I was in the market for a wall tent when I came across Finn and the cutest little cabin I ever saw. Finn was an acquaintance, so I asked him what the structure was. It was positioned up on a trailer and he’d obviously just pulled up at the Saturday craft market where I was headed to sell my lavender goods. Finn’s response; “It’s a tiny little house, you should step inside.” Remember when Dorothy ran into the snake oil salesman on the road who later turned out to be the Wizard of Oz? This was me that day…I was in the market to find me that day six years ago, and this cabin has been part of my journey, but better still it has become my home, a place where I have found myself. I bought the cabin as a playhouse for myself and as shelter; the only shelter and shade to be had on a 20 acre parcel of land in the mission valley. For a year prior, my then husband, the two dogs and myself would continue our hand at trying to subdue the acreage I was able to purchase with money my mother left me on her death. It was difficult that first year. It was an alfalfa field, wide open to every element, not a lick of shade from even one tree, no out buildings, nothing. I used to set up a triangle piece of canvas much like a Bedouin tent next to the creek for all of us to crawl under, hide from the 100 degree heat and have lunch. The cabin sat out front of our house in town for a couple months before we could coordinate moving it up to the land. It was that brief period of time that I came to understand the luxury of having a ‘room of one’s own’. I would sit out there for hours, reading, crafting lavender, inviting my friends to stop in and have tea at my playhouse. Meanwhile, Finn was building me another; a basic shell I could place in the backyard that I could fill with the back stock of my expanding lavender business. I spent many hours out there in my studio. And our little family would go to the cabin on the weekends. Once the cabin was situated on the land (and when you commission one from Finn, I highly recommend you request the moving team of Gary Delp of Heritage Timbers and Finn himself – honestly, it was entertainment and fun that is rarely encountered but long remembered) the entire dynamic of the place changed. We could cook lunch, we could nap on the single bunk, we could spend the night, sheltered from the dew, mosquitos, roving coyotes, and even winter winds. But one of my favorite things was the shade cast by even a small building out on that prairie. With it set next to the creek, after 2pm the block of shade grew long as the day progressed. So we set farm chore schedules akin to the Nearings of the 50’s and were rewarded with long cool cabin-cast shade, the song of the creek and gazes of the grand Mission mountains through lazy lidded eyes. Lifetimes have occurred in the years since I acquired the cabin; a divorce after 17 years, leaving my house and gardens in town, a massive crop loss, a mid-life crisis… I have lived in many apartments but have never neglected to visit my cabin for an overnite stay. For awhile, when I could not have my dog in a couple of the apartments I rented, the cabin became the place where I got my doggie fix. And now it turns out that the first home I ever bought just happens to be this 7×12 one room cabin. When the shit hit the fan; my back stock lavender dwindled as did any and all surplus income, and then I was evicted from my apartment, it dawned on me that as it was all bought and paid for (Thanks Mom!), the cabin was the only thing that made sense. My religious weekend sojourns to it had proved to me that I could exist there. I had downsized my entire life, become quite used to living with less with each apartment I rented. So in October 2012 I moved in. And I realize, that I have not been this happy and content for some time. This is my home sweet home. I measured the inside when I was trying to figure out the way my necessary things would fit. At 6.5 x 11.5 feet it is just shy of 75 square feet. She is, with her arched roof, 6 feet tall. The slight arch makes even taller folk than my 5 foot stature feel comfortable. The wood that lines her insides is warm toned and Finn gave all the nail holes exacting attention with little half round wood caps. There are ample shelves, and storage space neath the bed. The single bunk is nestled at one end, next to a big window and has it’s own skylight. There is another skylight above the kitchen. A small wood stove tucked into a corner, is, in winter, more stove than this space needs. Even on a 10 degree day, it warms to 85 degrees in a couple hours. When I let the fire die, heat holds at 60 degrees for hours on end. I cook marvelous meals on the 2 burner propane stove. I wash dishes in the bathroom size sink with water I haul in. It drains into a bucket under the sink. I use the grey water on my trees. There is ample storage under the sink. I utilize a cooler for a fridge. I have a bucket system toilet in another outbuilding. The small footprint of it is located in a large swale, close to a small perennial creek. It is obvious that the wild things rule here. And I would have it no other way. I maintain a low and quiet profile as much as possible to avoid disturbing those who were here long before me. And to bear witness to Nature. The cabin, with its windows to every direction, including up, is like a hunting blind. I see a lot and am unseen. What I notice most since I began visiting 7 years ago is that I can no longer abide noise-especially white noise. Trains, traffic, TV, clanging pipes, forced air heaters, electric gadgets and appliances, ticking clocks, dripping faucets, buzzing space heaters…my cabin has none of it. I have traded them all in for: a crackling fire on a cold, Montana winter’s night, the creek outside my door, a caroling coyote chorus roving the valley, a multitude of birds and occasionally, my dog going ballistic at an errant mouse up in the ceiling. Lori Parr Writing to you from a lone prairie in St. Ignatius
I purchased this cabin and land with all the money my mom left me after she died in 2005.
