For many years my wife would respond whenever I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, birthdays etc. with the refrain “a cabin in the woods.” In some years she would receive a joke gift in response to this request (one year a bird house with “A Cabin in the Woods” sign attached; another year a painting of a cabin with the same sign added etc.) The time came, however, when we were in the financial circumstances that we could attempt to make her dream come true.
At first we considered land in the Charlottesville area but we found that land there was just too expensive. Eventually, we began looking for property in southwest Virginia. Initially, we had a real estate agent in Floyd to show us land. In this search we actually found a 25 acre plot we liked. It was connected to electricity and already had a well so it seemed almost perfect for us. For unknown reasons we could never get the agent to present an offer on this property. She showed us other properties but seemed uninterested in helping us to purchase the piece we wanted. Eventually we found a different agent in Blacksburg.
Although he had never sold rural land before, he was eager to explore this posssibility. One weekend he took us to see many rural properties that were for sale throughout the New River Valley area, including the one in Floyd we liked. One of the pieces of land was in Giles County. We found this property amazing, better even than the Floyd lot, with breathtaking views in every direction. It was a bit more land than we had intended to buy, almost 30 acres, and there was no electrical connection to the land and no well, but we were hooked and put in an offer. It was accepted while we were vacationing and visiting our daughter in Florida.
Fran and me shortly after closing
View of property from above small barn
Much to our dismay we learned that certain information we had been given by the realtor and/or closing lawyer was not correct. The issue of bringing electricity to the land almost torpedoed all our plans. There was a telephone/electric pole directly across the road from our driveway. We were led to believe that there would be no problem bringing the wire across the road since it was on a road and utility right of way. Wrong!!! An easement from our neighbor’s property was required.
We had met the neighbor (whose actual house is about a quarter of a mile from our property) briefly during a weekend visit to our land but did not really know him or his wife. I made a very stressful walk to his house to see, in an indirect way which we had learned was the country way of doing things, if he would give us an easement, probably for a price. To my amazement, he immeditely volunteered to grant the easement without cost. Country people are different. They are good neighbors even to strangers.
The next challenge was putting in a well. Without a viable water source, our plans would be unfeasible. I was fairly confident since a nearby well had found good water and I selected a drilling site as close to that well as possible. When the drilling hit 700 feet and encountered several fractures (essentially caves) with the well driller speculating that he might have to cease the drilling, we became very stressed. Fortunately, at 780 feet (and over $15,000 in cost including the pump) we hit good water. Whew!!! What a relief.
completed well head
Our eldset son and his family moved into the area to supervise the construction of our log home. A general contractor was engaged and almost before we knew it a basement/foundation had been dug and poured.
Me standing in “basement” of future cabin.
Logs finally delivered by four 18 wheelers
Eldest son inventories logs and other building materials
Soon the house was under construction. My son did the masonary including the fireplace and chimney from stones found on the land and later also did the inside carpentry and back deck.
Constuction of cabin begins
Progress slow but sure
My advice to anyone planning to build their own home; Expect it to cost twice what is estimated and take three times longer to complete than expected.
Ariel view of construction and property
During the early construction process my wife moved into the area, “unretiring” to take a job as head counselor at a local high school. I remained in Virginia Beach with my youngest son with a very active law practice, looking for someone to buy my interest in the firm. Three years later, with the house completed enough that wife, son and family had already moved in, I finally was succesful in finding a buyer, and made the big move.
Although there have been a few problems with the house construction, we love our log home in the mountains even if is in the middle of a hayfield rather than in the woods (a forest does surround the property). We love the small towns that are in easy travel distance and our new laid back lifestyle.
Winter view of completed cabin
During our time here my wife has taken up a number of interests, including knitting, spinning, creating a large garden and raising chickens as well as maintainiing our little farm. As for me, I have become a Harley enthusiast, exploring by motorcycle the mountain roads throughout southwest Virginia, completed and published the first book in my historical novel trilogy (Mfecane:The Crushing) and am currently working on the second book with publication expected before the end of this year. Together we have taken up horseback riding and possibly will add horses to our little mountain farm next year. We continue to enjoy long held hobbies such as snow sking and traveling and try to visit our kids and grandkids regularly.
Completed “Cabin” (over 4000 square feet) in the Woods
Life is good on our mountain farm. We cannot imagine ever living in the stress of a big city again.