Waitress Builds Log House Fortress

A gutsy homesteader builds her log house dream home for just $15 a square foot.

| April/May 2004

  • Green Building
    Dorothy in action. The ledger board clamped to the rafter ensures a clean hole when the drill bit breaks through the other side of the rafter.
    Photo by Dorothy Ainsworth
  • Fortress
    I just had to come up with a practical plan for my dream home on my waitress's frayed-shoestring budget. Vertical-log construction was the practical choice for a 125-pound woman with a strong back and a sturdy chain saw.
    Photo by Dorothy Ainsworth
  • Build Your Own Home
    The saddest day of my life: 6,000 hours of labor and $30,000 in materials go up in flames.
    Photo by Ashland Daily Tidings/Denise Barrata
  • Ashland Oregon
    Kirt Meyer carries an ""Oregon toothpick"" with relative ease. (Don't try this at home).
    Photo by Dorothy Ainsworth
  • Home Construction
    In winter, the living room is full of light and heat, thanks to large windows and a woodstove. Cotton duck curtains help insulate but let light filter through. Note the hanging-chain knee braces.
    Photo by Dorothy Ainsworth
  • Log House

    Photo courtesy Fotolia/Olga Labusova

  • Green Building
  • Fortress
  • Build Your Own Home
  • Ashland Oregon
  • Home Construction
  • Log House

I wanted a big log house. Nevermind that I had no building experience, no fat bank account and no helpmate. What I did have was a piece of land, an old pickup truck and a high threshold for pain.

My long-smoldering desire for a rustic home had ignited into passion when I turned 40 — "Ripeness is all," Shakespeare wrote. I moved to Ashland, Oregon, found an affordable piece of land and secured financing. With a federal loan, I bought 10 acres for $40,000 at 6.5 percent interest. The property had two outbuildings that I remodeled into storage and temporary living space. Now, I just had to come up with a practical plan for my dream home on my waitress's frayed-shoestring budget. Vertical-log construction was the practical choice for a 125-pound woman with a strong back and a sturdy chain saw.

With a pole permit from the U.S. Forest Service, logs were available for only 3 cents a foot, and I could get them just 20 miles away. Short logs would fit in my pickup; they would require minimal notching, so the walls would go up fast. Shrinkage in length is negligible, so settling wouldn't be a problem. Besides, Davy Crockett was my great-great-great-great uncle, and that's how he did it. Forts back then were erected in a day, stockade style. Why not now?

Cupid Comes to Oregon

Brimming with enthusiasm and newfound confidence, I forged ahead with tunnel vision. To the drawing board, in and out of the forest, and back and forth to work I went. Like a squirrel, preoccupied with survival and security, I was oblivious to anything but "acorns."



Until I met Kirt. Somewhere between doing sit-ups at the fitness center and serving two eggs over-greasy at the restaurant, I fell in love.

Kirt was quiet and good-natured, and had the most satisfying shoulders I'd ever seen — not to mention arms and legs like tree trunks. Hercules! He also had blonde curls, blue eyes, sparkling teeth and a dimple in his chin. (Excuse me while I faint.) Nevermind that he was half my age. We adored each other, and time stood still.

Charles Barnes_1
7/30/2008 5:48:53 PM

Hey Dorothy,great job, you do your ancestors proud. I've been restoring a vintage Missouri log cabin for over 3 years. I've never worked harder in my life and at the same time never enjoyed anything as much. I really feel people that are capable of this experience and sense of accomplishment are a very lucky group. Great story!







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