Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The winter fast upon us, I began the framing of the inside of the structure. It was a faster process than the others as I now had the septic system installed which meant the county approved the electric connection. With a compressor given to me and a borrowed Paslode framing nailer, I began framing the interior walls. It was a fairly simple layout. The upstairs had three tiny rooms, two sleeping rooms and a sort of antechamber at the top of the steep staircase. The main level was one big room with a wall separating the bathroom and a small utility space. I had all the framing done and the drywall hung (mostly) at the beginning of January when a rather interesting development came about. I was laid off of my construction job first off. No more income. Then we were told by the Apartment manager we were renting from that she had a tenant interested in the place and if we vacated before our lease was up she would refund the deposit no questions asked. We, being no fools, took her up on it. We stored the little bit of furniture that wouldn’t fit in the cabin at a relative’s basement and headed for the cabin.
At the time it had no running water, no stove, no toilet and the drywall was untaped and strawbale was not plastered on the inside. It was a hovel, to say the least. The only good thing was the little Jotul woodstove. On one January day I recall it being 12 degrees outside. I had a small thermometer on the inside of the cabin door and, when I entered the house after splitting wood for a few hours, the thermometer was reading 96 degrees. That little stove would run you right out of there!
Thus began an interesting time, to say the least. Most of the meals were cooked on the cooktop of the woodstove. We relieved ourselves in a sawdust composting toilet that I had to hand carry out when full, and we bathed in a large Rubbermaid tote with a pump up garden sprayer. I discovered it is indeed possible to get clean using one gallon of water. It doesn’t have the therapeutic value of a nice, hot, long shower, but you no longer smell like a camel, and that is good enough.
Our water was carried in two fifty-five gallon barrels with a spigot attached. We would carry a seven gallon jug out to it (I had to unload it from the back of the pickup onto a rack built of 4X4 posts for that purpose and there was no way to get it inside the house) and, after filling it up, brought it into the house to use for cooking, dishes, bathing, etc. I had three seven gallon containers and I would fill them every other day. This went on until it got too cold and the fifty five gallon barrels froze solid. Then I would carry the jugs to a neighbors or relatives house and fill them there. It was a tough way to go. At the time we did not have a four wheel drive vehicle and, after a particularly bad snow, were unable to get out of the driveway for three days. Water was pretty scarce by the end.
With work being slow to dead, we were quite the picture of abject poverty at this point. There were barely funds to so much as wiggle. Without the help of some dear family members, we would have gone quite hungry and I am forever grateful for their generosity. Interestingly, this was a time of poignant memory for me. I would often stay up long into the night keeping the fire stoked (the stove was great but it was really too small and would not maintain a fire for long enough to keep a bed of coals overnight). The stillness of the forest, the orange and yellow flicker of the fire in the little glass window in front of the stove, it painted a picture of a simpler time. A time I longed to at least touch, though I knew it was long gone. The simple satisfaction I would feel when, of a day, I would tramp around the woods gathering firewood and carrying it, often from the far side of the property, armload at a time, to stack it up against the coming cold days. I had many downed trees and, being relatively new to burning wood, did not always appreciate the value of firewood that had not sat out in the woods in the rain and snow. I did become quite adept at splitting it small though. The little woodstove couldn’t take much wood at a time and if one wanted a hot fire, it was important to split it into pretty small bits, no more than two inches in diameter. This made for a very labor intensive process and underscored the need for a bigger stove (which we never got!)
As spring came around and the weather began its blessed warming, I progressed on some of the taping and finish work. I finally installed the clawfoot tub, a marked improvement on the plastic tote, and built a small vanity out of scrap cedar I found. We were still without running water but life was a little better.

Next. My wife, my kids and my heart go to Tulsa and I spend a month blisteringly drunk.

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