Homesteaders Cabin Rehab
In 2015 my father passed away after fighting cancer for 2 years. That same year the co-op plowed high speed fiber optic internet into the remote plot of land that my parents owned in the middle of Montana. These 2 events together created an impetus that spurred many big changes for me and my family.
My husband, my 2 children, and I were living peacefully in a beautiful old American Foursquare house in a small town in North Dakota. We were both working from home and my children were enjoying the excellent school district that we lived in.
But we were bored.
“Faith dare the soul to go further than it can see.”
Even though we had lived in North Dakota for 11 years it never really felt like home. We did enjoy living a few hours from Minnesota’s lake
country and the camping, fishing, and boating that had afforded us. But when the concept of living in the heart of Montana, minutes from the Missouri river, a couple hours from skiing, and gorgeous hiking literally in the back yard we couldn’t resist the pull.
Even if that meant moving back to my hometown. The town I went to high school in (GASP). The town that watched me fall for my first boyfriend. The town that saw me act like a ridiculous drunk at underage parties. The town that witnessed my teenage driving and the slew of dead wildlife and livestock that I left in the wake of my 1978 Oldsmobile Toronado.
Even more disturbing was the fact that my son and daughter were roughly the same age as my brother and I when my parents first bought this place in Montana and moved us there. Was I unwittingly participating in some sort of familial cycle? Was I the victim of a cosmic joke? They say that you can never go home again. Was I making a huge mistake?
Well, whether it was a mistake or not remains to be seen. We struggle, and we strive. We fight, and we grow. Either way we are a Montana
Now we are in Montana. What next? We have this beautiful land but only a little trailer house, a dilapidated old house, a horse barn (big enough for 1 horse), and a little log cabin. That little log cabin was the obvious choice for our first project.
The first exciting project we undertook was the restoration of the one-room homesteaders cabin on the property. This was fed by my love of historic structures and our need for more indoor living space.
This cabin was built around 1914 by a Hess who homesteaded the area. One of my favorite stories are of a later owner that owned the place by the name of Hedley Arthur. He reported sleeping in the cabin one night and waking up to a large pack rat, sitting on his chest, tugging on the shiny, silver and white, strands of his long hair. Pack rats are notorious for stealing sparkly things hence their name “pack” rats. Luckily, I haven’t seen any rats or mice since moving in. No doubt that is thanks to my 3 cats and 4 dogs who frequent the cabin.
The cabin is also on a historic Nez Perce Trail and close to the Lewis and Clark discovery expedition route. My neighbor told me that Teddy Roosevelt may have stayed in our cabin. Ahem, I guess we can’t say that he did…or that he didn’t! We will never know for sure. More importantly, I put my romantical notions aside and got to work.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
The first thing we did was clean it out which included throwing out some rotten furniture, an old propane furnace, and a few mice nests. We then dug up some of the disintegrated flooring and chipped out all the loose chinking which consisted of an amalgam of old mortar, desiccated manure, branches, mud, and calking.
Dan (my husband) and I mixed up new chinking using clay from the "back 40", lime, and salt. We based this recipe on one we found online claiming its historical accuracy.
Dan squared up some of the walls by using spacer boards in between the logs. We meticulously re-chinked in between the logs with our homemade, homesteader authentic (we think) chinking.
We had Central Montana insulation come in and spray-foam the interior ceiling to help shore up the structure and add insulation. Not historically accurate, we know, but very effective! Eventually, we want to cover that up with tongue and groove planking.
It appears the cabin was originally built on log skids which are now rotted away. Eventually we would like to jack the cabin up and pour a cement slab foundation but until then we laid down a vapor barrier and then new plywood on the floor which I filled, stained, and sealed.
We now have an extra bedroom, office, and space for my Reiki clients! We love this space! I spend most of my days in the, “healing cabin” as I have dubbed it, working on my businesses, writing, practicing yoga, and whatever other endeavors may come to mind.
It is a small humble structure with a rich history. It is being overworked at the moment but I couldn’t be more thankful for it! We have a long list of future projects out here but I love that no matter what else is going on, we will have a calm little place to shelter our bodies and soothe our minds. -and a place to quietly write this blog!
“It does not require many words to speak the truth.”
-Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Nation
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