cottage ideas

Ideas, Suggestions for Cottage / Cabin Owners

This list will, hopefully, be changing constantly as YOU offer your suggestions. These are the ideas that work for us. If YOU have suggestions, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks - ken

There is a special page just for the cabin and in particular, of the wildlife we see there. That page lives at

My trips to the cabin are diarized on the blog at

These are not grouped under headings nor in any particular sequence, as many of them would have to be listed under several headings.

As you can see, my cabin is completely devoid of any "mod-cons."

YOUR OWN Property:

If YOU are an outdoor enthusiast, as I am, and are looking to buy, or lease or sell a "Recreational Property" then this page will interest you:

blue birds 1. Set up a bird-feeder. To make the feeder more "user-friendly" add a branch from a tree. Tape a piece of pipe to the bird-feeder pole and set a can of water under it. This way when the branch dies you can replace it with a fresh one. Here is mine. (see #71 below also, for an improved version). The birds are sometimes uncomfortable with a feeder and a branch helps overcome any fears. Plus, often, one will feed while another keeps watch, sitting in the branch. Here it is being enjoyed. I put the feeder "just the right" distance from the window so as to give them as little reason for discomfort and to give me the maximum opportunity to take their pictures."

hot shower 2. If you do not have a hot shower, rig one up as we did at very low cost. You can get the bag in many stores which sell camping gear and we made a rig so that when it is not too hot out, we can put this thing into an insulated box with a glass top. It got so hot that the seam at the top of the bag gave out. We put a strong handle on it as you can see here. At night we lay the bag with its plywood support, on a shelf at a slope. We stand in a rubber tub intended as a cattle watering trough, and we hung plastic from a mattress around it. Works GREAT and the cost was near zero. The only downside: it is tough in such a small tub, to shower with a friend.

wild beaver 3. If there are beavers on the property, get to know them and enjoy them. If you are careful, you might be able to get them to feed from your hand. BUT be careful, a bite would be VERY nasty. In any case, pictures of them would be great to enjoy later. Here is one I shot with my digital camera as he was working on his dam. I have a lot more pictures of them at "My Messy Beavers" which lives at

firewood 4. Make sure of your winter firewood supply and maybe build another bin to store it. Here is one of mine

Also, see #72 below.

pool 5. If you don't have a pool and don't plan to get one, you can make a temporary, "quick and dirty" one as we did.

The tarp on the left can catch water when it rains (it is lowered for that purpose) or left up to protect us from the hot northern summer sun.

Total cost: $0

propane 6. I had a lot of those little disposable 1-pound propane bottles and felt guilty about adding to the world's garbage supply, so now I refill them. Propane dealers are not allowed to refill them for you but I can do it myself with a little refilling adapter; I Googled: propane +refill +adapter.

But you didn't hear it from me.

7. If you have a problem with ants, you might have success getting rid of them by giving them a good supply of corn meal. I'm told it works but have been using Diazinon of late. Unfortunately, they don't sell it any more; it was too toxic.

divider 8. If your driveway looks a bit "lame" you might be able to dress it up with a few spruce trees planted along it. I did that on one side and laid two logs (on blocks) along the other side, well painted with wood preserver to keep out those miserable ants.

white rocks A nicely-painted (white?) rock at the end of your driveway; one on each side, looks nice too, I think. I poured small concrete blocks to set the rocks on.

moose antlers So does a moose antler with your name on it. But you will need a good exterior varnish for it, and even then, you will need to re-do it from time to time.

horseshoes 9. If you like to play "Horseshoes" but don't have nor want to make the pits, try this. Our game is very similar but has several advantages. We use 2 wooden pegs and we put them either in the sun or in the shade, whichever strikes us best on any particular day, and then we throw some rings. Our rings are out of a huge old computer hard disk. Not everyone has access to these, of course, but you can use whatever kinds of rings are handy. In a pinch you can make some out of willow twigs and some tape. Here are our pegs, rings and one ring made from willow. Each of the two players has rings with his own color. We use the beautiful Diamond Willow sticks with a hook on the end to pick up the rings. Make up your own rules as you go. The way we play it is that if you get a "ringer" you leave that ring on the post. Whoever runs out of rings first, wins.

birdbath 10. Make a flower bed with a birdbath in it. Ours is barely started but we have the birdbath almost done. For that, we skidded in a large rock which was rather flat on both top and bottom. On the top we made, with concrete, a bird bath as you can see here.

dried leaves 11. Make a collection of dried leaves or plants of the area. Here is some of our collection. Mounted on a nice background with a nice frame and under glass might be very impressive.

buck 12. Use your digital camera to take series of pictures of such items around your cottage as big game, mushrooms and fungi, stars (and try a time-exposure using a tripod), insects (use your "Macro" setting for close-ups), plants and weeds as well as wild flowers, birds; see mine at, clouds etc.

