Richard Aiken is a firm believer in the old adage hat one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A brilliant mathematician and fervent environmentalist, Rich always nursed a secret desire to own his own cabin in the woods: he just didn’t want to fell any trees in order to build it.
But fortune smiled upon Richard one day when the Missouri owner of a log cabin came to him looking to unload his vacation home. The price was right too, $100. There was just one problem…
Sixty-five-year-old Richard Aiken can be described as a true Renaissance Man. Not only is he a husband, a father, an opera singer, and an author he’s also the recipient of two PhDs and a medical degree. What most people don’t know about Rich, is that he is also an avid nature-lover and self-styled “Hillbilly.”
Richard had always wanted to live in the woods but knew that the prospect of buying a summer cabin might prove to be a bit costly. The land itself was expensive enough, but buying enough lumber to build a home, or having it built for you would be a costly undertaking…
Then, one day, a man Rich had known in Missouri had told him about a disheveled cabin that he knew about in the wilderness that hadn’t been used since the 1990s. Richard, keen-eyed as ever, saw the derelict cabin as an opportunity to finally live out his dream. All it would take was a little elbow grease.
Viewing the Property
The old man had been right; the cabin had indeed fallen into disrepair. It was certainly an eyesore and most assuredly was not safe for human habitation. Still, with a bit of hard work, careful planning, and a whole lot of determination, Rich was sure he could make this cabin into a home…
Regardless of the fact that his old friend was willing to give Richard the cabin for free, Dr. Aiken decided that he wanted to pay for it. The two agreed on the neat and tidy sum of one hundred dollars for the cabin. After all, the cabin was worth far more to Rich than a mere $100.
The building, if you could call it that at the time, was full of debris. The roof had collapsed and was hanging down into most of the crumbling internal structure. Most of the wood was rotted beyond use and couldn’t be salvaged. But some of the pieces, despite being a little battered, were still quite sturdy…
Rich’s plan was simple, to move the remaining salvageable pieces of the cabin to a new location. However, before he even attempted such a feat, he labeled and cataloged each individual piece. That way he knew exactly where they went when he finally put the cabin back together.
Location, Location, Location
The cabin was only part of the equation, the other draw of this new enterprise, was the land on which the cabin sat. The new location of the cabin was a beautiful spot in a peaceful, secluded area of the wilderness. There was even a natural spring nearby that the family could use. Now all they had to do was start digging a foundation…
Richard and his family dug for days by hand. They discovered the spring quite by accident during this process. When they had finally reached the bedrock and could go no further, they brought in bulldozers to dig out the lake in its entirety and built a dock.
Once they had finished setting up the proper location, it was time to reconstruct the hundred dollar cabin. Richard, ever the fastidious mathematician, had all of his plans set down and his labels ready to go. He knew what had to be done next…
Dr. Aiken wanted to, as he put it, “remain true to the spirit of the original construction,” but understood that this would prove very difficult in the long run. One of their major setbacks was the fact that the bedrock they had reached previously had been about six feet below the ground: the cabin had to be built a few feet above the ground to compensate.
When it came time for Rich to put in the floor joists, he found himself in a quandary. Richard was fine using found materials, old wood that he planned to repurpose, but was not happy to used anything from living trees. In the end, though, he went with white oak for the floor joists and split cedar for the shingles…
Because it simply wouldn’t be a log cabin without a hearth, Richard decided that he would design his own, based on a common type found in woodland homes between 1796 and 1850. This replica of a Rumford Fireplace could be used not only for creating heat but cooking meals and making hot drinks in the winter.
Rich and his family built their staircase out of a fallen oak tree. This fit in just perfectly with Rich’s plan of repurposing already fallen or damaged trees and not using any new lumber. They accomplished this by bringing their designs to a local carpenter who was able to turn all of their damaged wood into beautiful doors and windows for the cabin as well.
Some of Richard Aiken’s Amish neighbors even joined in and helped the family with their log cabin efforts. They used a fallen walnut tree and native white oak to build the family a harvest table for their dining area. It was designed to be easily moved next to the fire on cold days.
Because electricity can be fickle in the wilderness, Rich opted for a candle chandelier as the cabin’s main light source. They hung the chandelier up on their pitched roof for safety and so that the light dissipated properly through the home. The loft above the common area was then outfitted with a comfy bed for anyone wanting a nap after all their hard work…
Nearly a Decade
Though it took a neat 10 years of restorative effort, the Aikens’ home was finally completed in 2013. Richard’s dream of having a log cabin all his own had finally come true. It was everything he had ever wanted and the best part about it was that it had been built with the help of his friends, family, and neighbors.
It amazing to see how different the cabin looks now from what it looked like when Rich spent his measly $100 on it. After all, that’s what most people will pay for a nice Walmart TV stand these days. It doesn’t even look like the same building from the outside, and the inside is even more remarkable…
Labor of Love
Richard’s cabin is truly a labor of love. Today, the family still has a few more touch-ups to finalize, a new coat of paint, some waterproofing, but otherwise, the cabin is completely livable. Rich is so happy to be able to get his family together on rare occasions to meet, eat and spend time together.
The Aikens’ new cabin was the perfect setting for a family Thanksgiving. Inspired by Native American culture, they assembled a Sacred Four Directions Harvest Table and served, as expected for a vegan family, a natural, and completely meatless Thanksgiving, served with a side of family togetherness.