Your Cabin in the Woods


By Conrad E. Meinecke

By Victor Aures

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For dreamers of escaping to a cozy cabin in the great outdoors, Your Cabin in the Woods is a classic work that not only makes this a reality, but also imparts a deeper appreciation of nature and homebuilding.

Author Conrad E. Meinecke has been writing about living the simply life in the wilderness for over 70 years with Your Cabin in the Woods and Cabin Craft and Outdoor Living. For the first time, these books are combined into a deluxe two-color vintage package.

In prose both practical and inspirational, Meinecke details how to turn your cabin dream into a reality, such as choosing land, using tools, and the basics of construction. He provides hand-drawn floor plans for a variety of cabins, from a simple two-room to a more complex long house; the best way to build fireplaces, both indoors and out; and instructions for basic furniture, lighting, and other touches that make a cabin feel like home. Throughout are Meinecke’s thoughts on ways to enjoy your new-found space, from hearty fireplace recipes to the types of wood for a perfect fire and the beauty found in birdsong.

Instructional as it may be, the book’s enduring appeal owes in large part to its warmly engaging tone and firm belief in the restorative power of nature and the satisfaction of hard work. He writes, “Take full enjoyment in the building. Take time out to rest. Most city folks seem always to rush things through. Why? Lay off until tomorrow. Take an afternoon nap. Stop the clock for the weekend. Get off to an early start in the cool of tomorrow morning. You may be crowded in your work in town, but this should be your rest cure, your recreating.”


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FIRST of all, Conrad Meinecke's Cabin in the Woods is a cabin not made with hands; it is eternal in the heaven of his mind. He has roamed the Rockies, tramped the Balkans, lived in adobe, bedded down in the desert of restless sands, but always he comes back to his true love—a cabin in the woods. He has built thirty-two cabins and fireplaces in the Rockies and in Canada and now has six cabins scattered about in the Western Hemisphere.

From his artist, linguistic father, who at ninety-three could still do a handstand, and from his Scotch-Swiss mother, who combined a practical, pioneering type of thinking with a high degree of spirituality, he inherited something in his genes that defies imprisoning in words. He is a lean, tough specimen illuminated by a quenchless inner fire of spirituality. His tireless energy, his buoyancy, and, strange to say, his quietness of spirit, spring from his communion with forms, visible and invisible, of the Great Out Doors. At some time, like his grand old father, he has had a draught from the fabled fountain of Immortal Youth. He is fortunate in his ancestry—the genes somehow "blended" just right.

Curiously enough, with this idealism, this high spirituality, this understanding love of the inner meaning of life, he combines a Yankee, practical ingenuity. He is the best cook that ever concocted a meal for me in the wilderness. He "swings a mean skillet." If he says, "Build your fireplace so and so," do it. And when you have done it, you can stretch your moccasined feet to the fire and have no smoke in your eyes. Build your cabin the way he tells you and you will have a joy forever, partly because you built it and partly because it "belongs" to the particular spot of its own earth, partly because it's as handy as a pocket in a shirt, and then, too, because it's easy on your income.

This man tramps all over the earth and, when he settles down, builds himself a "nest" on the end of a twig as practical and as intriguing as that of the Baltimore oriole. Somehow, he has so much—maybe it is because he is always giving it away.

From being a successful young man in business affairs, he turned to working with and for men and boys. Somehow, he has in his spiritual heritage and in his ripening wisdom, the blessedness of sharing. From his Cabin in the Woods, you can learn how to fashion your cabin, but more, you may become more fit to live in a "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

Elbert K. Fretwell

Chief Scout Executive (1943–1948)

Boy Scouts of America

Lifting the Latch

THERE is nothing unusual in these pages. There is little I may claim as original. Some of the material here treated is as old as time. Many friends and books have contributed to its contents. My thirty years of outdoor experience and cabin building may, however, save the reader much of the trial-and-error method when he builds his Cabin in the Woods.

I have attempted, most of all, to help build an attitude of mind toward the Great Out Doors—an appreciation of simple living. I want to influence both men and women toward the belief and confidence they are "masters of their destiny" if they can stay within the realm of their own potentialities; if they can find a normal "out" for their abilities in this creative field of the outdoors. Indeed, they can be "master builders" in the best sense. Resourcefulness, initiative, and a love for things natural—these are the values that may give us a new concept of simple living in a very complicated and mechanical civilization.

