The 57 acres that comprise Cedar Ridge Farm are located in the beautiful rolling hills of South Central Kentucky. My wife, our four children, and I are on a homesteading adventure as we work toward increased self-sufficiency. We grow much of our own food and enjoy being in touch with the agrarian roots of our lives.

One of the major projects we have undertaken is the building of our own home. The house we're building has three major distinguishing features: 1. we're building it without incurring any debt; 2. it is a timber frame structure; and 3. the exterior walls will be plastered straw bales. We live debt and mortgage free, and building our house with that approach makes perfect sense. Large timbers in a home possess a beauty and project a sense of strength, stability, and warmth that we want in our home. Straw bale walls provide insulation and make ecological sense. This blog is a record of our home-building project.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Moved in (Photos)

Everything went well on September 1, and we moved our things into our new home. It was an easy move – we only had to transfer things a 1,000 feet down the hill. We moved most things in our minivan (without rear seats) and several things with the truck and a small trailer (heavy and bulky things). We made only 7 or 8 trips (I didn’t keep count).

We moved a few things in the following days, like some furniture that was stored in the garage. We spent the next few days unpacking and settling in. I’ve been doing some various projects that needed completion with more yet to be done. Thankfully, they aren’t things that must be done right now.

I took a few photos on Saturday morning (9/10/2016) and am sharing a few of them. Be sure to click on each photo to see a larger version.

The house is very comfortable. It is, of course, pleasing to the eyes. It also has built-in air conditioning. The week after we moved had several days with temperatures around 94° and lots of sunshine. At night it would get down near 70°. If we open the windows overnight, the house cools off (the thermometer would read about 74°). In the morning, we close the windows, and the house stays cool all day long. It may get up to 80° because of the frequent going in and out, but it feels cooler than that. We haven't even needed to use the ceiling fans.

The power system is doing great! We added 690 watts worth of panels on the roof. That helps the batteries to charge more quickly, but the greatest benefit is having sunshine for more hours during the day than we did in the previous location. We have no trees to shade the panels here like we did there. We start harvesting power from the sun almost immediately after it comes over the horizon until about 12 hours later (at this time of year). The batteries have been charged by 10:30 every morning, before the peak charging hours. We haven't had cloudy weather yet to figure out how charging will go at those times.

We are really enjoying our new home! It is so roomy, spacious, and beautiful! I can’t help but be in awe of it. Although I did most of the work on the home, years ago I asked God to be the one to build it. I give Him all praise, glory, and honor for such an incredible home. We are richly blessed!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 1, 2016 -- MOVE IN DAY!!!

We’ve finally done it – we’ve gotten the house ready to move in!

The children and I have worked non-stop during the last two months in order to have the house move-in ready. All the doors were framed and trimmed out, all other trim was completed, baseboard installed, cabinets built, plumbing finished, water system hooked up and operational, bathroom fixtures installed, installing the solar power system, and a slew of other things that needed to be done.

There are still some projects to be completed later on after we move, like railings, closet shelves, some light fixtures, etc.

But, we’re moving in today!

I did a walk-through video yesterday in the midst of finishing up some things in the house so that you can see what it looks like just before we get all of our things in it.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Video walk through–January 16, 2016

I thought a short video showing the floors as they look with a coat of oil would be appropriate. So, here it is:


Saturday, January 16, 2016

The floors on 1-16-2016

On Monday (1-11-2016) we put a second coat of oil on the upstairs floors, the stairway, the guest room floor, and the master bedroom floor, and we put the first coat of oil on the rest of the great room floor. On Tuesday morning, Malchiah and I wiped excess oil off of all the floors. Most of the oil had soaked in by then, but there was still some on the surface. We weren’t able to apply any more hemp seed oil during the rest of the week – I worked away from home Wednesday and Thursday and had other tasks to take care of on Friday.

