Chapter 2 - The Idea
It seemed like a good idea at the time. In retrospect, it probably really was just your average mid-life crisis. I realized that my fifteen-year career of software engineering in the microelectronics industry would inevitably be totally erased by the delete key. I felt a need to create something that would be a bit more permanent and solid. Meanwhile, I was being offered early retirement packages on a yearly basis. The first time around, it was tempting. The second time around, it was a sign that perhaps it was time to do something else. The creation of a timber framed home seemed to be that something else.
My first step was the library where I found a single book devoted to the subject of timber framing. Building the Timber Frame House, was inspiring. It spoke of traditions, solidity, engineering, planning and beauty – exactly what I had in mind.
One day, while pondering FORTRAN code in the cafeteria, a co-worker with whom I had shared my fantasy told me that a timber-framed barn was being built right down the street! The next day, I was standing before a magnificent structure, awe and admiration written all over my face. The man, obviously in charge of this creation, said to me, “She is a beauty, isn’t she”. I told him that I would like to learn how to timber-frame and his response, much to my delight was, “why don’t you get up there and help Mike with that dormer then”. Thus began my two-year apprenticeship with Ed.
Linda and I began our plan to build our dream home in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. We combined our lifetime of home experience, into a timber-frame plan and in the fall of 1993, eagerly sought the advice of the few local timber-framing experts that we could locate. It seemed logical to visit a timber framer in New Hampshire. Much to our dismay, our plan was far too simple to get a major timber framers attention. It was suggested that we talk to one of the many smaller timber-framing outfits. We obtained estimates from two of these outfits in the $65,000 range just for the frame. This was quite a bit more than we had in mind. Linda summed up the situation with her own wisdom, “It’s just you and me baby”.
While pondering the plan, writing software, contemplating early retirement and apprenticing on weekends and holidays, the 100-foot tall tulip poplar tree within a few feet of my house died. I contacted a fellow name Keith who owned a portable saw mill. In the course of creating beautiful tulip poplar boards, Keith assured me that he could also create the oak timbers to build our timber-framed home. The idea of timbers from oak trees was new to Keith and he was delighted that I also wanted the boards that would result from heart cut timbers. We were relieved that these oak trees would be cut down anyway to clear land, which was his primary business.
With a plan and a source of materials in hand, Linda and I began what I assured her would be a two year project. Three years later, in early 1999, we stood in awe of our magnificent timber-frame and sat on the main beam watching the sunset.