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The farmhouse on Beaver Island, circa. 1982

It was in the early spring that we moved back to Beaver Island.

Now, springtime on Beaver Island is beautiful. Just like in every other place that experiences winter, spring is welcomed. However, when you haven’t been on Beaver Island for the winter, to experience the transition from extremely cold to not quite so bad…when you come here from a place three hundred miles south, where the grass is already green and the flowers are already blooming…when you land on Beaver Island right in the middle of what the local folks call “mud season” and before the temperatures have risen above 50 degrees (even colder at night!), this is not a pleasant place.

That is what we did, and that is where we found ourselves: in a pretty dreary place.

Our property was not yet paid off; our house was still in the planning stages. The well that was included in the price of our land was not even started. We moved, again, into the family farmhouse.  The girls were switching schools near the end of a school year, with little time to make new friends or get into the swing of classroom activities. Terry’s job was, in fact, still several weeks away from beginning. The Shamrock was in the process of changing hands, and still a month away from looking for summer help. We almost immediately regretted turning our lives upside-down without better preparation.

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Jennifer, trying to keep warm in the living room of the farmhouse

We spent long days driving around on muddy roads, searching for a bit of green, keeping watch for downed trees that we could cut up for firewood. Evenings were spent drawing and re-drawing plans for our house, lining up help and materials and planning the sequence of activities to get a structure up. Until we started working, and generating some income, of course everything was on hold.

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Me, walking the property

Reality was affecting our house plans, too. We couldn’t possibly get our house up in time to move into it before the next winter. Every single thing was costing more than expected. We had to bring electricity down the Fox Lake Road. Even when sharing that expense with the man who had sold us our land, and who owned the property adjacent to ours on the north, it was still going to be a huge out-of-pocket expense. Septic system, plumbing, wiring…we were quickly overwhelmed.

Our house plans were modest: a 28′ x 28′ story and a half structure with a basement and a detached garage. Three bedrooms, one bath. We planned board and batten siding and simple finishes throughout. The house would be laid out to take best advantage of the sun; solar panels on the roof would help with energy costs. A central wood stove would provide heat. No matter how we looked at it, it was still impossible, with our time and money constraints that year.

When given the choice of putting in the basement or putting up the garage – to live in either while we finished the house – I chose the garage. I am eternally thankful that I did, as that is the structure I am still living in today. If I had chosen the basement, I may have been living underground all of these years!

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the stakes set, for the cement slab foundation for the garage

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2 responses »

  1. I completely agree with the previous comment. Horror! Good thing you were so young and probably didn’t feel as much fear over the situation as you would today. But you survived, so you must have done something right!

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