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, 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

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.”