Traverse City Record-Eagle


Mixing Theology with Cement

Ed HahnenbergI am a simple kind of guy, who, when undergoing any project —whether it be taking astrophotographs, writing a blog on theology, or planting crops for our farm market — does a lot of praying. I think cherry, apple, strawberry and grape growers can relate as we enter the critical frost season. As a Catholic, Mary and the Holy Spirit are my go-to persons for help.

As winter was ending on the calendar, I decided, since we heat our house with wood, to build a wood shed with a floor of cement.

We do have a furnace in the basement which is capable of heating with oil or wood, but heating with oil has been erased from my memory. Our house, on the east side of Lake Leelanau, has lots of glass windows, and on average I would use 10 gallons a day. Now if you figure 30 days in a month times 8 months times $4.00 a gallon for oil, that works out to a little under $10,000 a year.

I explored heat pumps and outdoor heating units, wood pellets, propane, as well as the cost of running a natural gas line through tons of roots, but came to the conclusion that wood from our own woodlots was the best choice. Not only that, but a new fireplace insert heats the upper floor nicely. Getting wood into the fireplace requires some hard work. I have chain saws, a buzz rig, two tractors, etc., but I’m what you would call a “senior” so my endurance is limited.

Anyway, after some prayer, I began to plan to build the wood shed. The first thing that had to be done was clear out an area near the house. Easier said than done. We had split about 15 face cords for this past winter, piled it all on wood pallets, and covered it with a big plastic tarp. Too many problems, what with snow, melting, refreezing, etc. See what this deteriorated to by the end of February.

For 2013-14 this temporary setup had to be replaced. A permanent structure was the thing. Clearing out the several trees, which I cut to stumps, needed big equipment. A local company with back hoe and claw was there the same day. Dealing with frozen pallets, stumps, and roots was a challenge, but it was done in an hour and a half. Laying out a 12′x21’ framework came next.

Then came digging 14 post holes. I purchased a small powered auger and began drilling down a couple of feet.  I have rented diggers before, but for the money I paid for a new powered auger, why rent? I will use it again for planting 200 gallon containers of blueberries and other planting jobs.

The auger didn’t have a reverse, but I only got hung up on one root. I wanted to go down at least 24 inches, but the auger didn’t quite make it, so I purchased a two-handled post hole digger.

At the bottom of the holes I placed 6”-round cement pads and anchored treated 4x4s on top of them, packing everything with Quickcrete.

Within the week, I requested 3½ cu. yds. of cement to be delivered by a local company. The day arrived, sunny, with no rain or snow in the forecast. Three hours delayed, the cement truck came. Clouds were gathering. After the first screed, it rained. Having rescreeded, big snowflakes left polka dot impressions on the cement floor. Hey, it was only a Wood Shed.

The next steps involved drilling holes for 6” long x ½” carriage bolts to tie horizontal 2x8s and 2x6s to the 4x4s together.

In the midst of crazy weather forecasts, son Ben came up from Grand Rapids to help finish the project. We first placed 3/8” 4′x8′ plywood sheets on the framing as an underlayment for the metal roof. Ben used a nailer for this job.

Then we hoisted the 3’x12’ green metal panels up and he screwed in sheet metal screws. The roof angles at 20 degrees, so rain and snow drain and slide off.

Six hours later, we were done … and it began to rain … but only after I had parked my snowmobile under the new roof.

The next week, my wife Marlene and I added several 2x4s as bracing for future wood stacks. The shed will hold a ton of wood! It will dry well because we get wind from all directions and it will be ready for use this fall.

The final product…

We have two log splitters, one of which is in the picture. Now the real work begins … 25 cords of wood for next winter! We do have a start though. I do have to say that everything lines up … the building is solid as a rock, and all my prayers were answered … except maybe the snowflakes from heaven, but if the flakes were heaven-sent, what more could a simple man like me ask?

  • GenePH


    That is a fine looking wood shed. You probably planned “carry wood to the house” as an exercise program? You seem very methodical. I recall your father’s fruit orchard saga. Is that the new blueberry patch? I am always curious about the other Traverse region de rigueur crop – grapes. Is there really a climatological reason for vineyards on the Traverse region? My suspicion is, it is more a fashion thing. Would the Popes of Avignon wanted you to plant a vineyard?

    • Ed Hahnenberg

      Gene…Thanks. As I sit here responding, it’s raining pretty hard and it’s great to know the wood in the shed is staying dry. Actually, getting the wood from the shed to the fireplace is quite easy. I have a tractor with a scoop into which I load the wood, then drive into our garage. Thanks to my wife, from there (where I stack a few days supply), she bought a neat tote to roll the wood over to the fireplace. See attached pic.

      Having traveled to France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy several years ago, grapes are all over the place. Marlene and I came close to Avignon in France, and we saw the Mediterranean Sea from the train near there. Blueberries will be more of a hobby, and I don’t expect much success since we don’t have the acidic sole they need, but with additives, I have a few I planted years ago that are thriving. As to your Popes question, there’s too much work growing grapes. Making sweet cider is quite enough for me. I am a Food Safety Specialist in Cider Production by the way.

      The Grand Traverse region prides itself in its wines, but I think it was born out of a need for diversity, considering the failure of the cherry industry. We’ve got a climate good for most any crop.

  • GenePH

    Re; the vineyards. My understanding is the California grape regions with the right climate and limestone content soil are as good as those of France. The hilly areas of upstate New York are always said to be good, however, not as ideal as California if the product sales speak to it. They grow grapes now in Niagara, Canada and New Mexico. So I guess they can be grown almost anywhere? Your concern is more your farm market needs.

    • Ed Hahnenberg

      Gene…I am not a wine connoisseur, although I like a Merlot or fruity Sangria every night. Honestly, I haven’t bought any local wines…too expensive for my tastes. I’m satisfied with California box wine on sale.

  • Bobdisqus

    Land use permit? Building permit? Wouldn’t some bigger overhangs make sense if the goal is to keep it dry?

    • Ed Hahnenberg

      Bob…I am curious why you concern yourself with permit issues that affect me and not you. A little snoopy perhaps? Or maybe just none of your business. FYI, those issues have been addressed with the appropriate agency for our township. As to the overhangs, not necessary as I have been seeing winds coming from all directions and dry everything nicely.

      • Bobdisqus

        You caught me Ed, Bob the snoopy busybody neighbor. I suppose a bit of sermonizing about the evils of our over regulated society. Every spring and fall I think about how nice it would be to have a little pole building down the hill as I pack stuff into or get stuff out of the small shed at the house.

  • Ed Hahnenberg

    I have a gas furnace now, so the woodshed will provide a nice source of wood for our Regency fireplace.

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