Cabin restoration project – The final episode!

I thought I’d begin this post with a brief explanation as to my lack of posts here this summer. Besides keeping my nose to the grindstone at work, I have been working hard on the cabin and old homestead. Truth be told, it hasn’t been all work and no play, as the Woodsboy and I were privileged to enjoy a month-long visit to Finland by my parents in July. Before I get any deeper into this blog post, I would like to extend heartfelt thanks to my parents for the many hours of hard work they put in at the cabin while they were here. If not for their multiple weekends of laboring in clouds of mosquitoes and horseflies, this post would not have been possible, because I would have been much further behind in my work there. I promise I’ll go easy on you the next time you visit, guys! 😉

Now to the business at hand! I entitled this blog post “The final episode!” not because it’s the last time you’ll see the cabin (far from it), but rather because it has reached a stage of completion where the remaining work is minor interior work, such as figuring out the final layout of the kitchen, decorating, hanging curtains etc. Before I show you the completed cabin, I thought I’d share a little of the history of the building. Based on an inscription in pencil which I found on one interior wall, the original structure (a storage building) was built from aspen logs by Herman Kröger in 1918. Herman and his brother Ville first established the farm at that location in 1880, when the old farmhouse was built. Several roof replacements over the years fortunately kept the logs in good condition, which made it possible for me to have the building disassembled, reassembled and finished by a builder almost a century after its original construction.

Without further ado, may I present to you a few pictures showing the progression of the building from a dilapidated storage outbuilding on its last legs in the summer of 2014 to a 22.3 m2/240 sqft (or 33.5 m2/360 sqft if you include the loft) 4-season cabin in the summer of 2015…

The middle and right-hand parts of this building would become the cabin, whereas the left-hand section was discarded because it was in in bad condition.

The final appearance may not be what some of you expected, as it looks less like a backwoods cabin and more like a traditional Finnish farm cottage, but to be honest, that’s exactly what it is. I plan to build a rustic cabin in the woods myself someday, but until then, this place will have to do. 😉 You may have noticed that the sauna building behind the cabin hasn’t changed since last summer. Rest assured it will get new front steps and a fresh coat of paint before the winter.

“And what about the inside of the cabin?” you ask? Well, I have not managed to do too much work on the interior because of the sheer amount of work still drawing my attention outside. Every time I go out to the cabin, I scramble to get done as much as possible, because once the snow falls, a lot of outside jobs will be nearly impossible to do. When the winter comes, I’ll focus more on finishing the kitchen, decorating etc. Since I have made some small additions since my last post, though, I’ll include a few pictures of the interior. You’ll notice in the first few pictures that the woodstove is near the loft stairs. This was only temporary, as it had not yet been installed when I took the pictures. It has since been installed on the opposite wall and used both for heating and cooking.

Living room area with mostly vintage furniture.

Kitchen area also has older furnishings, including the vintage propane stove.

Besides working on the cabin itself, a few other projects have been in the works at the old homestead site. Since there will be nowhere near enough time to clean up the wood pile where the storage building and wood shed once stood, I covered it over with a huge green tarp to make it a little more pleasing to the eye.

I also had a backhoe operator demolish an old sauna building which was literally falling off its foundation and could not be salvaged. The demolition debris is under the green tarp in the second picture and will be disposed of this fall. The building used to stand directly to the right of where the tarp is now.

The old sauna is the little red building on the left.

Finally, I got rid of the biggest eyesore at the old homestead: a huge pile of garbage that accumulated over a period of two years as I cleaned out the old house and storage building, demolished the old outhouse, cleaned up garbage I found in the woods etc.

As I mentioned above, my parents were instrumental in helping to get the cabin to where it is today. Besides doing a lot of grunt work clearing piles of heavy branches and garbage and also handling many other odd jobs, they helped tremendously in painting the exterior of the cabin. This blog post just would not be complete if I didn’t show them in action!

