From early childhood, I dreamed of building and living in a log cabin. By age 11 I had drawn up several plans — and one of those early drawings became my dream home.
At the age of 35, in 1979, I purchased a 3.7-acre wooded lot on Lake Sarah in western Hennepin County. I even found a couple of log builders. But in ’79 the banks wouldn’t finance log home construction without 60- to 70-percent upfront financing.
I was discouraged, but succeeded in finding a builder who would create my open loft floor plan with two lofted bedrooms using traditional materials.
It’s small at 1,500 square feet, but the size kept costs and taxes in line. And it’s just the right size now that I’m retired. Over the years I added a pair of three-season porches and decks for great views of our woods, marsh and the lake.
Yet I still dreamed of building a log cabin with my own hands. Fifteen years ago I decided to build my own log cabin workshop. After reading several log cabin building manuals, I gave up on my plans for a 26-by-28-foot cabin constructed out of full-size logs. Instead I purchased an RV trailer frame and built an 8-by-18 cabin on the frame using landscape timbers. It was hard to believe how enjoyable this small retreat would be.
I spent two to three very enjoyable years notching each timber and lovingly planning each part of the construction. And I read Thoreau’s “Walden” during the building process. I even went out to Concord, Maine, and visited, measured and photographed the replica of Thoreau’s 10-by-15 cabin. I enjoy building and am happiest when I have enough lumber and materials to start a new project.
Logically for me, my next project was to build a replica of Thoreau’s Walden Pond cabin. Like his cabin, mine included one bed, three chairs and a desk. One chair is for comfort, two for company and three for a crowd. I am fortunate that my retreat cabins are in our woods overlooking our lake. I do have a radio in each cabin and both have an electric line but I rarely turn on the radios. The music of nature is better than any radio.
Anyone with a good-sized yard can create a cabin experience that can be enjoyed for a small investment. It takes 80 to 150 hours of labor and about $3,000 to $4,000 in materials to build your own small retreat. For a few dollars more you can buy a prebuilt storage building and fix it up as your retreat. There’s an interesting Tiny House movement advocating small living spaces. I have noticed that the biographies of many artists and authors refer to their retreats that are 200 square feet or smaller.
BOB BERENS, ROCKFORD
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