A drastically reduced income required an even more drastic reduction in expenses. To make matters worse Fickle Fate came calling. The building I lived in was sold. The cost of apartments has skyrocketed. My lifestyle would have to change. It would mean selling everything and starting smaller. The worst part would be selling my horses. Then Fickle Fate paid another visit. I stumbled on a three-line ad in a paper I seldom read. There was a small property for sale, owner financed, with a cabin and barn.

My niece and I drove out to see the place. The driveway and what used to be vegetable gardens were shoulder-high in scrub, vines and small trees. We worked our way into the scrub about 600 feet before finding the buildings. They were weathered and totally camoflauged under gigantic pine trees that have been around since the 1940 fires. It was primative. The only water was a pointwell in the brook, there was no plumbing, limited electricity and the roofs leaked. It was overgrown, over cluttered and falling down.

“This is so you!” my niece laughed.

My sister, however, referred to it with distaste as a “tar-paper shack.” Not true, I assured my family – the tar paper was still rolled up in the barn! It was hard work to make the place safe, functional and warm. The first task was evicting hundreds of mice. We came to an agreement. They had the outdoors. The indoors was mine. A new cat helped to remind them.

Thank goodness for family and friends. That fall the fields were cleared, fences put up, roofs patched. When a tree fell on the cabin, I decided to put off moving in until spring. By then the trees had been cut and the cabin insulated. I moved in with my horses on March 31. The next morning snow covered the ground. April Fool, I didn’t even have a shovel!

I learned as I went along. The roof patches didn’t hold, so the tar paper was finally used. Eventually metal roofs were put up. I restored the wood stove. What I couldn’t get or do myself, I bartered. Pine trees were traded for firewood. I split the wood and used old pallets to make stacks. An old engine was traded for work on the cabin. Water to the house took planning. Black hoses and an outdoor tub worked great during the summer, but winter was another story. It was solved that first year by hanging tanks from the rafters. An outhouse was imroved with paint, lace curtains and a new name: “privy.” Riding trails were cleared using an axe and clippers. Each year there is a new list of projects. One year it was planting berries and fruit trees. The next year it was building a goat house and a bird coop.

It’s been six years now. This is not for everyone, but my neice was right. This is so me.