Cabin restoration project – Construction is finished, furnishing has begun

If you have been keeping up with my blog, you know that I have been spending just about all my free time working on getting the homestead site into shape and have not been able to do much bushcraft-related stuff. I’m hoping to bring you more bushcraft posts once the homestead work slows down. Until then, may I present you with another cabin post. :)

I’ll spare you the list of a million odds-and-ends jobs I’ve been working on out at the old farm and cut to the slightly-more-intersting chase, the cabin progress. The contractor finished the tiny bathroom shell, built a safety railing next to the stairs-opening in the loft floor, fitted the remaining molding, finished the front porch and covered the ends of the logs with boards in the traditional style. The only job left for him to do is to install the wood-burning stove.

Once this work was complete, I had to brush off the entire interior surface of the cabin to remove the sawdust which had accumulated from the construction work. Then I oil-treated the floor, and when that dried, my friend Juha and I moved some furniture in, hung cabinets etc. By the way, the kitchen setup is still VERY temporary. I’m still not sure what kind of counter and sink will be there, but I had to put something there in the meantime. Decorations and such will also be added as time goes on.

Juha also graciously helped me to demolish what was left of the old storage building whence the cabin came and the old wood shed as well. There’s still a lot of wood to clean up, but at least the most dangerous and tricky part is done.

The Woodsboy and I have spent two nights in the cabin since my friend and I set it up. With a total floor space (including the loft) of 33.5 m²/360 sqft, it was a lot more comfortable than staying in the 3.7 m²/40 sqft changing room in the sauna building! While we were there, we set up the kitchen with cooking and eating implements and a 20 L water tank over a basin for use as a temporary sink. We also installed a Nature’s Head composting toilet in the bathroom.

The first night we were there, we slept a little cool (as I mentioned, the wood stove hasn’t been installed yet), so the next day I had to figure out a way to warm up the place. I rediscovered a vintage Swedish kerosene heater in the old farm house, dusted it off, checked the fuel (full tank), adjusted the wicks and lit it up. It worked perfectly, and we had heat! To be on the safe side, we stayed nearby outside the cabin while the heater was running and then vented the building after turning it off to let any fumes out.

I’m happy to report that we also have our first piece of “farm machinery,” a classic Stiga riding lawnmower given to us by the Woodsboy’s great-grandparents and repaired by his grandfather. This will be a huge help in keeping the lawn under control, not only so it looks nice, but to keep ticks and snakes away as well. It can also be used for light-duty hauling jobs around the future homestead.

As with the lawnmower, all the furnishings you see in the cabin were either given to me second hand or scavenged from the old farm house, with the sole exceptions being the wood-burning stove and composting toilet, which I bought new. The stuff may not be pretty, but the price is right! ;)

I’m very happy with the progress that has been made so far, but there’s still much to do. By the end of the summer, the cleanup work should be done and the cabin should be painted, set up with electricity etc. I’ll also throw up some kind of firewood shelter in preparation for winter, as we will be spending a lot of time there then as well. Projects for the fall and the coming years include a greenhouse, chicken coop, gardens and lots more.

Until next time!

Cabin restoration project – Construction nears completion

For the past several weeks, the building contractor has been working hard to get the century-old brand-new cabin into shape and ready for occupancy. Since my last cabin update, all the windows have been installed and trimmed, the door has been installed, the floor insulation and flooring have been installed, the bathroom shell has been largely completed, the loft stairs have been built, some exterior insulation has been installed and covered and a lot of the front porch has been constructed. I imagine all the rest of the work by the contractor will be completed over the next week or two, and then it’ll be my turn to furnish the cabin, set up the kitchen and bathroom, paint the exterior etc.

Meanwhile, my friend Alex and I did some work of our own to the sauna, namely raising it up onto six concrete blocks left over from the cabin construction and digging out the area around and under the building for better ventilation underneath, to preserve the wooden beams the sauna is built on and to prevent mice from finding their way inside through the drain holes in the sauna (the beams/sauna used to rest directly on the ground).

I’ve spent just about every weekend for the last two months out at the future homestead site doing extremely uninteresting things like yard work (no yard work had been done there in 20 years, so you can imagine how much there is to do…), collecting all kinds of interesting garbage from around the property and throwing it onto the mountain of trash which has been accumulating and also fixing up the exterior of the old farm house to make it a little more presentable. After one or two more weekends of yard work, I think I’ll have the place the way I want it. Then I’ll start dismantling what’s left of the old storage building where the new cabin originally came from and sort through the wood to see what I can use for firewood and future building projects (chicken coop, greenhouse, firewood shelter etc.).

I’ll leave you with a picture of a stoat (mustela erminea) which seems to have made the old farm its home. Hope you enjoyed this update!

