Initial Survey of Cabin in the Maine Woods
“We are aware that old building have an appeal for people……but that is no reason for accepting and refurbishing old buildings that, no matter how patched, repaired and rebuilt, are still old buildings, even if the shingles and paint are new.”– Continuing The Good Life by Scott and Helen Nearing
The door to the roughly cut plank board cabin hung ominously open in the depths of the Maine woods. After a decade of nearly undisturbed slumber, myself, Chaya, her father, uncle, and a random lumberjack were entering its breaking its long cherished privacy. At seeing that the lock had been busted off and the door left hanging open by someone at some time, we could only expect the worst.
The lumberjack was visibly nervous about opening the front door to the cabin any more than it was before our arrival, and Chaya and I stood back f0r potential cover.
“You may want to be careful, you don’t know what could jump out of there,” the lumberjack, who had been cutting woods in the Maine forests since the time he was born, warned Chaya’s uncle multiple times in succession.
But the uncle was undaunted, as he was one of the men who built the cabin with his bare hands thirty years back into his youth. He strode up to the cabin door, bounced a little on the low laying porch that was in bad need of repair, and flung the door wide open to face what laid within.
Chaya and I cringed, the lumberjack stumbled back: we took it for granted that some thing was going to jump out and get us.
Chaya’s uncle and father strode right inside without any hesitation. This was their home after all.
Chaya and I had high hopes of again creating this forgotten refuge into a place where we could live out a modest turn of our Call of the Wild like fantasies. This grand moment of entry would plainly reveal if our plans would fall fallow or if there was a bleak chance of success. We were standing on a bridge of big anticipation that we knew could crumble beneath us at any moment: if the structure of the cabin was waterlogged and rotted out, our hermit dreams for this summer would be dashed to wayside.
Chaya’s uncle and dad were now inside the cabin’s entrance, and we did not yet hear screams, yells, or wails of putrid disgust.
I cracked open my cinched shut eyelids for a brief peak inside . . .
And a beautifully preserved work of art stood bold, solid and stable in front of me. The harsh lessons of more than 30 north country winters could not touch the interior of this obviously well built home. My jaw hung loosed in its hinges: the cabin was so well preserved that we could have virtually moved right in on this day.
Chaya’s father and uncle discussing the details of a lumber deal with a Maine wood cutter — they are allowing the 50 acres of woodland that the cabin sits on to be thinned, which should not impact the project very much
Coming to this cabin with Chaya was long anticipated: we had been talking about living out in these Maine woods for many years. NOW — we were there. The long running babble of empty words were not overflowing with substance, our plans had come to fruition. It was immediately clear that we really would be able to reinhabit this cabin and live out our hermit dreams in the Maine woods.
An inarticulate, “wow,” was about the only thing that I could mutter . . . and I did so repeatedly.
Chaya and I walked into the cabin clutching each other’s hands, for we knew that we were entering our new home: the first home that our small family would know.
The day was warm, the sun was shinning, we were standing in The Cabin — looking around and feeling fine. I looked out the unshattered wall of windows that made up the bulk of the structure’s south wall at the beautiful day that laid outside. I then knew that this project had a real possibility of success. We could fix up this cabin and live in the woods.
My eyes that were once in fearful anticipation of finding mildew, rot, and animal extracted filth within the innards of the cabin were now wide open, peering across a large rectangular room that was not nearly as destroyed as it should have been. I looked everywhere for signs of terminal destruction, and could find none: the roof did not leak a single puddle, the support beams were not rotten, the floor was not a death trap, and the two lofts that made up the sleeping areas were still in peak condition. My mouth hung open in exasperation: I could not have expected ANYTHING to have lasted so many decades in the Maine woods and to have held out such style.
Even the books in the library seemed to have been untouched for decades. I was standing in a time capsule. I looked over the library to find the works of Castenada and London — just what I would have expected.
Plan map of cabin in Maine woods
Though the main structure of the cabin was in a surprisingly livable condition, there still remained many tasks ahead of Chaya and I to warrant our mission a project.
The to do list for the Maine woods project
1. Come up with a better name for the cabin so that I do not need to type out “Cabin in the Maine woods” an uncomfortably repetitive amount of times during this project.
- The floors were thick with dust and other animal and time remains.
- The kitchen area needed a really good cleaning — the old pots and pans need to be replaced, and all of the shelves washed out.
- The two lofts need A LOT of cleaning as they were near the locations of rodent/ bird/ bee nests and were covered it debris.
- The aforementioned rodent and bird nests also need to be dug out and removed from the rafters.
