I said I was going to write about this many months ago, but frankly, there has not been a lot of spare time. Most of you know me well enough by now to know that if there is work to be done, I get after it. Do not get me wrong; I am not complaining. I love the outdoors. Mowing, gardening, and harvesting fruits and vegetables is what I do during the summer months. I find enjoyment in nature photography, hiking to the nearby river, and working at cleaning up timber in the woods in the fall, winter, and spring months. And when Daisy deer comes for a visit, I always make time for her.
I cannot leave my hairy house beasts out of this discussion either – our three Japanese Chin kids. There is never a dull moment with them running around here. Of course, I also manage to keep house, cook, and bake. We eat fairly healthy around here, so most everything is made from scratch. I would not have it any other way. But, when a woman finds herself mostly responsible for keeping up the ranch and the house, it can get a bit overwhelming.
I should have seen it coming. In early January of 2012, my beloved husband, FD, began talking about some old creek bridge that a co-worker wanted to get rid of. The bridge had washed up on the co-worker’s property during a flood back in 2007. FD was hoping to disassemble the bridge for the wood, saving it back for eventual use for heaven knows what. I did not think much about it at the time, as FD is always collecting material for some future project. I will admit this material he has collected over the years has come in handy many times. However, much of it remains in storage, taking up space in our 40×60 metal building, or stacked up in the old chicken barn, until he finds a use for it. There is even a rack at the edge of the pasture that holds items that are too big to go in either building.
So, when I heard the words “cabin” and some rattling around of dimensions, I thought yeah, right. Yes, I had heard this talk about a cabin for years, particularly during hunting season. I knew FD and his friend Hoot, were getting up in years enough where tent camping was not as appealing as it had been in their younger days. And it was a dream of their’s to build a cabin someday. But, like other years before, I knew this cabin idea would probably not get off the ground. For one, neither FD nor Hoot had a lot of money to pour into such a project.
But I was wrong. As soon as FD got wind of the old wooden creek bridge, he became a man on a mission. His co-worker was more than happy to get rid of the bridge, which was adding to an erosion problem on his property. So, FD and Hoot spent the next two weekends disassembling the bridge, and the co-worker gladly transported the beams to the location where they hoped to build a cabin. Again, I did not think anything much would happen, and that the lumber would most likely suffer the same fate as the materials collected in the storage building at home, and just sit in a stack until who knows when. After all, there were no real plans for this project.
I was wrong again. The next thing I knew, FD was in the metal storage building, looking for his architect’s drawing table, and his drawing tools. I am not sure I had ever seen this apparatus, but he found everything stacked in a corner. He hauled the table and case of drawing tools into the house and setup his “dream” station in the computer room. He drew up plans for a simple cabin. Hoot designed a spreadsheet for materials. Together, they researched the local hardware stores, lumber yards, and the Internet, getting pricing for materials, and inquiring about tools to utilize for the building process. In the evenings, FD and Hoot would text back and forth, exchanging ideas. And sure enough, before January had ended, Hoot and FD were digging the piers for the cabin.
I always enjoy the winter season. The pace slows down here a bit on our little ten-acre ranch during the colder months, so while FD and Hoot worked on the cabin, I kept busy hiking to the river, photographing wildlife, and hoping to catch sight of my girl, Daisy deer. I often saw her with a couple of other wild does back along the old river channel. Sometimes I worked in the woods, clearing and gathering dead timber from storms, starting up the burn pit, and adding limbs to the flames to keep it going as I worked. I kept a leisurely pace while at this chore, and burning was always therapeutic for my soul.
Each weekend evening, when FD and Hoot returned from the cabin site, they talked about what they had accomplished that day. And since FD took our camera along to document progress after a day’s work, there were plenty of photographs to “ooh and ahh” over. I was actually amazed at all of the work going on with the cabin. FD and Hoot were making great strides. I felt a lot of pride for their work ethic and drive. It was not costing much of anything either. FD had calculated every last inch of lumber from that bridge to be used for the cabin, and there would not be any waste.