Here is one of my pictures taken from the cabin window. You might try some black/white ones too. Remember that the shadows of early morning and late afternoon sometimes add a lot to a picture.

bee-keeping 13. Consider whether it would be beneficial and fun to keep a few bees to provide honey and learn about these fascinating creatures. BUT before you start, figure out IF it is allowed, IF it may cause a problem with neighbors, IF possibly somebody might be around who is allergic to bee venom and also figure out the total cost including any means you may need to employ to keep bears from destroying your colony. You will probably have to spend some $$ on the hive, a queen, coveralls, hat, veil, "hive tool," and gloves. And there may be a problem over-wintering your bees. Consult a bee-keeper in the area. You may even need to get an extractor of some sort. I am still looking into this and am looking for most of the items listed here. Note that some people may be allergic and not even know it. There is a LOT of help available on the WWW so check it out before you get into it too deep. We are building a "bee cage" in which to set the planned bee hive; this is to (we hope!) keep bears off; this is a model, not identical to the big one we are building but making this model helped plan/design the fullsize version.

mouse trap 14. If you have a "mouse problem" one thing you can do is to set up a very tall cross. I used a pine pole about 5" in diameter and 20 feet long. Near the top I nailed a cross-piece. This makes an excellent perch for all sorts of birds and sometimes I see a hawk or owl sitting on it, watching for a mousey supper on my lawn. Another way to get rid of mice is to set up a pail with some water and a stick that hinges on the edge of the pail. Set it so that a mouse can "walk the plank" to get at the bait sitting on the end over the bucket. When he gets close, the plank tips and dumps him into the water. The delicately-balanced, hinged plank then returns upward for the next mouse. I quit using water because it freezes and oils is very messy if a bear tips the pail over. Now I use dry leaves; that stops the mouse from jumping out.

lighting problems 15. Lighting can be a problem if your cottage is not connected to the "power grid." We have used several systems over the years. Now that we are spending more time in WINTER at the cabin here in northern Canada where the nights are LOOOOONG, we are investigating alternate, low-cost means of lighting. Note our lighting history: - the kerosine lamp on the left is a health risk - the red one which uses Naptha is VERY good but a bit noisy - the third one is similar to the red one but uses propane; be careful not to "cross-thread" it when screwing on a new tank! We almost had a major fire. - the last one uses 8 "D" cells and the first time we used it, we got, at LOW light, only 4 hours of light from it. A second try, with 8 Energizer Alkaline batteries, at "High" we did get the 17 hours as advertised. Those 8 batteries, though, cost more than $12. Now I'm trying Dorcy alkalines which were on sale for only $6.97 (for 8) at Home Hardware, in December 2007.

portable light The next edition of our "Lighting Marathon" is "Eliminator." THIS one had our hopes up high. Too high. A major disappointment in spite of our immediate impression that this was THE answer. NOT SO. The 13-watt bulb lasts us two evenings. And the darn thing cost $100. I did buy a $300. solar panel for this box but it is only a "trickle charger" so won't do a whole lot. Note (inset) the old CD which I used to reflect light downwards.

Later I added a rounded, plastic lampshade.

portable light This regular 12-volt car battery and a little inverter was no success at all.
Another option is solar power; you can study about that here:

Later, I bought a $135 generator at Peavey Mart; it worked fine a few times but the following summer it would not even start. They gave me a full refund, no questions asked.

Then I bought a Hyundai at WallMart for $235. It ran a few times and then just plain blew up. Really BLEW up! It was a big hassle and 4 trips to WallMart, but I did get a full refund.

