This blog chronicles the importance of and efforts to return to Mother Earth in spirit and in body. This journey is not one of primitivism or reenactment of an earlier age. It's hope is to inspire me to find the middle ground between necessities of the 21st Century, the need to find a simpler way of life, and our ethical responsibility to protect the land and preserve our natural resources.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Log Home Living essentials

According to Log Home Living magazine, there are several elements of design a cabin builder should consider to make sure everyone enjoys a relaxing visit and family and friends can pile in to experience “cabin life.”

KITCHEN
  1. Allow space to move around.
  2. Incorporate an “L-shape” design and prep island.
  3. Create a “quick place”—a breakfast bar where you can eat on the run.
  4. Find the ultimate table—something big enough for group meals and late-night gatherings.
LIVING AREA
  1. Consider lower ceilings; they are cozier
  2. Less is more. Incorporate fewer knickknacks and try hanging lamps to open up table space.
  3. Use creative dividers as spacial cues.
LOFT
  1. Add light and ventilation. Windows let in sunlight and fresh air.
  2. Carve out sleeping space, such as built-in beds for guests.
  3. Stretch the space. Add gable or shed dormers to the roof.
HEARTH
  1. Make the hearth the focal point.
  2. Keep the hearth central to the floorplan.
  3. Utilize a qualified artisan to build a quality hearth.
  4. Consider alternatives to a fireplace for heating (e.g., woodstove).
OUTDOOR SPACES
  1. Outdoor spaces affects the rooms indoors.
  2. Check all the angles. Look at all elevations to make sure the overall look of the cabin is excellent.
  3. Protect logs. A porch or deck in the wrong spot could cause damage by transferring water or snow back to the house.
  4. Design and furnish outdoor spaces for their uses.
OK. Not much new, though the editor was speaking to modern weekenders. Checking off the essentials, my cabin design incorporated just about everything except the huge, multi-functional kitchen.

Friday, May 28, 2010

To a Cabin

“You feel every wave,” wrote Dorothea Lange.

Lange, who died in 1965, was the famed photo- journalist whose series of Depression-era black-and- white portraits are now icons of American art.

The rustic retreat that Ms. Lange and her family leased each summer near Stinson Beach in Marin County, California is stuff from which dreams are made. Her tiny cabin, purchased on stilts, is surrounded by a 180-degree view of blue water and pounding surf. To Lange, the cabins symbolized freedom, a theme she tried to capture in the more than 1,000 photographs taken during her time there. The result was a book entitled To a Cabin that shows Lange’s young family cavorting in the sand, climbing boulders, and exploring the cliffs.

“It became a special place to be together,” she wrote. “[The cabin] made us all feel, the moment we went over the brow of the that hill, a certain sense of—not peace particularly or enjoyment—[but] freedom.”

California State Parks maintains the Lange cabin and seven others that are open to the public at Steep Ravine. The cabins, which belong to the Mount Tamalpais State Park, can be leased for up to a week. Reservations are encouraged several months in advance.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Russian lays claim to log home

Britain’s Telegraph reports that one-time Russian gangster Nikoai Sutyagin’s home is near demolition. The less charitably disposed dismiss it as a glorified barn, fire hazard and eyesore. But on one thing everyone agrees: Nikolai Sutyagin’s home is certainly different.

A jumble of logs and planking rises 144 feet to form Sutyagin’s record-breaking ‘eighth wonder of the world.’ Dominating the skyline of Arkhangelsk, a city in Russia’s far northwest, it is believed to be the world’s tallest wooden house, soaring 13 floors to reach 144ft. The house that Sutyagin built is also crumbling, incomplete and under threat of demolition from city authorities determined to end the former convict’s eccentric 15-year project.

“First I added three floors but then the house looked ungainly, like a mushroom,” he said. “So I added another and it still didn’t look right so I kept going. What you see today is a happy accident.”

There were other motives too. Having grown up in a Soviet communal flat, Sutyagin said he felt lonely living by himself. Not only would his house make a perfect love nest for his molls, it could also accommodate the 18 executives at his construction company. He even built a five-story bath house in the garden, complete with rooms where he and his colleagues could have a little bit of privacy with their girlfriends.