I had a husband then; he begrudgingly helped with the mowing – usually mowing down baby trees I had planted and coddled. He claimed it was an accident. Now I don’t have a husband…only partly because of the tree desecration. Mostly because even at 30 years of age, I was too young a bride. He never liked coming here anyway. I never put his name on the title. I knew it would be my ace in the hole. Every woman should have one.
The bed is a single bunk, but we would sleep together in it. Well, he’d sleep. I couldn’t due to his snoring, (only after I left him did I realize how sleep deprived I had been.) There’s no escaping it in the cabin. The cabin measures 8′ x 12′, or 96 square. It has a quaint oval door which makes it appear hobbit-like. The ceiling is arched so as to appear more roomy inside. If I stretch my tallest I can touch it with my fingertips. It actually feels like a ship inside. The bunk takes up one end and has a large window where I can watch the riparian edges of the creek and the prairie sail by before I arise the mornings I am here; at least once a week for a couple days.
Today I am awakened by a magpie pecking at the skylight window above the bed, (there’s also one above the kitchen). Magpie is trying to eat the myriad tiny bugs that are on the inside of the window trying to get out. Magpie is molting, her antics are as silly as she looks right now. 4 snipe fly over and land creek side. There is something so comically cute about their long bill, striped head, and round little button eye. Maybe it’s the way they pull their chin in and stand so straight and tall. 2 dozen Hungarian partridge spook from their yard stroll around the cabin – like my little clutch of chickens, into the tall grass when I go out to pee. I hear a pheasant out in the tall grass.
There are two shelves at the east end of the bunk. The bottom shelf was made for me by my first boyfriend from a nice piece of hardwood he found. He burned the runic poem into the face of it as you can see. This is the cabin library. When I was married I had amassed an extensive library at the house. Actually, books have always been the one thing I wouldn’t part with in all my adult years. Every move to a new location entailed hoisting heavy boxes packed with my collection. And collect them, I have. I have procured a few rare ones along the way; Cornelius Agrippa, The Rock is my Home, The French Farm House. My very first job after I graduated high school was at a bookstore, and I have worked at many others since then.
While married, the cabin became my little playhouse. I put all my favorite things inside. This small trove of books are ones that make my heart sing or are filled with life saving practicality:
Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living, Dick Proeneke’s One Man’s Wilderness, Pruitt Stewart’s Letters of a Woman Homesteader, Tasha Tudor’s Garden, Letters of Queen Elizabeth I, Outdoor Survival Skills, edible plants and animal identification books abound. The stack on the left bottom shelf are my ranch journals. Each time I come to the cabin I make notes of animal and bird sitings, irrigation water in the ditch, creek levels, lists of projects, projects accomplished, how much – if any I made on the hay. Much of what I write in them is dry and quite boring but now and again a nuance is captured in the way the wind blows through the tall grass, or the cat-like mew of a short eared owl, or how I can feel it-thru the tiny cabin, when a big horned owl lands on the chimney, or the covey of partridge take shelter under the cabin when the harrier makes a creek-long pass.
