Rustic Cyberpunk

Coffee & Cabins

Forgetting to Be

1 min read

It's a new year, but so far, January feels like a muddied delta of last year. When I used to frequent forums a lot, back when those were still the most prevalent online watering holes, something strange happened that made me remember to unplug. It's why I'm relatively resistant to it in the age of social media.

I couldn't decide whether what I felt was my own feelings. It's an unnerving sensation, when I'm aware of it; To wake up and not be me or even forget what "me" means in a collective. I thought I should probably learn more about that person back then.

I love solitude. It's hard to describe this love because it's not a traditional relationship. There's no "other side" to solitude. There's no one to disturb, displease, or disappoint. I can walk away from solitude at any time and there are no hard feelings. No one is hurt. Best of all, there are no expectations whatsoever on how to be myself. It's why I try to reconnect with solitude when I'm away for long stretches. It's why I only feel at home when in solitude.

People are forgetting to relate to solitude and not the character they've invented to relate to others. Life is not an avatar.

I hope I never forget to relate to solitude.

Why Things Work

5 min read

I bought a typewriter at the beginning of this year. A Royal Safari from the 1960s, as something of a side-project and to enjoy my free time away from the computer. I have far more free time than I did before.

Royal Safari
Royal Safari, in all its gray and beige glory. I rather like the combination in this particular case since it fits with everything.
Serial SA5453737
This serial number dates to around 1963, I think, from the few reference materials I've been able to find

One of my neighbors sold it to me for $10 after trying and failing to fix it himself and thought I might have better luck. There were quite a few scuffs, scratches and dings on the case, but the internal mechanism was intact aside from a rail being slightly out of alignment. Most of the keys were covered in thick layers of White-Out, which I tried to scrub out as best as I could. I still don't know why people do this to their typewriters.

Key closeup
The keys look considerably cleaner now. I did my best to remove the built up layers of grime, but there are few corners that could still use a good scrubbing. At least the parts where my fingers will touch are relatively clean. I wasn't able to do much about the discoloration.

By looking at the insides, I'm inclined to think it was dropped from a fair height at some point. My neighbor got it this way initially from eBay. The seller had described it as working at first, but that it had "stopped" afterwards, which means something happened to it in storage.

Back cover screw
That looks like many failed attempts at removing the rear screw. I don't know if the previous owner or the eBay seller had poor eyesight.
Tab set rail
This rail was out of alignment and it seemed to have suffered a shock at some point. This is the tab set bar. Each of those pins is a tab stop which can be set via the "column set" key.

Preceding my purchase, I have no idea how many people tried to fix it themselves. There was a thick layer of WD-40 already on it, which ruins the delicate balance between lubrication and freedom of movement. There are various formulations of WD-40, but once the U.S. variant "dries", it becomes a thoroughly viscous magnet for all manner of dust floating in the air, in addition to acting as spider silk to whatever debris falls onto the joints from between the keys. The coating looked old already so I don't believe my neighbor was responsible for this failed attempt at maintenance.

Basket closeup
There's still a bit of dried WD-40 in there, but I've done the best I could to get rid of it with the isopropyl alcohol I had at hand. A few keys are still a tad slow to fall back after striking.

To my delight, there are still typewriter ribbon vendors. I've ordered a few and they're on their way.

Returning this typewriter to working order gave me a good reminder of how a lot of us seem to keep doing the same thing without stopping to think why they should work in the first place.

Often times, finding out why something worked in the past is more important than understanding why it may not at present. The clues are all there. The typewriter worked because the intricate ballet of levers, slides, and joints are mechanically choreographed at the factory to precise tolerances. The addition of the problematic lubricant was unnecessary and so was the drop.

People train themselves to do the "working thing" so thoroughly that they keep doing it even when it stops working or the circumstances that lead to it working originally no longer apply. Sometimes, failures aren't the pillars of success; If nothing was learned, they're merely a pile of cumulative failures.

Allegiance to the same ideas in the face of better information is religion. That might be fine in some cases for mild doses of self-improvement, especially when the new information is possibly misguided and harmful, but it's also how civilizations end when left unchecked.

