chinking it

Great discoveries are often made by accident. The other day I was hunting around for a bucket to transplant tomatoes into, and what should I stumble upon but the apparent solution to the cracked chinking seams in our cabin.

Great discoveries are often made by accident. The other day I was hunting around for a bucket to transplant tomatoes into, and what should I stumble upon but the apparent solution to the cracked chinking seams in our cabin.

Our log cabin features a wild array of chinking materials, dictated by what was on hand at the time we built each section – and that again was largely dependent on our finances. Sphagnum moss is between about half of the logs, another third has white unspun wool stuffed into the cracks, and the rest pink fibreglass.

This multicoloured and textured variety of materials can still be admired inside the cabin, while outside, the spaces between the logs are sealed off with a professional log chinking. On half of the cabin, that is. The other half sports a homemade mix, resorted to when we ran out of money to afford another two buckets of the very expensive professional stuff.

The homemade mix of fine sawdust (after creating ever-growing mounds of it with the Alaskan mill, we were more than happy to find another use for it), carpenter glue and water doesn’t look so smooth and nice but it worked fairly well. It sure stuck to the logs. Then came the endless hot spells of this summer, frying the south exposure of the cabin and shrinking the logs into oblivion.

The homemade chinking clung to them tightly and thus cracked in the middle of all the seams. With winter not exactly around the corner yet, we made a mental note of having to figure something out to fix the chinking and then ignored it for the time being.

Enter my bucket hunt. When my rooting around for a planter turned up an old container of Log Jam, I was happy to have found something suitable to transplant the tomato plant into. Upon opening it, I discovered that the bottom of the bucket was still covered in a good four centimetres of Log Jam.

I had a dim memory of having a bit left over, figuring at the time that the house would look better if the professional chinking was applied to one half and the homemade mix to the other half, and not wanting to use the Log Jam leftovers to do a couple more logs on the homemade mix side. I had lovingly sprayed it with plenty of water, tightly tucked a plastic bag over it, sprayed still more water on it and put it under the cabin. And there it had stood, I’m sure, through winter weather and summer heat for at least a couple of years.

Since Log Jam has a limited shelf life and is not supposed to freeze, I expected having to pry a hardened, gooey mess out of the bucket to convert it into a tomato planter. When instead my fingers sunk into a soft, supple mass, I could hardly believe it – it felt like new. This was nothing short of a miracle.

There was no question of what to do with the precious remnants in the bucket. I zeroed in on the worst cracked seams and gently smeared the well-aged Log Jam (with a bit more water added) across them by hand. Using the caulking gun would waste too much of the prized material; unfortunately, even with the finger application method it wouldn’t stretch to cover up all of the cracks.

To the discordant background noise of our juvenile raven neighbours, who were being introduced to the hidden treasures in our compost heap by one of their parents, I spent a day fixing up as many of the cracked cabin seams as I could.

The visual effect won’t get us into Home and Garden Magazine – because of my stingy application of it across the rough homemade chinking, it does not compare to the smooth clean lines on the other side of the cabin, but so far it seems to work really well. We’ll see how it fares over the winter.

I wish we had known about this when we first built the cabin. Chinking everything with the homemade sawdust, water and glue mix first and later applying only a thin veneer of professional material on top would have saved us several hundred dollars. But then, hindsight is always 20/20.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who

lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.