Posted by: highmountainmuse | January 12, 2009

Building our home

There’s a big, exciting (but still simple, I hope) project coming up for us, but before I go into that story which might get a bit long and winded, I want to share this with you – the story of building our home.  So, here we go, back in time almost 8 summers ago…


our home today, as seen from the east gardent

our home today, as seen from the east gardent

My husband redesigned the modern guest cabins here based around the shell of the old log cabins that his grand dad had built back in the late 30’s and early 40’s – so you end up with really modern, bright and beautiful, and few hints left of old, historic and rustic.  When it was time to redecorate the cabin that would turn into our home, his plan was to do the same.  Though honestly, I never saw much of a plan, except an idea quickly sketched out on a scrap piece of paper.  I don’t know how he does it, because it always comes together…


For this remodel, we had to begin by shoveling out the mess was that was left behind, which may have been the most unpleasant part of the whole operation.  (Thank you, sweet Melody, who fearlessly and cheerfully dug in there with me.)


The next several months were spent getting together the shell of the cabin.  Time is limited up here for outdoor, unprotected work, as you can imagine, so we had only a short pocket of time to get this done before being snowed in for the winter. We were lucky to have a good friend spend the summer here and help build the walls and put up the roof.  Every day, he and Bob would move ahead with foundation, floor joists, then moving up one log at a time.  Fitting these huge, heavy round logs together is a beautiful craft, a true art form, and well worth it as you admire the walls today.  Finally as the snow started to come on in earnest for the season, they were able to close the shell in with the roof.


That summer I stayed busy taking care of operations of the guest ranch, cleaning the cabins, taking guests on the horseback rides, and when I finished at the end of the day, peeling each of those logs that ended up in our walls, using a draw knife.  Oh, and baking cookies…


We left the project as a closed in, cold and dark shell for that first winter as we moved into one of the guest cabins for our temporary home and office.  The guest cabin was warm, bright, comfortable and cheery.  We didn’t have running water there back then, unless you count Forrest “running” down the hill from the utility building where our spring water is stored, with big jugs of water balanced on the “dogless dog sled.” (We tried to teach Alan to pull the sled, and even tried to train our pet goat, but ultimately decided we’d stick with human power for this task.) That’s how we got water to our cabin and to the horses for the first year.  It worked fine, except we learned that a septic pipe will freeze if it doesn’t get much use except an occasional trickle now and then.  So, we relied on the outhouse, and a five gallon bucket kept under the dismantled p-trap of the kitchen sink in place of the septic…


our cabin today as seen from the west garden

our cabin today as seen from the west garden

The next June, we opened up the seemingly vast shell of the new log cabin, and moved in, though it was still incomplete and a construction zone. It seemed to big and cold and dark back then… But our temporary “home” of the guest cabin was rented out, so it was time for us to move on.  We honestly didn’t realize what a bummer it would be to try to live (cook, clean, run a business, raise a kid, entertain, etc.) in a construction zone.  I wouldn’t recommend that.  If you can, finish building, at least get your ceiling, walls and flooring in, before you move in.  The amount of time we spent cleaning up from a project in order to eat, wash up and get to bed often equaled that of the time spent working on the construction project.  Sorry to grumble… it really wasn’t that bad at the time. It’s just in hindsight that you learn sometimes.


The following winter we lived in the new cabin, still very much incomplete, but at least closed in (mostly closed in?  We didn’t finish chinking between the logs yet, and could see daylight between them in several places).  Our ceiling was still uncovered insulation, and our floor plywood.  Between the dust from the insulation on every surface and the impossibility of properly cleaning a plywood floor, it was a messy winter, not quite as warm and cozy as living in the guest cabin, but it was ours. (Forrest thought it was cool to be allowed to skateboard inside the house.)  We also had running water, though no water heater, bath, shower, etc. hooked up.  We could run cold water from the sink and heat it on the wood stove for washing dishing or a sponge bath.  A lot less work, though, than hauling the water down the hill.


At the end of that winter, Bob hauled in loads of sheet rock – on snowmobile (you would not believe what he can and has hauled on snowmobile!), and we put up a real ceiling, and early the next summer, we put in our wood floor.  Over the next few years, we slowly built the interior of our cabin – doors, walls, cabinets, shelving, much of the furniture, etc. Projects were juggled around our busy season, when our time is occupied running our business, and our “white” season, when our outdoor shop (the back yard) would require shoveling off on a regular basis to make room for our wood working.


inside our home

inside our home

I guess all in all, it took us about four years.  I’ll share with you some of the details later – there are many fun stories as you can imagine, about building over those years – like Bob taking the chainsaw to the wall when I “needed” a larger kitchen window and again to put in the slider glass door…  And lots of great people who’d show up like angels and help from time to time, especially Bob’s dad, who’s been a lot more steady than “time to time!”


We take great pride in the fact that we did it ourselves (with good friends and family, too!), and on a budget that I probably shouldn’t admit because you wouldn’t believe.  Bob knows how to shop, how to reuse old materials, and how to amass “stuff.”  Yes, the very same “stuff” I complained about in piles all over the ranch, ended up building our walls, our table, our deck, our pantry, our doors…


Anyway, it’s a pretty nice home.  We tried to keep it somewhat small to be efficient, but still large enough to cover our business needs of running the guest ranch.  Most people come in to the cabin and say, “Wow,” but probably because of the views.  But most everyone will comment on how comfortable it is.  I think that is not just because of the design, or the work we did, or the lovely furnishings and decorations that so many special people have given us, but because it is our “home.”  Talk about built with love…


another view from inside our cabin

another view from inside our cabin

I have a quote I ripped out and keep pinned on my window sill over my desk.  I don’t know where it originates, but it goes like this:


A house is built with boards and beams.

A home is built with love and dreams.



  1. Did you cut the logs for your cabin? The dining area is beautiful and I imagine some wonderful meals are served on the table.

    This would be a wonderful place to be snowed in for a while.

  2. Bob had harvested the logs before I moved here. I would have liked to help with that part, too, but I will on the next project. Log cabins aren’t known for being “green” – except if you take the time to look at the material at hand. Trees grow here. We so depend on our forests for building, heating, cooking, etc. We don’t ever take them for granted. Even have a used fake Christmas tree. Oh, sorry… I could go on about my trees! The table was made from 2 huge planks Bob got at a farm sale, and some scrap short sections of log. That’s it. He and his dad put it together, and I did the finish work on the top. I told them I wanted a table big enough so that I’d always have room for one more. And now I do!

  3. […] almost eight years ago, when we were pouring the last of the foundation for our house.  (see Building our Home) The extra concrete that was left over from the final load needed for the foundation of our cabin […]

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