Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cabin Life: Wrestling With The Dark

Recycled CandlesI currently have twelve independent fires going inside of my cabin.  The one scented candle is making the mixture of burning candles, lamp oil, and spiced apple almost pleasant. Almost.

This time of year is the roughest, psychologically, out here.  When the sun starts to dip before most people eat dinner, it’s tough for me to stay positive.  Especially on a day like today, when it was overcast all day and never really that bright out, the night seems just about unbearably long.

In order to fight of the dark, I light candles and have battery powered puck lights going.  The one electric light I have is lit up by the door and my best oil lamp is burning bright on the table next to me.  There’s also my ubiquitous head lamp hanging around my neck, though I’ve gotten better this year about not wearing it in public so much.

I brace myself for the onslaught of long, long nights by knowing that before the end of the year, the days will be getting longer.  Perhaps it’s only a couple of minutes a day, but I remind myself every day that after the winter solstice it will get better.

I don’t know why the dark beats me down so much, but I bear it alright.  Not grin and bear it, mind you, just bear it.  On nights like this all I want to do is be inside a nice, brightly lit house.  It seems so much easier to just flick a switch instead of digging out an old half-candle and match it up with one of the holders.  Then I have to keep an eye on them since I don’t know which candles will be dripping like crazy.  I also have to get to them and blow them out before they get too low into the holders, otherwise I’ll be grabbing a screwdriver and digging out what little wax remains.

All in all, I guess it’s not too bad though.  I re-melt the stubs into new candles, thereby recycling even the meager little inch of wax that otherwise would go into the garbage.  Compared to my first winter out here, this place is like the Las Vegas Strip at night.  But that’s only a relative observation.

To be honest, I have to choose the stress of basking in darkness for an inordinate amount of my day, or deal with the worry that accompanies having a dozen fires going in my very dry wooden house.  At least I’m not worried as much about the woodstove, but I do think a few more electric lights may be on order soon.


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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.

8 Responses

  1. Bob says:

    Contrary to what my username implies, I am not really a ‘fan’ of living off the grid, but rather it was created to use in my search for, literally, a fan (as in ceiling fan) that does not require electricity to operate.
    That being said, wife & I I do have an off grid cabin in the Adks, although we also use propane and a generator for lighting & power.
    To be honest, I really like the coziness of small cabin, no power, but I know I couldn’t do this full time as you are. I just started reading your blog and I wanted to offer my congrats and best wishes to you. I will continue to read about you.

  2. Bill Ott says:

    Thanks for sharing both the good and the not so good.I have no suggestions for your plight, but I bet you will by this time next year.
    Bill Ott

  3. Pete Klein says:

    I like the short days and really hate the long days of summer.
    If it weren’t for the fact that I don’t like warm weather, I would vote for living at the Equator where you always get about 12 hours of of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.

  4. Mike Chevier says:

    For me it’s the change of seasons in between these periods of long nights and shortdays. The vibrant fall foliage and new spring colors as they overtake the dreary browns of winter in retreat that make it all bearable.

  5. Jim McAndrew says:

    For better and brighter non-electric lighting, you are missing the boat if you don’t have one or more Aladdin brand kerosene lamps. These are beautiful, as bright as a 60W incandescent bulb, and as a bonus in winter, produce about 2,000 btuh of heat. You can find a functional basic model used on eBay for around $40 or beautiful brass, nickel, or glass base antique collector’s items w/ ornate glass shades for somewhat more. There are table models, wall bracket styles and hanging lamps. These lamps have a mantle somewhat like the familiar Coleman camping lantern, but Aladdins are not pressurised and make no hissing sound.

  6. joan streetman says:

    I hate the long nites and I have electric but it is most depressing. I get up and read every nite about 2 or 3 as I am totally bored and cannot wait until it is daylight.

    • doug says:

      The long nights of late fall and winter are way beyond our needs for the amount of sleep to replenish ourselves from the previous day’s efforts…you are wise to interrupt the night with hopefully, some good reading, or, clear skies permitting, what a great time of the night to be an astronomer…ever notice the best movies and cable programs seem to be shown at 3 AM? Be glad you are alive and aware of how fortunate you are, others, so many others live in abject misery.

  7. Tom Williams says:

    Have you thought of harnessing some of the waste heat from your wood stove with a thermocouple assembly to power a string of LEDs to brighten the scene? That and solar cells could charge lithium batteries to give enough “free” light to chase away some of the shadows! Google LEDshoppe to see the vast variety of cheap Chinese devices available.
    Smile! Love those woods.

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