Saturday, 21 September 2013

Log Cabins

I was in a grocery store yesterday and the cashier comments on the log home magazine the woman in front of me was buying.
“My fiancee has 25 acres in Lanark county and he’s going to build a log cabin from the trees on it, and we’re going to live there.”

Being the kind of guy I am, I felt no compunctions about offering up my opinion 
when she was ringing up my order.
“Sorry to be a party pooper, but I very seriously doubt that you can build a log cabin with the trees to be found on 25 acres in Lanark. In a hundred to one hundred and fifty years maybe.”

Having lived in Lanark for several years, and having covered large areas of the county mainly on foot, and having helped clear out a bunch of sugar bushes after the 1998 ice storm, I knew that the place had been too extensively logged of prime trees to make that a very realistic dream. Save for maple trees due to their economic value, any tree of any real worth had likely been taken down at some point. Oh sure there were pine and oak and beech and all sorts of other nice trees, but they were either the crooked ones or very young trees that required several decades to mature before they would be good for anything other than firewood.

Depending on the land and what kind of logging had been done there, the availability of suitable trees is a consideration. And most of what I encountered in Lanark not given over to maple syrup production, had been logged over several times in the last century. To people with no sense of perspective, any area with a lot of trees looks like forest. But if you’re ever lucky enough to go into some of the few areas in North America that for whatever miraculous reason wasn’t logged, that has trees that are hundreds of years old, not a few decades old, you grasp that what we see now is a pale imitation of a “forest.”

It’s always seemed to me that the appeal of log homes is largely about nostalgia. Not so much that they’re an inherently better home, just that it has that whole rich history of the early settlement of this continent tied up in it. They probably made a lot of sense to the early pioneers, who utilized their environment to sustain them. When they had a chunk of land with great old forest trees on it, and an immediate need to shelter their family, a log cabin undoubtedly made a great deal of sense. Now, those old growth trees are gone, and all that remains in most places are far inferior trees. When you need to ship suitable trees from halfway across the continent, it just starts to seem more like the privilege of the very wealthy who harbour romantic ideals of life on the frontier.

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