Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cottage on the Hill: A Writer's and Artist's Retreat

by Zinta Aistars

When I moved to Z Acres in the spring of 2012, I was especially enchanted by one of the outbuildings on the 10-acre property more than others. On a wooded hill, secluded from the rest of the property, sat a charming and eccentric little cottage, built with amazing detail, by the hands of a loving carpenter. Apparently, someone with whimsy, as the cottage is covered with misaligned windows, each one unique. As soon as I saw the cottage, I knew this was a special place.
Cottage on the Hill, or COTH as I have come to call it, reminds me a little of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, that tiny cabin in which the writer lived for several years. Actually, it is more expansive than Thoreau’s, as it has approximately 120 square feet on the main floor, and a stepladder up to a second floor of about 80 square feet. And, in cooler weather, a space heater adds warmth.
Being a writer, I found it irresistible, conducive to meditations in solitude, connecting to one’s Muse while being completely “unplugged” from the busy world seemingly so far, far away … although, admittedly, the Cottage does have electricity!
This past September, a contractor buddy, Davids G., built a small deck onto the back of the Cottage, as a door in the back opened up onto thin air. For some reason, the original carpenter had not finished his project, but his intent was clear—a place to sit and enjoy the surrounding woods of maples and pines, elms and oaks. The deck was the perfect finishing touch, along with weatherizing the Cottage against moisture and the effects of time. I painted the floors a soft gray, whitewashed the walls on the main floor but left the upper floor natural wood.
The Cottage needed a few furnishings, but I wanted to keep it rustic and spare. A full-size bed went into the main floor corner, a small wooden table and chair, a cabinet with shelves. Upstairs, a desk and chair. I brought favorite books to put on the shelves, and hung up artwork by my father, artist Viestarts Aistars, and various other knick knacks to make the Cottage feel like home. A carpet remnant on the main floor adds just a touch of luxury.
I’m so pleased with this wonderful space that I am opening it up to friends with a need for a quiet getaway. Many have asked, and so I am opening the door of COTH:
·       Suggested donation for a one-night stay on a week day (Monday to Thursday): $35 per day
·       Suggested donation for a weekend stay (Friday, Saturday, Sunday): $40 per day
·       Suggested donation for a one-week stay: $200 per week
·       Suggestion donation for one meal provided: Add $15 to above price per day
Donations for COTH will help maintain the literary magazine, The Smoking Poet, online since 2006. A submission to the magazine of the art, written or visual, that you produce while staying at COTH is encouraged!

A little outhouse, built out of recycled barn boards, is in the woods nearby. Water is provided in a 5-gallon container with a basin for washing in COTH, and a two-burner portable stove allows one to heat up coffee or tea, or even warm up a bit of stew in the woods!
Two paths lead up the hill to the Cottage—one leading down to the farmhouse, about a 500 yard walk, and the other path leads down the hill to alongside the barn, with a chair to sit under the old apple tree and look out upon the fields stretching to the horizon, or enjoy the lounge chair or hammock behind the barn to watch the sunset.
COTH is located approximately 35 miles north of Kalamazoo and 35 miles south of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The town of Holland, on the shores of Lake Michigan, is about 35 miles northwest, and Allegan is approximately 7 miles southwest.
For more information, or to reserve the Cottage on the Hill for your retreat, contact Zinta Aistars at

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