Author Topic: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong  (Read 3061 times)

FireLane

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 688
  • Location: NYC
We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« on: August 05, 2020, 06:01:48 AM »
I almost didn't know whether to post this here or in the Antimustachian section, it's a little of both.

https://www.outsideonline.com/2415766/friends-diy-cabin-build-washington

Two professional writers decided, on a whim, to quit their stable but unfulfilling cubicle jobs and try their hand at building an off-grid cabin in the woods of the Pacific Northwest:

Quote
I was a reporter at a national magazine in San Francisco, and Pat was a copywriter at a tech company in Seattle. We were lucky enough to have good bosses and colleagues who had become friends. But we were deskbound and felt caged by the typing, phone calls, Slack chats, and emails, all performed under the hum of fluorescent lights. We were overwhelmed by the uniformity of it all and troubled that we seemed incapable of finding contentment in jobs that many of our coworkers appeared to cherish. Sometimes we hoped for an excuse to quit—a blowup after a failed project or an absurd request from a boss.

We knew we were fortunate to have good jobs—and this was well before our country was facing a pandemic and massive unemployment—but we were facing the existential crisis that comes from spending your days doing something you don’t enjoy and wondering if this is how the next five, ten, 20 years will play out. We were in our thirties, young, but not so young. We’d seen the articles linking sedentary lifestyles to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and misery. We wanted to get out of our respective offices and try something different.

The only problem is that they didn't know what they were doing at all. Neither of them were carpenters, and they basically taught themselves everything they needed to know as they went along. The project went well over schedule and over budget, and they were constantly fighting at the job site:

Quote
The forest floor was steeply sloped and covered in rain-slicked clay and fern root balls that grabbed at our feet. Our shoes became caked in mud. We slid and fell, and when that happened, our tape measure’s delicate hold on some distant piece of lumber was lost, forcing us to start over. We never overcame these time warps, like how long it took to shift a ladder on a hillside—we had to dig new holes with every move to provide equal footing for the ladder’s legs. Or how easily we lost entire days sourcing materials at the lumberyard 45 minutes away. Hundreds of boards went into the structure, and we hand selected every one, eyeing them carefully to ensure they weren’t overly warped, bowed, twisted, or cupped.

Days cascaded into weeks. We’d rise at 5 a.m. and build until the dimming light made it impossible to work anymore. By 9 p.m., we’d head to the bar and use the Wi-Fi to madly produce copy for freelance writing ventures that barely kept our bank accounts afloat. Many of our casual promises—the family camping trips, the birthday parties, the breaks to spend time with our girlfriends—would soon be broken.

But they did finish, eventually, and sold it for cash ("meaning we’d eventually more than double our investment, assuming our hourly rate for labor was zero dollars"). Now they want to make cabin-building their full-time job and they're already planning the next one.

familyandfarming

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 90
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2020, 06:30:55 AM »
What a well written article! Thanks for sharing!

habanero

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 668
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2020, 07:58:12 AM »
Good read, thx for posting

bacchi

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4999
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2020, 11:51:10 AM »
I applaud those guys for escaping their office existence.

But would you want the first cabin built by 2 novices?

RainyDay

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 68
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2020, 08:43:01 AM »
Wow, that's pretty cool that they did that, and that they didn't give up.  What an adventure/experience.  Good for them, for taking a chance.

martyconlonontherun

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 328
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2020, 01:20:42 PM »
Interesting since my current fixation is buying 20+ aces in upper Michigan and using it to camp/allow others to hunt in the fall.

Anyone have experience with vacant land in remote areas? My thinking was it would cost $25k for land and taxes would be <$1k a year. Figure worst case scenario is I would lose $5-10k over 10 years if I didn't do anything. Just curious if anyone has any horror or success stories.


TheGrimSqueaker

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2341
  • Location: A desert wasteland, where none but the weird survive
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2020, 04:52:04 PM »
I applaud those guys for escaping their office existence.

But would you want the first cabin built by 2 novices?

In this case, since it lacked any form of plumbing... nope.

Mr. Green

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2467
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Wilmington, NC
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2020, 06:05:33 PM »
Saw the first writer's last name was Schatz and my immediate thought was they Schatz the bed on their timeline. Lol

lhamo

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 650
  • Location: Seattle
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2020, 07:04:47 PM »
DH is currently trying to fix our deck.

We just spent over two hours at Lowes trying to buy 5 pieces of lumber.  It was on a pallet we couldn't reach and took forever to find somebody who could use the forklift.

If I ever suggest I am going to build something from scratch, somebody please kill me.

FINate

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1809
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2020, 10:30:47 PM »
I don't see what the problem is, other than overshooting their timeline and budget. That's government level planning (looking at you California HSR) that will improve with some experience.

They wanted to be outside getting exercise while doing manual labor. Well, they got plenty of it :) And it sounds like they got a great education on how difficult the skilled trades are, not just physically, but also the planning and minutiae of it all.

And next time get a large water storage tank above the cabin and periodically run a gas-powered water pump from the river/stream to the tank to avoid shlepping water up hill constantly.

joleran

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 304
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2020, 07:18:56 AM »
But would you want the first cabin built by 2 novices?

If you market it right, many people would be excited about the "authentic" experience I'd imagine.

Askel

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 223
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2020, 06:45:02 AM »
Interesting since my current fixation is buying 20+ aces in upper Michigan and using it to camp/allow others to hunt in the fall.

Anyone have experience with vacant land in remote areas? My thinking was it would cost $25k for land and taxes would be <$1k a year. Figure worst case scenario is I would lose $5-10k over 10 years if I didn't do anything. Just curious if anyone has any horror or success stories.

