curtains for the bathroom closet … not as scary as it sounds!

A few months ago, I bought a Martha Stewart magazine at the Orlando airport to read on the way home form a business trip. Now many of us feel bewildered by Martha’s projects — make a tiki torch out of clothespins! Bake a 27-layer cake in just two hours! — but as I was thumbing through the pages I found something I was interested in trying for the cabin: curtains made out of drop cloth. Martha convinced me that canvas dropcloth is cheaper than craft store fabric, heavy weight, and built to stand up to anything. Perfect for the cabin!

As part of the bathroom renovation, we added a closet next to the shower stall. It’s pretty much our only storage area, so in addition to the usual bathroom stuff (towels and cleaning products) the closet also houses a ginormous toolbox, painting supplies, lanterns, cans of propane, and … well, you get the picture. We’ve been thrilled to have the storage but not thrilled about the constant mess in the bathroom, which is finally completed!

Here are a few pics of the transformation.

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Just how much is four tons of gravel?

We’ve done a ton to the cabin this spring, and we owe you a few back posts to tell you about the new deck and the foundation repair project. This morning, we had four tons of gravel delivered to make our parking space easier to navigate. (The muddy hill arrangement was getting just a bit tiresome.)

After a phone consultation with Leroy, we got A2 stones from The Mill in Whiteford, MD for just under $20/ton plus a small delivery fee. I wasn’t sure how much volume four tons of rock would be, and it firms out it wasn’t quite as much as I thought. The delivery filled our 20 x 8′ parking space pretty nicely with a few bucketfuls left for muddy ruts in the road. Definitely not enough for the fire pit that we thought we might also get out of this delivery.

Here’s the stone selection at The Mill:

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After all the work of raking and shoveling was done, Stanley celebrated with an iced Irish coffee.

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Outsmarting the faucet police

Spring is here, and we are thrilled to have the water back on at the cabin. To unwinterize, we had to flush the antifreeze out of all the lines, flip on the pump, and watch on amazement as the cabin sprung back to life. Water in the shower? Check! Bathroom sink and toilet? Check! Kitchen sink? ….. Kitchen sink? …. Well, shoot.

So the next two hours went something like this: jiggle the pipes, bang with wrench, turn the faucet on and off, unhook the pump, more banging, more jiggling, and the eventual realization that we should disassemble the faucet. And when we did, we found this: a sneaky plastic aerator with the very tiniest of holes that were clogged by the silt from our spring-fed water system. After that little plastic dictator was popped out, the water flowed clear and stronger than we’ve ever had from the kitchen sink. Success!

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Now I know this is a cabin blog and not a forum for corporate discontent, but I’d like to take a moment to say to the faucet manufacturers of the world: aerators suck. I’m an adult and I can regulate my own water usage. In this case, our water comes out of the side of a mountain and keeps flowing at 100 gallons per hour no matter whether we turn on the tap or take a dozen showers. We are lovers of nature and truly want to be good stewards of the earth (we have a cabin in the woods for crying out loud!), but, please, for the love of god, let me wash my dishes.

Let there be light!

Spring has sprung… and, well, not quite at the temperatures I’d like but we’ve got cabin fever after the long winter. Over Valentine’s weekend, we finally were able to schedule the electrician for a return visit. we are now the proud owners of (drumroll please) outdoor lights! Overhead lights ON A SWITCH! A ceiling fan!

Having the guy walk through the door and say, “hey, it looks different in here!” was pretty sweet too.

Lots of new things in store this spring…

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the insurance maze

One of the things that’s been very frustrating has been the process of trying to get the cabin insured against loss. I had no idea that his would be such a major ordeal… I mean, it’s not like we’re located in the Alaska wilderness! Nonetheless, I’m now on my fifth insurance agency, and hoping that Farmers’ will be the one that finally offers us coverage.

As I’ve learned, our cabin is too small, too remote, too far from a fire hydrant, in the wrong state, and on the wrong kind of foundation. I’m glad we didn’t try to get a mortgage on the place because we would have never met the insurance requirement (not to mention the inspection, but that’s a separate issue). If you’re reading out there, I’d love to know whether you have insurance on your remote cabin and, if so, from whom?

Where does water come from?

