Rustic Cyberpunk

Coffee & Cabins

Rethinking the Cabin

5 min read

Sometimes, I really do get ahead of my physical ability for a lot of things. I enjoy a good snow storm now and again, but I need to acknowledge that my body won't hold up at its current level of functionality forever. It barely functions adequately as it is.

I do still enjoy it when the Earth tries its best to obliterate me. But I also don't like the prospect of an early grave because my strange Winter proclivities might send me outdoors at a bad time. Especially when I'm older and more feeble.

I really liked the idea of an outhouse since it gave me the option of adding a nice outdoor shower and keeping all sanitary needs away from the living space. But realistically, that's terribly inconvenient in bad weather or if I become seriously ill at some point. The area I'm planning for this is somewhere in heavy snow country. I can make do with a sponge bath until Spring, if I can at least do my business indoors.

One of the books I've read for inspiration is Compact Cabins by Gerald Rowan. One design in particular struck me as having everything I needed to get every creature comfort I'll actually use at some point.

cabin design
I like the interior layout of this one, sans over-sized kitchen

There's an outdoor closet that I'm sure will be better served by a dedicated storage shed. I'd rather turn it into a set of windows instead, as in this design.

cabin exterior window design
The exterior front windows look better to my eyes

I'll be tweaking those quite a bit to fit my exact needs. The size is twice the original idea I had for this, but I think folding the outhouse into the one living cabin will more than make up for the cost. If I still use the composting toilet, it will also help save water for sink duty. I don't plan on having as many amneties since I do value more free space. The bed will be significantly smaller as well. The additional windows are good for more natural light for longer hours, which will help preserve battery power until night.

Calculating the amount of labor and materials needed, it's still actually a significant saving. I bought that book a while ago and there are quite a few more ideas in there that I'd like to explore.

I still plan on building a separate structure for the library as I feel a separate space from the living and sleeping area to think and tinker is important. That structure may also double as a tea room, although I'm parttial to coffee myself. That idea may have come from In Praise of Shadows by Jun'ichio Tanizaki. Although Tanizaki was quite fond of the outhouse, it was also written when he was still an able-bodied man. A lot of lessons on appreciating the understated in there and it's well worth a read.

I don't think I'll be getting rid of the solar shed idea as I do want to keep power generation separate from the main cabin. It's significantly easier to transmit high-voltage AC with relatively little loss via underground cables than via heavy, and expensive, DC wire from the batteries for the same distance. Keeping the power generation separate also simplifies adding other electrified structures at a later date.

Other resources I've been looking at are the myriad of small cabin and shed plans available. There are possibly hundreds of thousands out there of varying quality, but I settled on complete plans with attention paid to the details. I was specifically looking for ideas on how to build the foundation.

A simple shelter

This plan was floating around in various places including The domain seems to be defunct now, but the Internet Archive has the last snapshot, to the PDF download page.

I'm also quite fond of the toilet and the kitchen arrangement in that. They're quite a bit more space-efficient than in the Compact Cabins example.

Burying the wood post footings in concrete piers seem to be a common method of building foundations for small structures, but I prefer anchoring steel retainers in concrete and attaching the treated lumber posts to them instead. This allows for replacement of the wood if it rots at a future date. Even treated wood does rot eventually and keeping them away from moisture is the best preventative action. This additionally makes it slightly easier to move the cabin, should the need arise at a later date. It's more simple to unbolt the posts than to cut them off from the concrete piers.

Land is still the primary goal for now. I was looking into places in upsate New York, but it's getting to be quite a challenge to find areas which deliver more solitude than loneliness.

Parcels of land way off in the boonies are quite cheap, but they're far too remote to be practical to access and awfully lonely. Accessible land is plenty yet expensive, and is quite often picked clean for lumber or already industrialized. Thus defeating the goal of solitude. I haven't given up on New York yet, but elsewhere is getting more enticing like Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine.

New Hampshire seems to offer the best of solitude, but at a very high price. By far, Maine is the most affordable (and the best weather for my tastes), but I fear it's suffering a population drain and so it may eventually wander into loneliness as well.

Wherever I end up, I'd like to thrive in solitude.