Neighbors consider it a monstrosity and the city authorities, pointing to bylaws that say no wooden structure should be higher than two floors, warn that fire could cause the whole suburb to go up in flames. They have begun action to pull it down. Meanwhile, he spends his time taking visitors on death-defying tours that involve criss-crossing rotting planks, tumbling over logs, and climbing icy ladders. Yet, he holds the record for having built the largest “log cabin” in the world.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Not for everyone?

I think that many “average” people start to chase their dreams of owning and living in a log home from an angle that is pretty far removed from my vantage point. They first may be mesmerized by stunning photos in the Colorado real estate mags. And of course shuffling through floor plans and sizing up antiques on Saturday are the making of dreams. After all, a log home is just like any other home—it’s just made out of logs. And everyone considers buying a home. How different could it be from our everyday perspective?

It seems to me that their high hopes lead to a few practicalities that should be considered from the start: • that spacious, four-bedroom log structure with skyward views of majestic mountain peaks with a fully-modern kitchen, jacuzzi tub, two-car garage, and ski-in, ski-out access is, well, a bundle of money—a lot more than they likely dreamed; • Living a life that is, at least stylistically compatible, at most economically feasible in a monumental log home is, well, a bundle of money; • Becoming an owner-builder of a log home on your own land with your own hands is, well, oh boy; • Living the cabin lifestyle in a way—shall we say, more true-to-log-cabin-adventure, nod-to-the-ancestors, wood-stove-and-all—certainly isn’t for everyone.

I have a couple of friends that have been married for about six years. They often speak of the rustic cabin they’re going to build on some land they purchased near Frasier, Colorado. It’s a great location for them since they like to ski, enjoy the winter, and plan to have horses. But I wonder if they’ll really survive the cabin (let alone the strain on their marriage). They plan to live at the cabin year-round. To see them today you’d wonder if they shouldn’t open their own Starbucks at the property gate. She, in particular, is a city girl. Skiing and horses are fine with her as long as there’s a spa at day’s end and a stable boy to whom she can hand the reins. I think she just may run screaming from it all. I’ll just have to wait and see if a few year’s time will warm her biscuits. All the while, I plan on the escape with full knowledge that though I love Starbucks, I’d rather make “coffee” from buffalo grass and pine cones on a wood stove in the bowels of Nowheresville.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Writer’s Cabin

Inspired by the writings of authors such as Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway and Jack London, artist and designer Mark Moskovitz created his “Writer’s Cabin” from familiar suburban materials such as plywood and two-by. However there are definite signs of a mature and modern-design–sensitive creator in the inclusion of an Arco table lamp and the bullet-proof glass rungs of his loft ladder. Though Moskovitz lived for a few years in the cabin-ous mountains of Northern Vermont, his cabin has found its home with a gallery setting. The structure is outfitted with objects designed for ‘deliberate living,’ (undoubtedly drawing on Thoreau’s words ‘I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately’). With it’s simplicty, the irony of Moskovitz’ statement is made clear through its use of iconic cabin essentials and the mixture of modern materials and design twists.

Mark Moskovitz earned his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art where he received the first Daimler Chrysler Financial Services Emerging Artist Award upon graduation. The cabin installation has been on exhibit at the Cranbrook Academy, in the atrium of the DaimlerChrysler Financial Services headquarters, Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, and now rests humbly in the artist’s back yard. See more images at the artist’s Web site.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Postmodern Cabin Chic

Augustin Scott De Martinville, a Belgian designer, produces this beechwood trophy head—along with a matching deer—through Generate to the North American market.

“A lot of our newer items have have a naturalist feel,” says Generate founder Eyal Kattan speaking to I.D. (International Design Magazine, June 2007). “It’s part of this whole postmodern cabin chic thing which is so popular right now.” ($349.00 at www.gnr8.biz)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Revision of the American Dream

The kind of cabin that sits easily on my mind is not necessarily designed just to be efficient for space, heat, and materials. It also is carefully planned to take into account the basics of survival—the bare minimum of technology, of facilities, and organization—that are necessary for the chores and daily activities with which I will be occupied to ensure self reliance. There would be a sense of luxury from such a long and winding, unimportant road to the property; the sense of voluminous space within the tiny footprint; and the feeling of "home" that one seldom finds in the grandest and most expensive city dwellings. The cabin represents a simplicity of security. A welcome place among places that becomes home for better or worse, strength or boredom, work and rest.