Next, in December 2010, I blew a grand on a new generator.

generator This time I spent almost $1000. and got a Honda; a VERY nice machine. It had no wheels so I made this little unit to move it from shed to cabin and back. Ironically, an hour after I took this picture, I had a "little accident" and destoyed that generator. Next day I bought a $600 "Champion" 5500W generator.

fisher 16. If you have plenty of woodland, consider making a "park" Our park has been growing steadily over the years and now measures about 180' x 180'. This makes it much easier to see wildlife in it, like this large fisher, about 3' long from tip to tip.

park Here is how the park looked before cleaning it up. It took a long time and a lot of sweat, but it was all worth it. The hardest part was removing the tree roots to ground level. The dirt is hard on chainsaws.

trees in park And this is how the park looks now. Once, when some deer were in the park, one little fawn noticed that (s)he was able to run a very high speed in a huge circle in the park, without having to watch for a lot of undergrowth. It did so several times, looking very proud.

This shot is taken from about 100 yards away from the cabin, into the bush. Going any further would be pointless as wildlife would not be visible then anyway.

toaster 17. If you like toast for breakfast, and don't have a toaster or electricity (and we do not!) then you can make a "toaster" like ours and toast your bread over the wood stove. Sometimes we even use it over an open, outdoor fire. The wire is from a coathanger and it is pushed into a hole drilled into the end of a stick; we wrapped tinfoil around the stick to protect it from the fire.

18. If you have a problem with squirrels eating holes in your buildings etc (as I have had) it may be time to get tough with them. Take all the pictures of them and then get nasty. Hey, if you have never had a squirrel problem as I have, don't go calling me a "meanie." They are nasty creatures and loaded with lice. I suggest you do NOT use poison nor traps. Traps can be very inhumane. My method is fast and causes very little distress before the rodent is dead. Take a long, straight twig and tie a snare on the end, made of thin wire. Approach the miserable little rodent, carefully slide the snare over his head and then give it a terrific jerk, up and way over your head, slamming him as hard as possible into the hard ground. This may seem cruel but other methods are much slower and more cruel. Shooting them is often too dangerous; bullets go a long way and must come down SOMEwhere.

birdhouse 19. Make some bird-houses. With a little imagination you can come up with "different" ones such as these. I have several wooden ones and in 2004 I decided to keep out the squirrels so put a piece of tin around the holes. The unfortunate result was that the birds did not use these birdhouses. I also used a pair of old rubber boots for birdhouses. A bear actually climbed the tree and tore the bottom half of the boot off!

young bull moose 20. Plant some trees in the yard. There are probably some small ones here and there in places where they will, before long, be mowed or run over or otherwise destroyed. Salvage them and make a small, private forest. Use them as a windbreak or to hide messy areas. I did that and now wildlife feels very comfy in there. I've seen moose, grouse, rabbits and robins enjoying my wee forest. This young male moose is just coming out of my wee forest.

And see idea 82 below!

If you like the outdoors, cottage-life as I do, these two books are terrific reading; I have both:


gooseberries 21. Make a berry patch. No doubt there are wild berries that you can transplant to the cottage for easy access. We did that with Gooseberries and planted some 50 of them nearby. Here they are.

My Gooseberries just would not produce so I finally mowed them down. On to the next idea.....

willow chair 22. Make a willow chair. This would be a fun activity for the family. There are all sorts of styles available but if you want free, very detailed and complete instructions, see the chair I designed. I have taught workshops in making this particular chair and have several of them in my house. ALL the details live at THIS particular chair was made from DIAMOND WILLOW (which I sell).

Someday my kids will have to fight over this one!

bat-house 23. Make a bat-house. Just like a bird-house only different. Bats catch a lot of aggravating insects so they are your friend. We recently had three of them spend every day between a couple of loose boards just above the cabin door. Every time we went in or out, our heads would be within 18" of these three. No problem there but they sure left a lot of mess on the deck. Finally we waited until they had gone out for the evening and then we plugged the hole and nearby hung this bat-house; once in awhile I see bats using it. Some research on the WWW may give some advice on how to set up these bat-houses better.

inukshuk 24. Make an inuksuk (or "inukshuk") as we did in honor of those very hardy native folks in Canada's far north, who can survive the incredibly cold winters and live off the land. We used some concrete as glue to hold the rocks together and it has withstood a 5.9 earthquake centered some 50 miles away.

bear track 25. Get some Plaster-of-Paris and when you find an unusual animal track, take a casting of it. We have several bear tracks and one huge wolf track collected this way. We keep the plaster in an ice-cream pail together with some strips of aluminum sheeting which can be put around a track and pushed down into the mud to hold the plaster while it dries. Here is the wolf track (4.5 inches wide) on the left and a bear track on the right. We believe that this wolf track was made by a very large, black wolf which we have seen several times and even got a picture (elsewhere on my website) of him carrying a dead buffalo calf away from my cabin.

