We bought a wooded lot on Lake O’Brien in Crow Wing County in 1968, built the cabin in a series of weekends the next summer, and have been tinkering with it ever since. We’ve added windows, cleared brush and excavated an amphitheater around a fire pit.
Initially, the plan was to duplicate a rustic cabin I visited as a child, with kerosene lanterns and an icebox, but after three years we went semi-modern, adding electricity, so we could get reliable refrigeration and read after dark. Architecturally, though, it is still ‘amateur carpenter.’
Without electricity and working alone, I kept sawing to an absolute minimum, so the floor, siding and roof are all largely uncut 4-by-8 cedar and plywood panels, and the joists, studs and rafters are standard lengths. The dimensions are 28-by-20, and the roof is pitched at 45 degrees. Half of the interior floor space has a 17-foot ceiling. Above the other half is a loft with a 10-foot peak. The cabin is on posts, so the deck catches any breeze and offers some protection from mosquitoes and ticks. We call it “TREHUS.” For the view of the lake and to maximize natural light, we started with a lot of glass, and with various additions, like the windows in the gables, more than 50 percent of the perimeter is window. Mornings, the interior is bathed in light; the loft gets the afternoon light.
Roofing is daunting, but I cobbled two ladders together, hooked one over the peak and used roll roofing. We rolled out 16-foot asphalt strips vertically from the peak. Strong winds have often torn off portions of the roofing; then we have reassembled the ladders and unrolled one or more additional 16 foot sections. Roll roofing is now a rarity, with few color choices, so the roof is striped. In time we will have a patriotic flag — and a whole lot of roofing layers.
Our heat source is an ancient Franklin stove, the largest ever made but certainly the least efficient. Age and high winds have felled many of our trees and, at the current rate, we may someday see the sunset. In the meantime, we have fuel to last until Y3K.
Steve Peterson, Minneapolis