So many of us have a dream cabin in the woods envisioned in our minds—I do, too. Most of us never do get to realize it, but it can still be fun to dream. Actually, as I write this, I seem to be nearing the realization of my dream, and so I picked up the Kindle version of How to Build Your Dream Cabin in the Woods to learn more.
There is much to learn. This is not the first such book I've read, but it would be a great choice as an introduction to learning about log cabins. J. Wayne Fears writes in a manner that is easy to follow and understood by anyone, not just someone practiced in construction. But then, the book isn't really about the actual construction (a glossary does list log cabin builders and kits). It is more of an introduction to the dream, familiarizing the reader with all the considerations to be made going into such a project.
Not least among such considerations, the author notes, is thinking through if one truly appreciates a life of solitude and seclusion. Log cabins tend to be built in secluded areas of wilderness, and that does not mean a life of convenience transported from the suburbs. He suggests trying out such a lifestyle if even for a short vacation, to be sure that one is comfortable with it. There are trade-offs to be made, but the benefits can be tremendous. He recounts the story of a couple who longed for a log home in the woods, built one, moved in, only to find they couldn't bear the disconnect from the life of convenience and social connection to which they were accustomed.
Fears also makes it clear that this book is not about log homes. It is about log cabins. Anyone who has started to even scratch at the surface of learning about log cabins knows that it is difficult to find anything about actual cabins, that is, 1,000 square feet and less. Paging through contemporary magazines about log homes, one finds log McMansions, not cabins.
If, however, one does want a cabin, and a true wilderness lifestyle, Fears goes over many important considerations. He writes about choosing a good site and how to go about buying it, what inspections to get first. He writes about different kinds of building materials, pros and cons, from logs to roofing materials. He writes about the benefits of wood stoves over fireplaces, and encourages not installing electricity at all, but gives advice if one does want to plug in from time to time.
And more: how to split wood, how to install good lighting and not cause cabin fires, how to create a shooting range that is safe. He also writes about how to have a good water system, but once again, staying with the wilderness experience, he leans toward the outhouse, explaining how to keep it relatively maintenance free and always clean with a few simple moves. Composting toilets got their coverage, too. The author even covers cabin cooking, more times than not done outdoors on a fire ring, and he includes plans for building the perfect bench by the fire. Not to be missed are rules for visitors and preventing vandalism when you are back in the city.
Photographs are beautiful and helpful, often showing cabins the author himself has built, and quite a few simple blueprints are included, mostly for cabins 400 to 800 square feet in size. Links are embedded in the text, especially convenient in a Kindle version, and I followed up on several of them, learning even more.
Smart, clearly written, sensible—this is a book to take the dream into reality. Enjoy.
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About the reviewer
Zinta Aistars (ZintaAistars)
I am the creative director, writer and editor at Z Word, LLC, and correspondent for southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate station, where I do on-air author interviews.
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