Posted by: highmountainmuse | June 13, 2009

How to

A neighbor wanted to learn how to do a tiling project in their summer cabin up this way, and turned to YouTube for the answers. It never crossed my mind that such answers would be available for anyone with a computer and a connection. Remarkable the information available to us. Right at our finger tips, and even all the way up here on the mountain. Call me old fashioned, but I still use books to learn new things.  I have a lot to learn…

I thought about sharing some of our how-to projects in hopes that we may help others in their quest to build on a budget, and truly “green” with all used, left-over or salvaged materials.

But you know what? I just don’t think there are a lot of folks out there building like we do.  I don’t believe our blue print for a finished work would work for the average person.  Perhaps I’m wrong.  Let’s see.  Here are a few examples.  Let me know if these would be of any help…

Bob finishing the chinking around the new little window

Bob finishing the chinking around the new little window

OK, so say you are renovating your old log cabin and there was a small round hole in the wall where the wood stove pipe had once fit through.  How would you get rid of or hide that hole?  You can’t splice in a chunk of log.  Especially since the original ones have been there since the late 30’s.  I think you’d notice that new part. 

Instead, we measured for an old salvaged single pane of glass, took the chain saw to the edges of the hole in the logs to square them off, and framed in a new small window.

Why not?  You’d never get tired of looking out at the view or letting the sun light pour in.  More windows are always welcome. And no more unsightly hole.

Boys in the bunks

Boys in the bunks

Here’s another example.  Say you have a Little Cabin by the Big River (and yes, I know a lot of you say you’d LOVE to have such a cabin…)  and you need to build in sleeping for three people and one large dog. Space is limited.  Materials are plentiful in the various piles on the back road, but usually rather rough.

We processed a couple old rough cut 2×4’s left around from other projects and a bunch of 2×12’s salvaged from an old roof section we tore down years ago.  Took our measurements, made our cuts, and secured it all together onto the old log walls.  Gave it a test run (made it comfortably through the night) and think we’ve done pretty well with what we had.

This is not the finished product:  we’ll be building in shelves and bolt this together with some neat old hardware Bob salvaged elsewhere on the mountain. But it works for now.

It’s simple, it’s rough, but you know what?  It works. Pretty comfy; pretty cozy.  Lying there on our newly built beds, silent and peaceful and warm. No noise but the rush of the river, and the crackle of burning wood coming from the woodstove.  No power but the glow from the candle and the gas lamp.

Ah… here I go… distracted and dreaming again…

See what I mean, though?  I don’t think you’d find the need for these kinds of how-to projects on YouTube. Useful?  I don’t know. Entertaining, maybe.

In any case, our goal is to build all we need at no or minimal expense, to built with only the “stuff” (better word than “junk?”) from the piles. I’d imagine that comes as no surprise to any of you who may have been with me here for a while.

You see, giving any how-to advice for such projects is even harder than trying to share recipe with “a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”  To begin with, I don’t feel qualified to be giving advice.  Goes back to that part of feeling like though I’m 42 I still haven’t grown up yet.  

But I look around at the projects we work on,  at the way we look to tackle these projects. And although it’s not really the specific act or result that I want to share with you, it’s more like the general attitude or philosophy of how to approach any task at hand.  How to do something you’ve never done before, and really are rather unsure of how on earth you’ll ever figure this out.

I suppose it’s all just a reminder that we learn to deal with what we have, make the most of it all.  We can learn to decipher our needs and learn to fulfill them in the simplest way possible.  To remember to just start by starting.  And a reminder that we all can do well with so much less.  We can think beyond the box and find ways to creatively solve problems with what’s around us, at minimal or no expense. 

Sure this is about building and projects. But it’s about so much more too.



  1. I would love to pick your brain on the chinking I see Bob did. Our cabin needs some work and the product we tried (or maybe it was us!) did not bring the results we had hoped.

    I love your phrase, “To remember to just start by starting”. Great advice!


  2. Making things from a junk pile is not onlt thrifty but fun. I go around the alleys and look through dumpsters and the first of the month .I find old furnature people have throne out . Most is junk but table leggs are good wood .Old picture frames and such . People saw when i build somethings .Boy where did you find that anteack.I just smile and saw oh just laying around . I still love your little cabin . It would be just right for me and one little white dog . It all sounds so peaceful .A little heaven on earth

  3. Valerie – Chinking is really easy, Bob’s got a good system now after probably what was a lot of trial and error – even I did about half of our cabin. If I can do it, anyone can. It’s rather fun, too. We can give you some pointers and when you’re up here if you’d like.
    No doubt, starting is the hardest part…

  4. Great – we’ll talk chinking when we are there!

  5. Ha! “Say you’re renovating your old log cabin…” You’re completely accurate that a person like me doesn’t need to know about repairing a log cabin, or packing out in the mountains, etc… but I WANT to know!
    Honestly, I doubt I will ever find myself trapped in a snowbank, but I have a decent idea of how to dig a snow cave if I am. Kind of like I could teach someone what to do in a tornado, probably wouldn’t be really beneficial to many folks in the mountains, but, hey, you never know. It’s always fun to learn new things even if you might never actually use it. Seeing the resourcefulness, no matter the outcome, can teach us all a lesson, beautiful mountains or no.
    I think a lot of us “tune in” because we enjoy reading about your life and days, so please keep the instructions coming!

  6. It’s about life, isn’t it? Everything we do is, at the very least, a chance to affirm the preciousness of our lives. I love how you so richly and meaningfully flow into your world and into ours. Hugs to you…

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