Cabin Construction – Lake Vermillion

We got up to our land for the first time since purchasing. I will post pictures as I get started on it. I suspect it will take a couple of years to get everything done as it is boat access and we are going to try and pay cash as we go.


Dock loaded up and headed north.dock going north

Using the old swim platform to float the dock over to the land.pulling dock reduced

One of the old-growth Pines on the property. We purchased 4 acres with 200′ of lakeshore on Oak Narrows outside of Cook, MN.20140517_171510

Panoramic shot of the lot. The cabin will sit near the orange bucket in the pic.20140517_170146

Mr. Trout displaying the real estate sign. Reminds me of Vanna White.20140517_163539


One of these days I will figure out how to format this blog! Here is a pic of the barge picking up my dad’s tractor and bringing out the excavator to do some lot prep. Big Rig!20140616_093600

Barge pulling up to the land.20140616_100158

The excavator got to work pushing some trees and pulling out rocks. The area has glacial till meaning the boulder might be a foot around or it might be 5 ft around. Digging them out by hand is seldom an option unless you have a lot of time to kill. I had him out there for 4.5 hours, not cheap at $100/hr but well worth the money.20140616_115944

Jack going to town with an ax.20140616_111037

Connor & Seth feeling like lumberjacks.20140616_110611

Jen & Jack hamming it up.20140616_111200

Pulling trees.20140616_135259

Making a trail to the power line easement where the future gravel pit will be located. We are going to run the septic line up this way as well along side the road.20140616_131306

Clearing out the beach area.20140616_110328

The start of the beach area. Will expand it some more when I get the excavator rented and brought back out. Going to rent one personally next time. For the money, I can rent one myself for almost a week and put all the fine-tuning on the lot I want. Kids are going to have to do some reed removal! Dock sections just brought over in this pic.20140706_183544








From the topside20140616_133730

Dads tractor in action. Great little 4wd log skidder.20140616_110538

Now time for the beast. $300 special from Craigslist. Not the best but it is a start. Eventually will get a nice dock and move this one over to the other side of the point as a second.20140703_112903

Got it stripped down and primed, ready for paint.20140703_160023

Getting a little prettier… Welded a swim ladder up to mount on the end.20140705_163022

And there she is with her new decking on. Still have to install some 1×3 cedar along the edge for rub rails so the boats don’t get dinged up. I put in removable dock sections so when I attempt to make it a winch out dock for winter time it wont be heavy. That will be a complete experiment, haven’t seen any other steel docks that have been winched out up here before. I welded up a bracket that connects to the concrete base on shore. I am going to weld an A-frame that attaches to the base and steel cables will run from the anchor spot on shore to the top of the  A-frame. From there steel cables will run out to the mid and end points of the dock. Flip the winch switch and hopefully it all comes up out of the water before the ice sets in.20140706_162414








All aboard for the float from Big G’s cabin to our land.20140706_182934

Kids getting the dock panels put in.20140706_191912

And the final product.20140706_192826

Check out Gabe & Liv’s new toy. A wood-fired hot tub!20140702_201825

Here is a pretty cool outhouse. The neighbors’ Bob & Vicki built this baby. Heat/slate tile floors and all the comforts of home!20140616_202911


That was a wrap for those two weekends. Pretty nice to have a dock so our friends can now stop by and say hi. Also makes it a lot easier to unload materials. Next up… Find an older 24′ pontoon to refinish and turn into the barge boat. That will be a fun and very useful project on a boat access property. Stay tuned for more pics!


Got 2 pallets of concrete delivered to the marina in February. Built a skid to help bring it across the ice to the land. This is for the footings of the cabin.concrete1

Uncle John pulling over a sled with concrete with his Argo.concrete3

A bit cold on the go!20150221_104440

Pontoon Success! Found a 24 ft on craigslist. Came with two 28 hp motors and a boat lift which was a bonus. Nice to not have the toon bouncing on the dock all summer.toon2



Cancel renting an excavator.  Meet Greta… Picked up an early 1990s Kobelco SQ024. About the only piece of machinery that is useful for digging on Vermilion due to the rocks in the ground. Getting ready to take it north here.

I cut and welded up a fixed thumb for the bucket to grab rocks and stumps. Works out pretty well.20140916_203301


Starting to get the path down to the dock built.20140920_135000

Starting to look a little better.20140920_164636


And a view up from the dock. Cabin will be located at the top toward the right.20140920_164606

Here is a sample of some of the rocks that come out of the ground. These need to be dug out, if they are under structures they will push up with frost and can affect your foundation system.image

Of course, if you have as many rocks as Vermilion does in the grounds no one wants to pick them out by hand when you need fill. So with my dad Paul’s help, I built a de-rocker. Now we just scoop, dump and the rocks roll off to the side. Works amazing!De rocker
derocker first use


I haven’t been able to make a gravel pit in the back yet. Have to make a better trail to get the excavator back there but in the meantime dug a big hole a bit back on the property next to the good trail and found some nice pay dirt. It’s a bit of work getting down to the buildings sites, I am using a 4 wheeler and a dump trailer. I brought in about 10 yards of fill to prep the base for the shed.

