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This Eclectic, Off-Grid Cabin in Wisconsin Is Packed With Clever Ideas

Plus, the full details on the cost, construction, and timeline!


 
Kathie and David Cunningham’s cabin, nestled just above Copper Creek in southwestern Wisconsin, proves you don’t need fancy amenities for a cozy weekend getaway. Despite freezing winters with temperatures that drop down to -20 at times, the entirely off-grid Copper Creek Cabin offers a year-round retreat for the couple, who live just two hours away in Iowa.
 
A wood stove makes the wintertime visits possible, keeping the 659 square-foot cabin warm. A propane fridge, an RV stove, a rainwater system, on-demand portable water heaters, and a sawdust composting toilet make the cabin not just liveable, but sustainable and comfortable.
 
“Most of our systems work flawlessly. We have issues here and there,” writes Kathie over email. “But, what surprised us was how perfectly a very simple and cheap sawdust composting toilet works. Originally a choice to save water, it has become an ecologically responsible choice that we love. If more people made this choice, our precious freshwater resources would be a lot better off.”
 
Kathie says the best choice was their propane fridge from Unique. They’ll be adding a Unique-brand stove soon too. They drain their rainwater system from mid-November to late March, so they carry in water during that time. “[It’s] somewhat cumbersome but it works,” Kathie notes.
 
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For Kathie and David, going off-grid is about independence and getting some real peace and quiet.
 
“A DC 12-volt, off-grid solar system is quiet. Propane appliances are quiet,” Kathie writes. “This leaves the mind to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the cabin in its glorious nature surroundings…. Compare that to our homestead, which has a decent sized 6KW grid-tied solar system. All the modern appliances, humming and buzzing all day, from the inverters and fans hummingm to the wi-fi routers and smart TV buzzing away.”
 
In total, the cost of the land and cabin total up to about $35,000. Kathie writes that the land cost $15,000 and the cabin cost a little less than $20,000.
 
“We had a  tight budget and financed the whole cabin build on zero-interest credit cards for under $20,000 and were able to pay it off in a couple years," says Kathie.
 
Kathie and David bought the land in fall 2013, and immediately got a road cleared through the woods and the foundation posts put in. In May 2014, they started stacking logs with helpf from their son. Working only on weekends, Kathie and david spent 2014-2015 working on the exterior. David designed and built the rafters all himself.  The total exterior including the rafters, roof, porch, took a long time, Kathie notes.
 
 In 2016, they turned to the interior, hand-building the loft, barn beams, cabinets, woodstove rock surround and the staircase.
 
They also had the benefit of having some salvaged barn mateirals on hand. Most of the materials, minus the logs, came from tearing down a barn at their Iowa homestead. They were able to use the rusty corrugated metal for exterior roofing, interior ceiling, guest room walls, and decorative accents, and they used the barnboard for interior gable ends, kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanity, and bathroom walls and cupboards. There’s not an inch of drywall in the cabin. The final touch? A salvaged barn beam for the great room.
 
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 “The staircase was built from leftover logs and was CAD-designed by my dad Bob Welty, who came all the way from Alabama to help assemble it,” Kathie writes.
 
At the end of 2016, Kathie and David were finally able to move in, and in 2017 they added the final touches.
 
“This journey for us was unplanned and unexpected. Had we known that fateful day while driving through Wisconsin that we would spend four YEARS building a log cabin, we may not have done it,” says Kathie. “It was a long process, but one we are glad [we did] now that we stuck it out. I encourage anyone who wants to follow their dreams to not give up. If you are willing to work hard, try new things, and be frugal and diligent in your finances, you can achieve it.”
 
For more, you can follow along with the Cunninghams on their Youtube channel, Windmill Acres and Copper Creek Cabin, named for their Iowa homestead and the Wisconsin cabin. Kathie says the channel is diverse in its topics, and aims to inform and inspire folks looking to go off-grid. Or, you can join their Facebook group here.
 

Cabin Details:

Costs:

LAND- $15,000  
CABIN- a little less than $20,000

Square Footage:

659 square feet including the loft. PLUS, a 8x30 front porch.

Land:

Two secluded acres in  Ocooch Mountains, or Driftless Region, of Southwestern Wisconsin 

Construction:

Full, White Pine 8" log, milled three sides and hand-hewn on exterior. Stick-built gable and roof. Foundation is 2x12 on 6x6 posts.   

Utilities:

OFF GRID
           
  •    500 watt DC 12 volt solar system
  •    Rainwater system with 12v water pump
  •    Woodstove for heat
  •    Propane refrigerator, stove, and water heater
  •   Generator for backup

Labor:

Self constructed, although our son helped us first two summers. He is also the  photographer of the photos of the cabin. His name is Jared Cunningham with JLC Productions.