Roughly 50 years ago, my dad planted Norway (or red) pine trees a short distance from our home property, located on the north shore of a lake where my grandfather had bought land in 1916.
The property was within an hour west of Duluth, and we returned to it every summer with our children to visit family and enjoy the lake during vacations.
My dream of a log cabin became a possibility upon retirement. Property next door to where I had grown up became available. It was 110 feet of lakeshore, and included a driveway and a 1920s well and spring for water down by the sand shore. I designed a cabin built into a hill, originally with only a 24-by-28 main room, a loft and a crawl space. A cabin architect warned us to beware of creep: Relatives would advise expansions and improvements. As plans were refined, creep happened: Why not add four tiers of concrete block for a full basement? And there were two bedrooms off the upper loft room.
Many of the old pines were large enough to be harvested for the cabin. A local builder selected 109 with careful cutting. Relatives cut and skidded them out in early March. Peeling followed in late April 2010 and early May, with summer drying. The construction had plenty of natural drama. Heavy rainfall overflowed the footings; basement block construction was not finished until January; and log construction was slow because the builder used the Swedish scribe method. Had he not been a consummate artist and perfectionist, we could not have withstood the wait! Nearly another year of interior work followed. The Duluth-area flood of 2012 took four feet of sand and gravel out from the north and west sides of the cabin, further eroding the hill that had not yet been graded or planted. Finally, after more than two years of work, we consecrated this dream-turned-reality with Celtic worship, a gathering of construction workers, and extended family who had helped create it.
The cabin was dedicated with the name “Little Eden.” It functions as a family gathering site every summer, and is a place to gaze at the lake and read books or write poetry, watch wildlife and eagles feed, host friends, and never mow the lawn. Lupines, white daisies, black-eyed Susans, and grasses adorn the hill.
We have three grandchildren who love to come here and experience life just as I and our two children did growing up. To our delight, we have all “grown with the trees,” as our daughter says, and hope to enjoy this place for generations to come.
Richard F. Collman, Northfield