Got sick of shoveling the remaining half of dirt out of the plastic dump trailer so I built a dump trailer with a winch to lift it. Holds about 1/2 a yard.


We got the pontoon in the water. I ended up buying a 3rd toon for the center of the boat so I could haul more payload. Here she is getting put in the lake. We have given it the name “The Farge” (Freng+Barge)toon resized

And all done up for an evening cruise.IMG_20150807_211611

Jack taking control.20150614_124405

My brother Joe posing with one of the white pines.IMG_20150725_205644
Hopefully on next trip up the Shed/Sauna will start to show some form. That’s all for now…


December 5, 2017:

Well, we wrapped up 2017 with “some” progress. It has been a while since I updated the blog so here goes… Enjoy!

Site getting prepped for the sauna, drain tile going in, pad leveled and beams brought in, building platform up, thanks to Jens dad Denny for helping out! 

Sauna going up, ordered a nice horizontal window and positioned it so you can look out over the lake when you are sitting on the top bench in the sauna. This is being used as our sleeping quarters as we build the cabin. We brought electricity in, that was a fun job. Running out 300 ft of 2.5″ conduit over 4/0 service wire through the woods was not fun but at least we were not required to bury it. We wired in baseboard heat and gave it some light insulation for cool nights. Its a bit cramped but keeps the family dry. 


Here is the matching outhouse.

Next big project this summer was clearing the area for the cabin. This didn’t appear to be much work when I started and soon found out that it took just about every weekend this summer to complete. I had to hire someone come out to blast the 3000 lb boulders where the cabin footings were going. We had about 3 of those. We needed to move a lot of dirt, my excavator doesn’t move dirt very well so we got a skid loader to help out. I could of rented one but this summer I put 50 hours on it which would have equated to $5000 @ $100 an hour to have someone do the work.

Greta got a new friend “Merv”. I built a rock bucket to sift out the millions of rocks we turned up when digging and a pair of forks to move the big rocks and building materials.


Here is the cabin site being prepped. (One of the boulders that was blasted)

We could have built the cabin on the grade that was there but I didn’t not want to work off of uneven land. No fun setting up ladders and trying to put a roof on where there isn’t good footing.

Started to dig the footings. We will have 3 footings running front to back reinforced with rebar which will also be run up into 18 piers (sonotubes) which the cabin platform will be built off of. The entire foundation system will be covered with 2″ rigid foam that is sunk about 12″ below the final grade to protect it. This “should” stop any frost movement. 

The path from the lake also started to take shape over the last 2 summers. We trenched in electricity down to the dock and also put in a water line to pull from the lake.  

And we also built a fire area at the end of the penisula which is pretty awesome as water surrounds you on 3 sides. 

We started to run out of room in the sauna to tools and materials so we had to empty it every time we arrived. That doesn’t work to well when it rains and it seems to rain a lot up there. I cleared a site behind the cabin area and built a road to it. This area was near the valley that water runs down to the lake so it was quite the soupy mess. I brought all the rock out of the cabin area and built a pad for that. K-bid supplied us with a 20×30 foot portable garage which my dad, Pinnow and Garet came up and helped put up this summer. Twas a muddy mess! The soil I dug up for the base is like Jello till it drys out, once it drys out it is like concrete. 

We got some lights run down the peninsula to brighten things up a bit. This will be a new landmark for evening navigation on the lake. 

Jen got her first garden installed with deer proof plantings. 

Built a couple of smaller docks to install to get to the boat lift so I dont have to take up space on the main dock. 

Greta got a new set of shoes and some new teeth.

That is pretty much where we sit until next summer. Hopefully we can get the footings excavated and forms and concrete work done by end of spring. Once we start framing the cabin it will hopefully go pretty quick. It will be nice to get it shelled in and we can move in there instead of the shed.



The summer of 2018…. who wants to see a cabin going up? I do too but it hasn’t. You always think more is going to get done than actually does. A lot of digging was done with some good results. We are getting closer to being able to start framing but still have the hardest part ahead of us… The foundation.

Started off the year with a winter trip over to the land with all the foundation insulation. Bought enough to cover the entire cabin area with 3″ of rigid foam. Found a guy on Craigslist that tears off old commercial roofs and sells the used foam for cheap. Paid $1100 for it all. This stuff is $50 a sheet new which would have been close to $4000.

Who wants to mix 500 bags of concrete by hand? None of my friends… so I built a cement mixer to mount to the skid steer. Found an old beat up mixer on Craigslist and retrofitted it with a new hydraulic motor and hoses. Welded it to a quick attach plate and made a chute for it. Now we can drive along the footings and sono-tubes and “chute” it right in.