So what’s next for the new-old homestead? I’m hoping to get an electrical hook-up and indoor plumbing before winter so I can do my day job from there, but these things might have to wait until the spring. I will build a few structures to house firewood, continue repairing the facade of the old farm house and do some autumn landscaping as well before the winter hits. I’ll work on the cabin interior and clean up inside the old house during the winter and then work on a greenhouse and garden in the spring. Now that the cabin work is winding down, I will be able to spend some more time on my outdoor pursuits as well. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

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 – Making headway on the sauna building

Although I don’t post as often as I’d like to these days (still dealing with some major life changes), I do want to keep all y’all updated on what I’ve been doing in the outdoor/country arena. Though I haven’t been doing anything bushcraft- or woods-related lately, I have been visiting the old farm from time to time to work on fixing up the old buildings. As I mentioned in my last post, we decided to fix up the small sauna building (about 6.7 m²/72 ft²) first because it’s in the best shape. I also mentioned that we had removed the old floor boards because they had been damaged by moisture over time. Today’s post will pick up from there.

The two main reasons for the moisture damage to the floor boards were the building’s close proximity to the ground (essentially, it’s a wooden building sitting directly on the soil…) and the fact that there was insulation and plastic sheeting under the floor which prevented air from circulating properly. Our first job on a recent trip was getting the beams on which the building was built up off the ground. After lifting up a corner with a hydraulic car jack, we dug down a bit into the soil and put concrete tiles (on top of a piece of foam insulation for cushioning) in its place. The last step will be to remove more dirt from under the structure and between the tiles and put gravel there instead, allowing for better drainage and air circulation.

Inside the building, I removed the fiberglass insulation and plastic sheeting from between and on the floor joists in the changing room. On the sauna side, we removed the sauna stove, crappy heat-shield paneling from behind the stove and some of the rotten plywood boards from the floor. Some of the wall panels will have to be replaced as well due to water damage from a leaky chimney. The sauna side is still quite a mess!

Fortunately, things are a lot further along on the changing room side. After sanding the floor joists and covering them with some thin foam strips (to prevent squeaking), we started cutting and laying down the new floor boards. This was the first time I had done any kind of work like this, but I got the hang of it quickly and didn’t encounter any major problems.

Once the new boards were in, I put the floor molding back in place, as well as a few pieces around the doors which had to be trimmed on account of the new floor boards being thicker than the old ones. I also brushed off the ceiling and walls a bit (had to get rid of those cobwebs), shored up a few items here and there (door handles, small pieces of molding etc.) and cleaned and replaced the door between the rooms. Apart from fitting the very last floor board, replacing a small piece of molding on one wall and treating the new floor, the changing room is pretty much done for now.

With the (near) completion of the changing room, a small milestone has been reached: There is now a habitable, albeit tiny, room at the old homestead. It might only be big enough to hold a small bed and a chair or little dresser, but it’s a solid start!

I’ll leave you with a few pictures from around the property and some of the tools and other items I salvaged from the old barn. 🙂

A little fishing and a lot of berries!

At the beginning of August, the Woodsbabe, Woodsboy and I joined my in-laws at the cabin to enjoy some summer sun, boating, fishing and berry picking. We suited the Woodsboy up, who was chomping at the bit to head out.

We hopped in the boat, and Woodsbabe rowed…

…while I fished. 😀 Thanks Woodsbabe! 😉

On the other side of the lake, there were boulders in one direction:

And berries galore in the other:

We picked bilberries (vaccinium myrtillus):

And northern bilberries (vaccinium uliginosum):

We saw some cow berries (vaccinium vitis-idaea), but they’re not ripe yet:

I snapped this picture nearby. The lichen and plants kind of look like a miniature forest to me.

Upon returning to the cabin, the Woodsboy and I set up the hand-line fishing rig with a piece of a fake worm and tried our luck.

We managed to get two roach fish (rutilus rutilus) like this:

After fishing, we looked around the yard for more berries. We found rowan berries (sorbus genus) (note: these are not poisonous, but are very bitter and could bother your stomach!):

Black currants (ribes nigrum):

And white currants (ribes rubrum):

Then the Woodsboy and I headed down the dirt road to find more berries. We found a lot of raspberries (rubus idaeus):

And stone bramble (rubus saxatilis):

We also saw unripe lilly of the valley (convallaria majalis). They turn orange when ripe. DO NOT EAT THESE BERRIES, as they are poisonous!

