My husband Ted and I never set out to buy a log house. A lot of people do -- maybe it's a Lincoln Logs fantasy carried into adulthood -- but for us, a "log" wasn't the goal.
In 1999, we were living in Boston's South End, and across the street from us an enormous two-year construction project was about to commence: theaters, restaurants, studios and high-end condos, and an underground parking garage, all on a piece of land smaller than the one-house lot where I live now. Demolition of the old gas station on the site, along with an ancient movie theater, took a few days.
Then the construction crew rolled in. In the first week, there was a gas explosion on the site, followed by three weeks of vibrating pile drivers that I felt sure would cause the collapse of our 150-year-old brick rowhouse.
I needed an escape.
We bought the log house in northwest Rhode Island in 2000, as a weekend home. It didn't take long before Ted and I became addicted to the quiet, the privacy, and the fact that we could walk out the front door and have coffee in our pajamas on the porch.
Our friends all came to visit. And they all offered to bring towels, or sleeping bags. Do we have a shower, one wanted to know. We explained that we live in a log house, not a lean-to. We have a refrigerator, beds, high-speed internet, and indoor plumbing.
As idyllic as it was, the house also suffered from thirty years of poor maintenance, and we had work to do. Our house is what's called a "true log", meaning the walls are log inside and out (some log houses are either log-faced, or planed smooth on the inside). We learned, quickly, that log houses are not like other houses.
What it really means to live in a "log"
If you're considering buying a log house, or find yourself in one as we did, a few basic things will get you through almost any challenge:
1. A log company. You've got to find a company that specializes in log homes, because you will need replacement logs at some point, and you cannot go around willy-nilly cutting down any straight trees you find in the neighborhood. And the first time you hear one of your support beams check -- a sound akin to Thor's hammer smashing into the side of your house -- you'll need someone, like our log guy Dan, to reassure you that the sky is not falling, and your house will not collapse on top of you. (It won't, but it's still good to hear it.)
2. An exterminating company on monthly contract. Your beautiful log house is nothing more than a giant cupcake to every insect. Powder post beetles and carpenter ants will gnaw from the inside; carpenter bees will chomp on the outside. Hornets will nest right where you don't want them. And of course there might be termites. You need an army to fight this battle. Our army is Bill, a nice guy who inherited an exterminating business from his dad, who is also named Bill.
3. Cats. To catch the mice. Enough said.
4. A long-handled screwdriver. The first time you realize you're looking through a gap in the logs straight through to the sky, or into the face of a squirrel who's climbed up the side of the house, you'll learn that a length of rubber insulating rope called backer rod is all that's keeping the outside out. Grab your screwdriver, and shove that rope into the gap.
5. A sense of humor. When it rains in your kitchen, when you try to hang shelves on walls that aren't flat, when birds nest on the corners where the logs cross and the bats take up residence under the eaves... well, you're just going to have to learn to laugh about it. You can cry first, but then you have to laugh.
I don't live in a log house. Why should I read this blog?
Because you'll have fun. I promise.
Thanks for being here,