You know how when you start a challenging project, there’s a time of euphoria, when you handle all the “glitches” with determination and brilliant solutions and stiff-upper-lipness? Well, it was Aug. 1. The log house was up but nowhere near finished.
The Victorian house had been sold, new people moving in on the 15th. Twenty-one years of stuff had been packed up or gotten rid of. We had made a brand-new, quarter-mile road to the new house, had a well drilled and a septic dug. Oh, and the long-lost relatives we hadn't seen for maybe 46 years had decided this was the perfect time to come and stay with us for a few days or more — just before we moved out to our little temporary house, meant to see us and our dogs through, until the log house was finished. The relatives were still with us when the front doorbell rang and the young man standing there said, "I'm really sorry, but you know that house you were going to rent while your new one is being built? Well, I just sold it this morning." Oh boy, where are those Tums?
That’s how we wound up unexpectedly living “on site," in the middle of 20 acres of woods, sharing a 28-foot trailer with two large dogs, Rosie and MacDuff. Everything we owned was in storage. Across the way, you could see the log house coming along. We rationalized that it was a good thing for us to be available, in case the building crew had questions or problems. I became “she” of “she said.”
One afternoon, as we were in the camper, talking to the owner of the stone masonry company, about the huge, triangular-shaped chimney and fireplace we had chosen to build, there was a huge explosion of noise, like maybe the house fell down. We rushed outside just in time to see the dust settling where the guys had cut out a big, wide rectangle of logs for the fireplace. Hmm, hard to patch logs. On to Plan B! Or F. Or P!
Another morning, we could hear MacDuff barking. Couldn’t find him anywhere. Then, there he was, joyously wagging his tail, head poking out the closest window in the log house, leaving his footprints where the guys had just poured the Gyp-Crete for the in-floor heating.
One Sunday afternoon, a very long truck rolled up with a load of pale gray stone for the fireplace. The driver had brought his wife and made it a Sunday outing drive from southern Wisconsin. He said he made a very good living trucking gray rocks north, picking up colored river rock from our area and driving them south. He said, “Nobody’s happy with what they’ve got, but it works for me.”
For four months, while the crew banged and pounded, we lived in the trailer with the two big dogs. Mid-November came, and the trailer was freezing up. Not good. The log house had no kitchen, no bathroom and no running water, no heat, no furniture. "The guys" put in one toilet and the basement utility sink. I cooked our meals with a hot plate and microwave. We camped out through most of the winter. I don't even remember Christmas that year.
We lived in and loved the log house for 23 years. First there was the “5-Year Finishing Plan,” which morphed into the ”10-Year Finishing Plan.” We snowshoed and gardened, cut trails, saw bears, wolves and moose. One of the funniest things that used to happen were the phone calls from the home improvement guys. “Yeah, hey, we’re having a big sale on our top-of-the-line aluminum siding. Can I come out and give you an estimate?" Me: “I live in a log house.” Silence. But you could hear the thoughts as the pictures ran through his head — aluminum siding — log house. “Yeah, OK then, bye.”
Many milestones passed, in that “unconventional building.” Grandchildren were born, friends and relatives visited, weddings, Christmases and birthdays were celebrated. In 2013, Tom and I were amazed to find that we had been married for 52 years. It was getting harder to mow those far meadows, and the drive to and from downtown seemed longer and longer. Time to move back to town, leaving a chunk of our lives back on our trails. What a great time! Those thick, log walls must still ring with laughter, and some tears. But, the Great Adventure continues. Next time, I’ll tell you about some wild fishing trips, in honor of the Minnesota opener.
Claudia Myers is a former costume designer for The Baltimore Opera, Minnesota Ballet and has taught design and construction at The College of St Scholastica. She is a national award-winning quilter, author and a local antique dealer, specializing in Persian rugs.