More at .

26. Keep/start a diary of your trips to your cottage and all the neat things that happened there. You could, as I do, keep it on/with a laptop computer, using "website-style" format so that you can have links to take you instantly from one part of the diary to another, pictures, moving pictures and video clips as well as sounds. You could burn all that to a CD and share it with family.

After every trip to the cabin, I update my diary and put the pictures into it in large size and high quality. Then I make a second version of that as my BLOG, with condensed text and with the images smaller and in lower quality. You can see my current blog at Every year I start a new one but keep the old ones in my computer; not online.

museum 27. Make a "Museum Shelf." This is one of ours. On it we set all sorts of neat things that we find in the wilds. Another has all sorts of different shapes of diamonds found in our Diamond Willow.

wood deer 28. Make a "log-deer" like the one we have here. This is a real picture, not faked in any way. Once I watched a little fawn, "nose-to-nose" with it as if it was saying, "Will you play with me?"

My usual caption for this picture is: "Can you tell the REAL deer from the 'not-so-real one?"

gold panning 29. If there is a creek nearby or even just a "likely-looking" gravel area, you might try panning for gold. "Gold is where you find it." I used to teach a gold-panning workshop regularly and we always find gold. Details live at

deer 30. If there are deer, moose or elk in your area, a "Shed-hunting" trip might be fun. Get some ideas from "experts" on where to look and you might get lucky. This pile of antlers shed by (mostly) moose on my yard is getting some attention from a fawn. You might even sell them; there is a market.

picnic table 31. If you don't already have a decent picnic table, make one. It is quite easy if you use the free, very detailed notes I posted at

This is one of my most popular pages. It has links where you can buy one if you are not in a position to make one yourself. See tip #74 below for a tool to move the table around your yard.

protect your trees 32. Some woodpeckers seem bound and determined to kill your favorite trees. That happened here. I'd planted this small birch near the cabin and it was growing well. Then this little woodpecker claimed it as his own personal pecking post. I fixed his little red wagon by hanging a chicken-wire sleeve on the lower branches, reaching right down to the ground. No more problem.

hiking trail 33. If you have plenty of woodland, maybe making a hiking trail would be a neat project. I took ten years to build the one I call "Tanner Creek Road" and it runs for about 3/4 mile. The name came from Gerald Tanner who was with me and helped decide on the route to take when crossing a creek. Many of my other trails were cut by oil companies looking for gas or oil. They even paid me to make the trails for me! Here is one of my trails.

arrow heads 34. Hunt for arrowheads, other artifacts and strange rocks. I have found a couple of rocks that had obviously been, many hundreds (?) thousands (?) of years ago, been chipped by humans. Others in our area have found beautiful arrowheads. This is part of the collection of a farmer in Northern Alberta.

GPS 35. Use a GPS to make a map of your hiking trails and other points of interest. note that you can get free software to print out your trails on paper. For details see my GPS page at These machines are absolutely incredible. If you were to drop me off in the bush at a location I've never been to, and had no landmarks to guide me, I could simply tell the GPS to tell me which way back to the cabin and it would take me there. Unbelievable! The more you use these things, the better they get.

photo collection 36. Make a collection of photos of favorite activities at your cottage. Glue them on a board and hang this on your wall. Here is mine. It grows year by year. On the back of the cardboard is a CD which has all the photos on it.

bathroom shelf 37. Gather some sticks and make a rustic storage shelf. Ours is made of birch sticks and has served us well for many years.

If it is not 100% steady, just screw a "screw-eye" into the wall behind it and run a wire though that and around the back uprights.

Later we added a "wash-stand."

cattails 38. Look for unusually-shaped cattails or bullrushes. You might be surprised as to what you find. But be careful; don't get stuck in a swamp. Here are mine.

magpie trap 39. We all know that magpies (a.k.a. "Black-and-white pheasants") hunt for and kill/eat the babies of other birds. If that is becoming a problem, build a magpie trap. It works but the miserable part is to kill them after you catch them. This trap has no bottom and after having several escape while I was trying to catch them, I found the best way is to take a forked stick and, leaving the trap sit solidly on the lawn, poke the stick through one side and pin the magpie by the neck to the opposite side. Not a fun job. The large "funnel" is hard to see here but it is there.

