The Modern Mountain Man- 10.11.16

If you were to tell my uncle that he was a bit of an odd duck, you certainly wouldn’t be the first to do so.
The retired army ranger doesn’t much care for sitting around and doing nothing, so he’s always finding another project to keep him busy. Coming back to Vermont after living in Kansas for quite some time, he’s been developing a 100-acre plot of land in Royalton,Vermont for the last few years.


The cabin that came with the property. No electricity, phone, cable, or what have you. Mike runs a generator for his RV’s battery and doesn’t use much else.

Mike has been using my grandfather’s old portable mill to slowly work his way through his 100 acres of old-growth forest, getting all the lumber he needs right from his own backyard. The lower portion of the clearing around his barn is populated with stacks of rough-hewn lumber in odd sizes: 2×12’s, 3×8’s, and beams 4″, 6″, 12″ square drying in neat stacks. Some of it he has plans for- some just cut up because he could. His project right now is another small pole barn to house his RV in the winter.


The barn he built a few years ago to house his tractor, bulldozer, mill, and a small shop.

I visited last Tuesday, in the peak of foliage season, to take a look around the property. I ended up helping him pull his framing into square.

We then went on a tour of the property, heading into the woods to see what kind of trees are out there. The type of wood you build with is a science within itself: Pine and hemlock are notably light and strong, but don’t hold up to the elements as well as cedar and spruce do. Some woods are stronger along the grain than others are across. Even picking which trees are worth cutting based off of shape and size is an art. But with enough woods to pick through, it’s not hard to find some that will work.

And of course we couldn’t forget the reason I actually came down: I wanted to see the plot of land he’s planning on building a house on.

Mike’s always been one for adventurous projects, but this one goes above and beyond. He showed me his rough sketches of a roughly 30×40 2-story home with attached two car garage, an open floor plan, covered drive-in entrance, with sweeping gables and dormers. 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, basement unfinished.


View from below- facing the wrap-around deck.


View from above, where the entrance would be.

My job in the next few weeks is to turn his rough ideas into a functional and properly dimensioned plan so that he can present it to a real builder who can get the plans approved and safely designed. I’ve never designed a house that is actually going to be built, so this is an exciting new challenge! We’ll see how it goes.


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