Potentially Losing My Sanity

If you looked at the title of this post, you might think it’s political.  It’s not.  Yesterday, my wife and I bought a cabin in the Northwoods of Minnesota.  We bought it from my uncles who bought it from my grandfather’s best friend.  It’s not like this was something novel.  I have been going to the same place in the woods since around 1975, and this cabin had been there since the 1960s.  We love it up there.  We are woods and water people.

My grandfather was in the US Forest Service.  He built the cabin next door.  That’s where they summered.  They wintered in Minneapolis.

The lake is a wilderness lake.  That means no water skiing or jet skiing.  Kayaks, sailboats, and canoes are cool.  If you want a boat with a motor, it’s no bigger than a 9 horse.  Some of the pontoons on the lake have bigger ones, but not much bigger.

The cabin doesn’t have running water-except for a spring up on the hill.  It doesn’t have electricity or internet.  We do have solar power, and we might figure out ways to increase that.  The stove and refrigerator run on propane.  We are going run regular electric and internet in.  Interestingly, on this lake they have fiber internet!  Cell service is pretty poor there though.  I think there was a time and a place to be totally unplugged, but not anymore.  We won’t be putting a television in it.

Here is the view right outside our window.  I took this the other day.  There is a beaver swimming in front of our place.

The Beaver

A video posted by Jeff Carter (@pointsnfigures) on

The cabin needs a small amount of rehab.  That’s our next thing to do.  Over the last couple of days we have been skimming websites like Ikea.  I hate Ikea, purely because putting the furniture together is such a pain.  My wife loves it.  I am gearing up for lots of frustration.

Why Ikea?  Because their stuff is compact to carry.  It’s cheap. The place we bought is only a summer place.  Summer in this part of the world runs from around the first of June to the middle of September.  The mosquitoes and black flies rule the summer too.  But, the best donut shop in the world is there so it makes up for it.  Plus, we are 9 hours away in Chicago so getting up there isn’t exactly a snap.

I was gearing up for frustration, then I saw this article in the WSJ.  The secret to assembling Ikea furniture without losing my sanity. I am sharing the link in case you have the same frustration. When kids go to college or people get first apartments, a lot of time Ikea is the place.

The tiny house is in vogue.  We will see what we can do with this one.  

Just for good measure, here is the Cascade River. A few seconds of calm.  Yes, you can catch trout here.

A few seconds of calm

A video posted by Jeff Carter (@pointsnfigures) on

Ironically, here is a photo of a Fay Peck painting that hangs in our office.

Painting by Fay Peck in my office

A photo posted by Jeff Carter (@pointsnfigures) on

  • awaldstein

    Have fun and enjoy.

    A little known part of my life is that after dropping out of Grad school, i moved to North Central British Columbia where m son was born.

    Lived 5o miles up a logging road in a cabin with did everything myself. The pile of wood I had to cut to make it through the winter as half the size of the house!

    • Ha. My grandfather was chopping wood into his 90s. His axe is still up there. It’s sharp.

      • awaldstein

        Chain saw to cut the standing deadwood down of course, pickup truck to move it back home, ax and wedges to split it.

        • We have a splitter etc. Going to be cutting A LOT of Balsam Fir. Good outdoor firewood, but not indoor firewood.

  • CliffElam

    Do not fear the ikea. The WSJ article is right that a power tool is a handy thing, but having dis/re-assembled a ton of Ikea in my day…

    1> Get some cheap small rubbermaid tupperware containers. Open the screw bags at a table on a towel and separate the screw and dowels by size into the containers. Put the tops back on. There, saved you hours of time. 🙂

    2> If you are not going to take the furniture apart then, once you are *sure* you have something put together right, back it off and squirt high quality wood glue (gorilla glue is good, elmers is too) along the seams and in the screw hold. Tighten and let it all set before you use it. We have a 20+ year old ikea bookshelf that still works fine after two moves – it just can’t ever be taken apart.

    2.1> Pro-tip: make sure the furniture will go through the door before glueing it.
    2.2> If you mess up distract your wife while you run for it.

    3> I also like to put thin felt strips on the bottom of the furniture unless it’s on carpet. I think it protects an entry point that gets a lot of pressure and can let moisture in. My wife thinks I am overly fussy. See above.

    4> If you are going to move the furniture, take pictures as you unpack the box. And keep all the foam and crap. I’m not going to say it makes it easy to flatten it again, but it makes it possible.

    5> Here is the only appropriate song to play when starting the assembly process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUPu_ipbVB0

    -XC

    PS – I like the meatballs at Ikea. Yum.

  • Dan Kunze

    When we built a new house, we intentionally spent more money on the house because we saved so much on furniture from IKEA. We literally took a horse trailer to Schaumburg, loaded it up and brought it all home. I spent the next six weeks at nights and on weekends putting together closet systems, tables and the like. You WILL put something together backwards and have to take it all apart at some time. So accept it, and expect it. We still have all of the furniture many years later. None of it fell apart or broke. It still looks nice. It was painful at the time, but now I am happy we did it this way. Of course, I would never do it again, but now I am older and wiser. And have more money.

    • “Smart Money” – you @johnstone185:disqus – always knows where “value” lies. The investment in the fabric of home construction itself will always repay higher dividends than any investment made in content. Well played! 🙂

  • I did click over thinking this was a political post. I appreciate your sane thinking on these topics.

    The cabin seems heavenly — well, after the addition of a few amenities. Enjoy!

    • Nah, no need to post about politics. Everyone is so polarized and turning issues into black and white. Also, no one critical of their own party anymore. Seeing no tolerance. If Trump wins, its not the end of America and if Hillary wins it’s not the end either. We survived Bush and Obama who were equally bad in different ways.

  • Sounds serene. Enjoy

  • Reconnecting with nature is a good thing for reflection, calm & serenity. Hopefully that will help you regain your sanity 😃

  • I have been seriously contemplating “going off the grid” for some time now.

    I do realise @pointsnfigures:disqus that your cabin is not a full time OTG home but nonetheless just reading your story here and seeing the pictures here simply makes me want to get on with doing that.

    Our modern day lives are way to hectic and very distracted from what really matters in life in my opinion. Thank you for sharing this.

  • I really LIKE putting the Ikea furniture together — there’s always a huge feeling of accomplishment when it’s finished. It’s a hassle, but we’re very not rich. When we look for similar good stuff already done, it’s 50-100% more expensive.

    However, in Slovakia there are other Ikea-like low cost, Do It Yourself assemble furniture, so the kids’ bunk bed was from Massive.

    Oh yeah, did I mention we like wood? Ikea stuff is most often wood that we put together. So are the clones. Good quality to high quality output when done, some work, lots of accomplishment, relative low cost; high value.

    We like Ikea salmon.