Friday, February 23, 2007

Old Log Cabins

For your viewing pleasure. Some photos of old log cabins of friends, family and local folks.

Some of these cabins look virtually identical, but if you look closely you can see the differences. Most date from the mid 1800's to the early 1900's.

Please keep in mind that during the Great Depression it was common for people to make a living by trapping and living off the land.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Winter Preparations

We frequently visit our cabin during the winter months, so preparations for winter are fairly simple. We know there will be many days when the temperature drops below freezing and even below zero degrees, so precautions must be taken with anything that can freeze.

The first items to consider are the food items . We remove all canned and bottled goods as they will certainly freeze. Some dry goods, such as dry soup, flour, sugar, dry cereals, etc. can be stored in metal or glass containers to prevent any insects, mice, etc. from enjoying them. The covers should be tight fitting.

The blankets and bed linens are laundered and those which are not on the beds are stored in a large trunk or hard plastic boxes. (Once we had moths enjoy the flannel sheets and a cotton blanket.) It is too much work to put all the bedding and blankets away each time we leave, not to think of the work in making all the beds when we revisit the cabin.

As our main source of heat is the wood stove, we always fill the wood box and the log holder on the porch before we leave so that starting the fire will be easier. We also have a kerosene heater which we start as soon as we arrive as the indoor temperature is about the same as outside temperature. We need to be sure we have a good supply of kerosene available.

All the food is removed from the refrigerator. The refrigerator is turned off, disconnected and cleaned with the doors propped open to prevent mold and odor build- up. We have found that our refrigerator starts better if we first turn off the appliance and then unplug it.

Finally, as discussed in this link to a previous post, the water lines are drained and antifreeze added to the toilet, toilet tank, the sink drains, etc.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Ants Go Marching One By One

As soon as the hornets had been dealt with.....large ants started to appear on the exterior and interior log walls of the cabin. We captured a few of the ants and placed them in small glass containers and sent them to the University of Minnesota for exact identification.

The University Extension Entomologist indicated they were carpenter ants.

Carpenter ants are destructive and can eat up the wood of the log walls. They seem to find the little cracks and openings in the wall and create hidden holes and tunnels within the logs if the wood remains moist and especially if wood rot occurs. Carpenter ants can enter the cabin walls many ways.

At first, we noticed a few ants marching across logs and then found wood shavings, mostly in one particular corner. We realized we needed to be concerned about this issue.

Our first attempt was to apply a liquid insecticide on the inside and outside faces of the log walls. Next, we tried a powder dust especially formulated for carpenter bees and carpenter ants. We used these treatments every 3 to 4 weeks during the summers, less frequently during winter months.

When the log cabin needed a re-staining, we tried an insecticide in the log finish.

In spite of all the attempts to rid the cabin logs of ants, we had little success. One very hot summer we noticed an increase in the number of ants both inside and outside the cabin. As there are many rottings logs in the forest, we could not find their nests in the woods. To our amazement and amusement, we watched as the army of ants marched one by one back and forth across the sandy soil surrounding the cabin. Hundreds of ants were actively working that day.

Something further needed to be done!

We happened upon the cabin's original builder and told him of the carpenter ants. He suggested that I go to a particular small, local store and get a liquid concentrate there which is mixed especially for carpenter ants.

We stopped by the store and asked for the carpenter ant concentrate. The store clerk knew exactly what we wanted and poured a small amount of the mysterious concentrate into an old glass quart jar. The jar cover did not matched the jar. So, in an attempt to seal the improper cover to the jar, the store clerk placed some waxpaper over the opening of the jar before putting on the lid.

We were on our 3 hour return trip back to the city from the cabin when we purchased the concentrate. A number of miles down the road, we were overwhelmed by a strong, pungent odor coming from the back of our van. We guessed it was coming from the jar of concentrate with it's imperfect lid.

We stopped on a gravel road just off the highway. We couldn't drive all the way back to the city with the do we do eliminate the smell? We didn't have any other jars or containers in the van with a better closing lid.

After some discussion, we decided to place the jar of concentrate with it's faulty cover under a nearby small pine tree in the forest, about 20 feet from the edge of the back woods road. I placed a flat rock on top of the cover of the jar to hold the jar upright and keep an accidental bump from knocking the jar over. We decided we would plan on picking up the hidden jar on the way back to the cabin the next week end.

A week later we did go back to the cabin and stopped by the small pine tree in the woods to pick up the jar with the concentrate. It was still there! We put it into a new, larger plastic container with a tight cover and continued on our merry way up to the cabin odor free.

The concentrate was to be mixed with water in a 10 to 1 ratio. One ounce of concentrate and 10 ounces of water could be placed into our plastic spray container. We sprayed the mixture into the rock landscaping that surrounds the cabin, on the foundation, lower logs and the wood skirt board that was placed below the bottom wall log. This treatment appeared to be very effective.

Early this coming Spring we will spray this same insecticide to treat the cabin again. Here's hoping the march of the ants is a thing of the past.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Uninvited Guests

As soon as the cabin was finished, a number of uninvited guests arrived.

The ants, spiders, hornets, wasps, bees, deer flies and mosquitoes all showed their presence. Of course, the usual insects were there before us and we had to blend into their surroundings.

Summer is their season, but we can escape into the confines of the cabin interior. The screens are on the windows and a big fly swatter is nearby. We put sticky fly strips on the bottom of the high windows.

Everything seemed under control.

But, then the hornets showed up and built their nests at the soffits of the roof overhangs. They make their nests of hornet chewed plant fiber. The nests look paper-like. Every spring we expect a hornets' nest under one of the eaves of the cabin, garage, or wood shed.

The female hornet starts the nest and lays some eggs. The young become mature and become workers for the female hornet helping to build the nest larger, gather more food and have additional hornets. Soon, we had hundreds of hornets.

The hornets can be a needless pest and they can give painful stings to anyone who disturbs them. The stings are poisonous and can cause painful swelling. I have been stung several times by these critters.

I like to get rid of these uninvited guests by using "BLACK FLAG" spray that is made specifically to kill hornets or wasps on contact within their nest.

I dress head to foot with a long sleeved shirt , full length jeans and gloves and cap. I try to keep my neck and face covered as much as possible. At evening time, after sun set, when the hornets become least active, I give the hornet nest a good 2 to 4 second shot of the Black Flag. The spray coats the nest and saturates it, killing the whole nest and any hornets which return to the nest after the nest has been coated. This seems to control the hornet population for most of the season.

Other "uninvited" guests??? Yes!!! ......To be continued.
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