Tales from the Cabin
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Deck Time

A big, relaxing mistake

By Mike Lein
Published: March 26, 2010
The rest of this stuff will get done eventually, right?
Photo by Mike Lein
I knew building our lakeshore cabin would be a lengthy learning experience. Issues with budgets, materials and schedules are natural, unavoidable problems of any construction project. However, I didn’t expect that the cabin would continue to be a work-in-progress 10 years later. In hindsight, a critical mistake was made early in the project. I built a deck.

Every cabin should eventually have a deck, a patio or similar defined outdoor area. But as I learned the hard way, the timing of building the deck is critical to the completion of the rest of the cabin. The most important advice I can offer any other potential cabin builders is to not, under any circumstances, build the deck until the cabin is completely finished or at least livable.

Things were somewhat under control until Marcie, spouse and half owner, bought a couple canvas folding chairs as temporary deck furniture. She should have picked up the cheap small ones instead of the sturdy, plush, oversized ones with the double cup holders. The comfy chairs have proved far more inviting than strenuous manual labor like putting up siding and laying down shingles – especially when there is a beverage, or two, in those double cup holders. Add a helpful friend with a cooler full of snacks and progress on the cabin can, and often does, grind to a halt.

I also discovered that our Labrador retrievers love decks, even if they don’t get their own chair. The deck is a perfect spot for a Lab to lie in wait to ambush birdfeeder-raiding chipmunks and squirrels. It also provides them with a great surface to leap off in pursuit of tennis balls or sticks. Thus the deck, a dog and a tennis ball can provide hours of entertainment while building projects suffer. On the positive side, my hammer-swinging arm gets plenty of exercise and stays limber throwing for the retriever – just in case I find time to tackle a project.

Perhaps the biggest problem is how easy it is to lean back, put my feet up and take a nap in the shade with the dog at my feet. It’s so easy that I fear one day I will awaken from a summer Rip Van Winkle deck nap and find the aspen leaves of autumn falling around me, swirling like a million golden snowflakes. But unlike Mr. Van Winkle, I will find that nothing has changed. The outhouse roof will still be leaking and the winter firewood won’t be split and stacked. Another summer’s worth of undone cabin projects will still be waiting.

Mike Lein spends most of his time managing environmental protection programs for Carver County, Minn. Much of the rest he wastes on the deck of the cabin, dreaming up new ways to avoid all those pesky projects.

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