Building a bridge

Maybe we’re lazy or maybe we just like projects. As we made progress against the wisteria, dead trees and briars behind the house, the pond builder thought a bridge over the gully would be nice. It would make it much easier to walk to the eastern half of the property which has a lovely forest to walk around.

Site selection and bringing in the logs. We picked a spot in the gully that wasn’t too wide, relatively level on both sides and not a great drop if someone fell off the bridge. Construction began on December 27, 2020 with a 15.5′ cedar trunk. We continued to clear out the weeds around the bridge area. I also posted to a Facebook group of my classmates from West Point. Smart people, many engineers, certainly a few of them have built bridges. We offered to name the bridge after anyone who could provide us with a useable design.

Log Number 1. Before we flew back to Minnesota, the bridge builder felled a straight looking black walnut tree. These trees drop hard round walnuts in the fall and we were constantly worried about turning an ankle or twisting a knee walking on them. Very pretty tree with a dark interior. We used the tractor to drag the log over to the bridge site. With the help of a winch, we were able to place the log roughly where we wanted. One down, four more to go.

Log Number 2. In January we decided to take down a large tree on the edge of our western hayfield. Looked easy to cut, didn’t really matter which way it fell. The tree fell pretty easily and the bridge builder trimmed it up and cut it to 20′. This log piece was VERY HEAVY. I’m not sure what kind of tree it was but it made a few ruts getting dragged to the bridge area. Once by the gully, bridge placement seemed to take twice as long as before. (One reason was that I was manning the tractor and my only operator experience was driving it around the barn once.) After a few hours of tugging, winching and swearing, the bridge builder had the heavy log in place. That afternoon we determined that our log bridge did not need to be five logs wide. It was now going to be a three-log wide bridge.

Log Number 3. The third log needed to be a more slender, straight piece so the pond builder drove around the property looking for the right tree. Same deal as log 2 – dragged across the pasture with a tractor. This time the bridge builder stayed on the tractor and the piece was placed quickly.

Working on planks. The next step was to create some planks that would be nailed across the logs, holding them in place. We have a lot of cedar around the property so Mr. Bridge Builder decided to experiment with some freestyle chainsaw cutting. He tried a few cedar pieces and a few pine pieces. I thought the cedar pieces looked pretty good but Mr. BB thought otherwise. He was watching a lot of Youtube videos and decided he needed to order a portable sawmill.

two weeks later…

The portable sawmill showed up and now we needed some cedar. Bridge builder had spotted a large cedar on the north edge of our property. It was quite a rainy morning but bad weather doesn’t really stop him. He felled a 40-50 feet cedar and brought in five 5′ sections. He also picked up a cedar log on the edge of one of the eastern hay fields.

Cutting 1.5″ planks… Great device, not exactly the fastest operation. The first piece requires a little monkeying around setting up the frame on the log. Once you get going, the cuts get done pretty quickly and are fairly even. Rough cuts but perfect for our needs. A few hours later, we’re cleaning up a lot of cedar sawdust and the garage smells like fresh cedar.

February 17, 2021 – it’s plank installation day! The long planks were cut into 29″ pieces and arranged on the logs. He started plank installation after his workday so he did most of the work in the dark. Some people would just leave it until the next day but the bridge builder wanted to get it done before the incoming ice storm. Cold, dark work but he knows what makes me happy.

February 18, 2021 – The “cedar plank bridge” is pretty much done. I walked across it a few times today just to test its bridge worthiness – very solid feeling. I love the coloring of the planks and it still smells like fresh cedar. We will most likely not bother with a handrail since it’s a narrow walkway. There are some more improvements pending like a little more leveling and finishing off the ends of the bridge. I also want to plant some pretty ground cover plants near the bridge.

Love the new Cedar Plank Bridge. Can’t wait to see if we build another bridge somewhere…. Meanwhile we still have a number of projects to complete the next few months – my deer-proof vegetable garden, maybe a greenhouse, the wood shelter and of course the koi pond.