Travis Johnson

pollinator
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since Feb 03, 2016
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9th generational farmer, our farm having officially started in 1746, but dates back to the Mayflower. We had the first sheep shearing shed in new England, and always had sheep to 1988. For 20 years we went without sheep until I took over the farm in 1992, reintroduced sheep in 2008, and in 2015 retired at age 42 and started full-time farming. We are still struggling at farming, and probably always will, but the goal is the same...another generation.
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Recent posts by Travis Johnson

Pearl...it looks like your father did a lot of plumbing from the looks of the tools???

The picture with your mother sorting tools; the red tool in the foreground of the picture that looks odd, keep that. It is an adjustable faucet wrench and used to tighten faucets way up underneath of sinks. They are not really rare, but when you need one, you need one. Today they are starting to use another method of faucet attachment, but I foresee them being valuable and collectors items in 25 years.
1 hour ago
The fourth picture down: the pliers with wedges as jaws; is a Saw-Set. They are used in the manufacture, or the sharpening of handsaws. You set the pliers to make the amount of tooth bend that you want, then bend every other tooth to the right, and every other tooth to the left. This gives the saw teeth a saw kerf that is wider then the body of the saw so it does not get stuck.
2 hours ago

Mike Jay wrote:Great to know, must've been a bad tree.  Now I won't be afraid to saw up any that need to be sawn up.



Shake runs in areas; some places will have it, and some will not, but the problem is when selling it to commercial buyers, they see big hemlock and automatically deduct for shake. Sorry for the strong words, but man that really makes me mad!! It should be based on what each log is, and what it will get for lumber, and not setting a set amount of deductions for shake.

Interestingly enough, most of my siding logs were logs that were rejected for commercial sawmills. In other words, the following picture is all logs that they had left to rot. I am literally building a house out of what they left behind. I am not saying they are the best logs ever, but it is a sizeable pile just left behind. It would have been such a waste if I did not have a sawmill.


2 hours ago

Julia Carl wrote:Wow Travis great find! Now I may have to rethink the gin pole. Or perhaps a combination....



I think perhaps you are onto something here, and I have thought about building a wooden tower crane to help load logs onto my sawmill. I have a log loader, but it is not always available, and its reach is limited, but a purpose-built tower crane that could swing over the pile of logs, grab one, then place it on the sawmill would be really handy. Today winches can be bought for very little money compared to years ago.

Yours would need to be fairly substantial in construction, but if done, you would never regret it as you built your home.
13 hours ago

Roberto pokachinni wrote:Now that, Travis, is a fantastic idea.  Have you ever used this technique?  I'd love to see more done with it. My grandparent's house and barn in Saskatchewan were both moved with short rounds of firewood (that were shuffled forward repeatedly by men) and a large team of workhorses pulling.



No, I never have. Honestly, I have never had really anything massive to tip into an upright position.

My interest in this began when I had a serious issue, with my bulldozer I was dry-dragging trees across the forest floor in logging operations, but when I hit a root, stump or rock, my bulldozer and its power and traction would snap 1/2 cables like strings. This was getting costly, so I needed a way to reduce friction, to get the trees off the ground. I found a book from the 1940's on how to log where they used parbuckles and gin poles to load farm trailers. YouTube videos led me to the video of the guy moving massive things by hand. In the end I bought a log loader to move wood by picking the log up off the ground, and having wheels under it so I could go with more logs, more often, and make more money. I never regretted the purchase, but I have logged for 30 years so investing in logging equipment is a little bit different for me.

I have moved a lot of buildings here, and in my farming book discuss just that in a chapter: how to avoid high costs of farming by taking a building that is free, or in the wrong spot and moving it. Cutting a check to someone else just is NOT going to make ends meet in farming as there is so little money in the venture; best to do as much as you can for yourself in my opinion.

Before I would pay $100 an hour for a crane, and get bonded, I would rent an excavator. A 34,000 pound class excavator can reach up some 30 feet into the air and easily lift a 25 foot log. The rental on one is $700 a day with a thumb, which would be required to let go of the pole once it was upright and seated in. If all the prep work was done, all the poles could be set in a day, but what fun is that? :-)

The probablem with rentals is, trying to get everything done while it is on site. I really prefer the idea of people thinking for themselves, devising ways of doing things, because inevitably they are going to use the techniques for other building projects down the road. I mean what if I had just paid a building mover to move my first building, would I have moved the other 5 buildings after that one? Probably not because at some point, a person is not going to have the means to cut a check to have something done. And this is the orginal posters home...how fun would it be to have pictures of the rising of the center column being done by hand instead of having it swing by a crane? Often times the hardest way to do something is the best way in the end.



13 hours ago
I still respectfully propose that an axe is the better survival weapon as how can a person really survive without fire?