It is not a showplace of woodworking skill or a weekend getaway with spectacular vistas one pays for during months of work and consumer activities. It is not bigger than my stomach, nor greater than economic reality. It is not the dream home. However it is the dream. The American Dream.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Thoughts of independence

“The Land! That is where our roots are. There is the basis of our physical life. The farther we get away from the land, the greater our insecurity. From the land comes everything that supports life, everything we use for the service of physical life. . . . It is there waiting to honor all the labor we are willing to invest in it. and able to tide us across any local dislocation of economic conditions. No unemployment insurance can be compared to an alliance between man and a plot of land.”
HENRY FORD

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cabin fever

I believe that the real reason I need a cabin is to heal or strengthen my soul. Civilization and my own biology crashed at my doorstep early in life when I was just stepping out. It is time to make amends with the world on terms that are consistent with nature. Then I can learn to love and live among nature and other people in a way from which I have felt robbed.

It is hard to believe, but I've used the word "soul" in two entries within a couple of weeks. It is not my intention for this vehicle to become a blather of self-diagnosed, new-age remedies or of arm-chair psychology more than not found on My Space. For that matter, that fact that I have mentioned my soul at all is a disgrace to the many who suffer soul-wrenching problems and those who help them.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Homeward bound, again.

In the time that it has taken me to regain the spirit to write this blog (yes, you very few readers, it has been months to regain the passion that once was), I have allowed many doubts and other interests to take hold of my soul. For several years now, I have had the good fortune to reach an equilibrium—one that very often tilts to the joyous side--though that wasn't always the case. For the last six months, though I have remained positive and cheery, I didn't have the creative drive necessary to replenish the well of dreams. Surprisingly, it is the feeling of restlessness that has tindered an awakening.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The trouble with chickens

Pet chickens? They are more easily trained than a cat, have a lot more personality than Pekingese, and many home-grown birds are quite affectionate, seeking out their human owners for a sign of attention or a back rub. Many people keep chickens just because they’re beautiful, as pretty as some of the rare, exotic birds snatched directly from South American jungles. And they seem the long-shot favorite on the homestead.

In this modern world, the more verifiably useless an animal is, the better chance it has of being accepted widely as a pet, dogs never seem to enjoy much popularity until the American Kennel Club manages to turn them into neurotic living room ornaments (working dogs accepted, of course). House cats have no responsibilities in the family. It’s socially acceptable to watch a bored turtle making desperate circles in a glass bowl for its entire existence. It’s OK to have a squawking pair of parakeets that have no purpose but to scatter seed all over the floor.

No, the real trouble with chickens as pets is that they are made out of meat.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

School in the Ozarks

I spent my childhood among the cedar, oak, hickory, walnut, and maple trees and the outcroppings of limestone of the Bald Knobs of the Ozark Mountains. I wasn’t a big fan of the spring favorites such as redbud and dogwood, rather I enjoyed the hearty colors of a cool and frostless fall. Old road beds and the remnants of homesteads—long ago reclaimed by nature can be found near patches of now-wild iris and roses planted by settlers long since vanished from the landscape.

I used to hate the undergrowth and the brambles, but now some of my fondest memories are trudging through the woods and sliding down hills on seasoned leaves fighting all the way as if we were on an Amazonian adventure. But the thing I miss most in Colorado is access to water. Sure, Colorado has water. But not in the same way. Denver and the Rockies boast lots of “lakes.” However, they would be classified as ponds in other parts of the country. The larger, canned reservoirs offer no sactuary. In my youth, we could hike along the rivers and streams for the whole day and never see another soul. We each became one with the water. One with our journey. Even as kids, it was a rejuvenation as much as an exploration. Even then, I think we understood that what we were doing was sacred and ceremonial in ways our vocabulary could not describe.

Since the water is such a prized commodity in Colorado, you have to go pretty high up to enjoy a lake or stream without meeting fellow outdoorsmen. It certainly is not my intention to complain about meeting and greeting hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, but the suspension of disbelief is shattered when one has to return to the reality of life in such a manner.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A house of a different color

There’s not much to paint in a log cabin. But surely there was an episode on Little House on the Prairie when Laura had to paint Mr. Olsen’s fence to buy a Christmas present for her adoptive brother (hijinks ensue). By the way, the whole Ingalls family must have rolled over on that one.

Sherwin Williams Preservation Palettes offer Victorian and Arts and Crafts paint colors that are historically accurate and of prevaling popularity for turn-of-the- century through 1920s interior and exterior architecture. The larger swatches are wall colors. The two smaller colors were used for trim and decoration.