(Belated) overnight trip report – March 21st/22nd

Toward the end of March, I spent a weekend exploring the old farm woods and the surrounding area, finally locating all the boundary markers of the property and discovering some other interesting features of the “neighborhood” as well. At that time, there was still a good bit of snow on the ground, most of which has since melted, and the temperatures were a lot lower, too, with about -5ºC/+23ºF during the day and -12ºC/+10ºF at night.

Before choosing a new campsite and setting up camp, I wandered around looking for the back property markers, taking some pictures as I went along.

I found a nice, reasonably flat spot at a far corner of the property and set up the MIL-TEC tarp in my beloved Holden tent configuration. So far, I’ve been very pleased with this tarp, which I bought a little over a year ago.

Once my camp was set up, I located some potential firewood nearby. Besides a few smaller dead pine saplings, I found a nice larger dead pine which had partially fallen over some time ago. Getting a hung-up tree like this unstuck can be very dangerous, so I’m not going to give instructions on that there. All I will say is that it’s a good idea to read up on the subject and have an experienced tree feller go out into the field with you to show you how to do it. In general, though, the idea is to first cut the tree at the base and then carefully move up the trunk, cutting section by section, until it can be freed from the other tree.

I cut the trunk into campfire-sized pieces and also collected the dry branches from the top of the tree.

To ignite the dry branches, I would need something finer and easily flammable, so I went back to an area where I had remembered seeing lots of birch bark on the ground. This bark had been stripped off some trees when the loggers came through to thin out the forest last year.

After splitting up some of the sections of the pine tree I had dislodged and sectioned, I laid down some lower-quality, partially rotten pieces of wood in the spot I had chosen for the campfire. On this I placed a piece of birch bark, which I scraped with my BushProwler knife from Ilkka Seikku to create a fine pile of paper-thin shavings to ignite with my ferrocerium rod. I then added progressively bigger pieces of wood until the fire was ready for me to start heating up some food.

Once I had eaten and relaxed a bit, I decided to spend the evening exploring the area some more.

Plenty of animal sign:

Curiosity led me to climb some of the higher hills in the area, which rewarded me with a really nice view. First, looking down at my campsite:

This was followed by a short hike down to the lake, where I plan to do some fishing this season.

After hiking around, I sat by the fire for a long while, ate some dinner and watched the stars appear one-by-one as the sky darkened to night. I slipped into my nested sleeping bags in my poncho bivy and continued watching the sky through the doorway of my tent until I drifted off. After a good night’s rest, I arose in the morning, shook off the sleep and started the morning fire. Once again, I dined on Finnish rice pies (riisipiirakka) and a meat pie (lihapiirakka). I also boiled up some water for instant coffee in my Swedish mess kit lid.

Wanting to take advantage of being in the neighborhood, I packed up camp and hiked back to the cabin site, where I spent the rest of the afternoon working on the future homestead.

Hope you enjoyed this quick overnight trip report. Stay tuned for more!

Cabin restoration project – The rebuild has resumed!

After being on the back burner for several months due to other larger jobs, the building contractor has resumed work on the cabin! As you can see in the pictures, the windows are at varying stages of completion, the roof insulation and interior roof have been put in place, most of the exterior roof has been completed, most of the loft has been constructed (the ladder is temporary and will be replaced with stairs), floor construction is coming along and the old doorway on the front right side has been filled with logs taken from the interior partition wall, which has been removed. The contractor will be at the site again this week, so I am looking forward to going out there this weekend to see what has been done. We have finalized all the plans for the rest of the work, which should be finished over the next few weeks. Keep in mind that there is still a good amount of work to be done, so if something doesn’t look finished, it probably isn’t!

Stay tuned for a (belated) overnight camping trip report from late March!

The Woodsboy’s first knife

A little over a year ago, when the Woodsboy turned 5, I bought him his first knife. While this may seem too young an age to some people, I think this is largely a 1st-world viewpoint. From evidence I have seen, children in rural areas of developing countries and tribal societies around the world are accustomed to using knives at even younger ages. It’s true that this is largely out of necessity, as they don’t live in a world full of pre-packaged, store-bought items, but the simple fact is that they would not be allowed to handle knives like this if they were not capable of it. So under constant supervision, with safety always in mind and with a clear set of ground rules (e.g. always cutting away from himself, always returning his knife to its sheath when not in use, only cutting things Daddy lets him cut, letting Daddy keep the knife in a safe place when we’re not practicing with it etc.), I have begun teaching the Woodsboy how to use his first knife.

