SASKATOON – A log cabin perched beside a lake northeast of Saskatoon may look typical, but its back story makes it anything but ordinary.
A bookshelf sits in a corner; it’s a canoe, cut in half, the planks used to hold various objects. Jeff Shirley bought the canoe off Kijiji, along with almost everything else used to build and furnish his cabin.
“Seventy-five dollars for doors, windows were free if you picked them up, the blinds were $15,” Shirley recited, pointing around the room.
He and his wife Julie lovingly call their project “The Kijiji Cabin.”
The couple, who live and work in Saskatoon, started their project in 2010 and hope to complete it this fall.
Shirley said it started out as a warm-up shack for cross-country skiing, but morphed into a 1,200 square foot log cabin near Cudworth, Sask.
“This has been built out of cash flow, not debt, and it’s time and effort and patience with the internet and Kijiji, and family saying ‘hey, we think we’ve found something that may work for your cabin,”‘ Shirley said.
Shirley himself spends at least half an hour each night scouring the popular internet-selling website for deals. He said most of the time he’s looking for something specific, and makes an average of one purchase a week.
The cabin is about 90 per cent complete and Shirley estimates about 80 per cent of it came from Kijiji, including the barn-board flooring and his very first purchase: the logs to build the cabin.
“Do you remember when we were trying to put the logs on and you got our son Joe to bring out, like, seven of his friends to try and lift the logs up?” Julie reminds her husband with a smile.
“Yeah, that didn’t work,” Shirley replied.
The couple, along with the help of family members, re-peeled, resealed and re-stained every log before assembling the walls.
Because of safety code regulations, certain parts of the cabin had to be brand new. That includes the roof, chimney, water tank and solar panels used to power the cabin.
As for the Kijiji purchases, Shirley said he always tries to buy quality materials and is very particular about who he buys from. Some of his best finds include a tankless propane water heater brand new out of the box and a wood burning stove salvaged from a flooded cabin.
Shirley said they could not afford to do it any other way.
“If you discount labour, this is less than the cost of a used truck. If you count labour, there’s a lot of time and effort gone into this.”
The couple is quick to point that although it’s often physically exhausting, they don’t consider it “work.” Both agree that the time it takes to scour Kijiji, haul their finds out to the cabin and put it all together is part of the adventure.
“I’ve found coming out here has made us passionate about something,” said Julie. “Eventually, people just want to find something that makes them go and gives them energy, and when you have that it just doesn’t feel like work.”
Besides being energy efficient and environmentally sustainable, Shirley said one of the neatest things about the cabin is that it’s infused with stories.
A Saskatoon man’s passion for gardening lives on after the couple bought his greenhouse for their yard. The logs came from a man in British Columbia who had to give up building his own log cabin after he was injured in the process.
And if he feels comfortable with the seller, Shirley will often tell them about the Kijiji cabin project.
“I think they love to see, instead of stuff going to the dumps, it’s going into an actual residence or a place being put to good use.”
© The Canadian Press, 2013