Monday, March 30, 2009


Some women prefer men with dark hair and foreboding looks; some women prefer rippling muscles or sartorial splendor. Me? Give me a man bearing hot, freshly made maple syrup.

We (by which I mean Bob) were up at The Lake on Saturday boiling down the copious amount of sap the trees so graciously donated to our breakfast table. I'm tending to a whining Baby M and here comes The Husband with tiny glass in hand, bringing me a taste of the first run. Now, I wouldn't say that I'm a bad mother, but a girl's gotta have her priorities. Baby M? Who? Helloooo golden goodness! Maple Syrup is good any time of year, but minutes out of the evaporator, seconds out of the strainer? Less than 24 hours out of the tree itself? Mmmmmmm....... I'm going to need a minute here.

If you haven't witnessed or participated in the making of maple syrup, head on over to Cedar's Adirondack View for some good pictures of the process.

Friday, March 27, 2009

From dump to dum-dah-dummmm!

So how does one just decide to build a log home from scratch? Ah, yes. The burning question of our age. The early settlers from Vermont who trekked through the North Country clearing land and building a life in the wilderness built their homes from log out of necessity. (No Home Depot.) We, however, apparently grew so allergic to Suburbia that we went off the deep end of rural living. Actually, The Husband simply got Log Fever.

You don't hear much about Log Fever in the news. It is a growing public health threat and I'm beginning a campaign with a walk to raise awareness and a brown ribbon for your car bumper. Our cute animated mascot for the TV public service announcements is a beaver.

But I digress. When we moved back to the North Country nigh unto five years ago, The Husband joined his father in business. Part of the business includes log rental cabins on The Lake. These cabins were built in the 1930s and were one-room affairs with wood stoves. Cute, homey, tiny. When my FIL took over the business from his Uncle in 1969, he also inherited these cabins. Over the years, three of the cabins had been expanded and renovated. The Uncle lives in one of the cabins, hermit-like. And then there was Cabin Three.

Somewhere along the way, Cabin 3 fell into disrepair. (She says with ironically arched eyebrow). It actually had a TREE growing on its roof. The Husband, fresh from the world of avionics, eager to dive into the world of manual labor, bullied, cajoled, convinced his father to save Cabin 3, rather than tear it down. He studied log-building techniques, researched how to replace a single rotten log in an existing wall, how to join a 'stick' addition to a log structure.... He read websites, talked to company reps, grilled friends and relatives who had lived in and built with log, and walked around with log books for months. And little by little, he succumbed. I'm afraid there's nothing we can do for him now. Bob has got the Log Fever, and it's a pretty bad case.

Cabin 3 now looks like this:
At one point during the renovation and expansion of Cabin 3, Bob turned to me and said, "Honey, I done got the Log Fever, and I'm gonna build us a log house."

Well, maybe not really like that. But now I've got a log house....ish.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Whence Cometh Log Builder Bob?

I'll admit it -- I'm on Facebook. I am one of those people over 25 'ruining it' for the youngsters. The Husband dismisses social networking sites with a grumpy 'bah!' and wave of the hand. But me? .... well..... I'll just say it: I'm prurient. I like the ability to reconnect with folks I haven't seen or heard from in years, without the pressure of re-establishing a meaningful relationship when there might not be much left in common except the shared past. I like knowing how everyone from high school turned out, without the awkward banter over cocktails at a reunion. There are also some people with whom I have been trying to reconnect for years, and I'm elated at the prospect of reigniting a friendship.

You can imagine that people just popping back into my life after 10 or 15 years are somewhat surprised at the whole Log Home From Scratch thing. I'm surprised at times! Because the Husband and I were high school sweethearts (cue the 'awwww'), lots of folks reappearing from my past also ask about him. Some have trouble making the leap from School Friend Bob to Log Builder Bob. It's understandable.

How could such a sweet little boy become a log building machine? I'm glad you asked.

Stay tuned next time for a tutorial in 'How to Fall in Love with Logs, or, Be Careful What Projects You Start.'

