The Love

If ever you have found yourself yearning to return to a place that brings you contentment, you will understand why I love the woods. It takes  me back to the place where my fondest family memories began.

Since I was a young girl my dream was to return to the woods which was the place I spent nearly every weekend and vacation with my family from the time I was 2 years old until 11 years old. You see when I was 2, my father suffered his first heart attack. He was diagnosed with atherosclerosis and was given approximately 5 years to live (he outlived their prediction by another 5 years). There were no heart transplants, stints or any other life saving techniques back then. Just a life sentence. So, my father took that all in stride and along with my mother that decided that my father would live the remainder of his life doing what he loved best, camping and fishing. So, our adventure began and my love of the woods was born.

We travelled to the most beautiful remote wilderness areas of northern Michigan to camp and fish and enjoy life to its very fullest. We would load the whole family, sometimes even grandma and grandpa into the old stationwagon with the boat on top and the popup camper trailing behind and find the freshest, coldest water the UP had to offer. My mother would set up camp and my father would launch the boat and fish sometimes taking me with him. It was possibly the closest thing to heaven, the sun, the wind, the freedom, and I’m sure that’s what my father wanted to share with us.

Later on in my forties, my kids pretty much on their own, I started to yearn for the woods once again. I had made a plan to sell our home and move north into the woods. You just can’t even imagine what happened next…..The Recession. Lost my job, lost my home, lost all my savings. Wow, didn’t see that coming.
Tragedy. It closes doors and opens new ones. I downsized, moved, tried a couple new jobs, met some new people, and then fell in love. Out of that love, together, we created “The Rollin’ Rock”. With common interest, determination, a little savings, a shoestring budget and a lot of hard work a dream can come to fruition. Seventeen days out of each month we are able to continue working our dream towards our goal of a self sufficient retirement. Please check back with us from time to time and follow our journey as we fumble our way through the learning process of becoming minimalists. (this ain’t easy folks….hey, honey, can I bring my hair dryer?? just kidding!)

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Meaning of Minimalist

We are minimalists in the sense that we advocate for a moderate or conservative approach to the way we conduct our daily lives. Simple…a bare minimum. As we began our journey, we had little to offer to our emerging new lifestyle outside of workable tools.  As we continue to move forward and educate ourselves, we are taking a realistic approach to what is really necessary.  We add new tools and appliances as finances allow and necessity dictates, trying to keep it to a minimum. 

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The Wedding

Wedding Day  August, 2008

Wedding Day
August, 2008

We two, have found each other…
Different, yet alike
We have grown together in love and understanding.

August 2008

I can’t believe how nervous I am. Everything has been prepared and people are rolling in. Some of our family have been here a couple of days, and others are just arriving. We’ve been preparing for this moment for a very long time and I’m still feeling ill prepared.

There are tents pitched and campers set. We’ve got a couple of canopy’s set up for food and drinks. I can hardly wait for the Margarita’s. There’s a glitch with the sound system, but it got resolved quickly.

Both of our mothers were able to make the trip. They are both elderly, my mother in her 90’s and my husbands’ mother in her 80’s. It means so much for them to be here. Both of us wishing our fathers could be here, but both have passed on. My father is the one who introduced me to the beauty of nature and I would love to be able to show him that even though I didn’t get any of his traits like his black hair, olive skin or his brown eyes, I did get his love of the woods.

Although not everyone could make the trip here to the Rollin’ Rock everyone that did walked away with a little more understanding of why we love it so much. The woods is not for everyone and neither is a rustic lifestyle. Some of these guys won’t even go to the bathroom while they’re here. They’ll wait until they leave and get back to the city because they won’t use the privy. Our privy is probably the finest in this county, but what do they know, they’ve never used one, or only used a bad one. We don’t have running water either. We carry all of our water from the city. It’s a hassle, but a well is too expensive for us to drill. Maybe sometime in the future.  This truly must seem like a restrictive environment for a city dweller who rarely leaves their block. No electricity, no running water, and no flush toilet! Until we can move forward and make improvements, we will make due with what we have in the mean time. The people here today who know us well and love us, understand this and will tolerate the inconvenience, or lack of conveniences,  just for the glory of the moment.

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In The Beginning

Upon our first arrival at the cabin, we set out to clear brush and small  trees to give us some breathing space. We built a make-shift privy with tarps around a couple of trees. Next we tackled a fire pit. There are hundreds of rocks on this property, many are too big to carry and had to be rolled to their destination. So after digging a good size pit we positioned the rocks around the edge to make the fire pit (which is how the name “Rollin’ Rock” came to be). This fire pit was essential for burning the brush and small trees that were removed from around the cabin. We felt a sense of security sitting around that fire pit at night with great fires burning. The fire pit will always be part of the history here. Our first project after clearing space around the cabin was building an outdoor kitchen on the deck to do our cooking. The interior of the cabin had not yet been finished with any kind of sealer, so we didn’t want to saturate the bare wood interior with odors or smoke. We used a table and a Coleman stove for a couple of weeks until a friend brought us some laminated counter top and my partner built a nice cabinet to set an LP stove on that we obtained from a friend who moved and left it behind along with a futon bed, a small dining table and a cabinet we used for dry goods. We used the outdoor kitchen until well into December when it got too cold outside to cook the food in a timely manner.

