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.

About rollinrock01

Skinner Lodge is an off grid cabin located in a family compound called "The Rollin' Rock" located in beautiful central northern Michigan. Purchased in the spring of 2007, the Rollin' Rock is a work in progress and continues to develop on a weekly basis. We are currently developing our simply grown produce and homegoods business here called "Growin' North". We were pleased at our first years success at the local farmers market and are excited to grow and expand for the upcoming year.
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3 Responses to In The Beginning

  1. somemaid says:

    I am rather jealous of both your shower and the privy. When we first stayed at our place in France we had no toilet. Requiring carefully planned trips down the road to the public toilets.
    We survived with strip washing for a couple of years then hubby installed the bath. We found what can only be described as a cauldron at a car boot sale, a massive catering size cooking pot. This now sits on the fire and provides hot water for the bath. Best £6 we ever spent.
    You can get a surprizing amount done in small steps.


    • rollinrock01 says:

      Thanks for your comment Rosie.
      At first we had a privy of sorts but no bath. We tried to use a bath house at a camp ground but they wanted to charge an astronomical fee, so we made do, just as you did, strip washing. Our friend called it a bird bath. Now that we have made a shower room in half of the privy, it’s nice to take a hot one on demand. The big cauldron idea was one we were throwing around for a while also. We came upon an old place in the woods that a similar set up and it looked as though it could be quite feasible. Anyway, our next project is moving from the old standard privy to a humanure toilet to allow composting of the waste since there is no other sensible way to dispose of it. So I have done about as much research on the subject as I can find and we think this is going to be the best way to go. Most efficient composting toilets require electricity and we don’t want to waste any that we “make” on that. Anyway, enough of that. Thanks again to replying to my blog. I have tons of information to share, I just needed a push to get it started again.


  2. 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.

    Here by way of Hope you get it done. It was my partner’s and my dream for a long time, a cabin in the woods. We did live in a travel trailer for years, but the location wasn’t always the greatest. She’s no longer with me now, but the dream is still there.



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