The Farm Report: Sara’s Home In The Hills, Continued …

Sunday was Chareva’s birthday.  When I asked several days ago what she wanted for her birthday, she thought for a minute, then replied, “You know what I’d really like?  I’d like us to start finishing the inside of Sara’s cabin this weekend.”

I immediately recognized how considerate she was being.  Instead of shopping for an hour and spending, say, 100 bucks for a present, I could now spend several times that amount on building materials, then put in two long days of manual labor to start, with several more to follow.  You’ve got to love a wife who doesn’t take advantage of her husband’s generosity.  So I enthusiastically agreed to the plan.

She then informed me that building materials are supposed to “acclimate to the environment” for a few days before being installed.  When I asked for a translation, she said it means we should buy the building materials no later than Wednesday and put them in the cabin.

Well, okay then.  It’s Sara’s cabin, so it was up to her to decide what we’d use to finish the inside.  Some kind of paneling?  Vertical planks?  Horizontal planks?

Chareva was rooting for horizontal planks because she likes how they look.  I was rooting for horizontal planks because I have no flippin’ idea how to cut and fit paneling around windows and doors.  After much hemming and hawing and walking around Lowe’s looking at different options, Sara decided she liked horizontal planks.  Whew.  I did some quick math and estimated that 100 pine planks would do the trick, with enough to spare for the inevitable mistakes.  We also picked up several rolls of insulation, an extra hammer and a shootload of panel nails.

The primary task was to cover the inside of the cabin with the planks.  Here’s what the inside looked like before we started.

But before tackling that job, we needed to build a set of stairs. In its previous location, the front of the cabin was near the ground.  Now it’s on a hill, and without stairs, that would be quite a step up.

We began the interior decorating with the back wall.  The planks aren’t as long as the wall, so we had to choose where to join them.  Sara was quite opinionated about where the joins should go.  She wanted them staggered.  Here she is explaining the correct pattern.

We’re not exactly what you’d call experienced carpenters, so I wondered how many panel nails we’d bend and have to yank out, then try again.  I’m happy the say the answer is: only a few.  Sara hammered away all day and did a fine job.  So did Chareva.  I did some hammering as well, but my primary job was to cut the planks with a miter saw.

The insulation is 18 inches wide.  That’s because in houses, the 2x4s are 18 inches apart.  In the cabin, the distance between 2x4s varied from 16 inches to 24 inches.  So we ended up turning the insulation sideways and cutting it to fit, then stuffing it behind the planks.

By the end of our workday on Saturday, we had the back wall done.  Here’s Sara pounding in the last nail.

Even though Chareva was happy to make the construction project her birthday present, I suggested we head out Saturday night for a nice dinner.  October happens to be Wild Game Month at Rodizio Grill in downtown Nashville, one of those awesome Brazilian steakhouses where they keep bringing meat to your table until you tell them to stop.  In addition to the usual variety of meats, we got to sample wild boar and rattlesnake sausage.  That’s the sausage below.

Here’s the birthday girl with her husband outside the restaurant.

On Sunday, we decided we’d best tackle the front walls of the cabin, which include the front door and the windows and therefore require a bit of precision.

I observed the measure-twice, cut-once rule to avoid wasting wood.  I also did more hammering on Sunday, and managed to only smack my thumb once.  Not bad for a amateur.

By the end of the day, the front walls were done and looking pretty good.

We still have the side walls to cover.  I don’t expect those to be much trouble.  The interesting part will be figuring out what to with the upper part of the cabin.  Here’s why:

I have no idea how we’ll cover those angles.  But I’m sure we’ll figure it out.  And I’m sure when we’re done, we’ll be enjoying a state of Dog-Tired Satisfied.


16 thoughts on “The Farm Report: Sara’s Home In The Hills, Continued …

  1. Sky King

    Looks absolutely great! I wished I had something like that when I was a kid. I was always into building underground forts, snow forts, and makeshift tree houses.

    The only thing I would suggest, if I may, is to put either pressure-treated or vinyl lattice around the bottom to give it a more aesthetic look and to keep out the varmints from setting up residence underneath:

    Again, GREAT job!

      1. JillOz

        Tom, you may have heard of the Tiny House movement.
        People who build tiny houses to live in face your type of roof problem all the time as they generally use it to house their befdroom and it needs to be secure and warm.

        While I can’t offhand recommend a specific reference, youtube has tons of videos on the subject by various home/amateur/pro builders and your own search term capabilities should lead you to some useful blogs/vids/projects online.

        You may even have some Tiny House consultants in your local area!

        I am so envious of your daughter!! How fabulous she gets to see her little house being built and to chip in when she can! 🙂

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Alana is a big fan of the Tiny House shows. The houses are cute, but for me personally, they’re a bad reminder of my bachelor days, living in 400 square feet.

  2. Andrea

    For the ceiling, a family friend had a similarly difficult roof he wanted to fancy up. He eventually decided to fix his planks to sheets of plywood, cut angles to fit them together, and then he just had to attach them to ceiling. He countersinked (countersank?) the holes for the screws he put them in the ceiling with and filled them so they were less noticeable.

  3. Dianne

    That’s a mighty handsome couple steppin’ out for a fine birthday dinner of rattlesnake sausage and other comestibles. Happy birthday Chareva.

    I had to make sure you weren’t joking about the rattlesnake sausage, so I Googled it, and sure enough, you weren’t. You can even get sausage made with rattlesnake, rabbit, and jalapenos. I’ll pass, thank you all the same.

  4. JillOz

    Question, Tom, can one install insulation piecemeal or is it one of those things you have to do all at once in a roof?

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      We’ve been doing it a bit at a time, since we had to cut it and stuff it in sideways. I sure hope that works.

  5. Dave Jaffe


    Great job on Sara’s cabin! I was most impressed by the way you all tackled each challenging step. Having recently come through a kitchen remodel, I handled unexpected obstacles by peeling bills off a wad of money and handing them to the contractor until he’d stopped shaking his head and frowning.

    Chareva’s advice to allow materials to “acclimate to the environment” was sound, though confusing. My contractor said the same thing after dumping 20 bundles of floor panels in my kitchen. So I “acclimated” those bundles each morning by pouring them a cup of coffee and chatting with them about the Bears chances this year. Catching me early one day, the contractor gently advised that I needn’t bother with that. But not without a lot of head shakes and frowns.

    Oh, and interesting about rattlesnake sausage. I’d never tried that, although it’s probably easy to make since the snake just needs to slither into a sausage skin, then die.

    Looking forward to your updates.


    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I tried chatting with the pine panels about the Bears’ chances, but it turns out they know diddly about football. I realized this when they predicted the Bears will win the Super Bowl, thanks mostly to a stellar season by Cutler with a completion rate in the 85% range and zero interceptions.


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