In 1978, my lifelong friend and I decided we wanted to build a chinkless, scribed log building. Culturally there was a “back-to-the-land” movement going on, and I had 80 acres of land in the Hibbing, Minn., area. Most of it was swamp and poplar that had been in my family for three generations. We had the land but lacked know-how, so we enrolled in a two-week class on building log cabins.
We started our log cabin adventure with no real experience, no water, no electricity and no money. The project ended up taking three falls, from August through November.
The first year, we set up camp, consisting of three tepees for living and a makeshift kitchen in the hay shed.
We felled, dragged and peeled all the logs for the cabin walls, and dug and poured concrete for footings. Friends came on weekends and spent vacations at our “peeling parties.” By the end of that first year we had two rounds of 20-by-24 logs.
We spent the entire fall of the second year on the land. We logged all the timber for the roof boards and the loft floor. A curious neighbor soon joined the group by trading timber for milling boards — and the weekly use of his sauna and shower! That second year the cabin was built to the loft line.
In the third year, we logged all the roof rafters, purlins and the ridge pole. More friends and different visitors came to help throughout the building process. The logs were hand-scribed with sphagnum moss, also from the land, which we placed in the hollowed groove for insulation.
The structure was complete by the end of the third autumn. There was one door, no windows and nothing finished on the interior. What we had completed was a process, an amazing group effort with close friends that would continue to gather at the cabin to ski and celebrate annually.
The cabin now has many windows, two screen porches, a kitchen with propane lights, and a stove. The cabin is heated with wood and stays cozy at 30-below. It continues to house friends and relatives, who come for a place in the woods, to be still, to relax and to appreciate what love can build.
Jim Kojola, Minneapolis