Summer in the cabin was easy. The sun arrived before 5am and stuck around until after 9 at night. The long days meant that there was plenty of time to get things done without needing to run the generator (also known as “the truck”) or wear a headlamp for light.
Now that winter has arrived, we are certainly glad to have had the summer daylight while it lasted. We have worked out a semblance of routine in the past months that would have been much more difficult to establish in December. The days are now short, and the truck and headlamps are in high demand.
My (Jim’s) day typically starts around 6am as I roll out of a warm and cozy bed into a cabin that has dropped to a cool 50 degrees overnight. I release Roland (our 3-year-old hound) from his overnight jail so that he can bound across the room and leap onto the covers for a few minutes of warmth with Kelly. I then head downstairs (actually an attic ladder) and put a kettle of water on the propane cook top (a coleman stove attached to a propane tank- camping equipment turned kitchen range).
While the water is warming, I start the truck and switch over the mini fridge from battery power to outlet and plug the battery charger into the wall.
Once everything is switched over I get the fire going to take the chill off. An advantage of living in a 16 X 24ft cabin is that it is quick to warm up in the morning.
By this point the water is close to boiling so it is time to haul the water jug upstairs to the bucket that holds shower water. That’s right, in the cabin with no running water, we have a shower. There is a small pump that operates off of 4 D batteries. It sucks water through a plastic tube that connects to a coil of copper tube. This runs above two propane burners, heating the water. The heated water then goes to a valve that will either allow it to pour back into the storage tub to loop the water in hopes of raising the temperature, or flow down into the shower stall on the first floor.
Typically, I get the pump going before I head downstairs in the morning to allow it to cycle for a few minutes to raise the temperature. The water that has been boiling in the kettle is then added to the tub to provide a boost of warmth. When it is only 50 degrees indoors, this little boost in water temperature makes all the difference. This system allows for a 10 to 15 minute hot shower that only uses about 5 gallons of water.
While one of us showers, the other puts water back on the stove for coffee and monitors the level in the tub upstairs to make sure we don’t run dry. Since there are no controls downstairs in the shower stall, when the person showering is done, they call upstairs to have the heat and water shut off.
After all of this, the rest of the morning is pretty relaxing. Kelly and I listen to the radio (NPR because we like to be informed) and enjoy coffee and breakfast.
When it is time to go about the day, we turn off the truck and switch the refrigerator back to battery power. I make sure the woodstove is loaded and head out.
Whenever I leave the cabin, I grab at least one of the water jugs and occasionally a gas can. I fill up on water at a neighbor’s house (thanks, Josh, Matthew, and Kathy!) and carry it from the car to the cabin to fill our drinking water jug (a Home Depot container with a spout). Carrying in all of your water really makes you appreciate how much water you go through in a day.
The evenings are similar to the mornings in that once it is dark (4:15pm at this point) I turn on the truck, plug in the fridge, and charge the battery. I typically spend some time chopping wood and filling the wood storage box on the deck to make sure we have enough of a supply. Dinners are one pot/one plate meals that are easy to clean up since doing dishes is a challenge.
Because we only have power when the truck is running, we typically turn off the engine after dinner and hang out by candle and lantern light. This is one of the best parts of living in the cabin. We get to read, listen to the radio, talk, plan hiking trips, and play card games. Even though we will be getting power on the building lot at some point, we hope to continue spending our evenings by candles. There is no better way to wrap up the day.