fish smoker 40. If you have access to fish, you might make a (fish) smoker. I've used mine only for venison but it works well. The BBQpit is in the ground and once the fire is going well with green willow, I cover it and stick the old stovepipe in place. I did have a problem with the smoker catching fire so keep the pipe long enough and put some metal on the smoker. Then, keep water handy and DO NOT LEAVE IT UNTENDED!! See my smoker page for more at

WARNING: I had one in town beside my house and left it untended while I went shopping. It caught fire and nearly burned my house down! Fortunately, a neighbor spotted it and managed to put out the fire.

totem pole 41. Make a "Nature-carved" Totem Pole. In our area there was a forest fire many years ago. Some of the pine trees burned then are still standing but are beautifully carved by Mom Nature and the ash is mostly cleaned off by that same lady. Here is ours. I have a second, slightly larger one for sale.

This one is set in concrete and before mounting it, I soaked the bottom in wood preserver.

rain water 42. Nothing like rain water for the plants and trees. We set up 6 barrels so that when one is full, the next one starts to fill. From there, we syphon the water to where we need it. When the bottom barrel is full, the excess runs far away from the cabin. The top barrel is quite high compared with the second one so there was a lot of splashing. I hung a rag on the spout to reduce the splashing. I did cut a small hole near the top of each barrel so that if a barrel was slightly slanted, the water did not go over the side and spill.

Note the cute funnel made from an old plastic jug.

Be careful; kids like to climb things; if one of these barrels falls on one....!

DON'T forget to empty them and fix it so they will NOT collect water when it might freeze and ruin the barrels!

43. Make an ant farm. This is something we have not (yet) tried but there are so many ants around that sooner or later we probably will try that too.

trick 44. On rainy days, puzzles might be a good way to amuse the family. Here is one that Nelson Parlee taught me many years ago. What you need is a short piece of 2x4 (or similar) with ONE large nail centered on it. Then 10 more large nails.

Ask somebody if (s)he can balance 10 nails on the head of the one nail stuck in the 2x4.

First, you lay one nail down and lay 8 more over it.

Then take the 10th nail and lay it over the middle, that is, on top, directly over the bottom nail so that all 8 are between the two.

Then, carefully, pick up the two nails, squeezing them together so that the 8 are held in place but with points hanging down. Then set this collection on top of the nail pounded into the 2x4 like this.

You can see me doing this on YouTube at

hiking sticks 45. Hunt in the woods for some really nice sticks and finish them into canes or hiking sticks. Of course, in *my* humble opinion, no wood can compare with "Pure Art by Mom Nature" also known as "Diamond Willow."

For all sorts of tips on finishing sticks, see my page at I sell Diamond Willow worldwide.

spudgun 46. Make a spudgun; ADULT* supervison REQUIRED!! These things are a LOT of fun but DANGEROUS!!! Fuel is hairspray. You can find details all over the WWW.

At night you can see a flame shoot out of the end!

BE CAREFUL; DO NOT take chances of it exploding and taking your eyes out or worse!!


sculpture 47. If you happen to have beavers, you might be able to snag an unusual stump which they won't mind letting you have; I set this one on concrete.

wasp nest 48. Make a collection of wasp nests; BUT BE VERY CAREFUL; their stings can be deadly! I put the largest on in a glass case; it had been built under the front deck so every time we went in or out of the cabin, we had to "walk over it."

bat 49. Bats are your friends because they eat mosquitos. BUT, if you should happen to find that your cat has killed one and does not want to eat it, as ours did, you might dry the bat out and put it into a display case with mothballs and well sealed/caulked as an educational item.

axe 50. No doubt an axe is a commonly-used tool at your cottage; if so, keep it sharp and protect yourself from injury while protecting the sharp edge by using part of an old cowboy boot.

eagle feathers 51. Start a collection of feathers that you find around the place.

air vent 52. If there is danger of the area under your cabin being damp, musty, mouldy, rotten, cut some vents to allow air to circulate.

If you use a chainsaw for this, you will probably run into a nail or concrete; be careful! Wear proper protective gear and have extra chains ready; OLD ones, preferably.

rain gauge 53. Set up a rain gauge so you'll know how much rain you got.

