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Timber Frame Cottage Raising: The Big Day, Part One

by Tara

As I arrange bananas, a water jug, and several containers of snacks on a makeshift plywood table this morning, I do so with a feeling of peace. With the stress of non-stop preparation and the uncertainty of assembling the first bent of our home behind us, I'm resting easy in the knowledge that Tyler and I will be able to enjoy ourselves with our friends today.

The weather is only being marginally cooperative, but the chill wind and the occasional drizzle don't dampen our spirits. This frame is going to get raised, even if we have to do it in a downpour. Charlie arrives first. I wave to him from atop our ridge, and he walks up the long way, curving along the path instead of scrambling straight up the face of the rocky outcropping. (Our house site is on the ridge shown below, in June of last year.)

Truck on Our Misty Land

He's all smiles—thankfully, our friends know the drill when it comes to visiting us: dress for the weather, wear mud boots, pee in the woods, bring your own utensils. One day, I hope we'll be able to invite guests to our land without having to worry about whether or not I should rent a port-a-potty for the occasion, but today is not that day.

Greer and Rick arrive soon after, Greer dressed in layers and sporting a colorful new buff around her neck, and Rick in his work clothes and tool belt. He recently retired from the construction company he started, but he seems raring to go, eager to lend his skill and knowledge. Greer, meanwhile, meanders around for a few minutes, marveling at the beauty of our land, how different it is since she's seen it last.

I admire how lovely she finds it, despite the lack of leaves on the trees, despite the gross grey skies, despite the spitting rain. Sometimes I look around and all I see are the endless things to do, build, and fix, combined with a sea of mud and ticks. She looks around and marvels at our darling light fixture, our mossy stone walls, our winter mountain views. It's refreshing to see our land through her eyes.

When she's done poking around, Greer heads back to the car and brings up her breakfast contribution: homemade morning glory muffins, berry scones, and a large pot of hot coffee. Though I coordinated the food situation with Greer and Becky beforehand, I am still touched by the offering. We have such a wonderful community around us, it's hard to believe sometimes.

Once we've all snacked a bit, we get down to the business of frame-raising. I'm a little concerned: will we be able to raise it with just a few people? We organize things first, talk through our plan. Charlie cuts a notch in a long 2x4 so the person lifting the tie-beam will be able to continue lifting once the bent is too high to reach.

Tyler and Rick each take a post, while I stand in the middle to lift the tie-beam. Shocked that neither Tyler or myself will be photographing the event, Greer grabs our camera, saying "We need to document this!" We chuckle warmly at her enthusiasm, change the settings slightly to make the camera a little more user-friendly, and give her free reign.

Camera poised to capture the raising, we're ready to go. On 1, 2, 3, we lift, and the bent we assembled last night goes up so easily, almost effortlessly. Once the tie beam is too high to reach, I scramble to grab the notched 2x4, but by the time I turn back around, the bent is vertical!

Raising First Bent on Our Cottage with Rick Raising First Cottage Bent

Greer and I hold the posts to steady them, while Tyler and Rick nail them to the hurricane straps we installed while pouring the concrete slab.

Tara Steadying Timber Frame Cottage Bent Greer Steading Cottage Timber Frame Bent

We brace the bent with 2x4s so we won't have to keep steadying it, and then step back to admire our work. Holy crap, we did it! There it is! It's amazing, really, how just a few seconds ago, there was nothing. And then out of the nothingness, we created three dimensions, structure and form, the bones of our first wee little house!


This ineffable, indescribable feeling of creation is one I've had before: during our grindbygg raising, and our shed-building, and the strawbale workshop. Though it sounds dumb whenever I try to explain it ("Look! There was nothing! And now there is something!"), but the truth is that the feeling is almost mystical in nature. Sacred, even.

One of the strangest things is the act of creation.

You are faced with a blank slate—a page, a canvas, a block of stone or wood, a silent musical instrument.

You then look inside yourself. You pull and tug and squeeze and fish around for slippery raw shapeless things that swim like fish made of cloud vapor and fill you with living clamor. You latch onto something. And you bring it forth out of your head like Zeus giving birth to Athena.

And as it comes out, it takes shape and tangible form.

It drips on the canvas, and slides through your pen, it springs forth and resonates into the musical strings, and slips along the edge of the sculptor’s tool onto the surface of the wood or marble.

You have given it cohesion. You have brought forth something ordered and beautiful out of nothing.

You have glimpsed the divine.”

Vera Nazarian