The afternoon was almost silent. Bees buzzed overhead and a sprinkler watered the freshly excavated dirt; I lounged on the second floor deck at the Precious Forest Cabin, basking in the afternoon sun.
Ken Stiritz planned to cultivate blueberries behind his guest cabin on Bartlett Mountain.
“Guests will love blueberries,” he explained. “Blueberries are full of antioxidants and the plant has a pretty pink flower in the spring.”
Ken imagines kids eating bowls of blueberries, and guests making blueberry pies and pancakes. But for now he has a few plants in pots and he waters the basin.
A few days earlier I drove up Bartlett Springs Road in Lake County, California. Vineyards lined the shore of Clear Lake, California’s largest lake. The dirt road to the cabin is 5.3 miles from the highway and climbs 2,700 feet.
“To really get a feel for the property you have to stay at least for a whole day and do nothing,” Ken told me upon check in, “and you can’t miss the sunset.”
I had an action packed itinerary, but as soon as I got to the cabin, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to get lost in the grain of the ponderosa pine, take jacuzzi baths and drink wine at sunset, but the next day I went to Middletown to ride in a glider plane instead. I considered ditching an afternoon of sailing, but I didn’t.
I did, however, extend my stay.
The cabin is off the grid and runs on a small generator, but solar panels are in the future, Ken explained.
The Precious Forest is furnished with antiques. There’s a 1915 Cribben and Sexton gas and wood burning stove, an antique copper sink, and a cabin light from an old ship.
A hand hammered copper chandelier hangs upstairs; and in the bathroom there’s a jacuzzi bathtub and an antique vanity from an old Victorian mansion.
“One day I realized that I didn’t have a hobby,” Ken said. “All I did was work, so I decided building would be my hobby.”
Ken wondered why traditional log cabins were built horizontally, so he researched vertical log cabin building.
Trees grow standing up in the ground, Ken explained. The grain of the wood is vertical and logs naturally shed water that way. Horizontal building risks rot and mildew.
And horizontal log building would have required more use of a crane; the Precious Forest Cabin was mostly built by hand.
“I love sitting here, looking up and thinking, I cut that log,” Ken said from a seat on the porch.
Just up the road is a mineral spring that is gravity fed to the cabin. At the source, water comes up at a temperature just above freezing; it has a soft, almost sweet taste.
“Water is best for you right out of the ground,” Ken explained as he took a sip from the spring’s hose.
Back on the second floor deck with a pitcher of spring water and a bottle of locally grown rosé, I experienced the sunset. As the sun dropped, it paused above the horizon and glowed orange, pink and red.
Earlier that afternoon, Ken told me that the Precious Forest was the last project his grandfather, Orville Butts, worked on. Orville was a builder most of his life.
“When Grandpa came on the project, he walked up and looked at the foundation and he said, ‘In fifty years that is the worst foundation I’ve ever seen.’”
Grandpa fixed the foundation and later put in seventeen large triple-pane windows. He was eighty-years-old.
When the cabin was finished, Grandpa went up on the roof.
“I looked up and he was standing there with an apple,” Ken said. “And he walked the peak of the roof eating his apple.”
The next morning before I had to leave, I made a cuppa and drew a bath. The morning was quiet as most mornings on Bartlett Mountain are.
Eventually I headed out, but before I left I looked back at the cabin from the road. The future blueberry basin was still damp. I imagined kids eating blueberries in the yard and Grandpa standing on the roof eating his apple.
Precious Forest Photo Gallery (click a thumbnail to enter gallery):