My husband and I owned a small, primitive cabin in the Alexandria, Minn., area when our four children were growing. We had many years of good times there, but by 1993 the place was in poor condition and our children were beginning to leave the nest. We sold it.

Fast forward to 2000. “Grand-parenthood” loomed, and the idea of a cabin was once again appealing. We had family members with cabins in the Siren/Webb Lake area of Wisconsin, and we agreed that would be a good area. However, my husband wanted to build one, and he wanted to do it all. While my husband is a very handy guy, he still was working, and I knew from years of experience living through our home remodeling projects that our potential grandchildren would be graduating from college before the cabin got finished. We also were having difficulty finding a lot.

Nevertheless, all the pieces fell into place. My husband was on his annual ski trip in Utah, when a Realtor we had talked to called me. He had something we might be interested in, and it wasn’t an empty lot. A contractor had built a rough shell and was willing to sell it to us. Sounded like a good compromise to me. I called my husband, and he said to check it out — and take his brother along to keep me from making a rash decision. His brother, the Realtor and I tramped through knee-high snow to “check it out.” It had just plywood walls and roof, a few windows and an empty interior. His brother looked at it, looked at me, and said, “Get out your checkbook. You’re buying this.”

My husband was fairly surprised when I called and told him what we did. He always says Utah was his most expensive ski trip ever. But he took it in good stride and has spent many happy years turning that rough shell into a beautiful place. With the addition of a bunkhouse, there’s plenty of room for our family, which totals 19. My husband has done the majority of the work, with some help from his brothers. Our family has also pitched in, and even the youngest grandchildren know how to dig for footings and mix the concrete.

A few years ago, our area was hit with a massive wind storm and our yard was filled with downed trees. Again, everyone helped; the kids can add splitting logs and stacking firewood to their list of job skills. We consider our cabin not just a place to have fun and family time but a learning experience, too.

Mary Larson, Minneapolis