zirbel4

A family evolves and updates their cabin over time to make the perfect place

In 1969, our family’s dream of owning lake property was realized. Since then, it’s been a labor of love to create and maintain our beloved family cabin.

Our family had a 120-acre dairy farm in Dodge County, Wis., about 50 miles northwest of Milwaukee. The farm was separated from a private 35-acre lake by 20 acres of wooded hills and swampland. The spring-fed lake included 400 feet of shoreline, good fishing and no houses. We had always dreamed of buying that landlocked property but were unable to do so until 1969, when the owner finally agreed to sell it to us for $7,500. As soon as we purchased it, we started the improvements necessary to make our family lake property useable.

Our first improvements included: creating a ½-mile gravel road through the fields, woods and swamp to the lake; building a pier extending 75 feet into the lake; creating a big lawn; constructing a screened shelter with a concrete floor to accommodate a pop-up camper that we had purchased for the lake property and building the obligatory outhouse.

These improvements made the property hospitable for 30 years, especially with the eventual additions of a fishing boat, swimming raft, wood stove in the shelter, picnic tables, a fire pit, charcoal grills, a volleyball court and a horseshoe pit.

See also The Ozark Cabin Where Memories Are Made

zirbel2

Our three children, who were born in 1971, 1973 and 1976, spent a lot of time helping us with our improvements. Many of their early birthdays were celebrated “back at the lake” as sleepovers with their friends, and when they became young adults, the parties continued with their friends from high school and college.

In the fall of 2000, we decided to upgrade our family lake property from a comfortable campsite to our family lake cabin. We disposed of the pop-up camper and replaced the screened shelter with a two-story cabin.

The first floor of our cabin includes base cabinets, a kitchen counter with a sink, a gas range, an electric oven, a gas refrigerator, a table and chairs, a wood stove, a gas furnace and, of course, a satellite TV.

The second floor includes a carpeted loft that functions as a playroom for the kids or a sleeping room for anyone comfortable with a sleeping bag.

Outbuildings include a utility shed for the generator, propane tank and tools; a storage shed for all the lake toys; and a covered outdoor dining room. All buildings include gambrel roofs and log siding to complement the architecture of our main cabin.

See also Why a Foreclosed Cabin Might Be What You’re Looking For

zirbel1

We upgraded our swimming raft to a Rave trampoline raft but gave up on that idea after two years because turtles insisted on climbing onto it and constantly punctured the tube with their little claws. So, we replaced the trampoline raft with a 14-foot pontoon boat that our grandchildren now use as a swimming raft at various locations on the lake, while the older adults enjoy leisurely rides to enjoy the scenery.

Although our cabin serves us well and we could live in it for extended visits, we seldom spend more than a few days there at any given time because all family members live within 25 miles. We use it frequently as a weekend retreat for family picnics, swimming, and a base for hunting, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling and ATV riding.