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.

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.