Building a Log Cabin, Pool, and Workshop by Hand

Do you want to build a log cabin, pool, and workshop by hand? You should have talked to my father, Roger Mussells. He built our log cabin house by hand. He also built our huge workshop that later became Rocki and Khan’s home. My father was in construction and had an AA in building design (he had the nicest writing).

Our log cabin was built from the pine trees he felled on our 30 acres. My father devised a hand-made log hauler or “skidder“. It was a 4×4 timber on two iron wheels attached to an iron base. It had an an attached chain on his makeshift skidder for him to pull the logs up one by one to where he was building. He used geometry and trigonometry to hoist the logs up. My mother, Faith Mussells, went to Chicago Art Institute for two years, so she sketched the blueprints for the house.

My Quarter Horse ex-racehorse, Sunny, in front of my house I grew up in Jacksonville, FL
My Quarter Horse ex-racehorse, Sunny, in front of my house I grew up in in Jacksonville, FL

He built the log cabin part of the house starting when I was a baby around 1950. It was about 1000 square feet. It had a 20×20 living room, one bathroom, a utility room, crawl-space attic, and big kitchen. We all slept in one end of the living room until a few months later when he added on a large cement based porch with scoring on the cement floor with big ceilings and hand-hewn beams. He screened the porch in so my brother and I could sleep there in the summer. He added on another 1000 sq. ft. in the late 1950s.

Inside a log cabin build. This is a picture of our living room after we had left. It is showing the logs and cement filling painted white. Shows the old-fashioned solid, hand turning Florida windows, wooden floors and visible hand-hewn logs/braces on ceiling.
Inside a log cabin build. This is a picture of our living room after we had left. It is showing the logs and cement filling painted white. Shows the old-fashioned solid, hand turning Florida windows, wooden floor,s and visible hand-hewn logs/braces on ceiling.

Of course it had a large fireplace — this was our heat in the beginning until he installed an oil heater on the porch, feeding the house via floor registers and wall vents. I loved standing over the registers in the winter to get warm quickly!

Back porch support stanchion Covered in Ivy. 
Picture taken after we moved in 2015. Logs for log cabin ceiling and stanchions build were hand-hewed.
Back porch support stanchion covered in ivy.
Picture taken after we moved in 2015. Logs for log cabin ceiling and stanchions build were hand-hewn.

A few years later, he built an addition of another 1000+ square feet for 3 bedrooms, one a huge master bedroom and bath. When we move to Keystone Heights in 2007, I kept the door to the master bedroom — 4 inch thick beautiful tongue and groove cut design and finish. This end of the house was a board and batten design to complement the log cabin. It also had a tilted flat roof.

When I was three, he built a man-made 65×45 pool, fed by artesian spring water constantly filling through a 2 inch pipe (it was fizzy when you drank from the pipe!). The water was powered by a water wheel he built using pecky cypress wood. My mom taught swimming lessons in the pool as a Brownie Scout leader.

I hope I can find more pictures of it close up, but below is a picture of my horse I had, Sunny, next to the water wheel and the huge bamboo we had planted. I brought some of the bamboo to my new place in Keystone Heights and it’s also huge!

Sunny next to bamboo and water wheel powering the filling of our pool.
Sunny next to bamboo and water wheel powering the filling of our pool (barely seen on the left).

A few years later, he made a huge 100×100 or more workshop. It had a cantilevered roof made with railroad telephone poles covered in creosote (rotting control), a cement floor, an attached car port, long workbench and lumber storage built with the lumber 2×4, 4×4, etc. It was big enough to have a pit for working on your car.

(All of images below were taken after we had moved to Keystone Heights.)

pit to work on cars
Pit in floor of workshop to work on cars/trucks.
Stalls for Khan and Rocki built onto side of workshop.
Workshop ceiling showing stanchion cable supporting the large telephone pole beam. All building was done by hand.
Old, broken water wheel parts showing its pecky cypress wood in the overgrown bamboo.
Side cantilevered roof on workshop car/truck parking.  I used it for tacking, brushing and washing my horses.
Side cantilevered roof on workshop car/truck parking. I used it for tacking, brushing, and washing my horses.
Corner of house showing painted logs. All of this construction on our log cabin build was done by hand by my father, Roger Mussells. He also built his own skidder to haul the log up to where he was working.
Corner of house showing painted logs. All of this construction on our log cabin build was done by hand by my father, Roger Mussells. He also built his own skidder to haul the log up to where he was working.
Workshop from the backside. There are doors below the open window that opened up to take in hay bales, large equipment, etc.
Workshop from the backside. There are doors below the open window that opened up to take in hay bales, large equipment, etc.

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About Me – Early Days

I was born and grew up on the south side of Jacksonville, Florida in the beautiful Mandarin area. I attended Loretto Elementary, DuPont Junior High, and Wolfson Senior High. I was a swimming nerd since my mom taught swimming lessons in our large natural pool built by my father, who also built our house (more on the house). I was our high school’s swim team’s backstroke swimmer; I also swam relays, medleys, fly, breast, and crawl (terms date me).

When I was a baby, my mom had a horse, Glassy, who was so gentle that she would allow me to crawl around under her legs. I also had a baby goat friend! And always, we had three dogs that were able to run free since we lived way out in the country/woods (except for college and 6 months in a duplex, I’ve always lived in the country).

I Grew Up Loving Horses

I read every book there was at the library on horses and had hundreds of plastic or rubber horses, ranging from palm size to maybe 16 inch tall model horses like they had in the 1950s.

When in elementary school, I would walk over 3 miles every Tuesday after school to ride at a rental barn; I also rode some of my friends’ horses. Finally, when I was 12, I got a horse of my own, a 14.3 1/2 hand buckskin, part quarter horse, to learn to care for and retrain from being wild and always wanting to run and jig to a horse that would walk and canter just from a lift on the reins. I did this from reading books and articles about horses.

My first saddle was a hard McClellan Army saddle (blech!) that I hated, so I rode bareback most of the time until I finally got Western saddle, then an English saddle in my later teens so I could jump things.

My First Horse, Scottie

I would do everything on my horse ‘Scottie’ (short for Great Scott – I renamed him from Apache), riding for miles all around my family’s 30 acres in the woods of Jacksonville/Mandarin/Greenland/Bayard are. I would go swimming bareback in the clear water of the barrow pits that were dug to build I-95 next to our land.

I would jump over 2 long pieces of skinny baseboard moulding spread out over the long side of 2 sawhorses that I set up as a jump. I would gallop over a 24+ natural jump course I made of piled up tree limbs and logs, spanning a couple of miles, weaving in and out of trees, ducking under low-hanging branches, sliding down a steep embankment — generally being a adventurous, horse-loving teenager.

You Don’t Do This Now-a-days

I would run barrels and do pole bending and compete at a saddle club where I would ride to on Friday nights with a group of others. The saddle club was about 8 to 10 miles from my house. I would meet up with the other riders about 3 miles from my house and we would all ride together. Then, I would ride back home in the dark by myself – something you would never let a young girl do in today’s world!