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!

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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!

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!

Cabin restoration project – Quick update (the outer roof is on)

Progress on the cabin has been going at a snail’s pace because the contractor has been tied up with larger projects, but I wanted to give you a mini-update on what has been going on. The “vesikatto” (or “water roof”, i.e. the outer roof) has been built on the cabin shell. There is still a gap between the roof and the walls, which will be filled when the roof insulation and interior paneling are installed.

Now that the roof is on, it’s really starting to look a lot more like a “real” cabin/house. Not too shabby!

(blurry “naked” shot from a friend’s phone:)

The next step should be to put in the windows, door and subfloor, as well as to remove the wall that’s currently dividing the cabin into two rooms.

Cabin restoration project – A cabin is (re)born!

“Another cabin post? Hey Weekend Woodsman, why don’t you just change the name of your blog to ‘The Cabin Restoration Project Blog’?” I know, I know. The simple truth is that I haven’t been doing any bushcraft, camping etc. since earlier this year because I’ve been spending my free time working on the old farm property. Now that the sauna building repairs are finished for the year and a professional has begun work on restoring the cabin, I can spend more of my free time on outdoor pursuits (e.g. Alex and I are planning an upcoming camping trip). But for now, here’s another installment of the cabin restoration project!

Last time around, I mentioned that any restoration of the old farm house has been put on the back burner due to cost and time constraints, and that for the time being the project will revolve around the restoration of one of the farm’s outbuildings instead. The building I speak of is called an “aitta” in Finnish, and the English translation for this word is usually something like “shed” or “grainery”, but I don’t really think either of these words are a good match. An aitta is a log building usually made up of two or three conjoined rooms, each with its own door to the outside. The rooms are unheated and can be furnished as living quarters or used for storage. I think one of the rooms in the aitta at the old farm may have been used to house animals, because it contains what looks like three animal stalls (this particular room will NOT be reused in this project).

The current phase of the project involves the dismantling, reconstruction and conversion of the other two aitta rooms into a  two-room cabin with a loft. The aitta in question:

Here’s what’s left of the building at its original site:

After choosing a new site for the building, the contractor broke ground:

In the ground around the concrete block and timber foundation, he constructed what’s called a “salaoja”, or “hidden channel” covered over with gravel, which allows rain and snow-melt to drain away from the building area quickly. This prevents the moisture-related problems which plague so many old log buildings in the north country. Following this, the contractor removed the tin roof from the aitta and carefully dismantled the building, log by log. Before he did this, though, he numbered each individual log to make it easier to put the big jigsaw puzzle back together again later. Then began the process of reconstructing the building on its new foundation. For insulation between the logs, the contractor used some sort of natural-looking fibrous material (I’ll have to ask him about this). In the old days, sphagnum moss and old clothing were used instead! The pictures below show the current state of affairs. The contractor is jumping back and forth between different projects at the moment, so the work will not be continuous. He put a tarp over the whole shebang to keep rain and snow out until he puts a new roof on, which is the next step in the process.

Needless to say, I am very pleased with the work so far. A cabin is really beginning to take shape. Before long, this century-old homestead building will be brought back to life, its latest incarnation being a 30.5 m2 (330 sq ft) recreational cabin!

Interested in seeing how log buildings like this were constructed? Check this out:

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. 🙂