Text by Lisa McEwen | Photos by Frank Miramontes, DMI Agency
For Susie and Dave Muxlow, there’s nothing better than surrounding themselves with grandchildren all year long. But at Christmas, gatherings take on a special meaning for the couple when their large family squeezes into their cozy log cabin on the Kings River.
While the structure took shape in just a few days, the grandparents of 13 are looking forward to decades of memories being made in the home surrounded by mature pine trees and, in winter, a gently flowing river.
The home’s western red cedar logs were hewn by Pioneer Log Homes in British Columbia to the exact specifications requested by the Muxlows almost 11 years ago. Although they live in the Shadow Hills area of Los Angeles full-time, they spend many weeks each year in Kingsburg visiting family and attending all the activities that come with having 13 grand-children, from football games to weddings (there have been five weddings in the past two years!).
Having a quiet spot to rest as well as spend time with their growing family was the main purpose of building the 2,000-square-foot, two-story cabin on the property of their son and daughter-in-law, Becky and Andy Muxlow.
Dave, a contractor, fell in love with the design and craftsmanship of the structure after visiting a Pioneer Log Homes distributor in Southern California.
“We thought we could build a small cabin here, and we realize now that it really has turned into a wonderful thing for our family,” said Susie, whose smile is relentless.
It is an apt location for their family gatherings as Susie spent many summer months as a child camping and skiing along the Kings River with her relatives and church family from Los Angeles. After she and Dave married in 1967, the tradition continued and they brought their three children — Davy, Tiffany and Andy — to the river for church, recreation and fellowship. They became close friends with members of the Jackson family of Kingsburg.
“We like to say our son, Andy, married the farmer’s daughter,” Susie said, referring to daughter-in-law Becky.
“We were known as the ‘L.A. People’ to so many.”
Now several generations of the Muxlow and Jackson families live near each other along the riverbanks, making for joyful gatherings and celebrations.
Building and bonding
After traveling to beautiful British Columbia to choose their logs and basically see their cabin built in the forest, Dave and Susie watched as the logs were placed on diesel semi-trucks and transported to Kingsburg.
A giant crane unloaded the logs on the property as members of the family gathered to watch the spectacle. “All of those memories are really fun for us,” Susie said.
Dave, very familiar with construction sites, casually asked the foreman how long the project would take.
“A few days,” was the reply.
“Well, you sound like every other contractor,” Dave quipped. “But we started on Monday morning, and we were done Tuesday at lunch. Each log went right into place with no problems. We just loved watching it all fit together.”
Then came the rest of the project, including adding a roof, plumbing, and central heating and air.
“This cabin was the most fun thing I have ever built,” Dave said.
Now that the cabin is complete, part of the fun of visiting regularly is checking the progress of the cabin’s compression. Since it was built, the cabin has settled about 8 inches. One massive central log supports the weight of the upstairs floor, and two others support the roof. Huge threaded rods inside the logs must be tightened equally, usually 5/8” to 3/4”, to ensure that the cabin continues to compress in a balanced manner.
“The fit on these logs is just amazing,” Dave said, explaining that cabins typically use chinking, a type of sealant used on the joints. “You can’t even get a credit card in any of the cracks. As a mechanical person, I appreciate the whole thing.”
Since its construction, the cabin has not only served as a respite from their commute from Los Angeles, it has also served as a meeting place for a home-school, housed newlyweds (including
Kristin and Ty Muxlow, whose farmhouse was featured in the June 2019 issue of Lifestyle Magazine) and visitors from around the world who are in Kingsburg to learn about tree fruit farming.
Cozy and warm
Inside, honoring the natural beauty of the logs, some of which are 160 years old, is paramount. The stain on the logs lends a warmth to each room no matter the size. Adding just the right amount of Christmas decor, including lit trees and Nativity scenes, creates tangible holiday magic and reverence.
Because their grandchildren are the main reason for the cabin being built, the interior reflects their sizes and needs, and will soon accommodate great-grandchildren, as well. For example, barstools are slightly lower and feature saddles used years ago by their children. There is another with a tractor seat.
A tiny sink sits at toddler height next to a conventional sink, with an old tarnished ladle hanging nearby for a quick drink of water for those little ones who yearn to be independent.
Rough-edge granite countertops can withstand the countless meals, Christmas cookies and crafts created in the kitchen.
In the master bedroom, a toddler toilet sits just inches off the floor, perfect for those potty-training months.
“The cabin is really livable,” Susie said. “It’s so durable, you can’t wreck it!”
Upstairs, a large loft-style room called the Bunkhouse houses four twin beds with coordinating bedding. Sleeping bags are stashed in the closets when all the cousins want to have a sleepover with grandma and grandpa and, pretty soon, there’s no space left on the floor, a thought that brings a big smile to the faces of these enthusiastic grandparents, who are called Papa Dave and Grandma Sue Sue.
The cornerstone of the cabin, which speaks to the Muxlows’ strong Christian faith, is Psalm 127, which is etched into the beam of the master bedroom. It’s divided into five verses.
The Muxlows have dedicated their cabin to the third verse: “Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”
“Our cabin is for our children and grandchildren, and we are grateful for what the Lord provides,” Susie said. “Children are a gift from God.”
Fittingly, also etched in a beam in the comfortable and open living room are the names of their grandchildren: Davis, Dayton, Samantha, Ty, Drew, Molly, Pearl, Cal, Macy, Emily, Oaks, David, and Jonathan.
“Our hobby is our grandchildren,” Susie said, as Dave stood beside her, nodding in agreement. “This cabin is for them, and it will be here long after us.”