You, too, can build a Cabin in the Woods. Cabin building is fun and satisfying, and here you can learn to be a master builder instead of just a helper. Detailed and minute descriptions of every step in building a cabin can prove confusing and discouraging to the novice. If you wish to study beyond the information here given, you will find ample help in your public library. You will naturally go through that period of experimentation that is the trial-and-error method. Your trials, however, need not be crowded with too many errors.

I am counting on that great American quality, "horse sense." So go to it, Mr. Cabin-Builder. Keep in mind you are going to build a better and bigger cabin someday. In your first experiment, fortified by all the descriptive material you can understand and assimilate, wade in and go to work. Do it courageously and don't you dare apologize for mistakes made. You won't make the same mistake twice. Besides building your first cabin, you will absorb techniques so essential—a combination of theory and practice.

In fireplace building, the feel of a trowel in your hand; the skill of "slinging the mud" to recognize cement, sand and water mixed to the right consistency, and what it means to "sweeten" or "temper" the mixture—all these will find their rightful places and give you skills. They do not come from books alone.

Again, the art of pulling a crosscut saw; the swinging of the axe and the making of the chips to fly; the choice of axe handle that fits your grip and your height—these skills we develop through the doing.

This book is written for those who would "revert back to the land"—land near your city home—five, ten, or thirty miles—a place that can be used weekends and on vacations; indeed, throughout the year. It is written, too, for the "poor" man, that is, the man not rich in worldly goods, but rich in dreams, imagination, resourcefulness, and a willingness to make it happen.

Bless those folks who can wrest from the earth its richness, its wealth, its natural resources, and find its peace. That is our God-given right.

SO you are another lover of the out of doors who desires a cabin or shelter in the woods! I salute you. I understand you. I know your kind. You carry the spirit of our ancestors. The spirit of the "Great Out Doors." The first letters of these three words spell GOD. There is an irresistible force in the Great Out Doors—the very soul of America. This is as it should be.

And so from the start, let me chat with you in a very personal way. Let's take each other at face value. I picture you as sitting on a log, dressed in colorful outdoor togs while I am nestled against the notch in a big tree, hugging my knees—eager to talk it over. I feel somehow that we both want this cabin to represent our own handicraft. It must be cozy, equipped with comforts—beds, cots, or bunks according to our own fancy. It must be made bright and warm with a glowing fireplace. It must have rustic furniture and, at least, a five-foot bookshelf of our own choice of books. Old-fashioned kerosene lamps again become a luxury as they throw their soft flickering shadows.

The howling wind, the sleet driving with an impact against our tightly built cabin will only add to the security and snugness inside. Add another log to the fire. Readjust the cushions and let the world go by. This is life—with a friend who understands. Snugness and security in our Cabin in the Woods, be it sunshine or tempest. This is life.

Because we are used to city houses with a multiplicity of household duties, our Cabin in the Woods should be built where there is quiet; where housework can be reduced to a minimum; where our time may be given over to the perusal of a few chosen books; where reflection may have its full sway; where one may be carefree in the Great Out Doors. Here, for a brief spell, we may find in its very fullness, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

So now, "partner on the log" opposite, let us plan our Cabin in the Woods. Which shall it be—a log cabin or a frame building? There really is not much difference in the planning.

First, let us not be too concerned about the whole venture. The cost of land need not be prohibitive. The problem of the distance from town can be solved. Building costs, how to get logs, transportation, reforestation, trails and trail markers, gateways and fences, sanitation, lighting, lamps, and many other questions will be discussed. If the desire is there and the will to see it through, the building of Your Cabin in the Woods will be fun. Resourcefulness and initiative will meet the challenge. Most important of all, let us take our time. Let us plan carefully. Let us get as much enjoyment in the building as in the finished cabin.

A cabin and campsite in the woods, after all, should never be finished, for when there is nothing new to develop or nothing to be added, there will be little fun.

Start Making Notes

IN the original privately printed edition of this book, ample margins and blank pages afforded room for personal notes, plans, sketches, photos, and clippings; also for signatures of friends who helped plan or build the Cabin in the Woods.

In this edition, most of the blank pages are omitted, but the margins are generous, and you will find other open spots at the beginning and end of some chapters. Use them, from the start, to collect material for your cabin-building program. They will not only prove invaluable later, but will make this book truly yours, expressing your own individuality, and honoring the author by permitting him to collaborate with you in producing your own exclusive volume—your Cabin in the Woods.

