Thursday, November 08, 2012

A Mysterious Animal

One of the most mysterious animals we see near our cabin is the Marten and its cousin, the Fisher. the Marten sometimes called a Pine Marten, is a house cat sized creature that is brown with dark legs and tail and a light-colored head and a white patch on the throat and face, in the winter.

 The Marten has glossy hairs and s silky under fur much liked by furriers that make coats, hats,and detailing for winter coats The fur is valuable and the marten has been trapped in the past for the fur.

The martens were somewhat abundant in the early twentieth century, but disappeared. Recently the animal has made a come back.

The fisher is related to the marten and is larger,. The fisher may weigh up to 15 pounds and is dark brown in color.

The martens seem to like the middle-aged forrest with underbrush that have prey of mice, rabbits, grouse and squirrels as they can run up and down the trees as fast as the squirrels.

The marten lives in hollow logs or cavities in trees. They also have been found in brush piles. The females have their young in the spring time, uaually two or three young.

The local DNR studies these creatures to find out their diets, den locations, survival rates, their young and to learn about their habitat. Seeing a marten or a fisher in the woods is unusual,and if one is seen, one should feel lucky.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Timber Wolves

Timber wolves are wild animals that look like a large dog. They have a long bushy tail and can be identified by their tail. They have longer legs, longer feet, wider head and shorter ears that stand upright. The timber wolf weighs more than 100 pounds full grown. The male weighs more than the female.

The timber wolf is many times called a gray wolf because it's coat is medium to light gray. They are found in Canada, Alaska and in wilderness areas in the northern states, like northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin.

The timber wolf is smart, strong, quick and is a hunter of deer, moose, small animals and livestock. They work in wolf packs to kill the larger animals.

A wolf pack is a family group of wolves that live together, usually over a long period of time.

Several summers ago, my wife and I were walking down one of the many trails on the cabin property when a timber wolf was walking on the same trail towards us. The wolf was looking down and didn't see us approaching. He raised his head to see us.

I thought the wolf was a neighbor's dog, but the neighbor's dog was black, so I thought it must be another neighbor's dog. The wolf reacted like a flash of lightening and disappeared into the woods in less than a second. It was only a quick flash of his bushy tail that identified him as a timber wolf.

The timber wolf has an innate fear of humans and they try to avoid people.

There is a feeling by our citizens that we may have too many wolves or not enough. This debate is ongoing. All the wolves need is a place where there's enough prey and where people won't kill them.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Closing Up The Cabin For Winter

I covered the basic steps in closing a cabin and winterizing the water lines in previous posts.

The following is a master checklist we use to close the cabin for the winter or long stretches during winter. 

The main item to consider is the removing water from the piping, traps, pressure tank, hot water tank, and toilets.  The removal of the water is necessary. As water freezes, it expands and when water is contained, the pipes, traps, tank and toilets may break or leak. Hiring a plumber to fix these items can be expensive.

Consider these steps:
1. Turn off the electrical power to any submurgeable pump and electrical hot water heater. (Natural or propane gas water heaters should be turned off).

2. Turn off the water valve entering into the cabin. This may be a curb stop valve that is in the waterline and below the frost line on the exterior of the cabin.

3. Open all faucets (kitchen, vanities, tub, toilet and any outside hose bibb). Drain the hose at the kitchen sink.

4. Open the valves for the hot water heater and pressure tank. (A Pressure tank is used when a submurgeable pump is used to bring water from an underground aquifer).

5. Open the cold water and hot water valves in the basement or crawl space and let the water run into the basement or crawl space drains. (This is based on the water lines that slope toward water line valves. If the water lines do not slope toward the waterline valves, the lines will be required to be blown with pressurized air to push the water toward the valves.

6. Close the water valve that services to the toilet tank. Flush the toilet to drain the toilet water tank. Sponge the toilet tank and stool dry. Pour one cup of RV anti-freeze into the kitchen, vanity, tub drains, and any other drains. Use 2 cups in the toilet drain as the trap is larger than the other traps. Also place anti-freeze in the toilet tank. The anti-freeze will keep the drain trap water from freezing solid.

7. Turn off all electric and gas heaters. Unplug the refrigerator, toaster, coffee maker, T.V., radios and any other electrical appliance. The main power to the cabin may be turned off or left on, as an optional choice.

8. Turn on any security systems. These may be connected to the main power source. If so, leave the main power on. The power company will charge you for the electrical power that is used, but it is usually a minimum charge and will be worth your expense.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Plumbing, Ventilation, and Electrical Systems

One of the important features of a log home is the mechanical and electrical systems.

The crawl space below the main floor provides space for pipes, electrical, hot water heater and water storage tank. It is important to keep the depth of the crawl space at least 2'6" (between the bottom side of the floor to the floor of the crawl space). This space makes the workmen's job as easy as possible. More depth may be required for the hot water heater and water storage tank.

The water pipes carry fresh hot and cold water from the water storage tank to the sinks, bath tub, toilet fixtures and the outside faucet. Other pipes carry waste water to the septic tank and leaching field.

The electrical wires are usually placed in the bored vertical and horizontal holes in the exterior logs. The switch and outlet boxes are recessed into the logs. The electrican places these recessed boxes per the local electrical codes.

In the interior partitions, usually framed with wood studs and covered by gypsum board or tongue and groove wood panels, the electrical wires and piping can run between the main floor and the second or loft floor It is best to avoid pipes and duct in the exterior log walls. On the second or loft floor, the pipes, wires, and possible ducts are more difficult to hide. One possible solution is to build a double floor; that is, to build a shallow conventional floor system over the log shaped ceiling joists and wood deck. This provides space to run piping and wire to the main floor ceiling lights and any second floor sinks and toilets. Ducts may also use this space.

