Some 30 years ago, our sons had completed college and were on their own, and so were we. Our tent was in need of replacement after years of camping along the North Shore. We were ready for something more permanent.
A Sunday Tribune advertisement caught our attention, describing a picnic shelter and lakeshore near Grand Marais. On a whim, we headed Up North. We signed a purchase agreement that same afternoon sitting at the huge picnic table that was the primary furnishing in the picnic shelter. The owner of the property described moving this picnic shelter to the concrete slab that was its foundation and adding screened windows to the half-timbered log building.
The cabin was 20-by-24 and 15 feet high. Its large timbers gave it rustic charm. Our first visitor was to be our son and we knew we had work to do. We began by building kitchen cupboards in a small corner that we petitioned off from what we called “the big space.” We had no electricity or running water, so the kitchen was more aesthetic than practical. We cooked on a camping stove outside and ate on plates that we washed in the water we carried up from the lake.
Our first improvement was a secondhand Vermont Casting Stove. It gave us the warmth we needed. Our first project was insulating the ceiling and installing pine between the rafters. It was a major task because we had no electricity and each board had to be cut with a Japanese hand saw.
Installing pine over the concrete slab was the next project — also using a hand saw. When our neighbor decided to build a new house, we joined with him in sharing an electric and phone line. That allowed us to buy a stove and refrigerator. We were feeling quite comfortable now even if water was still from the lake and there was no septic.
We had long before determined not to change the footprint of the land. We agreed to cut down only trees that died, and to live without a septic system. Eventually our composting toilet replaced the outhouse, and a front porch made entry to the cabin much simpler. A new roof, furniture and a storage shed completed the cabin.
We spent time at the cabin during springs, summers and fall and, when we were younger, winters.
We bought a kayak and two more canoes. We made kerosene lights, and improvised a wonderful hot water outdoor shower system that only seems wonderful to us. It’s not an easy life as we age in place, but as long as we can walk and drive, we’ll be there as much as possible.
Sue and Tim Lloyd, Northfield