You can probably pick up a free one someplace as we did.

bird house 54. I couldn't help but hang this little sign on an empty bird house one winter.

birdhouse If you have an old hollow tree which has fallen over or needs to be cut down, you might be able to use any bird-homes in it by recycling them like this.

no fly zone 55. If birds fly into your windows, you might hang up a piece of cardboard when you leave. My cardboard is in two pieces; the bottom piece flips up so that in the mornings, facing east, I can see the game in my field without the sun blinding me.

wood burls 56. Make a collection of "weird" pieces of wood from nature; like this.

picture frame 57. If birds made a nest on a wall you might salvage it after they are done with it; glue it on your wall, hang a frame around it as a "3-D picture of a nest" and if some unlucky bird does manage to kill itself on your window, as this one did, you can set the dried bird on top.

This unfortunate bird was dried out when we found it.

bear marking 58. If you happen to find a tree that a bear has scraped to mark his territory, you might (IF YOU ARE CAREFUL!) be able to "borrow" his signpost.

Here is one that I took inside, and set a large fungus on it, and also one that had been scraped VERY recently so we took a picture ONLY of that one, while keeping a very careful watch for the bear.

fly trap 59. If you have a problem with flies, bugs, mice in your cottage, as I did years ago, this might help. Get some old, NON-working refrigerators from your nearest appliance repair depot. In the back, cut a hole with a metal saw, possibly 6 inches square. Over that hole, fasten some metal screen like window screen. This way the fridge has some ventilation. We store all our bedding in one and pots, plates, cutlery in another. Works GREAT and costs NOTHING.

To eliminate the flies you can make some traps. I made some out of scrap, plastic bottles and made this huge one out of scraps of screen. I'll set it on 2-inch blocks and put a sardine can under the funnel. I tied it together with wires so that it is easy to take apart for storage or moving. I suppose you can hang it as well, with some bait hanging right below the funnel.

flytrap flytrap I turn all my old salad-dressing empties into fly-traps. A bit of colorful plastic on the outside end of the funnels might attract them. Maybe. The funnels are, of course, made from bottles too. In the bottles I put a couple of inches of smelly syrup. Those REALLY work well! And cost NOTHING.

Disposable food containers such as the two you see here, work VERY well too, if you put a funnel or two into them as I did with these two. For bait, I put in the dead mice from my traps, with a bit of water to make it nice and juicy and very smelly to attract flies.

To make it easier and faster to turn those old BBQ Chicken containers into fly catchers, I did the following. I found that cutting a hole for the funnel was difficult due to the plastic being brittle. So I took a small tin can, cut out both ends, bent one end "square" and now use that to burn the hole into the container as you can see here:

flytrap flytrap flytrap

No, the plastic did not stick to the can.

boat tarp 60. If you are fortunate enough to have a boat at your cottage, you might keep the rain and dirt out of it with a tarp. If so, the tarp tends to sag and allow rainwater and snow to collect on it. You need something under the tarp to push it up but not something that is hard or rough so as to wear holes in the tarp. My solution is to get an old inner tube from a tire shop, patch any holes in it, inflate it and set it upright in the boat under the tarp where it tends to sag.

Total Cost: $0.

pick up leaves 61. Here is an idea for the "handyman" who prefers to make things himself rather than buying them. Build a "leaf - picker - upper." I have just made this one and have not even tested it yet. There is a "drive belt" from the front to the "roller" at the back so that the roller with the rubber flaps spins faster than the wheels at the front. I won't post any details here because you can probably design a better one. This should give you a rough idea of mine and maybe motivate you to try it also. The leaves are supposed to pile up on the scrap plastic at the back.

duster 62. Make yourself a duster. I made this one from a piece of Diamond Willow with a hole drilled in the end, filled with glue, and all the tailfeathers from 2 Ruffed Grouse inserted, then more feathers stuck on the outside of the stick and black plastic tape over that. Works very well.

63. THIS one is only common sense but it is easy to forget; keep your cottage insurance (fire/theft/vandalism) up to date! Many years ago I was working for a large company and we had a few rental houses. One day I happened to notice that one of the houses was not insured. Immediately I put coverage on it and a week later it burned to the ground! No, there was NO "hanky-panky" involved. Just sheer coincidence.

boot rack 64. Make yourself a 5-cent, 5-minute boot rack; simply a piece of scrap plywood with a few 1-inch, 12-inch long sticks nailed to it.

For a different style, to dry coats etc, see tip 66.