If sinks, toilets and ducts are not used on the second floor, the electrical wiring may use a single floor system, using wire chases top routed into the single wood board placed below the main tongue and groove second floor wood deck.

A double floor system on the second floor may also be used to reduce noise between the main and second floor rooms. Of course, this may add expense to the second floor system.

Of course, these mechanical and electrical systems are suggested guidelines. As log cabins vary greatly in design, they may require other solutions.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Log Cabin Fireplace

From the very beginning, log cabins in America, were built with fireplaces/chimneys. Most early chimneys were built of stone or brick.

Later, log cabins were constructed with metal stack chimneys to accommodate wood burning metal stoves.

Today, chimneys are built on inside or outside walls of the cabin and are stone. The stone fireplace/chimney is a major architectural feature of the cabin, giving the cabin a rustic look which appeals to our emotions.

Many fireplaces/chimneys are built of native small, medium and large flat faced rock, mortared together. These stone chimneys are large and are great works of art establishing a strong sense of substance and scale. The stones are natural color, usually from river rock.

Other stone chimneys are cut to form small or medium size rectangular pieces giving an ashlar style look to the fireplace/chimney.

The stone of the fireplace/chimney is extended to the facing on the foundation walls, piers, retaining walls and, at times, to porch/patio details and plant edging. The stone gives unity to the architectural look of the cabin and landscaping.

A local stone supplier has an interesting variety of stone that is manufactured from natural ingredients; that is, lightweight aggregate, portland cement and iron oxide pigments. The stone is a cast element into many rock shapes. The backside is flat and the front side looks and feels like stone.

Thickness ranges from one inch to three inches, depending on the style of stone to be used. The stone is applied similar to a veneer to a sheathing, concrete or concrete masonry unit back up. The sheathing must be covered with a moisture barrier to protect the sheathing from any possible moisture that may get into the wood sheathing. The concrete or concrete masonry units need no moisture barrier.

A mortar scratch coat is applied over metal lath when sheathing is used as a backup. The mortar scratch coat is applied directly to the concrete or concrete masonry units when they are used as a backup. The veneer stone is then applied directly to the mortar scratch coat using mortar joints between the individual stone pieces.

The types of stone facing are varied, from uncoursed fieldstone (rough or ordinary), coursed rubble, squared-stone masonry, random ashlar (interrupted coursing) or range ashlar (coursed). The look and feel of natural stone are best color- blended together during installation to achieve the desired results.

A beautiful stone fireplace establishes a strong sense of substance and scale for the cabin.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Building With Logs

Whether the log cabin or home is being built with cedar, larch, pine or oak logs, the structural strength of the proposed log specie may be in question. Of course, certain portions of a tree can be used as structural members in building a cabin. Good rules of thumb have been used in the past by experienced log home builders.

At present, a new building code is being used to provide answers to the question of structural strength. That new code is the International Building Code, 2006. (IBC). This code may or may not apply to certain counties or states as the IBC must be adopted by the local building authority.

The IBC requires inspection by a certain grading agency or a structural engineer of record to estimate the structural strength of the log and the suitability of logs for structural application. This is covered in the IBC, section 2303.1.10.

The grading agency establishes the criteria to guide the strength reducing log characteristics such as holes, splits, checks, and knots allowed for the proposed log specie. The grading agency determines the stress grades and, in turn, derives the strength values.
Of course, the grading strength values are important. Other issues are to be considered; such as connections of round or non-standard shapes because they are custom made and are used without experimental testing information.

The International Building Code (IBC) is not available to all log home builders, as the locale that the builder builds in may not have adopted the IBC.

The best approach to using logs in constructing a log cabin or home is to use the expertise of any experienced log home builder. An alternative would be to obtain the expertise of a licensed Structural Engineer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Memories of a Great Woodsman

Once in a life time you meet a great woodsman and story teller. My father met one. They were contemporaries that probably met in their younger days. The times were in the late 1920's or early 1930's, hard times for many. My grandfather owned an old log cabin and a large acreage of wooded land.

My father (on the right in the photo) was one of the lucky employed and his friend (left) was unemployed. We call my dad's friend 'Buck'. 'Buck'was an excellent trapper at the time. My father asked 'Buck' if he would like to go up to the old cabin to continue trapping and to use it as long as he wanted. 'Buck' knew that trapping would be good, so he took up my father's proposal. The old log cabin was primative as it had no well water and only an outhouse. The heating was an old oil drum stove and needed a constant wood source. That kind of cabin living appealed to 'Buck', so he felt at home.

At that time, the timberwolf population was large and growing. The state had a bounty on the wolves so as to control the wolf population.

'Buck' took up trapping timberwolves and other fur bearing animals such as mink, beaver and ermine. Trapping was 'Buck's' main source of income. He trapped out of my grandfather's cabin for a number of years, probably up to World War II.

I met 'Buck' when my father and I visited the old log cabin 'Buck' and his friend now lived in a rented farm house not far from the old log cabin. The farm house had well water and better toilet facilities. My father and 'Buck' would sit for hours telling trapping, hunting, fishing and outdoor stories. I sat back and only listened, being only 10 years old. The stories were more interesting than anything I ever read.

My father and 'Buck' planned many fishing and hunting trips during these visits, and I was included on these trips. We had a 12' fishing boat and an outboard 2- 1/2 horsepower motor with the usual fishing gear.

One fishing trip I remember was a two week trip to a remote great fishing lake in Canada. Many walleyes were taken and again the stories told around the canp fire were wonderous. My father caught a 32 pound lake trout, the largest of the trip.

'Buck' was a true outdoors man. Others say he was one of the best trappers in the state of Minnesota. 'Buck' was also a great story teller as he experienced and lived these great stories of the outdoors. If he had written a book, it would be a great best seller.
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