Pictures of The Hermitage
An Extended History of the Creation of the Hermitage
Just about every boy that grew up in the 50’s with Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett dreamed of having a log cabin. In 1976 I decided to make that long held dream come to fruition, so I bought 10 acres and learned what I had to do to obtain the lodgepole pine from the Forest Service.
After numerous contacts, I was taken to a stand of lodgepoles by a Forest Ranger and we selected 150 standing trees. He selected trees that were either too close to other trees, had some “rust” (an evergreen leaf disease) in the canopy, or had forked into two trees. He then asked me if the tree was acceptable to me (straight enough and the right diameter), and if it was, then he recorded the size of the tree, and I spray painted two spots on the tree; one on the trunk of the tree, and the other on the base of the tree. The one on the tree trunk is to identify the tree as having been legally harvested after it leaves the woods, and the one on the base was to demonstrate to the Forest Rangers after the trees were removed that only selected trees were harvested. After we were done snaking the trees out of the forest, it looked as if no trees were harvested, so don’t feel as if the trees that make up the cabin resulted in a “clear-cut” operation, but rather we performed a “thinning” that was beneficial for the forest. The total cost for the trees was $30; which works out to be $0.20 a standing tree.
These trees came from Forest Service land above Luther, Montana, about 33 miles from the cabin. I believe that it took eleven round trips to bring the trees to the site. I then had to peel what turned out to be about ¾ of a mile of trees, finishing around 12 logs each weekend. I got them peeled, stacked, and catalogued, so I turned my attention to building the deck of the small “trappers” cabin down the hill so that I could learn how to lay logs, as I really didn’t have a clue. I carried the small diameter tops of the logs down to the site one at a time, and tried to figure out how to mark and notch the logs with two other “clueless” carpenters. After we ruined several logs, we finally got a handle on the technique, and the small cabin started to grow. I worked on my log setting skills until the snow flew, so I took a well deserved respite from my labors, and went skiing for the winter.
In the late spring of 1977 I was lucky to be laid off, so I had the entire summer to develop and work on my place. I had the road cut in and the building site excavated, so I got two friends and we formed and poured the footings and foundation walls. I then set the bottom logs and framed the floor. I was fortunate enough to have a friend who took me to a magnificent log mansion above Red Lodge where I was introduced to the “chink-less” method of fitting logs, so I decided that was another skill I had to master. I set logs every weekend and was able to lay 14 layers until the snow shut me down again, forcing me to go back to skiing for the winter.
The progress went slower in subsequent years since each log had to be raised higher and higher as the walls grew. Keep in mind that there are at least three scribings and fittings for each log, so lifting each log into position took quite a bit of time and effort. Also, I set all of the logs in the cabin virtually alone, weekend after weekend, the only help that I got was from friends who came up to visit and I had them help me carry the logs from the pile over to the cabin. After that, I was on my own.
As note of interest, I added the dormer off of the upstairs bedroom since I had all of these short large diameter logs that were left over, so I decided to create the dormer, which was really fortuitous since it substantially enlarges the bedroom.
A friend lent me the use of a small boom truck which proved very handy in setting the gable ends, the ridge poles, rafters, and the vertical post for the spiral staircase. After the roof framing was completed, I proceeded to sheet the roof with the tongue and groove 2 x 6’s, 2 inches of Styrofoam for insulation, ½” of plywood and then covered the roof with cedar shakes. The cabin then began to really look like a building, rather than an endless project.
In 1983, after my second knee operation, I took the entire summer off and installed the windows and got a really good start on electrifying the building. I also used an electric drill and cleaned the surface of all of the logs, both inside and outside, and I applied log oil to the exterior to keep the logs from graying again as a result of the sun and rain. The buffing of the logs took about three weeks to accomplish. I also designed and installed the window and door casing during that summer.
A mason friend of mine knew where to go to pick moss rock, so one weekend we went up to Grass Range, Montana to harvest the stone for the face of the fireplace. Several years earlier I rounded up help roughing in the massive masonry structure, that includes two fireplaces as well as two flues for wood stoves; one in the living room and the other in the basement.
For several years I stood next to the hole in the floor, staring at the vertical pole that was to become the spiral staircase, trying to figure out how to build a log stairway, until I finally got tired of having to go out the basement door and walk up to the front door just to go from one floor to another. I started one evening, and installed the first three treads until about 3:30am, and returned to the project the following day, since I finally gained confidence that I could build this long envisioned stairway, and worked on it the following day ‘til I reached the first floor. What a feeling of accomplishment!!! By the end of the week, I reached the second floor.
At this point of the narrative, the years sort of blend together, there was a family who lived in the Hermitage for about 5 years; I moved, first to California, then to Hawaii, but I returned each year to work on the place and get back to “my roots.” Each year I would complete another project and fill the place with nice furnishings, so that it really felt comfortable.
Over the last few years I “finished” the basement, sheetrocking the ceilings and walls, taping and painting the same, building the mechanical closet, and tiling the floor. I hope to “finish” the area this year, but the nature of the Hermitage is that everything is subject to improvements.