Cabin Crush Rehab Updates: The Finnish Carpenter Flees the Interview and Kristin Conquers Nature

Cabin season #3 is well under way and we are still wallowing in the dregs of the Finnish Carpenter’s good intentions. To this day, two years after our cabin rehab project began, I still can’t shower at my cabin. Consider the kinds of activities that take place at a cabin, outside, in the heat, with fish. Add in one teenage boy and there just aren’t enough baby wipes in the world to take care of that kind of stink.

I have a shower – a beautiful one, tiled in river rock – but, unlike useful showers, my shower spits out a trickle of scalding hot water from the spout. It would take me two weeks  just to get my hair wet in there. And adjusting the scalding temp isn’t possible because we’re missing a vital organ in the body of plumbing called a “mixer.”

The funny thing is, there’s a “mixer” at the Finnish Carpenter’s house that I ordered from HoDe for him to install. But, just like that Cure tape you left at your old boyfriend’s house, you’re just going to have to forget about it.

Because the Finnish Carpenter’s isn’t coming back. He says he is but he’s not. I now know that when he says he’s “gonna try and make it over there” he really means “see ya later fuckers.”

I’ve learned a lot from the Finnish Carpenter, a man who promised so many things and then just stopped showing up, leaving us to stink up our new cabin when things got complicated. Or boring. Whenever we discussed needs or wants for our cabin reno, the Finnish Carpenter would nod and go “Oh sher.” He said oh sher to everything, long strings of requests and questions, nodding his head the whole time. And I would always be like “Don’t you want to write any of this down?”

Oh Kristin, that’s just your obsessive need to control everything, I’d tell myself. I tried to let go and trust his ability to maintain lists in his head; my way isn’t always the right way, amiright?

Well, that was foolish. Just like the kid who gets bored with math because he can’t find his planner, the Finnish Carpenter doesn’t have my cabin in his head anymore  – so it turns out that my way IS the right way! You DO need to write that stuff down or you might forget that you have people right across the lake from you who can’t take a shower. Can’t you smell that?

The next character to enter our cabin drama puts a salve on this wound. He is the antidote to the Finnish Carpenter. He shows me that I am right about just about everything and that my way is always the right way.

He is Frank Ford the Northwoods Plant Man, called in to tame my wild, rocky, weed-infested frontier. Don’t forget about my relationship with weeding; yes, this is supposed to be a wild place but it’s MY wild place and I will determine how wild is too wild.

And THIS wall of weeds is blocking my paradise. Frank Ford is going to help me.



The first thing I notice about Frank Ford the Northw00ds Plant Man, besides the sweatpants hiked up around his middle, is that he writes stuff down. Even interrupting me to do so, saying to himself “Just a minute now, Frank,” holding his forefinger to the sky, trying to remember what he was going to write down.

He takes copious notes and makes meticulous plans – ON PAPER! And he shares these plans either in person or . . . via the US Mail.

Because Frank Ford the Northwoods Plant Man doesn’t have an email account. He doesn’t have an email account because he doesn’t have a computer.

At first, I am horrified. And then, I am jealous.

The look on his face is always happy. He is never in a hurry. Everything he needs is on his clipboard. And his work is always impeccably done. DONE being the operative word. It is DONE in accordance with his meticulous notes, in an extremely timely manner. He finishes what he starts because he writes it down on paper with a pen. Maybe a pencil. End of story.

And I think he’s the happiest man alive.

“I gave my assistant $5000 to go to the cities, to that Apple store, and buy me all the doo dads and the goo gaws I would need, ” he tells me. “She said she’d set it up for me. But it’s still sitting there. In the boxes. I just don’t want it.” He waves his hand dismissively.

I warn him that equipment becomes obsolete quickly.

“It’s been sitting there for three years,” he says. “Is that too long?”

“It’s been sitting in the boxes, unopened, for three years?!”

“Yep,” he says. “She’s a little miffed with me.”


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “I’ll just email it to you. . . ”

Or  “I saw it on Pinterest . . .”

Or  “Can you send me some photos?”

He can’t do any of those things. But he can and does call me. We have lovely but brief conversations where we exchange pleasantries and pertinent information, just like in the olden days. Maybe he tells me how he once drove his car in reverse for 7 miles back in ’76 or ’77. Or maybe he tells me about his trip to London to see how they celebrate the Fourth of July. And then he reads from the notes he’s carefully written down so as not to forget anything.

