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Book review: U. professor, naturalist's memoir explores cabin construction, family relationships

By Jim Foy

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, April 12 2013 5:12 p.m. MDT

"SEVEN SUMMERS: A Naturalist Homesteads in the Modern West," by Julia Corbett, University of Utah Press, $19.95, 175 pages (nf)

Julia Corbett is a naturalist who loves to be in the outdoors, observe the beauty of the wilderness and see what she can do to help improve the condition wherever she goes.

That's one of the reasons the University of Utah professor, who lives in Salt Lake City, bought 10 acres of land in Wyoming and decided to build a cabin.

In her recent book “Seven Summers: A Naturalist Homesteads,” Corbett shares her adventures of building the cabin, from first buying the chainsaw that her father taught her to use correctly to getting the 720-square-foot main floor of the cabin livable.

But thanks to her ability to only work on it during the summer and other inevitable delays in construction, it took seven summers to get it to the shape where it is now. She does admit it will never be finished, but the cabin is fairly livable by the end of seven years.

It's more than just a journal of construction issues. As she learns from her own mistakes — i.e. which jobs to do herself and which ones to contract out, getting everything in writing from contractors, and getting the right materials in the right order — to maintaining her Salt Lake home while she's away, she draws hope and inspiration from other women, like May Holiday and Alice Day Pratt, who have homesteaded as single women and explores their lives.

She also shares about her own family relationships. While her mother, whom she was close to had passed away, she is able to develop a deeper relationship with her father, a retired chemistry professor, who came out periodically to help her, and her brother, Sam, who is a builder, as she seeks their advice on the construction issues that never seem to end.

Now that she can live in the cabin, she and her dog, Tobie, and cat, Kaya, keep her company as she explores her land and visits her neighbors.

It's a book that is free of objectionable content and the language is clean throughout.

It's an interesting and informational memoir of homesteading, construction and family relationships.

If you go ...

What: Julia Corbett book signing

When: Thursday, April 18, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com, juliacorbett.net

James Foy graduated from International Co. of Ft Myers, Fla., with a bachelor's degree in business management and plans to continue schooling in computer information systems management.

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