In the meantime….

Yes, we’re terrible about updating this blog.

No, we don’t want to waste your time.

Until the return, may we recommend some good old paper books:



light up the night

This is really just a photo post showing you the before and after of our outdoor lighting. We bought a Portfolio brand lighting kit from Lowe’s about six months ago and have been dragging our feet to put it in because we thought it was going to be a lot of work. We couldn’t have been more wrong!

The kit came with a 200 watt transformer (not pictured in the link because I can’t find it) and four spotlights. We added about ten pathway lights and are thrilled with the results! The wiring is very easy – just press the wire into the light base and two copper pins make the connections for you. Since Janeé is an electrical whiz, she was also able to splice some additional wire in to give us more coverage. The transformer box has a light-sensing eye so it turns on automatically at dusk. Easy!


day and night view of lights from the parking area

day and night view of lights from the parking area

Day and night shot of the outdoor lights from the fire pit area

Day and night shot of the outdoor lights from the fire pit area

Reinforcing and lifting the cabin

The cabin was built in the 1960’s with undersized beams and joists.  Overtime, this of course causes problems.  If I was more diligent with my blog I would have provided a much better story – we’ll just sum it at this:  The cabin was sagging and one of the piers had sunk several inches.  T.L. Davenport Builders (my heroes) lifted the cabin and reinforced structure.  The result is an unleveled sliding door inside and much more sturdy cabin!

NEW DECK!! NEW DECK!! We have a new deck!!

Is was exciting to finally see the stone fireplace!

Is was exciting to finally see the stone fireplace!

Sorry for all the yelling but we’re pretty darn excited.  With the help of T.L. Davenport Builders, the cabin is sporting a brand spanking I can’t believe how pretty, safe, and sturdy deck!

Those who were willing to brave the cabin the past 12 months knew the deck rules – no more than three people at one time and don’t stand on the bright orange x’s.

A few things we learned during the process:

  • It’s cold in April when you’re laying on the ground
  • It’s awfully nice to sit in a chair and watch someone else do the work
  • T.L. Davenport Builders are AWESOME
  • Removing the deck roof completely changed the view from inside the cabin
  • Get a permit
  • Friends come more often and stay longer when your deck is nice

Still to come:

  • Finishing the railing
  • Installing the portage zip line to the stream

Water tank upgrade

New tank!The cabin water makes its way to a 55 gallon blue storage tank via gravity from a spring-fed cistern at an average rate of 100 gallons/hour.  The lopsided tank was insulated with a large piece of carpeting and covered by some fancy blue styrofoam.

With easier access under the structure during deck demolition, we took the opportunity to get tanked.

A quick trip to Tractor Supply for a 135 gallon leg tank I’d had my eye on for the past six months and I was ready to roll.

After some excavation, I set up a sturdy foundation for the tank to rest on.  There is nearly one foot of gravel under each of the timber steps.

Everyone got dirty, even Toby then yellow lab!

The new tank has a rather ugly overflow pipe that will thankfully be hidden by the new deck.  We are looking forward to building a water feature for the overflow to play on.

Existing water tank

Existing water tank

Gettin' dirty

Gettin’ dirty


Tank foundation

Tank foundation


Missing the cabin across 14,000 miles

Renovation and relaxation at the cabin ground to a halt in June and July while Janeé and logged a few miles for personal and business trips – 14,740 miles combined to be exact. Planes, trains and automobiles across two continents, and all the while, missing the cabin.

Destinations included: Portland, ME, Boston, MA, Seattle, WA, one wedding, and Paris, France

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Sliding Barn Door

Sliding barn door

This first night after I stumbled across the cabin I laid in bed going through a mental checklist of what improvements and repairs I thought would need to be done…. but of course I did some dreaming too: I wanted a barn door. A rustic cabin with few updates would showcase a sliding barn door really well.

I wanted to be reminded of the large, massive barn doors that slide back and forth on the front of the big barn at home on the farm. I romanticize my memories of opening and closing them during summer hay making season, always looking forward to escaping the warm sun and walking into the barn ahead of the hay wagon the tractor was pushing in.*

Surprisingly, hardware shopping was the hardest part. Although popular in Europe, it’s very difficult to find modern sliding door hardware in the US. I did find a few useful sites such as Barn Door Hardware and Cordia, but the prices were not what I expected and the selection was limited. Neither Home Depot or Lowe’s could help; Paul at Home Depot (my go to “window and door guy”) said they are not yet available in US stores. I also searched through farm supply stores but could only find typical track hardware. I finally decided on purchasing my Cordia hardware from Cool Barn Doors, an eBay seller.

After so much effort in fixing and securing the hardware, I had decided I wanted to build my own door rather than modify a used barn door or vintage door from a second hand shop. The door is simply wooden pine planks. Paint comes next.