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mapley Goodness

What better time to extol the sweet deliciousness that is Maple Syrup, than on a pancake Saturday? The Husband made breakfast this morning, including pancakes topped with homemade maple syrup. We live in a pancake syrup-free zone. Don't bother bringing by your maple-flavored corn syrup, Mrs. Butterworth. It'll go right down the drain. And if you don't know the difference between the two, stop right here.

I don't even want your blog business. The rest of you, please continue.

I grew up in central NY farm country, blissfully unaware that you could even BUY maple syrup in the store, let alone the dastardly impostors. We bought syrup by the quart and gallon from our neighbors. Now The Husband and his father make their own syrup. They tap a small sugarbush at The Lake and sit around the evaporator chatting and minding the sap as it bubbles and boils.

One of my earliest memories of Bob's family features maple syrup. There are very few things in life that my good-natured father-in-law gets exercised about. Wasting maple syrup is on the top of that short list. So, when I was about 16 yrs old it happened that I was eating a waffle at Bob's house and left a pool of syrup on my plate when I was done. Suddenly a shout rent the air:

"What is THAT?!"

It took me a second to recover from the shock and figure out to what he was referring. My future father-in-law, of course, thought I was unaware of (or indifferent to) the toil that goes into making real maple syrup. In reality, syrup had been so abundant in my youth, that I did not make use of every drop. But, I have been careful to ration only the needed amount in the ensuing years, and the FIL and I have had no disagreements since.

Bob's sister in Dee-Cee serves her 14 (or four) children flavored corn syrup and reserves the good stuff for the adults. I think this is a form of child abuse. What about you? Will you 'fess up to putting hard-working farmers and other honest country folk out of business by padding the corporate pockets of Aunt Jemima? Or that other brand that defiles the holy name of Log? It's confession time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tap Tap Tappity Tap Tap

As we in the North Country i-n-c-h toward Spring, knowing full well that it won't really arrive until the beginning of May, it's still hard not to get that flutter of anticipation when the temp rises about freezing and the eaves drip. Take today, for example. It's a good 40 degrees (F) and everything's wet. Muddy. Pools of water on top of sheets of ice in some places. Icky. And yet....

Although the snow and ice inside the log house are melted and gone, there's no point in starting in on a new phase of the house build, when the temp tomorrow could be 15 degrees and the snow could pile up again. Such is mud season up here. The weather, so reliable in winter, suddenly freaks out like a teenager and can't make up its mind whether to join the chess club or the football team. (Yes, I know that's a strange metaphor, but I substituted at the high school on Monday and I'm still amazed that I'm so old that I view the students there as aliens.) ANYWAY, the Husband's attention has turned from brooding on the unfinished house to thoughts of sap. With the days up above freezing and the nights still dipping down, it's time to tap the maple trees. Can't do it too soon, though, and if you tap too late, you'll miss the first run. Tap? Tap-me-not. Tap? Tap-me-not. Hmmmmm.....

While we wait for the sap to start running at The Lake, I thought I'd entertain with a few more random pix of Bob and the House Build.

Bob atop corner of house, summer 2008

Looking up through the floor joists of the second floor, summer 2008.
(Now THAT'S a cathedral ceiling!)

Bob, atop wall Fall 2008

Bob and Jim securing bracing board December 2008

Bob looking out on the snowy world, January 2009.


Join us next time when I wax eloquent on the sweet goodness that is Maple Syrup.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Betcha it doesn't snow in YOUR living room

I realized the other day that I have only posted pictures of the exterior of the log house we're building. Granted, there's not much inside yet, except for the snow and ice that accumulated before the roof went on. Still, I thought I'd share a bit of what the interior of our home is like now... if only for comparison's sake later.

Looking in through back door before roof trusses were covered with sub-roof.
Johnny and Dad working. Yes, that's snow INSIDE the house.

Bob holding Baby M. He's standing in our dining room. If you squint and tilt your head to the side, you can imagine away the construction equipment and snow and picture the first Thanksgiving dinner I'll serve in that room. Mmmm.... smell that turkey!

