Everything Changes

We depend upon our vehicle to commute back and forth to our cabin. The Chevy Trailblazer that we purchased in 2010 has been a great vehicle for us due to the amount of supplies, dogs, mother-in-law and an occasional grandchild that we take along. This vehicle transports us north 120 miles each way twice a week. We depend on it to get us “home”. That all changed during the holiday season this year.


As we were traveling some back roads on our trip north, we hit a band of snow blowing across the countryside. The pavement became slippery very quickly. I tried to creep along, but just as I crested a hill, the trailer I was pulling lost gripe on the road and started to swing around. The blazer was pulled into the opposing traffic lane and just as my husband says, “this is not going to be good”, we plunged into the ditch. It seemed as though we were dangling off the Grand Canyon. The angle we rested at literally had us held away from the windshield by our seat belts. The cowboy’s were in the back cargo area, smashed against the front of their kennels. They were so scared. Luckily, my 90 year old mother-in-law was seat belted in the rear seat, had she not been, she would have been thrown into my husbands lap or worse. She was shook up, but no injury.


Our lives changed in that instance. Even if it was only temporary, it changed.



We were thankful we decided to bring kitty home while the blazer was being repaired. We considered trying to make a couple of trips back to check on her and feed her, but due to caring for my husband’s mother and bad weather, we would not have been able to make it. So, kitty’s life changed too. She has been forced to stay indoors with a litter box and two big dogs to chase her around a small apartment. She is safe, warm and has all the people contact she can stand. Good thing it’s only temporary. If you could see her staring out the window, you would know she is dreaming of the day she returns home to the woods. Hopefully soon our circumstance will change again, but this time hopefully, back to a close normal.


The Cowboys

I would like to introduce you to the canine buddies who share our life and our tiny home. They are Dish and Newt, “The Cowboys”.

First, we have Dish. He will be 2 years old in March of this year. He was from a rescue group who provided medical care after his owner surrendered him for lack of cash for treatment. He was 20 weeks old when we picked him up. He is beautiful dark brindle with a white patch on his chest that stretches up under his chin. Dish is a Mastiff/bully mix weighing in about 90lbs now. In comparison to his body, Dishs’ head is huge, and with his mouth open he looks like a land shark. He is a lean, mean muscle machine. When he runs through the woods, he is as graceful as a gazelle. I’ve owned greyhounds in the past and they too are powerful, graceful runners, but nothing compared to Dish. He is completely comfortable running and dodging trees at full speed. He loves the woods with all its’ smells and the quiet sounds of nature. But with all his grace and beauty, Dish is not the brightest bulb in the box. The early extreme medical issues caused him some developmental problems.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Second is Newt, he is going to be 1 year old in March. Newt is a smaller Mastiff/bully mix weighing in about 45lbs so far. He is a beautiful fawn color, with a white patch on his chest.

Newt is a handful, still a pup, he is a chewer and a digger, with a keen sense of smell. He can dig up a mole a foot under ground. Newt, like Dish, loves his time in the woods. Chasing chipmunks is his favorite thing to do. He races through the woods with his ears on high alert listening for the chipmunks whistling back and forth and his nose to the ground not missing any scents that have passed through. Newt is not graceful or agile, but he is a protector.

We live in an area that is surrounded by absentee owners, sportsmen who use their property three or four weeks out of the year for hunting or cutting firewood. We also have a huge tract of state land that lays untouched by humans a good share of the year. Because of the absence of homeowners or other cabin dwellers, we have a vast array of wildlife that travels around and through our property including black bear and coyote. Although it hasn’t happened yet, I’m sure Newt would have no problem facing down a bear. He is fearless.

We get many questions about their names. Well, life is all about compromise, so we decided that if my husband picked the dog, I would name it and vice verse. Well this time I chose the dog, I mean dogs, so he got to name them both. Their names come from the movie, Lonesome Dove, my husbands favorite, and Dish and Newt were cowboys in the movie. My Dish and Newt are just as rough and tough as you can imagine any cowboy  in the old west were, so their names are very fitting.




“Pretty in Pink”

Moving from an urban life to a woodland life and thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming at times. There are so many different tools you need to get the job done not only right, but in a timely manner. Take starting a garden where there was previously a 100 year old forest. Not an easy cjob. Stumps and roots rule and a pick axe and shovel are meager tools for this type of job. For the first couple of years here at the Rollin’ Rock, those are the tools we used and struggled with. Did they get the job done? Of course they did, but it took hours upon hours to dig out a 10×10 square for our first potato patch. While my husband was still gainfully employed we tried to arm ourselves with as much of the right equipment as necessary. We shopped (and still do) on-line auctions and flea markets for the best deals possible. This past summer, post employment, we took our savings and purchased an amazing tool we call “Pinkie”. She is a 1951 Ferguson tractor, and yes, she is pink.