Plan Wisely and You Plan for the Future

ABOVE all things, let us not plan too quickly, build hurriedly, or lay out our grounds haphazardly. Let us not be concerned if we do not accomplish this in a week, or a month, or even in a year. I knew a man who built a shack in the woods. It was little better than a woodshed. The next year he needed another room so he tacked a lean-to on one side. Then he added another and another. The roof looked like an ocean of waves. When he finished, his place looked like a big sprawling shack. No general floor level—no plan; low ceilings, poor ventilation. What a mess. He did not plan wisely. He is the kind of fellow who says, "If I were to do it again, I'd do so and so."

So, Mr. Cabin-Builder, I say plan wisely. Spend a summer on your site in a tent before you build. Study the air currents that flow down the hills; the prevailing winds; the landscape and vista you want to develop. Do you prefer sunrise to sunset? If you do not enjoy sunrise, then set your cabin so the morning sun will not disturb your sleep. You may enjoy the sunset from your porch or big window. Where are the noises from highways and how can you plant trees to blot out ugly views or even some of the noise?

Lastly, blueprint your newly acquired playground. Pace it off at two-hundred-foot intervals, both ways. Do this if you have an acre or one hundred acres. Record in your field notes what you find—springs, gullies, kinds of trees, bushes, rocks, ground erosion, and, if you find the latter, seek advice on what to plant to overcome this hazard.

You will discover more natural resources and materials, which you can use later and you will know where to find them when you need them. On your master blueprint, locate your yearly tree plantings, roadways, trails, springs, dates of events, et cetera. It will prove a storybook of Your Cabin in the Woods.

Who Knows? This May Be Your Future Home

MAY I now invite you to deeper thought in your planning? Who knows what ten years from now will hold for you. You may consider retirement and make your future home in this spot of your dreams. Then again, you may turn farmer on a small scale—chickens, perhaps a pig, a cow, and a garden spot. Start a beehive or two—honey is stored in the flowers about your place. Don't close your mind to the thought. You may discover your greatest contentment and happiness, also skills and aptitudes you did not know you had. That's what our pioneer fathers did. It was about their only choice in those days.

This idea may provide a means of escape from the reality and tension of city life. It may prove a step forward and upward in the fulfillment of your life's ambitions.

Life, after all, need not be measured in accomplishment of wealth, great achievement, nor by standards of public opinion. If you have a partner who thinks likewise and is not regimented by conventional thinking, then I say, Mr. Cabin-Builder, lay your plans boldly—whether you go to the wilds of Africa, to the South Sea Islands, or to Your Cabin in the Woods—so long as you go you may find life, liberty, and ultimate happiness.

A Cure for Restlessness

YOUR Cabin in the Woods can be a perfect cure for restlessness. If you are restless today, you may be even more restless ten years from now—unless you do something about it now. Life brings increasing cares. So going to your dream spot month after month, year in and year out, you will experience a recharging, a rehabilitation, a re-creating.

Your Cabin in the Woods should always present enough challenge to keep you constantly adding to its loveliness. In this way, after each visit, you will return to your city life rested, stronger, revived.

It is obvious, then, we should take our time—months, years, predicating our building on long-term planning.

Take full enjoyment in the building. Take time to rest. Most city folks seem always to rush things through. Why? Lay off until tomorrow. Take an afternoon nap. Stop the clock for the weekend. Get off to an early start in the cool of tomorrow morning. You may be crowded in your work in town, but this should be your rest-cure, your re-creating. Don't spoil it by city-driving standards. Set your own pattern. You will be rewarded with increasing peace of mind from year to year.

Again, I say, here is a perfect cure for restlessness.

AND now for a word about the size of the cabin itself. Have you, in the back of your head, some notion of a three-, five-, or seven-room building? You have a big family? You need guest rooms?

The Family Camp—Summer and Winter

I HAVE in my own cabin-site accommodations for fourteen people. But they are not all in one building. I, too, had many to provide for, but I started simply some twenty years ago with a plan.

First, we built a large living room, eighteen by twenty-four feet—with a good foundation, large windows; in fact one window with forty-nine panes in it measured eight feet wide by six and one-half feet high and afforded a five-mile view across the valley.

We included a big fireplace. Later we added a spacious porch on two sides. On a third side, we added a kitchen and a combination wash and dressing room. No bath. The shower was placed under the porch. The north end of the porch supplied what we called the "master bedroom"—twin beds. The porch today is enclosed richly with woodbine.

As our needs grew, we added nine-by-twelve-foot tents—two beds in each, a locker, chairs, et cetera. Finally, there were four tents added and we were set for the summers. With this arrangement, there was freedom for everyone—more independence and plenty of privacy. One member of the party could retire or take an afternoon nap while the rest of the group would be free to play without concern about those who wanted quiet.

