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Log Home Tour Series: Rock Heart Cabin

A self built log cabin with back hoe in the foreground
Welcome to another annual Log Home Tour Series, in honor of National Log Cabin Day! Today I'm sharing the story of Rock Heart Cabin and the resourceful and determined couple who have spent the last eight years building it themselves!

National Log Cabin Day is meant to help us remember the rich history of log cabins and also enjoy what they have become today. National Log Cabin Day is the last Sunday of June. I love taking the opportunity to shine a spotlight on all things log cabin with my annual Log Home Tour Series.

Some reader favorites from the series are:

Log Home Tour Series: White Arrows Home

Log Home Tour Series: Little Log Cabin in the Hollow

Log Home Tour Series: @cabinlife_alaska

Log Home Tour Series: Happy Days Farm

The story of Rock Heart Cabin caught my eye on Instagram a while back. You don't often see people with the fortitude and skills to build their own homes from the trees on their own property while remaining debt free. It really has been amazing to follow their progress in building. They've come so far, but still have a lot of work ahead of them so make sure to follow @rockheartcabin on Instagram so you can see all of their posts and videos of their build!

And now I'll let the folks who are building it tell you the story of Rock Heart Cabin... Enjoy!

Rock Heart Cabin
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

This is extremely exciting because I’ve been following The Roots of Home on Pinterest and Instagram for years. It is a real honor to be featured here.

Essentially, our Log Home is a traditional two dormer cape with a full length shed dormer in the back and full wrap around porch featuring a log truss in the front. It sits on top of a  28’ x 42’ poured concrete foundation, walk out basement, and  large stone retaining walls.  

Rock Heart Cabin
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

We used a swedish cope to stack the logs and saddle notched the corners. The wood species we used in our build was predominantly Eastern White Pine. However, maple, birch, and oak can also be found throughout the home.

log cabin corner with swedish cope to stack the logs and saddle notched corners
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

We started our adventure by buying land off of a dirt road in the woods that was 100% raw land. We wanted to build a very basic, conventional, stick built home, but banks at the time were not interested in loaning to self builders who didn't want to get too far in debt. Who could blame them, foreclosures were everywhere. 

So, what does a motivated young family with a beautiful piece of woods and strong faith in God do? They grab a chainsaw and get working. Now I know that some people say, we built or we are building and by that they mean they hired out the build or have purchased a new home that's being built for them. This is not us. I am telling you that we have built this cabin on our own, complete DIY.

A man building his own log cabin
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

In the beginning we would pull up and park on the dirt road next to the land and my husband would get out of the truck with a chainsaw and just start cutting down the trees. We did this every evening after work until eventually we had enough room to pull in off the dirt road and onto our land. 

When we got about 50 feet in we were so proud and felt like we had come so far that we called a few family members to share our progress with and celebrated with a campfire. I remember I cooked steak and potatoes for 8 over that fire. 

He would continue to cut in the driveway every day making brush piles and rolling the trees to the side. The wood was beautiful. It was strong, straight, and healthy. It seemed a sin to buck up into firewood.

After a summer of clearing we had cut in a road about 300’ long. We still had another 300’ to go. But the stumps and the mud made it semi impassible. We had taken it as far as we could working nights with hand tools. 

We called multiple excavating companies and were told it would be around $10k for them to pull out the stumps and put down gravel. We had the money saved, and we were thinking about doing it. The problem was, that was all we had. We still would be left with the stumps and logs everywhere and no way of moving them. 

After much debate, and a lot of searching on Craigslist we agreed to invest the money in a piece of heavy equipment. Even though it was going to take longer and be more labor intensive, all it had to do was complete this one project and the backhoe would have paid for itself. 

My husband had grown up working on a dairy farm and he was familiar with heavy equipment and what they are capable of so I had faith he could pull it off. That's what we did, not knowing a whole lot and on a leap of faith we bought a 1982 Ford 555 backhoe. It was a game changer, it increased our abilities and we started to see things differently. What was once a giant log in the way became a valuable resource. 

A stack of trees recently cut down
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

One day, he read about sawmills in the back of a Popular Mechanics magazine. So he started his research. He went on the Wood Mizer website and found out that you could get an entry-level sawmill. We watched the videos and saw that the Sawmills we were looking at were capable of easily cutting 36 inch diameter 17’ long logs, which is humongous. 