I took a few photos of the floors this morning to share here in the blog. The oiling is not finished yet, but these photos should give you an idea of how things look right now. (Note: left-clicking on any photo will open a larger view of it.)


Beginning to oil the floors

On Sunday (1-10-2016) we did some more cleaning in order to get as much dust as we could cleaned up. Then, we were excited to start oiling – we just couldn’t wait! So, beginning upstairs in one of the bedrooms, we started the process of treating all of the floors with hemp seed oil. It was a simple process, actually. We poured oil on the floor and spread it around. I had a pad attached to a broom handle, and the three younguns working with me used rags. We oiled the upstair’s floors and window sills and then oiled the guest room and master bedroom floors and their window sills. The next day, we applied a second coat of oil over the first. We then put a first coat on the rest of the floor that hadn’t yet been done.

We’ll be applying the other coats soon, but I wanted to share some photos of the process and how the floor looked with a fresh coat of hemp seed oil. The glossy look is because the oil was fresh on top of the floor and hadn’t soaked in yet.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Video: 1-9-2016 house walk through

I made a walk through video of the house yesterday. I thought that some of you would like to see it with painted walls and sanded hardwood floors.

I hope you enjoy it.

Pantry shelves

Across the hallway from the main bathroom is the pantry. This small room is intended for the storage of canned goods and other food items (including grains and beans stored in air-tight containers). The room is about 8 feet long by 6 feet wide.

Last spring, Malchiah and I built the shelves in the pantry. The design was for shelves on three walls, extending the length of the room from either side of the doorway and across the back wall. Anne and I determined the shelf heights based upon their intended uses, including a lower shelf capable of holding 5-gallon buckets and shelves for quart-sized canning jars. I had previously purchased several 2x10 boards for building the shelves, and we used these. I had to rip about 3 inches off of each one in order to make shelves 15 inches deep (a 2x10 is a little over 9 inches in width).

After we built the shelves, we oiled them with hemp seed oil. They came out looking great! (Never mind the dust on the shelves – that’s a result of sanding the floors and will be cleaned off soon.)


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sanded hardwood floor

I keep working on the house as time allows. In September, I borrowed a friend's old flooring drum sander. It needed new foam on the drum. I bought some off of Ebay with its own adhesive, cut it to size, and adhered it after scraping/sanding off all the remains of the old foam. It seemed to work fine. I used 3/8” foam, but 1/2” would have been better (it ends up requiring the sanding sheets to be have about 1/2” cut off their length – not a big deal). When removing the drum in order to install a belt for the vacuum system, one side of the aluminum frame that holds the drum broke off. I had to repair it using a thin metal plate bolted to the side to hold the broken piece in place. The repair worked fine.

The flooring boards had some variation in height because the level of the tongues and groves was not consistent between all the boards. I’m not complaining – a friend milled the flooring for me, and I know how hard it can be to get everything consistent without an actual flooring mill machine. Because of the variations, I had to do some extra sanding to get the floor surface level.
I started with 24-grit sand paper, moved to 36-grit, 60-grit, 80-grit, and then 100-grit. The sander itself is not as strong and aggressive as I imagine a new machine would be. That was a good thing – less chance of creating divots and hollows in my floor. Doing the edge sanding was more of a job. I used a belt sander, mainly. This worked well.

In all, I spent about two weeks worth of work sanding the floors, but they are now done. Once we get things all cleaned up in the house, we’ll finish them with hemp seed oil. I don’t want to put a plastic finish on my natural wood floors. So, polyurethane is not an option. Besides, if you get a scratch in a traditional poly finish, you have a scratch in your finish that cannot be simply repaired. With an oiled finish, you can repair such things with a little sanding and more oil. An oil finish is not glossy/shiny, of course, but that’s not the look I desire. An oil finish is warm, soft, and durable. Hemp seed oil (and tung oil) is a drying oil – it will harden when it dries (it takes about two weeks to dry).

I’ll update after we get the floors oiled. In the meantime, here are few photos of the sanded floor.