Building a Homestead: A Dream Come True

Life is grand for the Stevenson’s. They have a handmade log cabin, a barnyard full of animals and 10 forested acres.

| February/March 2006

Donkey Rides

Ronnie’s son, Casey, and her nieces enjoy taking rides in the donkey-drawn cart.


Seven years ago, my husband, Tom, and I were living in Merrill, Wis., with our children, Alyssa and Casey, when we decided to buy a piece of forested land. At that time, we were just looking for a place nearby where we could build a cabin and spend weekends, but we ended up with a year-round home. We now live on 10 beautiful acres in a log cabin that we built ourselves. We also keep animals, including donkeys and chickens. We love living a quiet life nestled in these huge timbers; the time for reflection suits us perfectly.

We found this place during a long search for just the right property. To decide if you want to buy a piece of land, you really have to walk across it, because you never know if the perfect building spot will be just over the next hill or on the other side of a swamp. The type of land we were looking for had to have enough trees to construct a log cabin.

Building a Homestead Cabin

Soon after we finally found and purchased our dream property, we started building the cabin. It took us two years to complete it — working mainly on weekends — and the finished result is about 600 square feet.

Tom had enough building experience to know exactly what needed to be done to build the cabin. Together, Tom, his brothers and some of our new neighbors selected and cut down about 60 aspen trees. Aspen wood starts out fairly soft, but after it is cut, it dries until it becomes brick hard. We peeled off the bark using old truck springs — the stripped trees smelled wonderful! After the wood had dried for a year, a friend brought over his portable sawmill and sawed the slabs off the logs on three sides. We later used some of the slabs to frame the windows inside the cabin.

Tom stacked the cut logs on the perimeter of the foundation — with a strip of foam insulation between each one — and drilled a spike down into the other logs to hold them together. We were able to save money by collecting used windows and doors for the cabin. Our roof is metal, which is wonderful when it rains — we can sit and listen to the patter of the raindrops.

Moving In

Our decision to live in the cabin year-round came about three years ago, when Tom had lost his job and we needed to quickly consider our future plans. Moving into the cabin seemed like the natural next step, and we feel very fortunate that everything worked out the way it did. Tom now works about 45 minutes away, and our son, Casey, goes to high school in nearby Phillips, Wis. Our daughter, Alyssa, is in college now and lives in Milwaukee.

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