Cabin on a Hill
by Lew Smith

LS - Cabin on the Hill - with the restored stone BBQ in the foreground. A smoke-draw test produced an almost jet-engine exhaust until slightly dampened. A jeep remains the best way uphill to the site.

If you're fortunate enough to have a hill on your home place with an uncluttered view of the Wimberley Valley, your heart is probably going to nag you endlessly to build a cabin there.

That's what happened to me and what I did in April 2001. At first, I had no idea my little hilltop could produce such a wonderful view. As with so many places around here, the dense cedar thickets block just about everything from view.The exception is the next limb waiting to smack you in the face. Clearing the area gradually revealed not only a long, long view out into the hill country with not a single roof top in sight, but a long-abandoned, weathered and grey 14 x 20 ft. concrete pad perfectly positioned for the view. There were few clues, but it might have been the floor of a small pavilion. Even with the clearing completed, the site held onto its feeling of remoteness: there was the view far out to the west, but not of my own home down below – scarcely a 4 min. winding drive. So, what it all added up to was the gift of a potential vacation retreat barely minutes away. At this point, the hilltop inventory included a usable access road, a ready-made pad site bracketed by trees on a level hill top and – discovered later – a magnificent native stone BBQ just 20 feet or so from the pad. The pad pretty much dictated the rest of my dream: a simple 14 x 20 cabin dedicated to the simple life: no plumbing, no electricity, a rainwater collection system (mainly for washups, my dogs and other animals), a covered front porch, rustic furniture, and a restored BBQ setup.

The BBQ, found needing repair under a cedar and vine thicket, came back to life as an eager kitchen substitute.

Simplicity also dictates a sundial for time-telling. The main thing was to find one that's readable without leaving a chair on the porch.
The plan was easy, but a helper was going to be essential. The need was mainly just for a reliable man with some building experience. Again, I couldn't have been more fortunate. Abner, in his 70s but with the strength of a 30-year-old, turned out to be a master carpenter/builder, so I quickly turned out to be his helper, purchasing agent and go-for. I was 66. We squared the base plates on the pad April 4th and finished the exterior (cedar plank walls and tin roof) by the 24th. Then, I was able to do the rest on my own, including working shutters, chimney for a pot belly stove, interior walls and the rain water collection system. Some "frills" came later: minimal home-made furniture and picnic table, an outdoor cedar bench swing, restoring the BBQ, setting up a sun dial, hooks for a hammock under an oak… and that's about it. A "resort" minutes from my back door. And an everlasting magnet for me at sunset, afternoon naps "away from it all" … and, best of all, a dream destination for my grandsons.


The home-made furnishings were kept consistently simple, functional and tied in with the few store... bought items such as the small (a rare thing) pot belly stove and folding chairs from a demolished Baptist church. Along with the desire/necessity to keep things simple, a mini rain water collection system fit right in with lamp/candle light, no lavatory, and no electricity.  The water guarantees a wealth of appreciative year-round visitors and serves as a welcome washup source. The view faces West and our magnificent hill country sunsets.   Amazingly, no rooftops coincide with the vista even though it's smack in the middle of the Wimberley Valley.


The Musings of Lew Smith.

The Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica, Nature's Aerial Acrobat
Cabin On A Hill
Fischer, Texas
Purple Martin Apartment Quest
The Texas Longhorn
Rain Water Harvesting To The Rescue
Wimberley Native Fences-Gates-Walls contributor Lewis Smith,
tells of his Cabin building exploits.
Photographs and Article by Lewis Smith.