65. If you have been clearing the yard and have a lot of branches etc to burn when there is enough snow on the ground to make it safe and legal to have a large open fire, my suggestion is to put some disposable, old plastic tarps on the pile before the snow flies. This way you won't have snow putting out your fire and you'll get a better burn. You DID read tip 63, correct?!

boot drying 66. This rack is more suitable for coats, socks, etc. etc. Just a long piece of pipe hanging from the ceiling. Hang your coathangers on it, directly above the stove BUT BE CAREFUL some clothing does not fall ON THE stove and burn the place down!!

binoculars 67. A pair of good binoculars is almost a "must have" in a rural setting. Having gone through many pairs of them over the years, I know how difficult it can be to get a pair that you are really happy with. At the moment I own 7 pairs of them and my advice is: get a strong pair that lets in a lot of light. What this means is that, in my opinion, a "10 X 35" pair is not quite enough. You can get these for very little money, like $10 but in some situations you won't be happy with them. Now I would look for a pair that is at least 16 power and has at least a 50 mm lens at the far end. My current favorite is a 10-22 x 50 which means the power is variable with a smoothly-turning lever from 10x to 22x. My 16 power binoculars is strong enough but the 35 mm lens at the far end is too small to let in enough light in evening or at dusk. Keep in mind if you are considering a variable - power pair though, the more you crank up the power, the less light. This means you have to juggle the power you want with the light you need. This is my current collection:

(a) a 10 x 35 OK for most situations; a C$10 pair!
(b) a 16 x 25 This one is much stronger but lets in too little light in morning or at dusk. This is a Pentax and even though I handled it with extreme care, the parts INSIDE came apart and Pentax wanted $135 to fix that.
(c) a 10 - 22 x 50 variable power; strong power and lots of light-gathering ability when you need it
(d) a 12 x 50 quite strong but not fantastic in low light
(e) a 25 x 100 This one is VERY heavy; needs a tripod. It does work; too bad the carrying case is VERY badly designed making it very awkward to use.

Note also that as your magnification increases, it becomes more difficult to hold the binoculars steady. Most people probably find that anything stronger than 12x needs support.

Another thing to keep in mind when using binocs, looking through a window will probably result in poor viewing and more distortion.

A final tip involves care when buying a pair of binoculars; I recently bought a pair of "20 x 50" binoculars. When I compared their power with a "brand name" pair of 16 x 35, I found them to be far less than 20 power; they were probably only 12x. Also I have bought some that were labeled "Night Vision" when in fact, they had absolutely no feature that would enable any sort of "night vision."

electric fan 68. If you have windows that fog up a bit in wintertime and a very small fan would keep it clear, you can make such a little fan from something that you would otherwise probably throw in garbage can. Take an old electric toothbrush that uses 2 "AA" batteries and for which you can not get replacement brushes. Cut it as I did here and you'll find that the pin or "drive shaft" turns in one direction only; it does not go in one direction for a bit and then go in the other direction. Cut the lid of a can into a fan and you are on your way.

69. This one is more like a reminder. Please make sure you have at least one fire extinguisher handy at all times and make sure they are not empty.

toboggan 70. If you have to travel any distance to get from the road to your cabin, in wintertime, as we do, then you might find it useful to build a toboggan to hold all your gear; here is ours, made of scraps around the place.

I made it so that our plastic "totes" would JUST fit into it, snugly.

Total cost: $0.

bird feeder 71. Our "New - Improved" bird-feeder pole, made from, of course, Diamond Willow!

The base is made of 2 short pieces of 2x8 and is held down with short pieces of metal pipe loosely inserted through holes in that lumber. The idea here is to have it so that if a bear attacks it, the damage might be minimal.

Now, I guess it is only "right" that I design a nicer, wood bird-feeder to replace this tacky plastic one.

72. this was re an axe but I have removed it.

growing strawberries 73. We wanted to enjoy fresh strawberries at the cabin so we made a "cage" to grow them in. We *hope* that this will keep the deer, moose, elk off them, and maybe (?) deter the bears. We made a "New, Improved" Strawberry Coop later; they both work very well. See it at #79 below.

picnic table mover 74. You saw my Picnic Table further up on this page. Once you have it made (or bought) you will, no doubt find that you frequently want to move it around the yard; either to keep it in or ouf of the sun or just to use it as a saw-horse or workbench. I found this is the super way to make a Table Mover so that one person can move it easily with ONE hand.

picnic table 75. One more idea for a picnic table. If you happen to have a tree or a couple of trees that just happen to be "in the way" as my "twin pines" did, you might want to convert them to a table. Note that the two supports nearest the trunk, are touching the trunk and are at an angle so that if I want to add nails later, nailing them to the trunk, there will be room to swing a hammer.