There’s a rageddy little brown title-less binding in the upper right. This is a journal I found in my Mother’s things when my brother and I cleaned out her apartment after she died. It has only a few meager entries but they are precious beyond description. They are dated 1965; the year my brother was born and I was one. The tiny glimpses into the day-to-day life of a mother with two babies encourages me to keep writing. One entry simply said: Loading the kids up on the stroller, we are going to the park. They just love being outside!
I like being at my cabin. Maybe it’s because outside is so right in my face.
I head for my land, from town. It is late in the day, especiallly a short winter day – 2:00. It takes 45 minutes to drive to the cabin. It will be dark at 4:30. I breath a deep sigh just over Evaro hill, but find this day the fog I’ve been hearing about on the weather reports. The sun was so glorious in town today that it caused me to stop and stand with my face taking it in, warming my closed eyelids.
I thought back to yesterday morning when I got up to the 6:20 alarm so I could witness the full eclipse of the moon. For that I had my eyes wide open. It is said eclipses are for facing our shadow side, releasing old things we drag around with us, so to allow the new to enter. I have been releasing plenty, of late, but astrologer genius/mystery school friend Ron Maehl said this eclipse falls in a house (gemini) where it was in early December 1992. He suggests to look back on that time in your life and see what baggage or old ways of being need be ejected or re-thought. He says the effects of an eclipse can linger 3 months…I will ponder what I carry.
For today, my weekly escape to the cabin. Just me and the dog for an over-nighter, maybe two.The cabin is north of town on a main hiway.The last 3 miles are dirt road. I like the location because: it is on a poor indian reservation (which one isn’t poor?). There is, to the east, a national game preserve – both of which mean this area wont be developed any time in the near future. And it doesnt hurt that the economy has gone belly up. Most of the properties around me have been up for sale since I bought this place in ’05. Upwards of $600K – 2 million they wont be selling anytime soon. Fine by me. Solitude it is. Just what I seek, the reason I come.
Since I’ve been coming I find I can no longer abide the noise of the town. The trains, the traffic, the incessantly barking dogs (doesnt their barking drive their owners as insane?), just the drone of a city, and the constant buildings and movement…I crave the solace of here. Sometimes I sit up on the back fence post and gaze the 360 degree view. It is quiet, and still, but for the tall grass blowing in the breeze. Aside from a scattered few farmhouses, there is no jumble of buildings, just land; hills, a small creek, and bigger ones I can see by the big trees that grow in the drainages, and the grand Mission mountains. I sit looking at them in all seasons, makin sure they aint makin any fast moves but they are constant in their stillness.
The cabin sits low in a drainage – out of sight from neighbors and any road. It is a good 3/4 mile off the dirt road. Today when I arrive I see about a dozen bald eagles roosting in the cottonwood trees on Mission creek. Not just blessed by the sight of one but twelve – WOW! They often winter in this valley, I have seen it before. The sound they make is like a trickling waterfall, and it carries easy on the breeze that blows in from the west.
Because of the fog this and the entire Jocko valley are swaddled in a blanket of hoar frost. It is the most magic and beautiful thing. Inch long jagged spikes of frost cling to every twig, blade of grass, even the protective cages on my trees. The barbwire gate at my entrance – it seemed a shame to destroy such beauty by moving the gate to get thru. The slightest movement and the crystals fall like dust…
Jed, the dog and I walk the house quarter (I organised my back 6 acres, where I spend my time, into quadrants so to be clear in my desires for development; the lavender quarter with its ‘Sunset Bench’, the Cabin quarter where the outdoor bath tub is and the tool shed which sits on the border of the Faerie Sancuary – a place where only the wild things go, the House quarter, where the dream house is slowly manifesting – the well is there along with a guest cabin, and the orchard which unfortunately was gobbled up by the voles winter of 2012, but the 1960 VW transporter is parked there and could become another guest bedroom. We walk the quad loops each visit to see that the deer (overgrown rodentia) have not damaged any tree cages, and find this day, the frost is coated more thickly on only one side of the trees. It looks blown as tho from a north wind. The frost does strange things, illusionary things; It makes the flimsy bird netting I’ve draped over the the tops of some cages look stiff and crisp, yet makes the hardware metal capping other cages look soft like draped, tatted lace tablecloths.