The Log Cabin –
A natural home you can build yourself!
Building a log cabin can be practical and enjoyable, giving you a direct connection to the early pioneers. And you’ll really be living Green!
Most of us have seen pictures of the log cabins many early Americans built, and some have even visited cabins standing in national parks. These natural homes have a rustic appeal, whether they’re completely primitive or more fine-finished. Nowadays, a wide variety of kits is available, ranging from a modest hunting/fishing shelter to exquisite homes costing several hundred thousand dollars.
But a simpler version of the log cabin, more like those built on the frontier, can still provide an affordable and satisfying home in which to live the natural life . And you can build it yourself from scratch – even middle-aged women who were fed-up with conventional lives have done it! They prized their independence more than a modern, mortgaged home.
If you’re starting to think about a woods cabin, begin with the basics. The structure is built by laying logs around the four sides of a rectangle, so that the ends cross to form the corners. But remember, logs are heavy. Are you strong, or can you get someone else to handle them for you? This brings up all the questions
you need to ask yourself:
WHAT ARE YOUR RESOURCES, AND WHAT ARE YOUR NEEDS?
Are you desperate for shelter, or is this the fulfillment of a dream? Can you afford amenities, or must you stick to necessities? Do you have plenty of strength, knowledge and time, or are you short on one or more of these?
Those answers will affect the size of the house you can build. If you buy a kit and pay someone to do it, then only your budget will limit you. But if you want to do the work yourself, remember that there can be a lot of it! Cutting down a tree can take a while, and then you have to trim the branches off, saw it to length, and haul it to the site.
So it’s in your interest to build the smallest log cabin that can meet your basic needs, because that means shorter, smaller, and lighter logs. If you are one person alone, and up against it, you could get by with an 8’ x 8’ shelter, with careful planning. You can always expand later.
This is a design for an 8’ x 8’ primitive log cabin for one. It accommodates very few possessions, which may not suit you. On the other hand, it just might give you your start. I have often thought, wouldn’t this be better than living on the street in some city?
Of course, there are a lot of sizes between this and the size of a modern log cabin kit, and you can find the one that fits you best, as you think more about it.
There’s a lot to know about building any structure, especially with natural materials. We studied the books available on the subject, but mostly learned by doing. In 1974, after doing time in the Army, we bought 17 acres of woods, and directly took up residence in a tent on our ridge-top land, back in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. We dug out an old spring and carried water in buckets, living entirely primitively.
So it followed that our approach to building a log home was necessity-driven. We needed permanent shelter, and had almost no money, experience, knowledge, or strength, compared to the pioneers. Old accounts tell us that one man could clear an acre of land (covered with gigantic trees) in a day, with an axe. This was definitely not our situation.
But we learned how to deal with our circumstances, and build our woods cabin. Later, after building another one in Wisconsin, we wrote Build Your Own Log Cabin to pass on what we had learned. This classic has been out of print, but is now available free in ebook format on this site!
One thing we have heard at times from environmentally minded people is a criticism related to cutting trees. Here's what we wrote about this in the introduction to our book:
One note on ecology: Don’t let yourself be persuaded that it’s immoral to build a log cabin, and burn wood for fuel because of the trees cut. Modern houses, too, are often built of timber, which kills trees, not to mention the other materials used, whose production frequently damages the ecology. And all those houses are heated with fossil fuels, which are not renewable and whose production is far more damaging to the ecology. Furthermore, a single day’s printing of just one average newspaper, which is thrown away the next day, has killed enough trees to build a hundred log cabins and fuel them for an indefinite length of time. For you to build a home to last for years, and to fuel it with a renewable resource, as the nucleus of a more natural life, is no destruction of the ecology, but a fortification of it.” -- From the introduction to Build Your Own Log Cabin, published by Winchester Press in 1978.
To build any kind of natural home, you’ll need a friendly place to build. Check out some things to know about country property before you commit yourself.
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