The Building of Camp Kwitchabitchin (Part III – Salvaged Finishing Touches)


Miraculously, Tom has all of his fingers…so far. He bought a turn-of-the-century Maine SHINGLE MILL to make our own shingles from the cedar trees on our land. The intention was to sheath all the exterior walls with homemade cedar shingles. The only problem I saw with this plan is that the shingle mill itself looks like a Dickinsonian nightmare way to lose several digits. Huge maniacally spinning blades. No guards. There was a telling sign on the mill when Tom purchased it. It says:


My Redneck Life #2 - Tom's 19th-century Maine shingle mill

My Redneck Life #2 – Tom’s 19th-century Maine shingle mill

But he did it, mishap free. He cut more than enough shingles to securely clad our little cabin in fragrant, sweet smelling cedar from our forest. Now that the camp was weather tight, we could move our focus indoors. I painted the floor a sage green from some leftover paint I had in the cellar. Tom’s brother, Lee — who is an electrical engineer — spent a weekend with us wiring the cabin. They decided to use metal clad cable instead of the standard Romex. This cable gives the exposed wiring a wonderful vintage look of an old fire hazard hunting camp. As a surprise, Lee wired a great rustic wrought iron twigs and leaves chandelier over our dining space.

A great wine glass rack Tom made for Carol's industrial strength "stem-ware"

A great wine glass rack Tom made for Carol’s industrial strength “stem-ware”

Tom built “cupboard stairs” up to the sleeping loft. They are just steep enough to allow our two dogs to be able to make it up to bed with us. We put a railing up in the loft that came from a deck that Tom renovated. I capped that with a fabulous antique newel post that I had liberated from a friend’s barn in New Hampshire many years ago. Tom installed an old refurbished ceiling fan he had junking around in his shop. Mostly now that fan blows the heat from the woodstove down from the sleeping loft where it gets to be about 110 degrees.

All appliances and furnishings are second-hand/hand-me-downs from sympathetic relatives and friends. The best score was some ratty overstuffed furniture, a couch and two hugely fat overstuffed chairs which my sister-in-law was throwing out. I re-covered them with sophisticated slipcovers and now they look impressive. My mom gave us a “cabin warming” present of a beautiful rug with fish and squirrels, acorns and pinecones. Actually, everyone got into the spirit and commitment to cheapness—sometimes to a fault. Tom and I found we had to politely refuse a lot of pure junk gleaned from people’s cellars and barns.

Looking down from the original sleeping loft

Looking down from the original sleeping loft

But the end result is adorable. I love our little cabin! I am totally, madly in love with it. We’re still uncertain about the design of the real house, but we’ll spend time in the cabin to get used to the cycles of the sun for solar gain and the seasons and the weather. Tom has already dynamited and cleared the space for the barn (35′ x 70′), so apparently that’s next. It is all very exciting.

150 year old white cedar root burl

150 year old white cedar root burl

This is the “brain” of the cabin. Tom found this 150-year-old white cedar root burl in one of our swamps near a landing. He hauled it out with his LULL and trimmed off the roots. We brought it home to NH and put it in the garage. All that winter, when we had a few moments to spare, we would sit in the garage enjoying a beverage and chat while we picked all the dirt and debris out of the brain’s crevasses with lobster picks and toothbrushes. This burl is the hub of all the camp’s activities.

Coming next Monday!  “Chief Wounded Pecker”   uh-oh.

Carol Leonard

About Carol Leonard

Carol Leonard is a midwife, a writer and a licensed beaver trapper. She was the first midwife licensed to practice legally in New Hampshire and has attended close to 1,200 babies born safely in their own homes. She was a co-founder of the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) representing all midwives in the US, Canada and Mexico. She was elected as the second president of MANA. Carol is the author of the best-selling memoir, Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart, A Midwife’s Saga, Bad Beaver Publishing, 2010. Carol is currently building a 400-acre farm in Ellsworth, Maine with her husband, Tom Lajoie. Her blog BAD BEAVER TALES: Love and Life in Downeast Maine, chronicles their informative and funny journey building their dream homestead on 400 acres of wilderness in Downeast Maine. Carol and Tom are also raising about a hundred beavers there that they argue about on a daily basis. These blog posts will be a collection of tales not just about Bad Beaver the place, but stories that meander around in her life, past and present—at the same time, Bad Beaver is where it all leads. As a writer friend says, “These stories from Bad Beaver are, at turns, brave, beautiful and just plain badass.”