On a short term survival situation, I would much rather have an axe where I can build a fire and shelter until searchers can arrive then I would a gun that would do little for either of those necessary things. I mean I can build a fire starting bow from an axe, lob wood off to make a fire, cut saplings to make a shelter, and have a sense of security that my shelter and fire would ward off predators in the first place, not to mention using it for defense if they did get in too close. Have you ever been out in the woods alone? Nothing is more comforting (and distracting to the mind) then having a fire.

Long term, what other tool can do so much? Cut, pound, split, defend...the tasks are almost endless. Conceivably, a person could make a fire and take scrounged steel and build their own knife from an axe, and from there the tools would only multiple.
15 hours ago

Mike Jay wrote:The previous owner here had some hemlock lumber in the barn.  It has such bad shake (I think that's the right term) that it is next to useless.  Even when it isn't quartersawn the wood will crack right along the growth rings.  Hopefully that's just from one bad tree.  If it is usually good wood, I'd be more interested in the many huge hemlocks I have back in the woods...



It is hard to say, typically the bigger the tree size, the more shake it has in it.

What causes shake I am not sure. My Grandfather always told me it came from the wind separating the layers of wood by shear force, but I have heard it is a bacteria in the wood. The first explanation would explain why it would happen with larger trees and not smaller ones, but considering how plentiful Eastern hemlock is, I am sure the Forest Service has studied the problem well.

My forest is not prone to shake, but does have it for sure. My issue is more with black heart (rot), but rot seems to clear up after cutting off the bottom section of the tree, where as shake goes from the top to the bottom.

Overall, I love Eastern Hemlock, with about 90% of what I build being out of Hemlock; that being framing, sheathing, flooring and now siding. Time will tell if the siding stands up long enough for it to be a viable siding material, but we shall see. About the only thing I dislike about Eastern Hemlock is its weight. When I redid some floor stringers in this house that I had to lift overhead, I was not about to hoist Eastern Hemlock 2x5's into the air, so I sawed them out of White Spruce; much lighter in weight.
15 hours ago

John C Daley wrote:Great outcome
How old is the place you are re cladding?



Not that old actually. I think it was built around 1922, but I am not sure.

This is known as a Foursquare, a type of house that was often mail ordered from Sears, Alladin and Stirling from 1890-1930. I have never found an exact model like this, but plans from a Stirling House in 1922 are VERY close to this. The only difference was the placement of the chimney, a lack of a bathroom, and the overall size. However the answer may be because this place was a dance hall years ago before it burned. I think they might have just adjusted the size of the building because the foundation (fieldstone) was already in place. For instance the plans I found were for a house 22 x 24, and this house is 18 x 22. Naturally any house built out here in rural Maine prior to the 1960's had an outhouse and not a bathroom, and a chimney running through the center of the home would have been a requirment for Maine as well.

I go to church with the Register of Deeds, so she might be able to help me determine when this house was built exactly. I just have not had a chance to do that yet.
16 hours ago
In renovating our Tiny House, Katie and I needed a cheap way to cover our foursquare cheaply, but were unsure how. After a little research, and them some new techniques on the sawmill, we were able to produce our own clapboards.

I am well aware that cedar is typically used for clapboards, but we do not really have supersized cedars, so after a little research found out the old duffers would use Eastern Hemlock. We got plenty of big hemlock! So we found that if we sawed the logs into 10 inch cants (10 x 10 inch beams), then put wedges under the cant on every other board sawn, we could make quality wedge shaped chapboards. On some logs we were getting (25) 3/8 clapboards 12 feet long. That is 300 linear feet of siding, or 150 square feet if placed 6 inches to the weather...from a single log! In one day we were able to saw up 800 linear feet. We need 2000 feet linear feet granted, but the fact we could do so in quick order was encouraging.

But what would it look like on the building?

Today we sawwed out the corner boards, and then started putting up some homemade Eastern Hemlock clapboards. We chose to go a little wider with "six inches to the weather" versus that of the typical 4 inches, but that is just to get a little more coverage with less material.

So other than a little money in chainsaw gas and oil, diesel to get the logs out of the woods, some gas in the bandsaw sawmill, then some nails to put the siding on, it is VERY inexpensive, "green" clapboards.




1 day ago
People have questioned my sanity, but I have never carried a weapon on me until recently, and never felt afraid. Fixing sheep fence in the middle of the night...nope, not scared. Seeing coyotes in the middle of the day...nope, not scared. Seeing bear in the woods...again not scared, all without a gun.

When some questionable people moved in to the area that might physically harm my (4) young daughters, my wife and I started carrying firearms. (Keep in mind, Maine has the least restrictive Right to Carry Law in the country, so we can easily, and legally do so).

I respectfully understand that some people state that it is good to be fearful, but I disagree with that. Yes ANYTHING is possible, but not everything is probable. When you read professional survival guides, like the one the State of Maine used to put out for hunters, the first line in it stated, "do not to be fearful of wildlife when lost alone in the Maine woods". The reason was simple, they wanted people to remain calm. Fear is good, but not in survival situations. It leads people to make irrational decisions.
1 day ago