This, of course, did not take care of our winter needs. But, as one of the tents had served its time, we replaced it with a lovely one-room bedroom cabin with a large porch. It was finished with pine board and included a clothes closet, washstand, and a large fireplace. This bedroom cabin, which is our latest addition not more than two hundred feet away from our main living room cabin, is nestled on the hillside and is the envy of everyone who sees it. In summer, we sleep on the screened-in porch.

Thus, we have built a seven-room house—each room with an outlook on four sides, plenty of ventilation, privacy—all with real comfort.


A. Main Living Room

B. Kitchen

C. Wash and Storeroom

D. Veranda

E. "Master Bedroom" on Porch

F. Guest Cabin

G. Guest Tent

H. Windmill and Water System

I. Shade Trees

J. Tennis Court or Vegetable Plot

K. Parking Lot

L. Swimming Pool, 9 by 15 feet

M. Lily Pond

N. Driveway

O. Hot Water Heater

P. "Johnnie"

Q. Trails

R. Fruit Trees

S. Sunken Garden—Outdoor Fireplace

T. Shower Under Veranda


The Guest Tent for Two

A TENT, fly, tent frame, and platform can be had inexpensively. With care, your bedroom tent with a fly will last about eight to ten years. The fly will give you a guarantee against leaking. Also, when anchored to side posts it will keep your tent fixed and secure against storms. The platform will give you a level floor and add dryness and cleanliness.

Eight-ounce duck canvas, double filled, is heavy enough for this size tent. Hang the tent over a wood frame and fasten all around the bottom. Guy ropes are not needed. The tent wall is two feet and six inches high. Therefore, to have standing room, a frame wall is built to be four feet and six inches with two-foot board siding below.

A nine-by-twelve-foot tent is large enough for twin beds, a dresser, washstand, and rug.

Tent fly, if ten feet by sixteen feet with air space between fly and tent, will help keep your tent cool in hot weather and provide a four-foot porch. On warm sunny days, roll up the canvas walls, let the breezes through, and make the hillside part of your living quarters.

Our Window Picture Frame

THE big window in our cabin resembles a picture frame in which miles of landscape across the valley bring nature's choicest pictures to life. Each hour of the day brings intriguing new vistas, changing lights and shadows.

The early morning sun lights up the sparkling lily pond below us, which, in turn, throws playful, mischievous lights about us. As the day wears on, pastoral scenes replace the picture of the misty morning and through our "picture frame" we see the hillside dotted with lowing cattle, green fields boxed in with rail fences, and lined with small trees and bushes—telling the story of the toil and accomplishment of our neighboring farmers. An occasional tall elm or maple stands as a sentinel in the march of time. Far beyond "stately ships of fleecy white clouds sail majestically across the dark blue ocean of the sky," leaving one in awe, for such scenery is painted only with bold strokes by the hand of the Master Painter.

Even the sundial on a cloudy day seems to reflect our mood of response to nature—and so time passes on. Finally, lengthening shadows, dissolving glory of eventide—night—twinkling stars and a full moon.

Whenever you look out of a window, whatever the view, try to remember you are looking at one of God's great pictures.

There never were paintings comparable to those in the big window of our Cabin in the Woods.

One-Room Cabin

HERE is the perfect, yet simplest, two-person log cabin you can wish for, low in cost and easy to build. It can be constructed as small as nine by twelve feet (inside measurement), or twelve by fourteen, fourteen by eighteen, or even larger. The larger cabin needs added structural material.

Let's discuss the nine-by-twelve-foot two-person log cabin—just one room with two commodious couches, each with a view of the fireplace. A kitchenette, quite complete. Next to the fireplace, two comfortable chairs, and a table. It's the very essence of snugness. It can be ventilated easily at upper gables without creating a draft. A floor of flagstones.

If you have natural material on your cabin site such as logs and stones, you will only have to purchase such material as cement, boards to cover your roof, shingles, windows, nails, a bit of lumber for the inside.


On Sale
Sep 6, 2016
Page Count
288 pages

Conrad E. Meinecke

About the Author

Conrad E. Meinecke was a leading figure in the Boy Scouts of America, as well as director of the Boys’ Home of the Buffalo Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He built a number of cabins and detailed his experiences, as well of love of nature, in these time-honored classics. He died in 1971 in Springville, NY.

Victor Aures was a painter and illustrator, best known for his work in the 1940s on the Handbook of the Boy Scouts of America, Your Cabin in the Woods, and Cabincraft and Outdoor Living. He died in 1974.

Learn more about this author