As we walked back, I shot this field of fireweed (chamerion angustifolium). Many of the seed pods have opened and released their fluff.

This is probably the most prolific time of year for berries in Finland. The wild strawberries (fragaria vesca) are mostly long gone now, hence no pictures of them in this post. The last berries to ripen should be the cow berries and black crowberries (empetrum nigrum), which will last into the autumn.

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of some of Finland’s wild and cultivated berries. 🙂

Disclaimer: Consuming wild edible plants and/or using them for medical purposes is done at your own risk. Always be 100% certain of what you are eating/doing. If unsure, contact an expert.

Saaremaa, Estonia – July 2013

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you might remember my camping trip to Saaremaa, Estonia in September 2012. Last month, I returned to Estonia’s largest island with the family in tow. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for any bushcraft or camping this time around, but we did visit a lot of interesting sites and hit up the island’s main attractions.

As is probably the case with many tourists on Saaremaa, the 14th-Century castle was one of our first stops.

After strolling around the town just outside the castle, we drove out to neighboring Muhu island, where we were able to take a look inside a traditional Saaremaa-style thatch-roofed cabin. As you can see, there is no other roofing material besides the thatch. It was the roof of choice for poor people for a long time due to it’s low cost and availability. A roof like this can last 50 years!

One of Saaremaa’s main attractions is the Kaali meteorite crater lake, which was formed…you guessed it…by a meteorite which fell to Earth sometime between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago.

In case you’re wondering, yes, there are (introduced) fish in it.

While driving along the coast on our way to another of the island’s attractions, the Panga Cliffs, we stopped at the seaside to explore.

Rather than sand, pebbles, rocks or boulders, the sea bed at this location is actually smooth slabs of dolomite.

Nearby shore with junipers.

When we reached the cliffs, the Woodsboy and I headed out first, and the Woodsbabe snapped this pic (actually, she took a lot of the pictures in this post).

A few pictures from the countryside.

My Finnish readers will appreciate the name of this small Village. 😉

Anyone familiar with Saaremaa knows of the “windmill hill” in the village of Angla. These types of windmills were used to grind flour in the olden days.

This site also has some farm animals for the kiddies and some exhibits with items from yesteryear.

While on our way to the lighthouse on the peninsula in the southwest, we saw these rock piles at the shore.

Here’s the lighthouse as viewed from the very tip of the peninsula.

On our last day on Saaremaa, we ate at a unique restaurant in town. At some point in it’s history, it was converted from a working windmill to a restaurant with several dining stories inside.

On our way home, we spent a night in the medieval old town of Tallinn, Estonia’s capital. Here’s a shot from up on high.

Hope you enjoyed this peek at my favorite island!

Raspberry leaf tea

While on a recent trip to the Woodsbabe’s grandparents’ farm, I grabbed a handful of leaves from some of the many raspberry plants there so I could make raspberry leaf tea later on.

The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other health benefits provided by raspberry tea are so numerous that I’ll simply refer you to this excellent source-cited article at herbcyclopedia.

Some dry leaves:

A few seconds after adding hot water:

After steeping for a few minutes:

Leaves after steeping:

The tea had a refreshing taste similar to blackberry leaf tea (but a bit tangier), which is not surprising considering they’re related plants. I’ll definitely drink it again the next time I find wild raspberries growing in the forest!

Northern Woodsmanship and Skills Forum

In the past, I have brought your attention to a number of forums, blogs and YouTube channels focusing on outdoorsmanship, primarily in Finland, but also elsewhere in the boreal region. Today, I’d like to introduce you to a fine forum started by Ron from The Trying Woodsman Blog. He wanted to create a place where folks could discuss woodsmanship, bushcraft, primitive and traditional skills and anything else having to do with outdoor life in the north.

This primarily English-language forum is small, but growing (it has been experiencing a surge in activity lately). So far, there are members from Finland, Sweden, Norway, the northern US, throughout the British Isles, Germany and a host of other countries. As far as I know, this is the only north-centric forum of its type out there!

If you would like to learn from and contribute to a growing knowledge base on woodsmanship in the north in a relaxed and open atmosphere by sharing stories, projects, ideas and experiences and make friends in the process, be sure to visit the Northern Woodsmanship and Skills Forum!