Tiny cabin update: then and now

On July 9, 2015, I wrote in my 5-year journal, “Worked on the land–2 tarps down and dirt where the house will be.”

Tiny Cabin Spot - June 2015

Tiny Cabin Spot – June 2015

Even though we began this adventure in May of 2015, it took us awhile to find the perfect spot and then clear it. We had hoped to complete the cabin by the time school started last year, but we didn’t finish the foundation until October or have a frame until March.

So now, one year after the first dirt was spread on the cabin site, we can see how far we’ve come. We’re not exactly putting on the “finishing touches,” but things are moving much faster now.

In the past two weeks, we’ve spent a lot of time at our current home, which has a sizable yard to maintain and wood floors crawling with dust bunnies. I had hoped to do more deep cleaning and closet organizing, but I’ve been busy freelance editing. Still, we made time for respites of play: West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet were unforgettable. We saw a 1623 First Folio as well–each state in the U.S. currently has one on display in honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

This past Friday, the conditions were right for cabin work. We drove through rain hoping that it wouldn’t follow us. The morning was cloudy and comfortable, especially for July. I trimmed Bradford pears while Chuck hung the front door and framed the window.

 

Exterior doors aren’t cheap, but we got lucky. A few months ago, my brother stopped some restaurant workers from throwing two doors in a dumpster. They’re solid wood and in good shape.

Once the trim was up, we could finish the rows of shingles. We’ve ordered tempered glass for the transom windows, so our next steps are to finish the shingles, install the windows, and finish hanging the door (which will need to be filed at the bottom and possibly repainted).

From outside, our cabin is beginning to look like a house–and soon we’ll be working to make the inside a home.

Tiny Cabin: Summer Growth

Just hours after Chuck posted his last grade and officially began his summer, we headed to the land with a riding mower: the yard maintenance was long overdue.

We had a tiny window before rain moved in, and it was just enough time to get the main parts of the yard under control. Once the sun comes back out, we want to be ready to do some roofing!

Tiny Cabin Garden SpotTiny Cabin Land Cleared May 2016

The riding mower worked its magic, but it couldn’t handle the Bradford pear stumps along the driveway. We alternated weed-eating and hacking with a handheld weed cutter. Our arm muscles ached back into the memory of last summer’s clearing.

driveway-before

Uncleared Driveway, May 2015

Though the cabin is just a frame–and a tiny one at that–I look back at where we were last year and remember how far we’ve come. Our first attempt at driving onto the land ended with us stuck in the mud and a good bit of our budget spent on gravel. Because the truck was unable to spread the gravel evenly, we spread most of it ourselves before the mayor showed up with a backhoe. I never mentioned it, but that day I tore my right quad. It felt like it had been ripped from my kneecap. It took over ten weeks for it to heal, but heal it did.

5-19-15 Car in the mud

May 2015

At this time last year, we cleared land deeper in the woods only to later find it had become a flooded mosquito sanctuary. By the end of June, we finally settled on the spot where the cabin is now, but soaring temperatures in July and August (among other things) kept us away.

Now the summer is just beginning, and though it’s supposed to hit 90 tomorrow, it shouldn’t stay hot long. There’s more rain sprinkled in the forecast, but soon we should have enough days to finally get the cabin “in the dry.”

 

Tiny Cabin: Fire and Rain

One week we’re burning the brush pile in 39-degree air; the next, we’re sweeping water from the cabin floor in a humid 75 degrees.

Completing the rafters last Saturday was a high point in our cabin building. My brother-in-law came to help, and by afternoon all 18 rafters were up. The day could not have been more beautiful, even if the sun left its mark on our bodies.

We knew that six straight days of rain were ahead, so we covered the cabin with a tarp and put some plastic sheeting over the floor. The rain began Tuesday night, and when we went Wednesday afternoon, the land surrounding the cabin was a lake.

The water went past our ankles and soaked Chuck’s pants to the knee. Luckily, I had my rain boots on, though I discovered the left one has a hole.

In spite of our bungee cords, the tarp had blown off one side and rain was pouring in. There were already several inches of water on the floor. Using a long pipe as an extension, we were able to move the tarp over the rafter peak and re-secure it. We splashed back to the car knowing that five more days of rain lay ahead.

There was a possibility that the water would keep rising until it engulfed the cabin floor. In that case, we decided we would haul in more dirt and rebuild. Though we would like a cabin built on land, we also considered that we might have to build on a trailer bed. We decided that at some point we would have to cut our losses and run—how many thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours are we willing to spend on a thorny Bradford pear plantation?

Thankfully, the waters receded and we didn’t have to act out any of our worst-case scenario plans–at least not yet. More rain is forecast for tonight, and we will have to see how well the floor dries out this week.

 

Tiny Cabin: Clearing a Path to the Pond

Among all of the ephemeral childhood memories I have, a few remain vivid.

The first time I went fishing, for instance: four years old, sitting on the high bank of my grandma’s pond, the red and white bobber on my fishing line disappearing beneath the water, me jerking the pole up with all my strength to hook the catfish.

It got away with the worm, of course, but the thrill of the unseen manifesting itself, however briefly, was enough to cement this memory more than any big fish story I’ve had since.

Our land has a sizable pond, but we haven’t been able to reach it due to the overgrowth. I saw it last winter before we signed the paperwork, but I haven’t been able to get close to it since.

As much as we want to work on the cabin, now is the best time to clear paths, as we don’t have to worry as much about poison ivy, ticks, and snakes. Leafless Bradford pears are also easier to trim back and cut down. I can contend with three-inch thorns as long as I can see them.

We came home bruised and scratched, though triumphant: we cleared a path to the pond!

Bradford Pear Thorns

Three-inch thorns on Bradford pear branches

Brush Pile

Ever-expanding brush pile

Cabin Site 2-16

Tiny cabin site

Pond picture

A view of the pond

Tree Removal

In Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” his neighbor insists that “good fences make good neighbors.”

Many of us like our boundaries, and a fence is a way to clearly communicate a do-not-cross zone. (We put up our fence a few years ago after I saw one man chasing another with a pistol.) A fence can also keep animals and children corralled as well as offer privacy. But like the fence in “Mending Wall,” they need to be repaired from time to time.

Driveway 5-13-15 after

Driveway 5-13-15

Driveway July 2015

Driveway July 2015

Our neighbor out at the land asked if we could trim or remove the Bradford Pears growing between our driveway and his fence. Limbs were growing over into his yard, and the trees were preventing him from making repairs.

We showed up one morning with that singular purpose: to cut them down. As can be said about most of our work days, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

What at first appeared to be four or five substantial trees growing along our neighbor’s fence line turned out to be 50-60 smaller trees growing in clumps, ready to scourge.Tree Roots

Generously, our neighbors and their kids came out to help. We used the clippers on smaller trees, Chuck chainsawed the larger ones, and we hauled them to the open field, making a brush pile. The sun wasn’t too hot, and after less than five hours we’d taken them all out.

Brush Pile (dried out)

Brush Pile (dried out)

Granted, the brush pile was a little more scattered than we had hoped, but several were simply too heavy to lift and heave on top. The pile is spread out rather than tall, but we plan to trim it up before burning it.

The job isn’t finished, however: all of the little stumps have to go. Otherwise, they’ll just re-sprout from the roots. We’ve bought a mattock to help with that, but it’s all easier said than done.

Our neighbors plan to plant a row of lovely Japanese maples in their place. Good fences make good neighbors, and so do shared tastes.