The knife in question is the Condor Junior from Marttiini:

Image linked from http://www.marttiini.fi

I bought this knife from a local sporting goods store for around 25 Euros ($27.50). A few specs:

  • 8 cm (3.2″) Scandi-ground blade
  • Rounded tip for safety
  • Finger guard
  • Grippy rubber handle
  • Rugged leather sheath

So far over the past year or so we have used the knife together about half a dozen times, and our use has been centered around safe handling, as well as getting to know how the blade works and how to cut effectively. Most of what we do is cutting sticks, whittling and cutting string. As he gets older and progresses, we’ll work on wood carving and other things like that. I’m happy to say that the Woodsboy has never come close to hurting himself with the knife and am proud to see that he handles it in a safe way (praise for good behavior goes a long way!). If you are looking for a starter knife for a child, I highly recommend the Marttiini Condor Junior or a similar knife with the same level of quality and safety features. The Condor Junior is a solid, well-made knife which should serve my son well for years (BTW, the tip can be ground pointy later on when he is mature enough and can begin carving with the tip).

I will leave you with a picture from last weekend showing the Woodsboy practicing his feather-stick/shaving making skills. Needless to say, we were both very proud of his pile of shavings (which by the end was more than enough to get a campfire going). :)

DISCLAIMER: Utmost care is necessary when allowing children to use bladed tools. They should NOT be left unattended. You alone as a parent/guardian are responsible for deciding whether or not your own child is old/mature enough to handle bladed tools and for teaching and supervising them.

Will the real Weekend Woodsman please stand up?

It appears someone in Canada has purchased the domain name http://www.weekendwoodsman.com, is calling himself “Weekend Woodsman” and has been running a blog of the same name since July of 2014 (almost 3 years after I started my blog “The Weekend Woodsman”). I have never been contacted by him regarding use of the name “Weekend Woodsman,” so perhaps he was simply unaware of my blog and meant no harm. However, since both the content of our blogs and the climate we live in are similar, I would appreciate it if he would change the name of his blog (for example “Weekend Woodsman in Canada,” “Weekend Woodsman in CA,” “Weekend Woodsman in Newfoundland” etc.) so as to avoid confusion. I do not wish for people who are looking for my blog to think his is mine by mistake. Unfortunately, I’m having a tough time getting in touch with him, as I can’t log in to leave comments at his blog, send him an email etc. If anyone knows the owner of this blog/website or if you are able to contact him, please ask him to contact me.

Thanks!

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da…

I don’t often talk about personal issues here at the blog, but I feel compelled to share a little information about why it has been relatively quiet here for so long. Almost a year ago now, my wife and I separated. That separation will be finalized this year. I don’t want to go into too much detail, though I will say that the cause wasn’t anything heavy like substance abuse, infidelity or anything like that. It essentially came down to us being two very different people who seemed to be on different paths in life. I will say that the thing that probably hurt me most was the breakup of our family, which I thought was very unfair to the Woodsboy and his emotional future, especially since we had always had such a happy and healthy home life. However, when two people don’t share the same general set of moral and ethical values about what is most important in life, eventually there will be problems. Our separation and divorce were very surprising to many people, including our relatives, co-workers etc., many of whom didn’t understand it (and I have to admit I still don’t understand it 100%).

In the grand scheme of things, though, this doesn’t matter. The fact is that life is going to give you what it gives you, whether you want it or not. There will be injuries. There will be job losses. There will be separations. These things are absolutely inevitable. The only thing we have control over is how we respond to the things that happen to us. You can either get angry and upset, which makes things worse, or you can turn the other cheek and transform it into something positive. You could say life had given me a truck-load of lemons last year. Fortunately for me, I like lemonade. :)

So life does, and has been, going on. I took a break from bushcraft, camping etc. for a while, instead focusing on my growth and development as a person, spending lots of fantastic quality time with the Woodsboy, forging new friendships and working on projects at the homestead. Speaking of the homestead, the contractor I hired to restore the cabin says the work should be complete by the end of May. This will be a significant development, not only for me, but for the blog as well. Once the structural restoration is complete and I have set up the interior (and get electricity, a water pump etc.), I will actually be able to live and work there for up to a week at a time thanks to the mobile nature of my job. This means instant access to the woods and the ability to work on homestead/gardening/cabin projects anytime I’m there, something that I have never had since starting this blog!

So thank you for being patient! You can expect the frequency of posts to pick up here over the next few weeks and months (starting with a trip report on an overnighter I took late last month). I will finish this post with advice to any of you who may be going through hard times right now: Stand firm. Be resolute. No obstruction, no hindrance, no injury or setback is so severe that you cannot get past it with God’s help. Life may not be the same afterwards, but you will be stronger for having gone through it. Time does heal all wounds, especially when you help it along by having a positive mindset.