The writers commissioned a simple 12- by 18-foot log cabin, built by Amish craftsmen in Wisconsin, which they hauled to their property near Ely.


Cabin Country: 'We live small in the big woods'

  • March 6, 2014 - 3:22 PM

My husband and I have individually and collectively always dreamed of having our own tiny cabin in the North Woods of Minnesota. So when 40 acres of pristine land a stone’s throw away from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness outside of Ely came up for sale immediately following our wedding, we jumped on it.

For the first two years we camped on the land. We hauled brush, moved rocks, built trails, paddled our small lake and got to know our trees and terrain. We started making memories with our two boys and two dogs. Then the time came to put up a structure, and we decided we would have a simple 12- by 18-foot log cabin built by Amish craftsmen in Wisconsin, which we would haul up to our land. It was not an easy task but well worth it. Now, we live small in the big woods with a biffy to boot! Being off the grid, we rely on our awesome wood stove, oil lamps and hauled water. The simplicity of our cabin is what makes our time there so sacred.

One of our all-time favorite family memories is the time we spent at the cabin over the Thanksgiving holiday of 2011. We arrived midday on Thanksgiving, and it was a beautiful late fall day, crisp and breezy. We had cooked our meal at home (turkey smoked on the grill and all the fixings) and brought everything up in large tin pans. We spent the afternoon warming up the cabin, slowly steaming our meal on the wood stove and hiking. It couldn’t have been a more perfect November day. That evening we enjoyed the tastiest Thanksgiving feast ever by candlelight, playing many games of Yahtzee and cards.

The next morning, we awoke to a winter wonderland. Overnight, it had gone from fall to winter. A good 8 inches of fresh snow blanketed the ground. Instead of hiking, snowshoeing and sledding were in order. Our English setter pup delighted in his first day sledding, spending most of the day stealing hats and mittens as we zoomed down the hill.

It continued to snow all weekend, and we enjoyed the surprise turn of our Thanksgiving weekend. That’s life at the cabin — pristine, unpredictable and always a bit of magic thrown in, whether it be a sudden change of season, a pine marten scampering by the window, wolves howling at a full moon or a supper of fresh grouse. It’s our version of paradise.

Jen and Steve Toddie, ST. Paul

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