I have 40 acres in upper michigan, so I guess I have some experience. But I live there.  :D 

Your numbers are about spot on, although at ~$1k/acre, you won't be getting anything spectacular.  Most likely something that's been recently logged as well. 

No real massive success or horror stories to be had, just the usual "oh I gotta have it, oh it's not as exciting as I thought" give and take. 

Corner store just up the road has people from out of the area asking about land for sale all the time.  They'll buy it. The excitement of owning 40 acres several hundred miles from where they live wears off, they sell it to the next dreamer.  Maybe they build a camp on it. Unless you build something really nice though, that's 100% money down the drain. 

Lots and lots of land reverts to the state when the owners die and none of the kids want to pay the taxes on it.   

utaca

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 68
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2020, 08:35:35 AM »
This was a great article and Outside magazine is generally pretty good at reporting on the folly of (mostly) young men. This article was sort of a more benign and hilarious version of their regular reporting on people who've died moutaineering.

martyconlonontherun

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 328
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2020, 12:59:59 PM »
Interesting since my current fixation is buying 20+ aces in upper Michigan and using it to camp/allow others to hunt in the fall.

Anyone have experience with vacant land in remote areas? My thinking was it would cost $25k for land and taxes would be <$1k a year. Figure worst case scenario is I would lose $5-10k over 10 years if I didn't do anything. Just curious if anyone has any horror or success stories.

I have 40 acres in upper michigan, so I guess I have some experience. But I live there.  :D 

Your numbers are about spot on, although at ~$1k/acre, you won't be getting anything spectacular.  Most likely something that's been recently logged as well. 

No real massive success or horror stories to be had, just the usual "oh I gotta have it, oh it's not as exciting as I thought" give and take. 

Corner store just up the road has people from out of the area asking about land for sale all the time.  They'll buy it. The excitement of owning 40 acres several hundred miles from where they live wears off, they sell it to the next dreamer.  Maybe they build a camp on it. Unless you build something really nice though, that's 100% money down the drain. 

Lots and lots of land reverts to the state when the owners die and none of the kids want to pay the taxes on it.

Mind me asking what your taxes are? None of the listings have prior tax history. Probably won't pull the trigger (or if i do, not for another summer) but it is fun to at least dream about. Like the UP.

RainyDay

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 68
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2020, 10:14:47 AM »
We just spent over two hours at Lowes trying to buy 5 pieces of lumber.  It was on a pallet we couldn't reach and took forever to find somebody who could use the forklift.

If I ever suggest I am going to build something from scratch, somebody please kill me.

This is generally my experience as well.  And it doesn't count MULTIPLE trips to Home Depot, because every home improvement project I've ever done requires at least one extra trip.  The bigger the project, the more trips.  We do not live near a Home Depot, plus my artistic and/or trade-related skills are sorely lacking. 

Hence why I sometimes go anti-Mustachian and hire a professional!

bacchi

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4999
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #15 on: August 24, 2020, 11:45:31 AM »
We just spent over two hours at Lowes trying to buy 5 pieces of lumber.  It was on a pallet we couldn't reach and took forever to find somebody who could use the forklift.

If I ever suggest I am going to build something from scratch, somebody please kill me.

This is generally my experience as well.  And it doesn't count MULTIPLE trips to Home Depot, because every home improvement project I've ever done requires at least one extra trip.  The bigger the project, the more trips.  We do not live near a Home Depot, plus my artistic and/or trade-related skills are sorely lacking. 

This is why I tell SO that we'll never buy a place more than 15 minutes from a good hardware store/lumber yard.

Le North Dreamer

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 26
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #16 on: September 25, 2020, 08:23:50 PM »
Interesting since my current fixation is buying 20+ aces in upper Michigan and using it to camp/allow others to hunt in the fall.

Anyone have experience with vacant land in remote areas? My thinking was it would cost $25k for land and taxes would be <$1k a year. Figure worst case scenario is I would lose $5-10k over 10 years if I didn't do anything. Just curious if anyone has any horror or success stories.

Careful with that, I started looking for a woodlot to hunt with your expected cost in mind 5-6 years ago, ended up buying a 200+ acres pasture/woodlot for 10x the budgeted cost (with a house and barn) which will be my FIRE dreamland (...it also means I have to finish paying the 10y mortgage before hitting the FIRE target).

Still happy about it 3 years down the road thought...Forest is paradise to me, and covid allowed me to stay there for more than 6 months. Quite an enjoyable period for me ;)

Askel

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 223
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2020, 05:57:37 AM »
[quote author=martyconlonontherun link=topic=117624.msg2686455#msg2686455 date=1598036399

Mind me asking what your taxes are? None of the listings have prior tax history. Probably won't pull the trigger (or if i do, not for another summer) but it is fun to at least dream about. Like the UP.
[/quote]

Sorry, totally missed this. I'm still sort of figuring this out. I've been paying about $800/year on my old place with a ~$25k assessment and principal residence exemption. Still trying to get the PRE figured out on the new place. But both of these have houses so may be completely different from vacant land. 

You can always contact the Township office if you have the parcel ID and get the complete tax history. Be warned though- when a property is sold, the assessed value becomes uncapped.  Our new place was previously assessed at ~35k, when we bought it, that shot up to ~95k. Close to what we paid for it, but still way less than the appraised value of 160k. 

One option you can look at for vacant land is the commercial forestry land program. By putting your land in CFL, you significantly reduce your tax burden in return for opening it up to hunting and fishing to the general public.   

yachi

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 311
Re: We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong
« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2020, 12:25:05 PM »
I applaud those guys for escaping their office existence.

But would you want the first cabin built by 2 novices?

Not ones that couldn't figure out how to sink a nail in the dumb end of a tape measure before trudging off thru the mud...