The biggest trees we had felled were around 30-32 in diameter. So we did it. We bought the Woodmizer portable sawmill. The LT15 Wide. We did research on the history of the Eastern white pine in this country and realized we had a lot of it, and if it was good enough to build boats that could cross the Atlantic, then it was good enough to build a home. That is how the idea of us building a log cabin was formed. 

Man running a log through a Wood Mizer portable sawmill with a partially built log cabin in the background
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

We could see God's plan for us, and how he had led us here.  Everywhere you looked there was nothing but huge pine logs neatly laid. Truly amazing! He rolled those big logs onto the Sawmill and cut them into 10 and 12 inch diameter logs, he stacked up big piles of them, probably a hundred logs separated by sticks so they could dry.

Whatever came off the rest was turned into 2 in thick boards that we sticked out in 8ft tall stacks.. The Sawmill was a dream come true. It exceeded all our expectations. The only limit was our imagination!

Stacks of logs to build a log cabin
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

Our imagination however had created a project that had outgrown what a single backhoe could do. We needed to be able to reach higher, dig deeper, and lift more if we wanted to build the home we had now designed. We agreed that an excavator was the answer. 

It was scary, at that time we only had one vehicle between the two of us and rather than buy a second vehicle we were going to buy a second hand excavator. We got a lot of strange looks from friends and family for this financial decision. What are you going to do if one of these old pieces of junk dies on you?  You’ll be all done! We knew we could do it. God would not have let us get this far just to bring us to ruin. We had to search through many banks for that loan. They do not like giving loans for excavators to private consumers but we did it. We bought a 2004 John Deere 120c. It's awesome.

Backhoe and excavator in snow
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

Clearing the build site went smoothly. When the spot was cleared, he dug the foundation and we had so much fun placing exactly how we wanted our cabin to sit. By the time the foundation was poured another year had already passed. Spring came and he started construction. He put down a pressure treated sill plate, a carrying beam and laid the floor joists. That Fall he started the first course of logs. 

aerial view of a secluded log cabin build site in the forest
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

When we started all of this we had 2 boys and by the third year into our log home build we were blessed with a third son. Those days were hard though. My husband was non stop working on it and I was entertaining the kids, breastfeeding and marveling at the idea of how this even happened. It is incredible that our sons have witnessed such hard work and invaluable skills all from their role model of a father. 
A man saws a log on his log cabin build with the sun streaming across and sawdust in the air
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

log cabin beam
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

log cabin under construction
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

The sweetest thing that I cherish most is that over the years our three boys would find rocks at the land in the shape of hearts and proudly give them to me. I have kept every single one and will incorporate all those hearts into our rock fireplace. It's how the name Rock Heart Cabin came to be. 

Heart shaped rock
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

heart shaped rock
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

We have come a long way. I started by packing a cooler in the truck with some toys for the kids, to having a picnic table and screened tent, to enjoying a RV with all the amenities. He tells me, “We got this'' and I believe he does. Currently, I am sitting here typing with a view of our beautiful cabin. 

Log cabin home under construction, as seen through an RV window
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

Rustic log cabin porch
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

Rustic log cabin porch
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

interior of log cabin under construction
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

Log cabin with black french doors
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

A man builds a chimney for his log cabin
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin


Rock Heart Cabin
Courtesy of Rock Heart Cabin

Even though it's been 8 years and it is still a work in progress, the journey has shaped and formed all of us in a way I never would have dreamed and we are extremely grateful. God has graciously blessed us and protected us from injury so we can continue this build and hopefully inspire others to show up and do the work and have all the faith, it will happen. 

To see the log home build of Rock Heart Cabin we encourage you to check us out on Instagram where you can find all our videos sharing our work in progress. Thank you Dara, for allowing us to share our story. You have a big heart! Always a fan. - Rock Heart Cabin

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Many thanks to the folks of Rock Heart Cabin for sharing their story with us today. I'm excited to watch and cheer them on to finish their cabin!

There's another cabin tour coming up tomorrow, so I hope you'll join us for that one. As always, thanks for stopping by The Roots of Home!



2 comments

Anonymous said...

Love the story of the self build of rock heart cabin ❤️

Anonymous said...

The house that love built <3...love you guys!

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