In this video from May 2022, I walk from the busy crossroads into Walden Woods and to the site of Thoreau’s cabin, where he lived for 2 years, 2 months, and 2 days from July 1845. I add a stone brought from Century Wood to the cairn by the cabin site. I then look at the wildlife and views of the pond and the forest.
I’ve always loved Lego and this time of year is a great time to build things together. We have the 5766 Log Cabin set from 2010, and have been building the three different huts it has instructions for. I’ve also rebuilt it as Thoreau’s cabin in the woods by Walden Pond. As you might expect, I photographed the whole lot.
You can see the three official designs here, as Lego’s own description says: “Escape to the LEGO countryside in this 3-in-1 Log Cabin! Packed with great details, including an open fire with rotisserie, wooden logs, tree and opening doors and windows, this log cabin is an ideal wilderness getaway. Minifigure included and ready for backwoods adventure, with backpack, paddle and canoe. Rebuild into a country retreat or a river hut.”
Next is the Log Cabin itself in more detail, with lift-off roof, canoe, and joints of venison roasting above an open fire!
The second design is the Riverside Retreat, and is hinged at the side so you can open it up and see inside.
The third design is the River Hut, with a A-frame design and a bridge over a stream. Again this has a lift-off roof.
Finally, my Thoreau cabin built entirely from pieces in the set. It has a lift-off roof again, and I reused the tree design from the Log Cabin instructions. The last picture is the base layout to get you started if you want to build it yourself.
Here’s a slide comparison of my effort in Lego vs a reconstruction of Thoreau‘s:
Even though the Log Cabin set is discontinued, Lego still have a page about it with PDFs of the instructions to build the three official designs. If you have a good Lego collection already, you may be able to put it together without the set – especially if you have lots of sloping roof pieces. Second hand sets can be found on eBay and here are links to Amazon for some similar sets and the Log Cabin itself – I get a percentage of Amazon sales, which helps pay for the website 🙂
Lakeside Lodge 31048
Mountain Hut 31025
Log Cabin 5766
“Henry builds a cabin” shows a bear called Henry building a cabin in the woods near a lake, just like the house that Henry David Thoreau built by Walden Pond in 1845. We meet the bear’s friends (Bronson) Alcott, (Ralph Waldo) Emerson, and Miss Lydia (Emerson), and Henry explains to each of them how his cabin isn’t too small because he has the woods to enjoy too. This lovely book has become a family favourite that we now read together in our own cabin 🙂
“I’d planned to spend most of the weekend at Century Wood before the warnings about Storm Alex started, and after a close look at the forecasts I went ahead. Despite 18 hours of continuous rain, the overnight stay was comfortable and I got a lot done on Sunday which was dry.” more …
“Last month I invested in a wooden rocking chair for the log cabin. There have been benches there for years but on an evening you want something you can sit back in. Henry David Thoreau famously had three chairs in his cabin in the woods: ‘one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society’. ” more …
Last month (March) I was able to visit Walden Pond in Massachusetts and the site of Thoreau’s hut in the woods from 1845 to 7. I’ve posted about it in detail over on the Centurywood.uk blog. (I went back in September, and took more photos and videos of the pond, hut reconstruction and the wider area.)
I’ve posted to the Century Wood blog about a five day stay in the log cabin this month to start on the drying barn, which might be of interest to some hutters: https://centurywood.uk/2018/06/18/five-days-at-the-wood/
I don’t know about you, but poetry at school was a hit and miss business. Looking back, it feels as if a lot of verse was thrown in my general direction, some of which has stuck and some of which just bounced off – even when committed to memory overnight to placate a teacher. W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” is one that stuck, and a couple of years ago I realised its connection to hutting and to Walden in particular. The poem is short enough to quote in full here:
Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
Until I came back to the poem a couple of years ago, I remembered the island but not the cabin. Perhaps as a boy I imagined escaping from the pavements of my own city to the island, but as a man I think ahead to shelter and the cabin. Yeats thought even further, to food, with his nine bean rows and bee hive. Rereading it I then saw the connection to Thoreau’s account of two years living in a hut by a lake, in “Walden”. Thoreau grew his own food, and sold the surplus to pay for other necessities. He talked at length about cultivating rows of beans in particular:
Before I finished my house, wishing to earn ten or twelve dollars by some honest and agreeable method, in order to meet my unusual expenses, I planted about two acres and a half of light and sandy soil near it chiefly with beans, but also a small part with potatoes, corn, peas, and turnips.
Which is more prosaic and more extensive than Yeats’ nine rows of beans, but represents the voice of experience!
Some digging of my own turned up passages in Yeats’ autobiography which spelt out his childhood connection between Walden and the island, starting with a conversation with his father:
When I said to him, echoing some book I had read, that one never knew a countryside till one knew it at night he was pleased (though nothing would have kept him from his bed a moment beyond the hour); for he loved natural things and had learnt two cries of the lapwing, one that drew them to where he stood and one that made them fly away. And he approved, and arranged my meals conveniently, when I told him I was going to walk round Lough Gill and sleep in a wood. I did not tell him all my object, for I was nursing a new ambition. My father had read to me some passage out of Walden, and I planned to live some day in a cottage on a little island called Innisfree, and Innisfree was opposite Slish Wood where I meant to sleep. (Part I, xvii, p.43)
Years later walking on the grey pavements of London in 1888, he remembered the island and composed the poem:
I had still the ambition, formed in Sligo in my teens, of living in imitation of Thoreau on Innisfree, a little island in Lough Gill, and when walking through Fleet Street very homesick I heard a little tinkle of water and saw a fountain in a shop-window which balanced a little ball upon its jet, and began to remember lake water. From the sudden remembrance came my poem Innisfree, my first lyric with anything in its rhythm of my own music. (Part II.I, xv, p.94)
One of the impulses of hutting is not just to go to more natural places, but to go back to them. Repeatedly. To maintain a connection to them, even when walking the grey pavements of cities. To carry part of them inside you, “in the deep heart’s core”.
In 1845 Henry David Thoreau built himself a hut beside Walden Pond in Massachusetts and started the process which led to “Walden; or, Life in the Woods” in 1854. This book has gone on to become a classic of American literature, held up by advocates of self-reliance, resistance to the power of the State, naturalism, and conservation; and studied by generations of school children. Even in the UK, it’s often quoted, with its mixture of philosophy and the outline of Thoreau’s efforts to lead a self-reliant life from the land around his hut.
I’ve been meaning to write about Walden since I started this blog, but the more I thought about it, the bigger the task became. Walden is a treasury of ideas connected to hutting and nature, and a single post or even a sequence written at the same time won’t do it justice. So instead I made a page about Walden and will make blog posts as I add material to it. For now that page has a collection of key passages I selected while reading the book, with a focus on hutting.
A few of them give you a flavour of his intentions:
When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again.
Near the end of March, 1845, I borrowed an axe and went down to the woods by Walden Pond, nearest to where I intended to build my house, and began to cut down some tall, arrowy white pines, still in their youth, for timber.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness—to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground.
Walden Pond is now a Massachusetts state park and visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year. There is a reconstruction of Thoreau’s hut near the car park and the footprint of the original hut is also marked out.