Beating back the Wilderness

I know I’ve mentioned before about the origins of our family cabin in Vermont.  How my grandfather purchased the property in 1937 and built our little one room cabin on the site of what had been a small farming settlement. The cabin itself sits on one of the foundations, right next door to a cellar hole (today home to two pear trees).  Across the lawn (where the town road used to run) is another set of foundations, and our shed is built just down from the cabin in what we believe had been a bank barn once upon a time. For many years the neighboring farmer would make arrangements with my grandfather for his dry cows to use these acres for their summer pasture. And while they left the random cow-plops scattered in the lawn, those cows also did a great job of keeping the wilderness at bay.
Cabin 1955 +/-
Eventually, though, the cows stopped coming and while we were happy not to have to worry so much about where we were stepping, we also began to see nature reclaiming the land. After all, that’s what nature does. We probably haven’t had cows up there in almost forty years and while we do a pretty good job of keeping the area around the cabin mowed and tidy, every year it seems that the untamed part of the land creeps in just a little bit closer.
Cabin 2013
Needless to say, nature is winning here. But this year we did our best to beat ‘er back just a bit in a couple different areas!
The first project started with the fact that we are losing our view from the outhouse. Since we are a very remote little cabin, and don’t usually have a crowd around, it is not unusual for us to leave the outhouse door open while we are taking care of business. And the view has always been lovely – distant mountains, patchwork fields, beautiful sunsets… Good stuff, really! But over the years the view has become obstructed by trees growing up and getting in the way.
This was our non-view this summer –
Outhouse View Before_edited-1
So I asked Gary if he could help me cut down some of those trees that were blocking the view. You’d have done the same thing, right? Well, things got a little out of hand (as in we ended up doing way more than I thought we would) and we ended up clearing about 12 feet of blackberry bramble, small trees and general undergrowth.
Outhouse Workers 1
And if you cut it down, you have to get rid of it, right?
Outhouse View workers
Thanks goodness for the burn pit.
Finally, a picture of him sitting down.  Still on the job, supervising the burn pit. But sitting down nonetheless. #ilovethecabin
So here is where we cleared –
Outhouse view angle_edited-1
And here is the “official” new Outhouse View –
Outhouse View After_edited-1

Outhouse View Before_edited-1Outhouse View After_edited-1

Okay, so our efforts pretty much just enabled us to see a different row of trees, since the real culprits are the big ol’ giant trees in the distance (and maybe a couple more branches off the big maple in the forefront), but still and all, it felt pretty good beat back that wilderness just a smidgen.
Our second Beat ‘er Back project started with a truck full of beautiful lilies we brought with us from Montrose Bible Conference.
Truck full of lilies heading to the cabin!
There are lots of places at the cabin that get full sun and since lilies need minimal care and love sun, it seemed like the perfect match. Plus, they were free. Gotta love that!
Anywhoooo….We figured that a good place to plant them would be right in front of the cabin (to kind of make up for that pine tree that fell down over the winter.)
Right there – under the window, behind that stone.
We thought a raised bed would be the way to go and we figured we had just the material to build it.
The almost overgrown ash pit down by the shed seemed perfect.
However, as we began to clean up the area we realized that without a crane those 18″ x 6″ x 4′ granite slabs weren’t going anywhere!

Fortunately, we did find some other great stones in that general area and with a little convincing, managed to get them up to the cabin!
And with the addition of a bit of store-bought dirt and some fertilizer,
Voila! A little flowerbed for the cabin! We’ll see how it looks next summer! 🙂
Back over at the ash pit, we continued clearing. It’s just so hard to know where to stop!
We even had to pull in our wood-cutting friend Walter to remove one last too-big-for-the-pruner tree!
Once the area was tamed, we filled up the pit with some leftover garden dirt, and covered it so it would be ready for some low-maintenance, shade loving plants next spring.
Now, mind you, I have no real expectation that these two areas will remain cleared. And maybe it’s better to let nature have her way and just do our best to keep it manageable. I don’t know.  Let’s face it – the days of rambling open meadows at the cabin are long gone.


But still – don’t you wonder just a bit whether or not we could still find that stone wall up on the hill?
Just a little?

Maybe next summer!



One thought on “Beating back the Wilderness”

  1. Your family’s insight to keep this place through three generations preserves a rich family history for generations to come. Thank you for sharing with us.
    PS. If you ever need an extra hand on the property, I am sure many of your readers (like me) would cherish the opportunity to volunteer.

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