And, if he has the time, he will definitely send me some photos of his progress. First he drives to my cabin with his Canon Sure Shot and he takes photos and then he drives an hour to the nearest Target to have them developed and then he puts the photos in an envelope with my name and my home address and a good old fashioned STAMP . . . and he will send me some photos.

And he is the happiest man alive.


As Frank’s work comes to a close, I will post before and after pix. I might post them right from my phone. Or I might draw them. We’ll see which way makes me happiest.


A New Cabin Bathroom Sans Bat Poo

Let’s review:  during The Awakening, in which I make a list of all the things that make me uncomfortable at the cabin, I notice that I look up at the ceiling before I sit down on the toilet;  I am well aware that I share this bathroom with a colony of something that is pooping in my cabin tub. And members of that colony could easily swoop down from the ceiling and get caught in my hair while my pants are down. Pants down makes everything worse.

The bat poop tub had to go. The peeing was just too stressful.


Several weeks later, I arrive at the cabin and see this at the top of our long ass driveway:



YES!!!!  I did a little car dance because I knew the bats had been evicted. See those black flecks? That’s not an outdated design element, that’s the last vestiges of feces. Years of it fermenting and petrifying in my tub, waiting for the day when I lower my naked body into the water and bathe in it. It’s like a sacred spa treatment; I’d like the Fermented Bat Guano Bath for $200, please. I love you, bats, for your mosquito control and sonar abilities but please find your own damn house! Outside!



We replaced the tub with this kickass shower and built-in shelving, hand-built by the Finnish Carpenter (who builds saunas on the side. For more info on Finns and their saunas, click here). The tile is tumbled river rock grouted within an inch of its life by the Finnish Carpenter’s cousin, a man whose demeanor tells me that he prefers tile to people. Which works out well for me and my bathroom.

photo 2     photo 4


It’s sort of a slapdash design that feels appropriately rustic but adequately clean and fresh. The combo of cedar walls and smooth rocks underfoot invokes a sauna atmosphere that vibes well with this forest-y, Scandi-infused locale.


The sink is Ikea’s teeniest option, allowing us to sit down on the toilet without wrapping our legs around the sink.




At the expense of getting a little theme-y, the fish mirror works for a family of various heights. Thanks to puberty, I just recently became the shortest person in my family which causes some disagreement when hanging mirrors. If left to Mike and Liam, all mirrors would be hung so that I can only see my carefully sculpted eyebrows. On my tiptoes, I might be able to see that break in my nose where I got hit in the face with a frisbee. But with the new fish mirror, everyone gets their own fish of appropriate height. It’s so egalitarian.

photo 3



The most dramatic part of our cabin reno project was the removal of the Motel 6 toilet paper dispenser.

photo 1


As Mike removed it from the wall, Liam and I stood next to him and clapped importantly for the statement that this made. Nothing says cheap hooker like motel fixtures, am I right? Plus, a family of three in an 800 square foot cabin does not require an industrial grade “dispenser” for toilet paper; I’m guessing this artifact had been dispensing the same roll since the Clinton era.

Not only was this removal exciting from a Motel 6 perspective, it also gave me the opportunity to shop for an alternative. This should’ve been another make love to the internet situation, searching for something perfectly elusive, but instead I took the immediate gratification route and drove to the nearest (ha!) big box store……..and………I’m not kidding when I tell you that I’m pretty sure I saw Jessica Biel’s mom at the Shopko.

For those of you who don’t watch the news (aka Entertainment Tonight), Jessica Biel was born in Ely, Minnesota, gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and home of the nearest Shopko.

My toilet paper holder options were so limited at the Shopko that I couldn’t even muster the motivation to take a photo of my choice. But it’s still better than the cheap hooker-influenced design. And I saw Jessica Biel’s mom.  Maybe.  Well, I saw a motherly looking woman with Jessica Biel’s face and I got excited.

So… this a fantasy bathroom? No. But it’s a great example of simplicity and efficiency, form and function, authenticity and crisp workmanship, in the tiniest of spaces. When this cabin was built, no one peed inside. A shower was something that rich people took on Sundays. So to the original cabin owners, this would be the ultimate in luxury.

And the bats can suck it.




Featured image credit: Tim Flach