Cabin Work Begins: Land-scraping, poison ivy and snakes

The cabin renovation has begun!  Here are results of two weekends of hard manual labor in the yard.

Before Clearing

cabin before

Ta-dah! Now you can see the cabin

cabin after trimmingdining room

I feel like a picnic table wants to be here.

Plants and bushes we discovered at the cabin

bristly greenbriar

Bristly Greenbrier – covered in thorns

missouri gooseberry

Missouri Gooseberry – covered in thorns

bitter sweet

Bittersweet!  I think we might have 3 large bushes of these beautiful fall berries! But when I go to Google it, I discover that there are two varieties of bittersweet – American and oriental. The oriental bittersweet is considered an invasive plant species because of its tendancy to overtake and kill local plant life. (Here’s and article on it.) Bummer. Still not sure which of the two varieties we have but the bush is beautiful in bloom, even if it is a weed.

bush honeysuckle

Bush Honeysuckle – a cute round bush with bright red berries that the state of Missouri considers a noxious weed. Sigh.

Poison Ivy. Yep. And lots of it.


Ajuga Ground Cover – Thank God, something nice and pretty.  Although it’s gone a little crazy.  I read recently that deer won’t eat it – so I will probably be transplanting a lot of this in the Spring.

I’m not sure if you can see it clearly, but just to the right of the pile of rocks in the lower left corner of the picture is a nice healthy little crop of poison ivy. How we managed to walk by this 20 times and not brush up against it was luuuuuucky!!

We have a wide variety of trees on the property too – walnuts, oak, pine and elms.  (My first thought when I saw the oak trees was “Hey, I’ll have my own unending supply of acorns for crafts!” A true DIY girl.)  There’s also quite a few dead trees we will have to remove. My husband was very excited to realize he “needed” to buy a chainsaw and gas powered weed wacker.

The Snake Pit

snake pit

Our roofer warned us that there was an unusually high number of copperhead snakes in the area this year. Great. Then our neighbor told us that another neighbor a few miles from us had just been bitten by a copperhead while pulling weeds in her front yard. Oh that’s just really great. So I’ve officially been on high alert. Part of what we planned to do the first weekend was burn the multiple piles of branches scattered around the yard. The biggest pile of branches was in the fire pit pictured above- which we nicknamed the snake pit because copperheads like to hide in piles of rocks and under wood piles. The fire pit was located so close to the house we weren’t about to burn anything in it, so we had to move all the branches out to our burn pile. I accomplished this while standing on a chair with a long rake and banging on the top of the pile shouting “Go away snakes!!” Then gingerly pulling off the top branches with the rake. Go ahead – make fun of the city girl, but I wasn’t risking getting bitten! Thankfully we didn’t see any copperheads that day and haven’t seen any yet.

Working in Style

Months before any of this even started I had one of those cleaning fits – where I sorted through every closet, cabinet and drawer in the house. That included my cleaning out my clothing closet, where I followed the rules and tossed out anything I hadn’t worn or didn’t fit. So when I realized I had nothing scummy to wear to work outside in, I trotted off to a thrift store and grabbed some plaid shirts for $5 bucks,  jeans for $10 and a warm puffy vest for $12. Perfect.

I put on these second hand clothes to wear out to the cabin and say to my husband “This stuff looks cute together – I don’t want to wear it to work in.”  My sweet husband just looks at me and shakes his head.

Up next, a new roof and gutters!


  1. Looks great so far

  2. Lillian Kenney says:

    Karen, I can see you and Steve living there. I’m so happy for you.

  3. Sounds like some snake-proof work boots should be the next purchase!
    The cabin has such great potential, I’m looking forward to seeing the progress as you work.

  4. Those thorny bushes make a great burglar barrier for your cabin. That and a big sign warning about copperheads and poison ivy should be great protection and lots cheaper than an alarm system Ha! Sounds like u r having a great time. Keep on posting!

    • Thanks Donna – You are right about the burglar barrier! Maybe we should plant them under our windows so we don’t have people peeking in! Too funny about the signs – but that would probably only work for city folk! haha!

  5. rita ricks says:

    The prickly greenbriar has some serious thorns. Re snakes, don’t forget to wear boots. Also have a walking stick around to use as you walk to scare the crawly buggers away. Snakes don’t like confrontation.

    • I appreciate these comments and any more advice you have regarding snakes!! And yes, I’m going to have to forgo my summer flip flops for boots when working in the brush areas. Walking stick is a great idea!

  6. Oh wow!! How did you find such a beautiful gem?!?

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