In recent weeks, many people would say that water comes from Hurricane Sandy: in waves over beaches and homes along the northeast cost, or in sideways through cracks in windows, roofs, and walls. Although we hunkered down for the storm in our Maryland home, we worried about the cabin the whole time. Could it withstand 90 MPH winds? Would the trees give out and topple on our roof (which is precarious at best)?

Five days after the storm, we arrived to find the cabin in fine working shape other than a loss of water. Which was curious, since our water system is spring-fed, meaning it comes directly out of the ground. Macguyver/George (the previous owner) built a cistern across the road that captures spring water from the hillside and funnels it into a second cistern under the house. An inspection revealed that our problem was some cracking of the roadside collection site, which looks like this:

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But how do you fix a crack that’s under running water? Jen had the brilliant idea to try pool cement, which you mix up into a putty consistency and hold in place one messy handful at a time. Several ruined pairs of work gloves later, the water was once again running into our water lines. I still can’t figure out how 10 inches of rain caused a cement cistern to crack, but mother nature is a tricky gal. We got the water on again just in time to close the place up for the winter. Karma, man.

I’ve got friends in home places…

Renovating a weekend house — especially a cabin you bought for less than the price of a car — is very different than home improvements in your own house. We’re finding that good enough, close enough, and well, it wasn’t quite what we wanted but I can live with it are really just fine. We are reusing, recycling, and taking a lot of secondhand items out of friends’ garages.

About a month into the renovation, a friend’s boyfriend introduced me to a new idea. You see, he’s a manager at our local Home Depot, and he tipped me off that home improvement stores have tons of marked-down inventory that customers never see on floor… and that you can buy it for substantial discounts if you know to ask.

Sebastian explained that appliances and fixtures, like clothes, are updated every year. When that happens, the old ones go “out of style” and end up as clearance. But stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s have very limited space for clearance so they usually just put out two or three items at a time. They keep all that other stuff way up on the shelves or in the back of the store. If you ask nicely, and if you’re flexible about your expectations, they can usually help you find something that meets your price point – and can even have items sent from other stores. The same is true of display items, which can be marked down 50% or more!

The secret is this: go at a quiet time (such as between 10 and 4 on a weekday), ask nicely, and be flexible. During this process, we’ve gotten to know a lot of the folks at our local home improvement stores and they really are happy to help as long as it’s not noon on a Saturday.

For our bathroom, we had very specific size requirements but could be flexible on the style. Because of that, we took a slightly damaged, $299 floor model sink for $49. A quick touch up with a furniture marker covered the few tiny nicks, and you’d never even know. It’s covered in tools here, but I think it looks pretty snappy!

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Independence Day

With the 4th of July on a Wednesday, we were so happy that we found a cabin just 90 minutes from home so that we could pop up for the day. Our friends, Mary and Frode, and their three dogs joined us for an all-American celebration of BBQ, beer, swimming in the creek, and not-too-loud fireworks (so as not to scare the pups) and sparklers. On the way there, we caught the fireworks in Stewartstown, which was a great little show! All in all, a perfect holiday.

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PS: hi to our neighbor Bridget from E. Trails Road, who came by to introduce herself and ask us over for a cookout!

Meeting the neighbors

We’ve been so busy enjoying the cabin these summer weekends that I haven’t been back to blog about all the fun we’re having. Sorry to disappoint. I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out to our neighbor from up the road, Melanie, and her pal, Jane, who found this blog and emailed us to welcome us to the community.

Melanie and Jane are on a two-woman crusade to protect the private roads of Susquehanna Trails from trespassing four-wheelers. In our township, unauthorized use of private property for off-roading caries a fine of $600 …. plus the wrath of the residents. It may seem like faun place to let loose, but the damage these riders do to the landscape takes years to repair. Kudos to Melanie and Jane for their work to protect the natural environment of the Muddy Creek banks. Melanie is also fighting back against the invasive Japanese Knotweed with some innovative organic weed control methods.

We’ve also met some other friendly folks: Ed, from two doors down, who so thoughtfully brought us a hummingbird feeder; Chip, with the cute Jack Russell terrier named Ruby; and a really nice guy whose name I forgot so I hope he comes by again sometime. It’s been surprising to find out that most of the property owners are from the Baltimore area, not locals as I had assumed. Everyone has been very friendly, and it’s nice to know a few folks who would let us know if a tree fell on the cabin when we weren’t there. It’s also great to get the scoop on the community and find out about some decent contractors.

We went to the woods to find solitude, but we found some nice neighbors instead!