How authentic should the cabin be? I’ve indicated that electricty and some 21st century amenities have become necessities to me, but the rest might benefit from an historic touch. At the very least, the research is interesting.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Course plotted.


“We may not arrive at our port within a calculable period, but we would preserve the true course.” —Henry D. Thoreau, Walden
To address a personal adventure in terms of a timeline seems distasteful, however reaching an important destination requires planning and forethought. They become critical to success. And that begs another question: what determines success?

I am in no hurry to realize a dream. I’ve spent my whole life making plans for dreams that will never come true. Planning is the destination and can be pleasurable. I’m a spur-of-the- moment kind of person, but have learned the art of planning over the years by occupation. So why is this challenge any different? Perhaps it’s because it is such an important one and time slips through the hour glass.

Though the time it takes to reach “port,” may never be known until the fog lifts and the harbor within dingy reach, I will endeavor to hammer out a few more relevant and concrete details. So that the course laid and the path broadened.

For now, success can be measured in the quality of plans and the ability to foresee issues and event critical to the undertaking.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Each to live by his own hammer


“I would not have any one adopt my mode of living on any account; for beside that before he has fairly learned it I may have found out another for myself, I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father’s or his mother’s or his neighbor’s instead.” — Henry D. Thoreau, Walden
After a week’s hiatus, I’m back in the mood to blog. I have struggled with the lack of interest found in the concept of living in a cabin. Of course, it’s not for everyone. However it seemed realistic that there would be a few I knew who would find it invigorating.

“ . . . The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off.” — Henry D. Thoreau, Walden
If I have a companion if and when the time comes to consider a cabin seriously, it is essential that the decision and the cabin and its amenities be a colaboration. By necessity, it will be a choice by me, by anyone. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to find the right person with which to experience life in the cabin.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Stereopticon

Daniel Boone was my cousin. Or more precisely, I am his. My mother can tell you a great deal more about that than I. He's related to someone who married someone who was remarried to someone who did this or that and wound up under the buffalo blanket with someone else who was my cousin. It seems like a tall tale, but it is true—and I have incontrovertible proof.

At the age of 76, Daniel Boone, his old friends from Kentucky Michael Stoner and James Bridges, Flanders Callaway and his slave Mose, and Boone's grandsons Derry and Will Hays, Jr. set out west to hunt and explore the upper Missouri River in 1810. They made it to Yellowstone and back to Missouri during the six-month trek.

One of the stereopticon images of Daniel Boone is really my father. He was born in a log cabin that he built with his own hands some 75 years ago. As far as I know he never lived in Kentucky, but has wandered the mountains of Missouri and has made his home in Yellowstone Park. And like Daniel Boone, he's still adventurous and still plans shooting time with his black-powder muzzleloaders. If there is ever a doubt that I have the blood of Daniel Boone racing through my veins, I just have to review this photo.

Dad (and probably Daniel, as well) are wearing elk buckskins (Dad is also wearing a typical calico shirt); Indian chokers; hunting bags with hunting and trapping necessities: flint and steel, char cloth, percussion caps or flints, a flint knapper, lead balls, patch knife, patching, short starter, bear grease, knipple pick, and others; and two powder horns (the priming horn and the black-powder horn. The men also carried "possibility bags" (the ancestor of the "man purse") to conceal clothing, books, extra moccasins, and of course, Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill Wine (no not really).

Separated at birth

While on the subject of the familia, here's a separated-at-birth story. Yosemite Sam and my brother Curt are twins. Both are characters. However, Curt never can remember which is the gun and which is the frog. It makes for some entertaining stories around the campfire. Like the story of the Tombstone shootout with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in the Okefenokee Swamp. Or Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horned Toad.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Take meds and get over it.

I met a friend for brunch today at Lola's. They have eggs and lobster hash that one wouldn't find in any cabin. The Mexican flavors and the seafood make for an terrific meal. Also, they make guacamole tableside—perhaps the best ever made.

As we sat drinking Bloody Marys and enjoying the atmosphere, he turned to me (I've shared this blog with him) and said, "Dude, you're just dreaming of things that will never happen. Why don't you come back to earth on that one. There's probably some meds that will take your mind off of it." Yeah, I thought. Like the ones you've been smoking.

