The juncos and white throated sparrows have arrived from their boreal summer haunts.  And this morning’s winds are loosening Autumn’s colorful skirts, sending tatters to the ground. Fall has taken on a new sense of urgency.

While temperatures drop and politicians yammer, I find a joyful quiet as I commute one hundred feet from our house to my perfect Covid project: building a little log cabin. Since last April, I have missed very few mornings strolling into the woods to the work site. 

Now the days are arcing towards darkness with daylight hours shrinking and I feel an inner restlessness to zip up the project for the coming winter. In my mind, I hear “Hurry Tom!  Hurry!”

Two Novembers ago I helped thin a friend’s red pine plantation. He shipped truckloads of logs to be rendered into garden mulch, and I bought enough logs to attempt to Lincoln-log a cabin together. That winter I resurrected my antique draw knife and peeled them all. I levered them into neat piles with plenty of air space between so they could slowly dry. 

For the most part I am a one-man show. Admittedly I lack the skills of famed Alaska cabin builder and public television star, Dick Proenneke, but I often invoke his spirit.  In late March when I decided to skid the logs from the drying site, seventy five feet to the building site, I hooked up my electric winch which is rated to pull 1,200 pounds. I was mortified when I turned the winch on and almost immediately it overheated. I looked with dismay at the red warning light. 

I was devastated. What do I do now? I have no tractor, ATV, or even a draft horse to pull the logs. For that matter I didn’t want anything that required undo maintenance, fuel or food. How was I going to move the logs? I returned to the house and broke the news to Miss Nancy. 

I reached out to dear Yukon friend, Mike, who is a fine wood craftsman specializing in timber framing. I have never seen huge beams with such fine joinery as his work. Immediately he offered a solution.

 “Tom,” he said, “Why don’t you build using short log construction?”

 I recollect my answer as a simple “What?” 

He replied, “You need to read James Mitchell’s book, The Short Log and Timber Building Book.”

I turned one hundred eighty degrees in my chair to face the floor to ceiling bookcase. I scanned for a moment, reached up and pulled down a book. “Oh this one.” Mike laughed and then like a master ordered, “Now read it.”

And so that led me to my current project. Instead of a classic log cabin with scribed interlocking corners, my walls consist of shorter horizontal logs slid between vertical posts. The beauty is that by using levers and fulcrums, I can handle most of the logs by myself. I don’t want to even consider how many pounds of logs I have hefted, grunted, rolled and pushed.  Since starting this project, I have lost 15 pounds and punched two holes in my belt. 

October is ticking away. Snows are coming, at least I hope they are. My goal is to finish the walls in the next few days. Then recruit some human power to help position the hefty ridge log. After that, the log rafters can be erected and roof put on.  

Hurry Tom!  Hurry!

Oh and of course through this project, I am committed to bow hunt for deer. I am hoping for future winter stews and steaks grilled in our kitchen woodburning stove. Hunting is hard because my mind nags me to climb out of October’s tree canopy and get to building the cabin. 

Leaves are blanketing the work site adding a seasonal charm. No time to admire the decor, winter is coming on!

Hurry Tom! Hurry!