- There is a pantry under the kitchen side loft that really needs cleaned out.
- There is around 6 feet of porcupine poop completely filling what was once food storage hole that was dug down into the earth below the cabin (Chaya says the she wants to leave this mess for next year, as it is well covered and does not stink).
- Lots of misc cleaning.
Kitchen needs cleaning
Sleeping loft over library
Uncleaned sleeping loft
4. Remove any broken or otherwise unusable implements
- As could be expected, there were a good deal of things in the cabin that could no longer be used. There was a lot of tools, clothes, blankets etc . . . left over in the cabin. We need to sort out the good from the trash and remove anything that is broken or too disgusting and refurbish and clean what we could still use.
5. Rebuild front porch
- Some of the boards on the small front porch need to be replaced and the support structure needs repair.
6. Remove collapsed roof from the screen porch and rebuild entirely
- Largest project of this summer, the roof of the back porch had collapsed and needs to be removed and potentially rebuilt. The floorboards to this porch also need to be gutted out and replaced.
- Unessential to the functioning of the main cabin area, and, after the broken roof is removed, may be put off until the following season.
Collapsed screen porch — we may just clear away the debris and wait until next season to reconstruct
7. Clear back the woods around cabin
- Need to cut down the woods that have grown up around the back of the cabin to make a place where people can gather.
- Cut out saplings in front of cabin that are interfering with the passive heating/ cooling system.
Cabin in the woods — some of the saplings around the structure need to be cut away, as the passive cooling/ heating system needs full sunlight to work properly
8. Construct a space for a garden for next season
- The garden for this season will be shared with Chaya’s family in Bangor. We are not yet set up for having a garden this season at the cabin, though we will clear a large space for one for next season.
9. Make a better locking system for the front door
- More and better locks.
10. Make the water in the well drinkable
- There is an old well on the property that Chaya’s parents drank from. We need to treat it and clean it again.
11. Clear a space and make a pit for a camp fire
- A large camp fire pit is essential for any cabin in the woods that may collect visitors.
12. Repair road leading to cabin
- There is an old grown in and discontinued road that goes by the cabin that is currently impassible to any vehicles other than large trucks. Fixing this road would enable us to haul in large supplies and give us a little more privacy as we would be able to keep vehicles in proximity to the cabin. This will be a large task, though essential if we want to undertake activities that will require large loads of supplies.
13. Repair couch
- There is a ply board and log handmade couch near the main entrance to the cabin, which needs parts replaced and others repaired. It is not in all out disrepair, and it can be fixed without much difficulty.
The couch in the cabin had old rotten blankets and animal debris all over it, pieces of it also need to be replaced
14. Ensure that passive heating/ cooling system works properly
- The cabin was designed around the idea of natural heating and cooling methods, and many of the passive cooling vents are warped and hang open. I should try to at least get them to seal shut, if not function properly.
Wall of windows that are the primer for the passive heating/ cooling system
Notice the little rectangular latch in the bottom of this picture — this is a part of the cabin’s passive cooling system
15. Ensure that stoves and chimneys work properly
- There are two stoves in the cabin — one is for cooking and the other for heat. I need to ensure that the chimneys are not clogged and that everything functions properly.
Cooking stove that runs off either gas or wood
Wood heating stove
16. Tend to the outhouse
- Make sure that the outhouse is usable.
- Clean outhouse.
- Fix outhouse door.
- If outhouse in unusable come up with another means of waste disposal.
17. Revitalized the gas lighting system
- There are gas lines for lanterns around the walls of the cabin and the lanterns are still in place. I want to ensure that this system still functions, and if it does not, fix it. It would be good to have a lighting system, especially in October.
Gas tank connected to gas cooking/ lighting system
18. Inspect the roof before autumn
- There does not seem to be any major leaks in the cabin, but I would like to do a good inspection of the roof before the rains and snows of autumn set in.
Materials/ tools needed
- Machetes to clear saplings around cabin
- Ply board to replace the rotted one on the couch
- Sleeping matting — foam or blow up mattresses
- Good ax for splitting firewood
- Trash bags
- Large containers for transporting water until well can be cleaned
- Well cleaning chemicals
- Bucket for the well
- Borrow weedeater
- Mattress for couch
Note: We already have access to many of the tools and supplies that we need for this project through Chaya’s family, and many essential pieces of equipment were still stored inside the cabin.
Vagabond Journey Home in the Maine Woods Project
Home in the Maine Woods Project Index
Cabin in the Maine Woods Introduction
Cabin in the Maine Woods Initial inspection