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Friday, January 11, 2013

Solving the space problem

Couple's cabin is constructed of old tobacco barn logs.

Norma and George Epp performed 90 percent of the work on their cabin, which includes a handmade oven and wood-burning stove.

Photos courtesy of George Epp

Norma and George Epp performed 90 percent of the work on their cabin, which includes a handmade oven and wood-burning stove.

Norma Epp's quilting supplies were overwhelming their Moneta kitchen, according to her husband, George Epp. When a friend, Joe Altadonna of Joe's Pizza, planned to dismantle two old tobacco barns on his property, George Epp devised a solution.

Having long held an appreciation for older things, he asked the friend if he could have the barn's logs. George Epp then purchased a book online detailing the how-tos of cabin building.

"I took it from there," he said.

Cabin construction began in 2008 and took two years to complete. George and Norma Epp performed 90 percent of the work, while a neighbor, Ralph Kristianson, pitched in for some work, such as placing the roof.

Building the cabin was a full-time job for the retiree, consuming 50 to 60 hours a week.

"I worked on it constantly, if I could," George Epp said.

Large stones were cemented into place to act as the foundation while the cabin's walls were constructed of materials extracted from the former tobacco barns. Small logs were placed by hand; Epp needed the assistance of a tractor for larger loads.

The finished product is an 18-by-27 room with historical accuracy adding to its charm.

Antique glass found at a Wirtz reclaimed-products shop adorns the cabin's frames. The cabin's roof is metal, a material that sometimes was used in 19th-century homes, he said.

"I had people come down the road and ask if they can come in and look inside. It's a conversation piece," said George Epp.

In addition to providing a haven for Norma Epp's quilting materials, the structure's interior houses an old spinning wheel, sewing machine and baby cradle.

"It's all fitting with the time period of the cabin," she said.

The couple's construction blitz continued with the creation of a handmade mud oven.

The Epps sifted and mixed sand into clay procured from a friend. Two weeks later, the outdoor oven was complete. The couple uses the oven to make bread and rolls, as well as the "most delicious pizza," according to Norma Epp.

"It was a labor of love," George Epp said.

The little cabin is a gathering spot for friends and family. The Epps hosted a Halloween party in the structure, and it was the site of a holiday gathering.

Norma Epp said that having a place to quilt is wonderful, although the male Epps often drop by.

"They're wishing now they can sit out there with cable," said Norma Epp. "Uh-oh, I put my music on, and it's very quiet."