The next project was  building a wooden walkway in front of the cabin from an old deck project that was also donated. This required quite a bit of effort since we had to tear the deck apart to transport it to the cabin. Then we had to ready the ground and cut and custom build the new walkway from the old decking. Then we started a little interior work by building some counter tops inside the cabin. Next, my partner pre-built what was to become our privy/shower combo in his work shop, I painted the inside bright white, then we took it apart and hauled it to the cabin. We did obtain a permit for the privy for our township which was pretty simple to do.  Then my partner and his son dug the hole for the privy and the entire building was reassembled on site. We used clear, hard plastic roofing material for the center of the roof to allow as much light to enter as possible and more of the reclaimed decking became the floor which allowed water from the shower to pass through it and soak into the ground. The shower itself was a 5 gallon bucket with a submersible pump. It worked okay, but heating the water on the stove was time consuming and expensive, especially if we had more than one or two people showering. We later found a camp shower on a clearance shelf in one of the box stores. It hooks up to an LP tank and the water circulates through a heating unit by way of a small pump and you get an adequate amount of spray for a shower. Five gallons is enough for 2 people to shower easily. This works great!

I decided to use some of the rocks we had found for a landscaping project along the walkway in front of the cabin. So, I rolled many of the leftover rocks from the the fire pit project to the areas on either side of the walkway and built flower beds. I transplanted many ferns and native plants from around the property and my mother gave us numerous hosta plants from her backyard. It looked great but it was really difficult to keep things growing with a limited water supply. I would wait until it was time to pack up and leave and then use the remaining water to nourish the transplants. Some survived, some did not. This landscape effort has since expanded to several areas of the compound and as more rocks are discovered, so are new flower beds sowed.

So, as the weeks passed, we tried to accomplish at least one project every weekend, sometimes spilling into the next weekend. I worked on the interior of our cabin a little bit at time. Prepping and polying the walls and ceiling one section at a time. I would work on this project Sunday afternoon before we were to return to the city. By the time we returned the next week the smell of the polyurethane would have subsided enough to where we could sleep inside without being overwhelmed by fumes. This project took about 6 weeks to complete. I ended up with putting 2 full coats on the interior walls and it has just the right amount of classic cabin glow when the oil lamps are lit at night. Beautiful, just beautiful. 

So, as the first couple of years rolled by, we spent every weekend there, including through the winter, making our dream a reality. We didn’t have much expendable cash, but we did what we could with what we had and what we could afford. At times it seemed so slow, but we tried to keep it all in perspective and learned how to be patient.

It was each of our dreams, even before we met, to have a place in the woods to call our own. Here we are closer to living our dream with each passing day, moving forward as time and money allows, but always keeping the thought in mind that we may just run out of time before our journey is complete. We are not as young or strong as we once were, but we are willful and persistent.

Many things have changed since those first couple of years. We have made many more improvements and I have a lot more chapters to write. As you follow our adventures at the Rollin’ Rock you too may begin to understand that you don’t need it all to have it all.

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A New Journey

Skinner Lodge is a journey into our retirement years. We’re not there yet, but this journey started in 2006 when my soon to be husband and I set goals for our future. At first it was just going to be a place to get away. A place for family and friends to visit and relax. Then as the recession hit us, I was close to losing my home and his business which was based on state contracts were drying up fast. Reality was setting in. Here we were in our mid-life years, we had just found each each other and our worlds were falling apart. We decided that if we pooled our resources, minimized to the bare necessities and learned to become much more self-sufficient we could develop a rich and meaningful new lifestyle.

10 acres with cabin. Close to state land. Land contract terms.

10 acres with cabin. Close to state land. Land contract terms.

A 12X24 cabin in northern Michigan on 10 acres. The advertisement shouted, “Land Contract, Low Down Payment”. I’m intrigued. “Let’s look” I say. “No, too small, not what I’m looking for”, he replies. The picture looked like a shed dropped in a bulldozed clearing along a road somewhere. We had seen it many times over several months advertised in realty magazines, but my partner just wasn’t interested. It wasn’t until we spent a day at a “Home and Garden” show and visited a vendor who was a realtor and pulled us in to chat. He had goodies to offer as they usually do at these shows. “How about a pencil, or a pad to take notes.” We explained that we had casually been looking for a place and of course, he had a listing he wanted to show us. Low and behold it was the small cabin we had seen. He explained the details and directed us to check out 2 cabins located on a split 20 acre parcel. We didn’t act on this information immediately because my partner already knew he didn’t like it. We waited a few weeks before we went to look. Money was tight, but we decided to make the journey that would take us 2 hours northward. When we got there the agent was showing one of the cabins to another couple and directed us to check out the one on the next parcel over. So we walked through the woods about an acre or so to the east. It was a brand new, “amish” built cabin. It had been empty and on the market for well over 18 months. It was small, without a well, septic or electricity. We walked around and I fell in love immediately. My partner wasn’t so sure. He was not too familiar with the area and preferred “flatter” ground. This terrain was rolling, not much flat land here. I had lots of ideas how we could make it work. He was skeptical, he’s always skeptical. He had to analyze everything, take measurements, walk the property. Take more measurements, scratch his head, make mental notes and drive me crazy (that has become his job). So, we walked and talked and came back another time. We talked some more and he brought his son back to see it, and we talked and started to put some money together. We then finally contacted the agent and started the purchasing process. I was elated. He was concerned. We finally closed on the property in June of 2007.  And so the journey  began. Skinner Lodge was purchased and The Rollin’ Rock was born.


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