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*To be honest, the most exciting part was pushing the empty hay wagon back through the doors and creating enough momentum to force the wagon down the ramp and out into the barn yard on its own – sometimes you even got to ride it!

Moving beyond demolition: Painting and cleaning the walls

I can finally “see” the cabin – now that the demolition phase has ended and the new walls are up we are looking forward to getting some cleaning done and paiting the walls.

Don’t be horrified – most people do not paint log walls… but our log walls are really, really, REALLY dirty.  Beyond the serious investment of significant time, sand blasting, scraping and sanding, not much would help them.  We’re painting.  Deal with it.

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We can finally do dishes!

So who's cooking tonight?

A requirement of the cabin initial renovation work was a working kitchen and a way to wash the dishes.  After considering the required elements to wash dishes, I found the list was somewhat short:

  • Hot water
  • Counter to hold the sink
  • Sink to hold the faucet and water
  • Window to look at Muddy Creek while washing dishes
  • Someone to look out the window while washing the dishes

Short list but quite a bit to tackle.

Hot Water

Getting water to the cabin proved a little more difficult that we thought on purchase day.  Although the gravity fed spring cistern and tank were full, the original owner’s pump wasn’t in working condition.  After some impromtu plumbing lessons that included learning how to use PEX pipe and compression fittings,  installing the water pump, draining the tanks under the cabin and hot water tank, and installing a whole house water filter for sediment, the water was FINALLY flowing to the cabin.

Yes, there was a happy dance involved.  No, there is no video.  The first showers were soooo worth it.

Original Kitchen

The original owner's kitchen was a simple L-shaped counter that was open with the water pump and hot water tank underneath. Oh yeah, there was a lot of scary stuff on top of it too.

Kitchen remodel

It was easiest to strip the entire cabin down to the bare bones and build up.

Whole house water filter

Once the new water pump was installed and I figured out how to use PEX pipe, my first major plumbing accomplishment was to install a whole house water filter in the cabin - I've hung this picture prominently in the bedroom I'm so proud of it.


I really, really, really wanted to build my own kitchen cabinets.  I had researched plans and how-to for weeks.  I have serious crush on Alaskan homemaker Ana White and her community of home how-to builders, plans and terrific projects.  Her momplex project with clear and concise kitchen base cabinets empowered me to build my own.

Except we would have had to completely change the plumbing in the cabin to have cabinets.  The original owner installed the water pump and hot water tank directly under the kitchen counter.

In the absence of some serious plumbing skills, money, and pure ambition, the plumbing was all staying put.  The plans changed to building a counter around the existing plumbing and installing cabinet faces later (god bless the annual tax return).

In true Colvin-builder fashion, a sturdy, level 80″ L-shaped base for the counter was built out of 2″x4″ supports.  Most of the redrawing involved designing a support for an apron sink from Ikea plans (see below for sink information and note the implied “Can you believe those are the only instructions that come with Ikea stuff?!” grumble everyone is all too familiar with).  With the counter supports in place, Janeé and Biz commented that in case of rapture they were holding on to the counter.  There were some other jokes about dirty things…

Hey – get your mind out of the gutter – this all in plans of washing dirty dishes….

The countertop is Ikea’s Varde countertop – a birch butcher block top that comes in two different lengths that may be cut to size.  The advantage of this was that we could cut our own countertop to size at a relatively low cast rather than ordering custom countertops.  The butcher block birch is typically oiled like most wooden cutting boards.  We elected to put several coats of polyurethane on the counter instead for a nice sheen that is easily cleaned after each use.  If you elect to use polyurethane, it’s worth the time and effort to lightly sand between a minimum of three coats.  The results are a smooth surface that will cause even the most uninterested to rub their had affectionately across the counter and grunt something along the lines of approval.

Installing Counter

Janeé applies the adhesive for the butcher block counter

Sink & Faucet

From the start we wanted a white apron sink with an industrial faucet.  The best value we found was Ikea’s Domsjo sink bowl which comes in three shapes and sizes.  We considered several faucet models and after many weeks of “which one do you want?” decided on our this is the last time we’re going to Ikea ever stainless steel Hjuvik kitchen faucet with hand spray.

Biz doing plumbing

Biz demonstrates that the faucet works

We have water! We have water!


Our countertop is not at average height for most people – it’s at average height for people topping out at six feet tall – and we love it.  Measuring at 42″ high, it rests just above the window sill from which the new dishwasher will be able to gaze lovingly down to our favorite trout stream.

New Sink

Every achievement is cause for celebration - thanks to Jim and John for providing the celebration

Dishwasher Wanted

We cook – really well.  Want to wash our dishes?  We’ll feed you.

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