Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year, Old Logs

At the risk of sounding sappy, I am going out on a limb to offer without apology another sentimental perspective of log homes.

As the New Year approaches and I look at photos I've taken of historic log buildings, I am touched by the significance log homes have regarding time and encapsulated stories- not only the cabins themselves, but also the individual logs they are made of.

Log cabins, whether newly built or 200 years old, have a nostalgia that brings us back to simpler times. Every log building has its story- be it a new log home that is the realization of a couple's dream or a small log cabin that has watched the passing of decades and centuries. Every log building has its story, but every log within that building also has its tale. The log home might be settling-and-shrinking new, or it might be 200 years old, but whatever the life of the home is, the logs are likely 50-200 years older. Take a moment to look at the logs in your home. Each ring represents a year in that tree's life, each knot is a limb that it had. Each ridge of texture was the stroke of a drawknife, axe or adze, and each notch was carefully scribed, cut and perfected by a skilled craftsman. Even on a milled log home, the surface of the log was at one point passed over by a blade and inspected by a wood professional.

If the home has a stone fireplace or masonry accents, there's a whole new pile of stories. The stones have a history thousands of years older and a story possibly even more impressive than the logs. Those rocks were once molten lava, then broken up by the movement of glaciers, thousands of years later selected and split by a mason, and finally fit precisely into the final, artistic monument.

Next time you are passing some time enjoying your log home, or next time you walk into an historic log cabin, take a moment to ponder the life of the logs and the life of the structure and appreciate all that a log home is. Look at the logs and think about how each started as a seedling. Each grew large and provided food and shelter for countless birds and animals. Each knot on that log was once a limb that may have held an eagle or a porcupine. At some point, someone- a lonely pioneer or a modern logger -came along, selected that tree, and cut it down. The limbs were removed, the bark was peeled, the logs were cut. Each log was cut, measured and scribed to fit in the structure and nestle on top of the log below it. Once sweat and strain erected the building, an individual, a couple, or a family moved in and called it home. A log home is the perfect intersection of natural occurrences and human productivity; the place where the concentric, chronological ripples of trees and people intersect. A log home is not just a building; it is a cozy testimony of time.

From the quaint birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, to the impressive Old Faithful Inn, there are hundreds of log buildings scattered around the country that are rich with stories they've acquired through time. The story of each building is extended even farther into time with the story of each tree and rock that was used to build it; from pioneers erecting a quick log cabin shelter to engineers carefully planning a massive, log tourist destination. Take some time to look at your log home or the log cabins around you. How many years have they seen pass? What is their story?

First photo is the log cabin at Traverse des Sioux historical site in Saint Peter, MN, before its restoration.
Second photo is the fireplace at the Chippewa National Forest Supervisor's Office in Cass Lake, MN.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Log Cabin Christmas

Of course I am biased, but I don't think there is any structure that illustrates a traditional, American Christmas better than a seasonally decorated log home. The Christmas tree, cedar boughs, and green garland complement a rustic log structures' unique grains, knots, and natural wood character.

What makes the setting even more idyllic is a flickering fireplace in the picture adorned with stockings and candles. Perhaps it's the logs' nostalgic connection to the heritage of our nation, or maybe it's a reminder of the humble, rustic setting of the First Christmas with the Savior's birth in the stable; maybe it is the certain coziness about log homes fending off winter's chills (provided the cracks and joints are sealed well!). Whatever it is that summons the semantics, Christmas and log homes are practically made for each other.

Indeed, there is even an illustrated book with the title The Log Cabin Christmas and a book of historical pioneer romances called A Log Cabin Christmas. One of the frontier's favorite authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder, even talks about the pioneer Christmas in Little House in the Big Woods. There is a great children's adaptation with illustrations of it called Christmas in the Big Woods. Log homes and a traditional American Christmas both have close ties to the forest. From cutting down one's own Christmas tree and cedar boughs, to choosing a yule log, to traveling "over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go," there is no denying that a traditional Christmas is best presented in a rustic scene.

There is an historic log church in Coleraine, MN, and for years it has been tradition to have an annual Christmas in the Country concert of carols, folk tunes and bluegrass music which would make the window sill candles and audience's hearts dance together with nostalgia. The money raised from each concert goes into the preservation fund to keep the treasure in its grandeur. An Internet search yields many other log churches around the nation that also host special Christmas services, programs and concerts within their sanctified log walls. In Grand Marais, MN, a musical artist hosts a series of Log Cabin Concerts in his own home. Michael Monroe and his Log Cabin Concerts are a great way to experience folk music infused with a rustic log setting, even if you don't live in a log home of your own. Search the regional news and events, and you will see log buildings old and new all over the nation that host holiday events in their country charm.

Whether it's spent in a log home, a log cabin concert, or trip over the river and through the woods, I hope you find a way to connect with the nostalgic and rustic side of this holiday season. Have a very merry log cabin Christmas from us at Schroeder Log Home Supply.

Photo retrieved from http://publicdomainclip-art.blogspot.com/2009/01/log-cabin-in-winter.html

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