Pinkie came to us through Craigslist. She was previously a grape farmer in the Leelanau Peninsula along the Lake Michigan shoreline where there are many luscious vineyards growing only the finest grapes available for your eating and drinking pleasure, (mostly drinking). Pinkie farmed for a few years and then was retired due to the sale of her farm, a circumstance she could not control.

Why pink you ask? She was painted pink to avoid theft. You see, tractors in the farming communities are hot commodities. One of Pinkies predecessors was stolen right in front of their business. Gone without a trace, probably sitting lonely now being under utilized due to his circumstances. So, when repainting the newest member of their team, the color pink was chosen.  I would dare say it would be hard to steal and hide a pink tractor. Recently, we ran into someone we barely know in a small party store some 10 miles away and they asked if we had gotten a tractor that was pink? Amazing, we had only had her a week or so. She does stand out boldly through the greens of the forest.

So, Pinkie has already built a reputation of sorts in our rural community and she has helped us accomplish some amazing stuff. She brought a back blade with her and we managed to pick up a brush hog and a couple of implements from an on-line auction and with just these few tools we have been able to level a spot for a multi-purpose shed, plow the snow in our long driveway twice now, and the brush hog was used to mow down some old logging trails to make snow shoeing easier this winter.

We know little about tractors so we have a learning curve here. My husband has purchased some information books and manuals, also at auction, and we are bonding with Pinkie and so far she seems to be enjoying her retirement years here with us at the Rollin’ Rock. Tools are everything here in the woods and she’s one of our finest.

Living Small

imageAs the “Tiny Home” movement becomes popular, I have to tell you from experience that living small is not as easy as you would think.There are a couple of things to consider when thinking of living small.

1.  Organization skills. If you’re good at organizing, but not at maintaining it, you could get into trouble quick.

2.  Cleanliness. Even though you only have a small place to maintain, dust and dirt collects very quickly. If you don’t clean up your dishes after preparing and eating meals or make your bed right away your place is a mess in no time.

3. Storage. If you don’t have enough storage, where do you put the extra 5 rolls of paper towel you just bought?

4. Pets. Where do the food bowls go, where will they sleep, when it’s raining or wet outside, how long can they stay calm inside without tearing things up?

5.  Guests.  During nice weather, no problem, a couple of lawn chairs and outside you go. During inclement weather, rain, snow, or whatever, if you don’t have enough room in your tiny house trying to entertain can be challenging. If you have 2 dogs and a cat, it can be really challenging!

6.  Hobbies.  Consider a hobby that takes up very little space. Since most of your storage is going to be used for clothes and food, there will be little storage for hobbies.

7.  Humor.  If you’re thinking of living with someone else in a “tiny home”, you need a sense of humor. It’s so easy to lose it when you are in close quarters, day in and day out.

These are just a few things that come to mind. Each and every one of them have been or could be a problem for us at any given time. Our tiny home is 12×24. It is one room of comfy living. We have a kitchen area, dining area and bedroom/living room area. Upon entering our home, a visitor is exposed to all aspects of our life. If it’s a bit out of sinc, it can be really uncomfortable welcoming guests. Just something most people don’t consider when dreaming of those cute little homes they see on TV.


A New Blog For A New Year


Skinner Lodge is an off grid 12×24 Amish built cabin on 30 acres in beautiful northern Michigan. We are off grid currently using solar with a wind turbine waiting for installation. We are miles from the nearest utility pole, so electricity is not an option. Our bathroom remains a nicely built privy with a shower not far from the cabin. No indoor running water, but the well we had drilled in 2011 has been one of our greatest assets so far. As we develop our garden it helps to have available water on site instead of trying to carry it all from the city, which was very painstaking and costly I may add.

Our goal was to retire to the Rollin’ Rock in 2019, but things just haven’t quite worked out that way. My husband has taken an early retirement and as of this writing we are not able to live there full time due to family obligations, but soon, we hope!

I’ve started Cabin Life News for the new “blogging 101” class , to get blogging once again and to gain new tips to become better at what I like to do. I thought this would be a great way to share up to date progress at Skinner Lodge and the Rollin’ Rock in general, some new things I’ve learned over the past year and introduce some very interesting and talented people we’ve met. Most of all, I’d love to promote the beauty of northern Michigan and all it has to offer.

You can also follow our historical journey, in progress, at