Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cabin Life: Spring is Near

Melting SnowThere’s a gentle thud as another icicle falls off the roof and lands in the soft, heavy snow on the ground.  It’s not that warm today, but warm enough to sit out on the porch and read for a while.  I needed a winter hat to sit out there, though the sun was warm when it poked out from behind the clouds.

There’s a noticeable difference in the amount of snow on the ground.  It’s not really melting, but it is disappearing.  Almost like the surface of the snow isn’t changing, but just sinking closer and closer to the ground.  The days haven’t been very warm, but we’re starting to get those days when it feels a little humid out.  This is the snow’s way of saying goodbye I presume.

While it hasn’t been warm enough to let the fire go out in the wood stove, I have been able to get by burning softwood during the day.  And a single load of hardwood has been lasting me all night.  It’s a far cry from January and February when I would have to get up a few times per night to add wood to the stove.

I’ve been stretching the hardwood supply and I think I’ll be all right for the rest of the year.  I’m hoping for a warm April, and can’t wait for the flowers to start blooming and the leaves to start growing.  Even though I know that my allergies will not be easy to deal with.

I’ve been wondering why this winter seems more difficult than last winter.  I think the biggest reason is that the novelty has worn off.  Last year there was furniture to move, wood to gather and split, property to explore and the adventure of a new endeavor.  I haven’t felt any of that this year.

I took several steps to make life out here easier this winter.  From the lights to the radio, and having established a procedure to wash dishes, this winter should have been a cake walk compared to the unknowns of last year.  But now all the chores that were novel last winter are just effort this winter.  Hauling in water is a pain.  Cleaning the chimney is no fun.  Getting up at four in the morning to put wood in the stove is, well, work.

I think that though the freshness of the experience has worn off, it’s been a good reminder of how much I can do without.  I have no intention of ever moving back “on grid,” but I also have no plan of living the rest of my life deprived of indoor plumbing.

While I sit out here and crank my radio, I like to think about what my own off grid house will look like.  There will be a heat source other than a woodstove so I can leave for more than twelve hours at a time.  There will be hot running water and an indoor toilet.  Once I get settled, I do not want to have to keep a toilet seat hanging on my wall above the wood stove.  Sure, it’s nice for now, but I really don’t want to be that guy for the next forty or fifty years.

I’ve learned a lot living out here and no matter where I go from now on, I will take these lessons to heart.  Plus, I would have a hard time learning to pay bills again.  That’s the one thing that, even though I was able to give it up, really keeps on giving back to me.

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Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.







7 Responses

  1. John Jongen says:

    Justin (and Pico), you are an inspiration to all of us who want to rightsize our own core values. You are living proof that freedom, independence, self-sufficiency, and creativity outweigh the periodic discomforts of loneliness, boredom, uncertainty, cold, and hard work. Good luck and keep us posted.

  2. joan streetman says:

    I hope you are not going back to the real world out there with all the frustrations. Life is so much quiet there than out here

  3. Brad says:

    Are you thinking winter #3 is doable or was this enough and time to move on and tweak the experience to better incorporate the daily needs (as you noted)

    • Justin says:

      No, I think this winter was just rough. I will be out here again next year and hope to make the cabin more hospitable. Solar panel, new wood stove, etc. should make it easier next winter.

  4. Uncle Scott says:

    Hello Nephew,

    Are you (and Pico) discovering some good winter time wood stove recipes
    to help you through your cold winter months?
    Like “Stove Top Stuffing on a Soap Stone Stove”?

    Have fun, seasons almost over.

    Uncle Scott

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