One more for good measure.
When we were at The Lake last week stealing old pictures and stoking the woodstove for my MIL, we tromped through the white stuff to make a pilgrimage to our slumbering house. We had experienced one of many teasing pre-spring thaws during the week before, but all the snowmelt had refrozen on the floor of the house, creating a giant indoor skating rink. Here's Baby M's experience walking on ice:
She has her mother's grace.
Stay tuned for more of the exciting saga 'Logs of our Lives' and don't forget to place your bets on when the sap will start running at The Lake.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Childish Boasting

When The Husband and I were dating -- did I mention we were high school sweethearts? -- lo these many years ago, I LOVED to go to his parents' house. They live at The Lake. Then, when we were were married but living Away, I especially valued our trips home to visit his family. At night, especially in the winter, it is silent. Silent. The stars pop out and peace seeps in to my every pore. In the summer, the trees are all in leaf and the woods crowd around their house. I'm not actually big on swimming, and I can't handle a boat bigger than a canoe, but I love The Lake.

And now, I'm going to live at The Lake. The stars will pop out above MY house. The woods will crowd around MY house. I'll be able to soak up the silence from outside my own house. We'll be near neighbors with my in-laws (whom I love dearly). We'll take a boat ride or a snowmobile ride any time we want. We'll walk in the woods just by leaving our back door.

Jealous? Good. I feel like some childish boasting. I've been feeling sorry for myself lately and there's nothing to lift the spirits like indulging, nay, REVELING in all that is good in your life.

And here are some pictures to back up my shameless pride of place.

I've lived in and visited a lot of beautiful places. But home? I'll take the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

All caught up

My accelerated timeline, blogging about nearly four years of building a house in two months' time, has brought me to this auspicious moment: I'm all caught up. In describing these last few steps, I arrive at the house As It Is Now. Of course, The Husband says I should tell you all about the tools and machines that have been used, and has pointed out several steps which I glossed over that he thinks merit some in-depth description. So, I'll catch us up and then go back and fill in the details. Another day.

Where were we? Oh yes. Roof trusses, but no roof. Christmas and New Year's intervened and we found January 2009 upon us with no roof surface. So, over the course of a couple weeks, Bob enlisted Johnny, (Dad of course), and our friend Craig to help install the sub-roof.

January 3, 2009 Bob & Craig doing roof work

Craig returned from the Middle East several months ago, where he's been living and working for years. Let's take a moment to imagine how cold he is in this picture. He had just discovered, by the way, that the lid to his insulated coffee mug had frozen shut. With his hot coffee inside.

The roof is now on (sans shingles), and the house, which once looked like a couple of stacked logs, now looks like this:

Little G & Baby M, February 28, 2009
That's right -- the snow is ON the roof of the house, and no longer falling INSIDE the house. A bit drafty still, to be sure, but we're getting there!
Join us next time for some artsy-fartsy pics gloating about the beauty of The Lake.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Only lacking a fiddler (on the....)

Continuing where I left off, with nearly a whole house, but quite drafty and drifting with snow...

We didn't quiiiite make our self-imposed deadline of getting the roof on before snowfall. Which, although certainly not prohibitive, does make building a bit trickier if you have to SHOVEL OUT YOUR HOUSE before buckling down to work. Still, our intrepid hero soldiered on and worked around the drifts to put a roof on the house during December 2008 and January 2009. He discovered that a friend of a friend owns a truss company (I love the networking aspect of small towns!) and while eager to buy locally when possible, Bob was also pleasantly surprised at the price, service and adaptability of the company. Witnessing the trusses being installed was exciting. And, while I trust The Husband's judgement and skill, I can't help but feel a bit of wifely anxiety when watching this: Especially when I went inside the house, only to discover what was going on up close:

That's Bob on a ladder on the makeshift second floor of the house, securing the first roof truss. It's so cold out that I had to stop taking pictures after awhile because I couldn't feel my fingers. And I had gloves on. Oh -- and did I mention that there was snow and ice everywhere inside the house?
No one died in the making of this roof, fortunately. And, after two days of assistance from Johnny, Chris, Bob's dad Jim, and the boom truck guy, the house looked like this:

December 17, 2008
Looks like a house, eh?
Join us next time, when snow stops accumulating in our house.