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Breaking Ground On an Old Dream

It has now been almost three months that I have been back home in the Granite State. On one hand; the transition has been seamless. Being surrounded by the lush green forests, driving down roads I've known for years, even stepping out into the humid eighty degree days has all felt like pulling on that faded, broken-in pair of jeans found tucked back in the dark recesses of a dresser drawer. But on the other, there is still a feeling of disconnect. A feeling that I should be heading back out West, that I should be able to see for miles and miles across fields to a mountain vista rather than just the quarter-mile visible down a winding country road.

Luckily, there hasn't been much time to spend dwelling on either hand. Seasonal landscaping work, personal photo and video work, some occasional sleep, the even less occasional bike ride, and the most recent project of building a cabin to live in take up just about every hour I have available.

Living in a small cabin in the woods has been a dream for years. It got pushed to the back of my mind for the few months that I tried city living and thought a concrete forest might be able to replace a wooded one, but that thought was short lived and the desire for rustic housing in a rural area came back stronger than ever. Did I ever think that dream would start to manifest itself in Canterbury, NH on my family's property? No. No I did not. Visions of Montana's Paradise Valley or Wyoming's South Fork of the Shoshone River were what's been running through my mind. Ironically, the current build site is located just a stone's throw from an area on our old property that I remember scoping out for a potential cabin location as a pre-teen. But hey, so is life. I've come to appreciate that life's dots are connected in crazy ways. And while we can do everything in our power to aim for a dot in a particular direction, ultimately, you make do with where you land. So if nothing more, this build process is a phenomenal learning opportunity. It can be a dry run for the larger cabin I might build at a later date in a different location. It's the opportunity to create something with my own hands (and my father's) -- the opportunity for us to create something together. And, as the mantra goes from a photography school instructor, it's the opportunity to have a place one's own -- my own -- to help foster creativity and work.

So, to date, here is where the build process is at:

It started weeks ago with land clearing. The intended means of some minimal electricity in the cabin is via solar power. New Hampshire's lush foliage is certainly beautiful but makes good sun absorption on the panels a challenge, so a few deciduous trees along with a some mostly-dead pines came crashing down to be stacked, seasoned, and eventually split for firewood. With the trees thinned and the brush cleared, I did some minimal bucket work with our tractor to try and smooth out on the grade on where the cabin would stand.

Next came the cement pylons for a foundation. I give my dad a lot of credit. He's built a number of structures over the years for farm purposes. They don't always come out square. They don't always come out perfectly level. But he is quite good at engineering the hell out of something to make sure it's sturdy (I remember a few pinewood derby cars as a cub scout that probably would have survived a cement wall for a finish line). Safe to say, every tree around the cabin will likely be on the ground or on top of the structure itself before the cabin is ever pulled off its foundation. Nine, Quickcrete-filled sonotubes were laid out, marked, and excavated with an auger. It crossed my mind, as my dad and I checked, re-checked, and cross-checked our tube placements with a length of string, measuring tape, and some basic calculations, what a crazy feat it was that the Egyptians laid out geometrically perfect pyramids thousands of years ago with nothing but the sky and their ingenuity.

Even with just these initial steps taken, it's been a surreal feeling to have broken ground at all and be under way with construction. Three months ago I thought I was heading back to school in Montana to wrap up my program and seek employment out West as I have been doing for the past three years. Now, I'm back on my childhood property, realizing a dream that I had put off in my head for years down the road.

Well played, Life. Well played.

Next up: decking and framing. Stay tuned!

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