As the spring progressed we soon found out that a 55-gallon drum buried as a sealed vault for the outhouse is not the answer. Got a little ripe, to say the least. Craigslist to the rescue again. I found a 275-gallon liquid tote down in Faribault for $60. We dug a new hole further away from where the cabin is going to be for a little separation.

And the outhouse is on the move… Got it set up and it thankfully is much less ripe…

Remember that beach area that we were going to work on…

After a lot of work, it now looks like this…

And then we got a lot of rain, literally the next weekend. A LOT!

And then we repaired it and we got some sand…

We had so much rain that it started running through the cabin site so I had to make a little creek to run it around. Don’t worry it is not wetland area, just runs over the area when we get heavy rain. All legit. 

Footings started for real this year. Not fun to try and excavate deeper when you already have a trench dug. Had to get a bit crafty….

At the midpoint in September we have two of the footing trenches dug out and formed up. Still, one more to go. The slow part is getting down to the hardpan for lack of a better word. Moderate size angular pieces of rock packed tightly together. Literally, have to get in the trench with a pickaxe and a frost bar to get them loose. You would think an excavator could get them up but it would lift up the excavator trying to get out a 1-foot diameter chunk of rock it was packed in so tightly. Probably going to end up tarping them for the winter as the lake dropped 17″ over the last month and it is now to low to get the barge in with 10 tons of concrete. 

We made 4 campsites for visitors to come up and pitch tents.

Got this guy on the game camera in June. 

And I made a new sundeck for “The Farge”. Now you can relax in style on the back end. 

That is probably the extent of what is going to get done in 2018. Check back this spring for more pictures and progress. Hopefully, we will have started framing by mid-summer. Hopefully…

HOLLY HANNA it’s been a long time since I have updated this. Lot has changed up there. Let’s get into it…

Footings were dug out which went pretty well aside from starting to hit the compacted rock at the bottom which was a challenge. Got the rebar in and tied.

Next up was getting the pier forms in and concrete poured. For those of you counting… it was 575 bags of concrete. Thanks to my friends who came up and helped!!!

Poured a pad at the NW corner of the cabin area for the utilities to run into (electric/sewer).

Here is the chase going on it

Chase finished and backfilled

Being up north we have a considerable risk of frost moving footings around. Not uncommon to see cabins with piers that are pushed all over the place creating uneven floors. You can go really deep with footings but we could not do that here due to the bedrock. Our workaround was insulating the ground about 2 ft down and backfilling over it. This will keep temps above freezing at the footing level. Lot of extra work but should never have to deal with shimming floor beams or movement. 

Another load worthy of “The Farge”

The foundation was a huge job. Probably the most difficult part of the whole build. Now time for the building platform. Getting started here with the framing…

Joists going on

Joists are all on

Once we had the joists up it was time for insulating the floor. I went with a loose fill mineral wool as it is not affected by moisture if it were to get wet which it will as we cant get the walls and roof on right away.

Before insulating, we had to underskin the platform with plywood. Fun job on your back. Thanks Jen and Seth for going under… 

We filled it all then started putting on the subfloor

Almost done

Taking a break after that job

Trying to keep it dry when we are not up there

Here is an overhead of the joists. The green treated area is the porch/deck area at the front

We wanted to get the decking on prior to starting construction so we have somewhere to work off of. Went with composite so we would have less maintenance AND it was the same price as wood due to the lumber spike.

Ever heard of measure twice, cut once? Yeah we were off 1.5″ on centering the decking. Had the enjoyable experience of pulling 700 blind fasteners and moving them all over a smidge. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. The dance floor is OPEN!

So with the lumber prices being through the roof, we decided to switch directions… Can you guess??

Yep it happened… we have a log cabin going up instead of stick built. Andersen Log Homes out of Walker, MN finished building the shell in December.

We could not get it delivered in October as the lake was so low the barge could not get close enough to shore to unload the trucks and logs. Praying for lots of snow!

What happens when you need to bring a semi trailer and crane over by barge? You need to redo the land so they can get straight on and off the barge because it is difficult to steer the trailer with a bulldozer and fifth-wheel trailer. Time for more work Greta…

All went well except for those pesky boulders. We had to have another one dynamited as it was too big for my machines to remove.

We finished up the summer with ordering the steel roofing, rafters, windows/doors & framing material for the gable ends. Here is the roofing waiting for summer 2022. 

For side projects, I built a woodshed out of pallets, restored a Kuuma Lamppa sauna stove,  and restored a newer 4 stroke boat motor so I can actually hear people when we are out for a sunset cruise.

Thats a wrap for 2021. We will update some more in June of 2022 as log cabin assembly begins.




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