Soon, the pleasant weather of springtime arrived, and the searing heat of summer followed. I was having a bit of trouble keeping up with the work FD and I normally shared during the summer months here on the ten-acre ranch. So, I was actually thankful for the drought that came with that summer, as it at least burned up the grass and ended my mowing duties. But Hoot and FD continued their long hours of cabin construction in the hot sun – every weekend. Both of them dropped weight, and began to look a bit haggard, I thought. But the amazing thing was, I always saw confidence and pride on their faces. They set off early each Saturday morning with big grins and gusto, ready to tackle the plan for that day. A couple of times, I went along and spent the day photographing the two of them at work. I marveled at the brute strength they exhibited, and the dedication they gave to each task. They worked together like a well-oiled machine. Each man knew what the next task was, and what his role would be in completing it. Watching them, and photographing them, I had a real respect for the individual skills each offered to the project.
Another amazing thing transpired over that summer of cabin-building. Help and material seemed to come from all sorts of people at just the right times. A brother-in-law from Dallas drove up a couple of weekends to lend his skills and assistance. He also donated a large amount of used plexiglass from a remodel job at his home, which FD and Hoot used for the custom windows they built for the cabin. A friend lent his trailer and some mortar tools. Others donated hardware and other material to help in the building process. Hoot tore apart an old cattle corral for window casing wood. From an old barn that belonged to Hoot’s father-in-law, he and FD gathered some scrap, corrugated metal for the gables and shutters. My brother in Nebraska donated some old barn wood he had collected from rubbish after a tornado. Another co-worker of FD’s donated a Porta-Potty that floated up on his river-bottom property during the same flood that had beached the old, wooden bridge back in 2007. And of course, FD used a good deal of the scrap wood and lumber he had gathered and stored over the years. This project was coming together with minimal expense.
By the end of October, the basic structure was ready for the opening of hunting season. FD and Hoot scrambled around to find second-hand furniture; beds, chest of drawers and a small table and chairs. Both men reported that it was great to come back to a cabin to relax at the end of a long morning or evening hunt. Hoot, the camp cook, enjoyed cooking indoors for a change. When they came in to town for a shower (or to sweet-talk me into washing their dishes) they brought with them reports of beautiful morning sunrises on the lake, and spectacular sunsets casting shadows through the woodland trees. Wildlife cut across the open meadow south of the cabin’s front porch. “Roughing it” in the cabin seemed to agree with both Hoot and FD. What more could a fella want?
Well, I will tell you just what more a fella would want! No more had hunting season ended mid-January this year, and Hoot and FD were talking about plans for additional work and improvements on the cabin. Already, they had a long list of cabin projects to work on over the spring and summer. Evidently, during the hunting season, they were making note of ideas to make life even more comfy out there! Oh, sure, there would not be electricity or running water, but countertops, a propane stove, shelving, and maybe some better flooring could be added. Front porch steps needed to be built. And maybe even a kitchen sink with plumbing to a french drain outside for ease in washing dishes or scrubbing up quickly.
It was evident that I would be wasting my time fighting this ongoing “cabin fever”! And, why would I want to put the skids on such an amazing project anyway? Since the start of this endeavor I saw the excitement on Hoot and FD’s faces each time they set out to work – like a couple young boys about to build their first tree house. This project had sweetened life. It was the fruition of a dream.
As much as I lament having lost FD on weekends for over a year now, I am not really all that upset. During the first months when the construction originally began, I might have griped and groaned about the additional responsibility it brought to me here on our place. But, with some of that came pride in learning new skills. I took over a few tasks I considered to be man’s work. What a silly thought that was after all. Besides, a farm girl from Nebraska could handle them just fine by herself, thank you. The chores I dreaded doing myself, were really just jobs I did not like to do, and jobs that FD had always done. And did doing them myself really make all that much additional work for me? Not really. FD was still available to help with anything I could not manage. He may not have completed it on my timeline, but he always got the job done soon enough.
Perhaps it will be nice for me too, when the cabin is completely finished someday. Though I am not a hunter, I do enjoy fishing at the lake out there. I have taken the camera along for wildlife photography opportunities many times and have always come back with stunning photos. Maybe in late January, and through the cold winter months, it will be a cozy getaway for us. And, in our retirement years, we might enjoy some lazy weekends at the cabin, sitting around the fire ring in front, talking about the good old days when we all sacrificed to build this dream cabin.
If you would like to read more about the cabin, visit From Creek to Cabin in 287 Days. That long-haired country boy husband of mine can do more than build a cabin… he is a pretty darned good writer too!
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…