Twice in the last couple of weeks others have tried to get me to abandon the dream. I don't walk around with suggestions like "You should stop working out because you'll never get rid of that ass." Or, "Why do you keep calling her? She's never going to leave her husband."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Modern reality

"Building a log home can be either a labor of love or a bit of insanity. It is an orchestrated compromise to reach the goal of having a simpler home while incorporating modern day gadgets, materials, and technologies. . . . I constantly receive requests from people who want a 'simple, cheap cabin' with a hot tub, three master suites, four bathrooms, fiber optics, cable, and [more]. . . .

"The best projects are small yet classic cabins built in the traditional way, using old-world style and craftmanship. I strongly feel that even the simplest structure should be built to last for many decades."
—Robbin Obomsawin, construction manager/general contractor, Beaver Creek Log Homes;
Small Log Homes Storybook Plans & Advice (Photo above: ©2001 Maple Island Log Homes)

There are those who want a modern vacation home built in the style of a log cabin. And for them, I'm glad that they recognize the beauty of this type of structure. For me, I'm glad that they are purveyors of log home construction. Without them (and their millions of dollars), the level of artistry and craftsmanship necessary to continue this tradition might have been lost forever.

I have poured through hundreds of plans for log cabins and log homes. The information generally available to the public (without the purchase of a set of plans) indeed is limited. However there are many companies that seem much more defined by their construction of "stick" structures that by those made from logs. Unlike Ms. Obomsawin from Beaver Creek Log Homes, I found one company that wrote "log shrinkage is not much of an issue these days." (As if today's trees have evolved past the shortcomings of their ancestors to please cabin builders.)

In all honesty, I think it a mistake to build a cabin myself. I hope to engage the services of a general contractor with sufficient experience. I am qualified to do much of the finish work and the initial plumbing and electrical. I suspect that making a salary in my trained profession and paying experts to do the work in which I have no experience, would be the best scenario.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Primitive Makedo

A friend of mine suggested that I get some "log cabin" wallpaper for my house to simulate living in a cabin. It would give me the "feel" of it. Theoretically, she explained, the simulated logs would be a test of my psychological and emotional responses. I said I would think about it. Apparently, they make wallpaper that looks like real logs; I'd never heard of such a thing. A quick search on the Internet proved her correct.

The paper comes in prepasted, double rolls. According to the wallpaper store, the pattern can be hung horizontally or vertically. (What?! Who builds a log cabin with the logs going up and down?) This being the computer age and all, and I'm still "on the grid," I thought it would be fun to mock it up in Photoshop before going to all the trouble and expense of hanging the wallpaper.




It looks kind of cool,
but I think there's
going to be real issues
getting it to stick
to the bricks
.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ford Fiesta or a hot meal

I could get a loaded 2005 Ford Fiesta for the price of the best woodstove. The Fiesta has a cigarette lighter, and with an $8 adapter, it'll make coffee, Top Ramen, maybe soup. OK, then. I've already been to college so a wood stove is probably more practical.

Here in the Upper Peninsula, the weather is fairly cold all the time, so the stove is always running except in mid-summer. The first thing I do in the morning is light the stove. While the kindling is catching, I feed Muffin, our 15-year old cat. Then I add three or four pieces of wood, light the kerosene lamp, check the temperature outside and add logs to the fire. Now it's time to put the coffee pot over the fire box. Then it's back to the warmth of the bed. It takes about 20 minutes for the water to boil and another 20 minutes to perk. By the time the coffee is ready, the room is also warm.
—Deborah Moore, Makwa Ridge, Big Bay, MI
Countryside and Small Stock Journal,
November/December 1998
Many woodstove cookbooks indicate that patience is one of the main ingredients for dinner prepared in a log cabin. Each woodstove requires time for one to get to know how it circulates, the time it takes to heat, its consistency, and lots of trial and error. Apparently, cooking this way slows you down considerably: light the fire, let the stove warm, allow longer cooking times, let the stove cool, knock back the ashes to the ash pan, clean and season the stove, prepare the next day's fire, start all over again. Many cabins have a semicircle of chairs around the woodstove for gatherings when the cook is baking or preparing meals.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A log cabin bibliography

Here is a list of books that I've acquired about log cabins and related studies. For those interested, most can be found in the public library. I will periodically update this list as new titles are added to the library.
Bealer, Alex W. and John O. Ellis. The Log Cabin: Homes of the North American Wilderness. New York, NY: Barre Publishing, 1978.

