels. As it probably should be when you cut down a venerable living thing and slice it up into boards and sawdust. Vital ecosystem, carbon sink, cubic metres of cash, something to chuck into your woodstove.


It depends on your view point.


So I set off to find some flash but affordable wood for our house ceiling that met a number of environmental, economic and aesthetic objectives.


Rule number one: no old growth.


So I ring up on mill on Vancouver Island near Ladysmith and request a quote on some tongue and groove planks. I’m very specific: ‘Douglas fir or red cedar, no old growth.’ Mill man responds: ‘is there any specific reason why you don’t want old growth?’ as if it’s the most bonkers thing he’s ever heard.


If I have to explain to someone in 2015 why my house cannot possibly justify cutting down a 500 year old Douglas fir tree then is there really a point in going on? Sure it’s British Columbia and we’ve diligently cut down 99% of the old growth Douglas fir over the past 125 years so hell ya, why not go all in and turn those remaining ancient 200 foot tall behemoths into flooring for wankers?


So I move on to mill man two. An FSC certified mill near Parksville. Plenty of wood, all young second growth, all from monitored woodlots. Good start. Mill man appears highly motivated. Even better. So as we’re discussing micro V versus flush milled tongue a groove joints I spot some dust covered lifts of lumber in the back of a vast warehouse.


‘What’s that?’


‘Oh some flooring. I think it been sitting back there for eight or ten years.’


‘Hmm… would it work for a ceiling?’


‘Can’t see why not.’




So I’m back a week later. Mill man is very keen. I suspect the bank is circling overhead, talons glistening.


‘You can have two lifts for $1700, including tax.’


‘Including tax, eh?’




‘For all 1900 square feet?’




So handed the mill man an envelope of freshly extruded plastic $100 bills and the wood is mine.


Over 6,000 lineal feet of mostly clear [knot free] second growth Douglas fir tongue and groove flooring, seasoned after a decade of collecting dust in a saw mill warehouse. Somebody’s long forgotten dream floor that never happened, now destined for our ceiling.


So the recipe for great early summer T&G: cut board to length, pound tongue into groove, nail, repeat 600 times while developing that neck tan.

One lift, still dusty

One lift, still dusty








Looking good from downstairs

Looking good from downstairs


Taking a break from the neck tan to put up Mia's Mother's Day present so mama 'Won't forget my name' Ah bless the logic of 4 year olds.

Taking a break from the neck tan to put up Mia’s Mother’s Day present so mama ‘Won’t forget my name’ Ah bless.

Where ya been hiding?


So maybe while killing time between packed buses, flossing your teeth or changing a nappy, some of you in Melbourne, Singapore, Auckland, Nashville or Biggleswade might have been wondering what the hell has been going on?

Blog entries as regular as a Saturday hangover in London climaxing in torrid prose about power planes, drilling jigs and threaded rod and then nothing. Nada. Pure radio silence.

City bred greenhorns. Perhaps they threw in the towel on this folly of a house build and overly ambitious micro farm? Maybe Rob dyed his grey, grew a real beard and shed ten years, abandoning the good life for the better life of East Vancouver hipster. Karen trading her plenty-of-sweat-required 1/3 acre veg garden for two square feet of containered micro-greens on a fourth floor balcony. Cleaning the country living out from under her nails and sipping a latte while posting earnestly ironic photos of Mia in skinny jeans on Pinterest.

Na, none of that happened. Though I’m still working on that beard and Mia and her jeans are pretty skinny.

You may recall in my last instalment back in early June, we’d just finished our heavy timber post and beam frame. After basking in glory for about ninety seconds, thoughts turned to winter. Sure late May flowers blanketed the roadsides and Karen’s garden burst with the promise of ten thousand green shoots already a month into what would become a five month drought. But in my mind I saw only the spectre of November gales lashing down, turning a year’s work to rot.

The vision was powerful, the way forward clear.

You can’t live in a wood frame with no roof so it was time to stop the self-congratulatory B.S. and get hammering. The solution to cold night sweats about rain half a year in the future? A five month diet of ten hour days. As a consequence, I ended up too shattered to type, think up witty things to say or bother with showering.

So what follows over the next half dozen blog posts is a heady tale of high angle acrobatics, repetitive stress syndrome, 30,000 nails, an epic builder’s tan and the tendency to Shanghai unwary visitors into lifting something really, really heavy. All in the bid to get that bleeding roof on.

Next up, how we got our (tongue) and groove.

From this

Internal cross bracing removed. All is revealed!

End of May 2015

To this

Mid-Oct 2015

Mid-Oct 2015