The Year We Lived in a Cabin – Part One

When I was living in the U.K., I became a huge environmentalist and grew a passion for self sufficiency. My favourite book was the New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour that a friend had given to me as a gift.

As much as I loved living in London, I pined for Ontario. I knew that it was home and I’d spend so much time pouring over that book and dreaming about a life of self sufficiency back home. When I moved home and before I met my husband in 2009, I had applied 3 times to Fleming College’s sustainable building program and all 3 times I was put on a wait list. I didn’t end up going, but my dream of living sustainably stayed with me.

When my husband and I first moved in together we house-sat for almost a year and then moved into to a super small apartment. It was there that we both had the idea to live in the hunting camp on my in-laws property and make our dream of self sufficiency a reality. The hunting camp was built by my husband and father-in-law many years ago as a place where their family could deer hunt. There was no running water or electricity in the camp, but it was mostly insulated. The idea was that we would purchase a piece of land from my in-laws and build a mortgage-free home.

Here are a few photos of the land we were going to buy.

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I read Rob Roy’s book Mortgage-Free! Radical Strategies for Home Ownership and was very inspired.

The idea was to live in a temporary shelter while building sections of a house over a longer period of time. So, in April 2011 my husband and I moved into the hunting camp. It was no longer referred to as the camp, but the “T.S.” for temporary shelter. Here are some photos of what the camp looked like before we moved in.

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As you can see there was a stove already installed and it was run on propane, so were the lights.

In early 2011 before we moved into the T.S. we spent some time debarking cedar logs. We did tons of research about when the best time to debark was and learned it was in the spring when the sap was starting to thaw. That would create a moist layer between the bark and the log to make it easier to remove. According to our sources, the bark should just peel off in strips. We made our own tools to give this a try. We figured if we started in early spring, we’d have all spring and summer to keep debarking. We wanted to build a cordwood home.

Making our own tool to debark cedar logs for a stack of cordwood for the exterior of our house.

Well, we debarked one cedar log and knew that doing enough for a cordwood house would be a crazy amount of work with both of us working full-time.

The one cedar log we debarked and it ended up being used as a floor support in the T.S.

We changed our minds so many times about what building materials we’d use for the house. We decided that some would be cordwood (a very small portion) and the rest would be straw bale. We went around Ontario to see straw bale homes and went to workshops. We also bulked up our library with sustainable building books.

Feeling defeated the first day we tried to debark logs, we went and tapped trees instead.

You can see the T.S. up in the far left corner.
Tappin’ trees.
Tree tappin’ mama on the farm.


A good run of sap that needed to be taken to the sap house.
Here comes B with the tractor. We pumped the sap into grates and drove it down to the sap house for boilin’.

We couldn’t wait long enough for our lease agreement to run out so we could move into the T.S. In April 2011 we packed up all our sh*t, sold some stuff in a yard sale and moved in. I spent the first few months constantly vacuuming ladybugs, wasps and flies from the windowsills…

To be continued.


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