Cooper, Jim. Log Homes Made Easy: Contracting and Building Your Own Log Home, 2nd ed. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2000.

Downing, A.J. The Architecture of Country Houses. New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1969.

Ewing, Rex A. and LaVonne Ewing. Logs Wind and Sun: Handcraft Your Own Log Home . . . Then Power It with Nature. Masonville, CO: Pixyjack Press, 2002.

Ferguson, Gary. The Great Divide: A Biography of the Rocky Mountains. Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press, 2004.

Forpe, Will, ed. The Best of the Old Farmer's Almanac. Middle Village, NY: 1977.

Hard, Roger. Build Your Own Low-Cost Log Home. Pownal, VT: Garden Way Publishing, 1977.

Lennox, Wayne. Cottage Essentials: The Everything Guide for Your Cottage, Caabin , or Camp. North Vancouver, BC, Canada: Whitecap Books, 2004.

Miller, Martin and Judith Miller. Period Details: A Sourcebook for House Restoration. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 1987.

Obomsawin, Robbin. Small Log Homes: Storybook Plans & Advice. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2001.

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. New York, NY: Penguin (USA), 2006.

Saarinen, Eliel. The Search for Form in Art and Architecture. New York: Dover Publications, 1985.

Stiles, David and Jeanie Stiles. Cabins: A Guide to Building Your Own Nature Retreat. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books (USA), 2001.

Thiede, Cindy and Art Thiede. Hands-on Log Homes. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 1998.

Thoreau, Henry D. (L. Shanley, ed.) The Illustrated Walden (With Photos from the Gleason Collection). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press: 1973.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Land Ho! Land, no.

This weekend I traveled to southern Colorado to check out some property just south of Walsenburg: 35 acres of ranch land with rolling terrain, junipers, and a few pinyons.

I got up early and headed south on I-25 and stopped about 9:00 A.M. for breakfast in Pueblo. It was only about another 30 minutes to 160 west. After a mile or so I found myself on action-packed Main Street, Walsenburg. Another mile or two south and I took 330 south. About fifteen miles later I wound east/north/south/east on Rowell Road (it's a country road) until finally turning again on Sunset Court. The end of Sunset is the western tip of the isosceles-triangle-shape property. The northern tip nearly aligns with the southeastern tip--where the Mayne Arroyo has cut a half-moon into the geometry.

From the jeep west, are uncompromising views of the Spanish Peaks. The sun was hot, and the smell of juniper and sage wafted on a slight summer breeze. It was just after 12:00 NOON, I'd guess, though I'd checked my watch about 40 times. The agent didn't show. But that's OK. You're tempted to open the closets and look in drawers if you think you're by yourself.

I'm still struggling with the concept of an acre. I know an acre's dimensions, but I couldn't quite visualize 35 of them put together without signs or fences or whatever. I stumbled across to the arroyo and the distance to the jeep seemed impressive. Cactus, junipers, sage, and underbrush were beautiful, but the earth was rocky and hard. The sky, boy the sky above was great. And the view, too. On the whole it was a terrific adventure, but not the property for which I'm looking. I think I need some trees and some real water. At least, I need some soil!

Will keep looking.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Setback

"One farmer says to me, 'You cannot live on vegetable food soley, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with;' and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plough along in spite of every obstacle."
—H.D. Thoreau, Walden
This blog came up in discussion at work yesterday. It is not a secret. And if you enjoy it, I'm flattered. But its purpose is to allow me the space to articulate thoughts. My adult training has prohibited me from writing effectively in a journal; I have the learned requirement of writing to be read (whether I will or not). I write and edit, edit and write. That is my method. I am no Mozart who, as legend has it, made no corrections of any kind. (This simply is not true, anyway. Among his works are drafts, sketches, and corrected manuscripts.) This blog however, is not a vehicle, that when well marketed, will help me gain respect from my contemporaries, or make my cause seem more genuine. It is a testament to a dream and the faith I have to see it through. First and foremost, it is for me.

The simple interests I take (privately) are misconstrued as an attempt to undermine the essence of my work ethic. Is it not enough that I am jerked and worn by my oxen that I must be hypocritical of what sustains me? Is it too much to ask that the work environment be pleasant and host the engagement of a civil tongue?