book shelf 76. Perfect for rainy weather; broaden your mind; read some books I have a LOT of books at my cabin and enjoy them very much. Here is one of my bookshelves.

keeping the beavers off the trees 77. I've mentioned beavers earlier on this page but sometimes they set up shop where I really don't want them, and they destroy trees which I had wanted to keep. So, I tried something short of shooting them. I painted the still-standing trees with a mixture of diesel fuel and creosote wood preserver. I don't know if this is going to kill the trees unfortunately; will find out spring 2008. Next time I have some old paint, I'll paint the bottom 3 feet of the trees and throw sand into the still-wet paint. Here I am, slopping that foul-smelling concoction on the poplar trees. Note that I have trimmed the tops off the trees they have felled, and am using that for firewood. LATER: the beavers DID chew trees which I'd painted!

solar lighting 78. The little solar-powered yard lights you see all over nowadays can be used quite effectively indoors as well. I made a little "rack" to hold them all and we set that rack outside in the daytime with the solar panels facing the sun. Then, at sundown, I take them inside and set them around in the cabin as night-lights because we have no electricity there. The little bracket under it is hinged. The top, white, part is some old foam from a package.

** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** 79. Our "new improved" strawberry patch (VERY small!) has old CDs hanging up all around it and other things around it; later I even added a ceiling fan (mounted to catch the wind). Yet, this cow moose was not in the slightest, afraid of all that. At one point she even took a CD into her mouth! "Becky" suggested: "tie one walmart type plastic bag by the handle(one handle only) to it on each corner. When the wind blows it opens the sack and it whips around. Then everything is afraid of it. Worked on the foxes, horses, deer and other wild animals at my sisters garden in northern Minnesota.

80. To circulate (warm) air around better in your cottage, and NOT use electric power (nor batteries), get one of those fans which is powered by the warm air rising from the stove; just set it on the stove and forget it.

81. Build a GREEN Room (no boards, nor nails needed)

green roomWhen I first bought my land, I moved a lot of small spruce and a few pine trees from the bush to my yard. Now I'm very glad I did. They have grown very well and finally, I made a "green room" by going into the middle of the patch of evergreen trees and cutting branches off a number of the trees to provide an open area large enough for a few chairs and a tiny coffee table we made from willow sticks.

When we are not there, I turn the chairs upside down to keep them cleaner. The red thingie you see hanging there was some bait to bring a squirrel close for pictures.

This "room" is a real treat to enjoy. You can smell the trees, see the birds and animals much closer and be "part of" nature.

IF I had to do it again, I'd plant some deciduous trees in a 20-foot circle and put the evergreens around the outside of that; several "rings" of them. This would avoid any sticky cones etc from falling on the chairs etc. This was a very nice addition for us but it did take a lot of time to grow the trees.

using a crossbow

82. One more way to have some fun at the cabin; crossbow-shooting. Some pieces of old carpet hanging over a rope tied between two trees make a nice backstop but please NOTE the WARNINGS on my page!

My page on crossbows lives at

emergency snowshoes

83. We like to do a bit of snow-shoe-ing when the weather is right for it. If you don't have snowshoes you can make an emergency pair with two pieces of 5/8" plywood and two pieces of plastic cut out of a 5-gallon pail. You'll need to play with it to find exactly what size you need for your weight, and how far back to put the 'harness.' When you are quite happy with it, you can trim the canvas that goes over your shoe, and maybe add a bit of a belt with a buckle. This is mine before I was quite finished with it. Next project: Duct Tape Snowshoes.

emergency snowshoes

84. Speaking of snowshoes, one evening we enjoyed some "quality time" making a pair of decorative snowshoes. The sticks are willow and the lacing is willow bark from live/green/growing willows so it was easy to handle and wrap. These snowshoes, of course, CAN NOT be used; the now-dry bark is very brittle. But people comment that they look nice on the wall.

85. Lastly, you need to cover your butt (pardon my crude language). By that I mean you need to get some form of protection for your home for both, while you’re occupying it and while you’re away. There are some pretty good security systems out there—I think they call it Plug and Protect or something of that nature—that can alert you should something go awry. After all, you wouldn’t want to go out for a bit only to come home to an empty house. Perhaps the burglars would at least leave your snowshoes!

how to get Diamond Willow

in fact, tell EVERYBODY!

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