"Yet we think that if rail-fences are pulled down, and stone-walls piled up on our farms, bounds are henceforth set to our lives and our fates decided?
—Henry David Thoreau, Walden
And my dreams cannot be extinguished by another. Perhaps that's all they are—dreams. But only I can and will determine that.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cabin in Colorado: the "showme stage"

This is considered a medium-size cabin. Here are some plan drawings of the main floor and the loft. I've read that it is easy to incorporate a basement and root cellar when the foundation is poured. Since the cabin isn't planned for mountainous terrain, heavy equipment can be brought in without irreparable damage to the environment. The design calls for 12" drawn timber on a natural stone foundation. The roof (I'll post exterior elevations later) will have shakes. I apologize that the drawings show rather crummy on the blog. However, you can click to view them larger.

The plan drawing of the main floor is illustrated
with furniture so that when viewing on screen, you may better
understand relevant scale.



The plan drawing of the loft includes a catwalk to an
eastern balcony and reading area. The western side has room for
two additional bedrooms or a family room and project area.




The following rough is an elevation of the northern interior wall.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The world is too much with us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everythng, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. — Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
—William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Blog note
This is one of my favorite poems and I think you might like it too. Considered the greatest writer of sonnets in English after Shakespeare and Milton, Wordsworth unites in this poem disdain for modern life, an almost ecstatic vision of the beauties of nature, and a nostalgic yearning for a mythical golden age. — Dad

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Nature as Scripture [COMMAND-Z]

I received more than a dozen angry comments from bloggers "indicating" their "displeasure" [my quotation marks] at the "Nature as scripture" post. Oops. Inadvertently, I've managed to raise the hackles of a few members of a group calling itself "Jesus is the Father." Thanks guys, I guess I've learned my online lesson. I did wander a little off the path into territory better left to scholars, experts, and divinity students from Texas.

But, for the record, you might want to review the family tree. In my recollection (oh, and I looked it up for you), the Bible indicates that Jesus is not the Father. Pentecostals may argue that a person can be both a father and a son (and a husband) at the same time. While this may be true in technicality, such a person is never a father, a son (and husband) to the same person.

Or, you may believe a different interpretation. That's fine with me. But, if you want to post comments, (and that's OK with me, too), please refrain from using language that might be difficult to reconcile when you run into Saint Peter. (Contrary to popular belief, Peter is not the patron saint of people who throw stones and live in glass houses.) See below.

"But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me." Then they asked him, "Where is your father?" "You do not know me or my Father," Jesus replied. "If you knew me, you would know my Father also." (John 8:16-19)

"What about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, "I am God's Son" (John 10:36)

If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. (John 15:24)

If you want to read the original post, email me and I might send it to you.

Pioneering speculation

"Imagination is the 'pioneering speculation' in and about the process of art-creation which acts to bring enlivening impulses and animation into [art-creation]."
—Eliel Saarinen
[Senior Saarinen to Eero, the architect of Dulles Airport, Chantilly, VA (1958-1962), Gateway Arch, St. Louis, MO (competition 1947, construction 1961-1966), and others]
Blog note
Yesterday I received an email from my dad. He has sent me his copy of Walden with his study notations. I read a copy from the public library, so I look forward to having it on my shelf to reference. I suspect that his notes are worth a great deal more than the price of the book.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The free-range chicken or the nest egg

From a marketing perspective, there isn't a lot of validity to the term "free-range" these days. However, it's the sentiment that's important. Does one first search for the free range or germinate ideas for cabin design? I guess the question is moot, if money (or lack thereof) is the first stump to clear. So, I have decided to entertain both the search for land and the drafting of cabin plans simultaneously to keep my mind occupied and the dreams alive while the money is carefully saved.

The cabin
For years, I happily have thought about owning a cabin in the woods. In the daydream it was a place to which I could retreat--a place to regenerate and steel oneself for the eventual return to "life." Perhaps that is why I never took the notion seriously--it was impractical to think only of diversion without taking a serious look at my life.

The curious thing about the cabin I've had in mind is that it has never evolved. It hasn't become more elaborate. It hasn't metamorphosed. Though it has changed locations from time to time. (I remember thinking about how a cabin might be at this spot or near that lake, or whatever.) But it has never changed in its size, structure, orientation, or amenities. All of these years I have summoned the same cabin.

Recently when I sat down to sketch it, the cabin, as they say, simply flowed from the pencil. I searched for prefab cabin plans on the Internet that I might use to gain perspective on costs and construction detail. There are some cabins with similar features, but I think the plan is unique.

The land
Finding land that has reasonable access and the advantages of electricity and water has been surprisingly easy to date. Any quick online search will return a couple dozen properties from Taos to Montana along the Front Range. Looking at property that spans from 10 to 30 acres, prices start as low as $200 an acre.

I've read that one can be self-sustaining on just two acres of farmland. To insure some privacy from neighbors, 10-20 acres would be ideal. Besides the fertility of the soil and it's elevation, the acreage must be appealing to a future buyer--most likely as a retreat home.

The yolk of the matter
Initial thoughts are to visit some properties and get a better sense of what is out there. I'm going to continue to draft and tinker with the plans and elevations.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A hymnal for voicing change

I recently finished reading Principles of Ecological Design: Integrating Technology, Economics, and Ecology by Art Ludwig. This slim book presents some radical ideas for rethinking the fabric of one's existance. The principles Art has clearly and consisely presented include:
• Follow nature’s example
• Transcend market culture
• Intervene as little as possible
• Context is everything
• Appropriate technology
• Moderate and efficient resource use
• Individual thought and action
• Green living inspiration
• Cooperative anarchy
• True progress
• True comfort
• Preserving our legacy of ancient wisdom
• Alternatives to the conventional score board for success

I suggest that anyone finding this blog interesting, order the book from Oasis Design. While you're at it, check out the other titles in the backlist.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Raise high the roof beam, carpenters

As Buddy Glass would, I realize that many are more qualified than I to start a life-changing journey. For many, the journey is the destination--as many a American writer-turn-builder will testify. Fran Lebowitz once said that men "have this sneaking suspicion that writing is not the most masculine profession." Perhaps, then the construction of a cabin with the sweat of the brow has become an ultimate rite of passage for elite wordsmiths: [Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (1948); Michael Pollan, A Place of My Own (Random House, 1997); David McCullough, 1776 (Simon & Schuster, 2005); and of course, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1948), among many]. (Though he did not build a cabin, John Muir walked a long, unbeaten path, which, suffice to say, is the same destination.)

I begin the transformation of a lifestyle and the construction of a sustainable cabin with the knowledge that my journey shall be more like entering detox. It will be fraught with the shakes and manifestations of going cold turkey. The sudden jolt of a 21st Century man used to TV, eating out, shopping, and "modern conveniences" suddenly embarking on massive cutbacks--to sock money away and rehabilitate mind and spirit--will be shocking, to say the least. To say the most, it will be stressful, aggravating, and a slippery rock unto familiar habits. The journey is the journey. The destination is the destination.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Postcard from the left side of the brain

I'm a frustrated designer who has been living for twenty-five years with the notion that what I do is of insignificant value. I create ephemera. I contribute to the glut of noise and gilt of advertising. Surprisingly, I'm rather good at it. And that has made it OK for years. To be precise, I do believe that my work from 9 to 5 (and then some) is important for the capitalistic wheels of the world to keep turning; it's just not me. Maybe it never was.

It's not exactly the crossroads of a mid-life crisis; perhaps it's a mid-life awakening that keeps me up nights and agitates my brain and senses. I can't help but wonder, that if efforts were placed squarely on the ideals that well from the soul, could I recreate myself in an image more congruous with the person imagined when I was younger and innocent?

Unfortunately, there are more than ideals that drive the dream of leaving a lifestyle behind. The details of reality might be overwhelming when putting theory into practice--if I weren't such a stubborn optimist. We'll have to see about that.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

10 reasons life is too complicated

1. The average American sees more than 1,000 pieces of paid advertising every day.
2. At the present rate of consumption, fossil fuel supplies will be exhausted by 2015.
3. The average woman's purse contains 35 separate objects.
4. The average American in his lifetime spends an average of 6 months waiting at red lights.
5. More people speak fluent Klingon than Hebrew.
6. In the U.S., a pound of potato chips costs 200 times more than a pound of potatoes.
7. The cruise liner, QE2, moves 6 inches for each gallon of diesel fuel that it burns.
8. Today, a new car costs more than Columbus' voyages to and from the New World.
9. More calories are burned while sleeping than when watching television.
10. A 1999 survey of 25,500 standard English-language dictionary words found that 93% of them have been registered as dot-coms.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The dream

"For two years I lived alone in the woods in a house which I built myself. I am convinced by experience that to maintain oneself on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we live simplly and wisely."
–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Reproduction of Thoreau's cabin near Walden Pond