Hello OnionLand
This ribbon has probably been in this typewriter for decades

Writing on the typewriter is a great joy. I learned how to type on an electric typewriter I found thrown out by someone because I couldn't afford a computer at home for homework. It wasn't until junior high school that I was able to actually use a computer in the library and get to know typing on even lighter keyboards.

This is the first time I've felt the truly awesome tactile feedback of stamped steel.

I think the typewriter will be a fine addition to the library, once it's built. I'd like to leave it there permanently next to the reference material I read for inspiration. It's fitting that this specific model was originally marketed toward students and I still have a lot to learn.

Royal Safari booklet
The literature that came with the typewriter. Being crumpled between the back of the typewriter and the case all these years, it has definitely seen better days.
Typewriter introduction
This was geared more toward families, possibly with children who wrote their papers on these typewriters.
Touch Typing guide
Teaching touch typing was still the norm, even with the widely prevelant two-finger search and destroy method. I've developed a few bad typing habits that I hope I can also get rid of by using the typewriter.

Andy Rooney had a collection of typewriters in his own writing shed and it's only fitting that I feel compelled to do something similar.

Andy Rooney's writing shed'
Hopefully I can stop with just one typewriter.
Andy in his shed
Andy in his "pentagon" in 2001 going through a stack of mail. I like the shelf arrangement inside as well.

Since the library is not going to be wired for electricity anyway, it's perfect for writing for hours on end without needing to charge a device like a laptop or even my own writing computer. And since the structure will be insulated, it won't experience the same temperature swings that damage so many other forgotten mechanical relics in attics and basements.

Looking forward to many more pages indelible text.

Settling In

2 min read

This winter marks the first time in five years that I haven't gone camping. Considering everything that's happened, it wasn't entirely unexpected. I've cleaned up the apartment before Thanksgiving and my roommate helped out. We had our, long awaited, pie from the neighbor and were very thankful for that as well.

I have no specific plans this winter except surviving until spring. There is enough in terms of provisions that should I lose my current gig between now and March, I'll still have the mortgage and bills covered. Don't know what I'll be doing past that, but we'll see how the branches fall by then.

The hatches have been battened down.

I've been trying to relax while staying home by working on a typewriter I acquired a little while ago from another neighbor. He got it on eBay and sold it to me for $10. I think he paid considerably more, but he just wanted to be rid of it at that point. It's a nice machine for the most part, once the grit cleaned up. One of the worst things that can happen to mechanical devices is an incorrectly attempted repair. I've been thoroughly enjoying the immediacy of writing down my thoughts on it.

Since my own cabin plans are on hold, I was looking up how other cabin folks are spending their winters. I came across this one that I especially enjoyed. This is what I hope to be doing while on my winter strolls as well.

Another one I appreciate is this venture in quiet solitude.

I do want to get back on the cabin design and I have a rough idea of where I'm heading since the last two times. The overall plan is still the same from the middle of this year, but I'll obviously need to reconsider the timeline. The "solar shed" will likely be where all my electronics will also be housed as that will create the least amount of intrusion into the other living spaces. I still want to maintain that boundry of tech and non-tech as much as is practical.

Things may feel slow as molasses at present, but for me at least, it's still flowing in the right direction.

The Dark Winter

2 min read

I came back to my apartment mid-October. Everything wasn't quite the same as the Before Times, but a few more tenants had also returned. The night is still quieter than I remembered. Before leaving, I had forgotten a jar of "something" given to me a while ago in the fridge. It's amazing what terrifying delights may grow in a sealed container, unbathed by a suitable climate, for a few months. Not too different from sealed homes or hearts.

A lot of people have forgotten what desperation genuinely feels like. What war feels like and what it means to fight to exist. Like gawkers flocking to a receeding wave before a tsunami, there's a non-trivial percentage of people still insisting on being spectators to their own undoing instead of heading to higher ground. In this case, that's simply covering their nose and mouth with a piece of cloth. This isn't entirely unexpected, but it's a slowly unfolding tragedy that's entirely preventable.

When wrapped in the warmth of complacency, gathering kindling for fire feels foolish and sharpening an axe feels premature. The biting cold of reality feels unwelcome in thoughts and actions.

But the cold is coming.

Here in New York, there's a slight uptick in the number of infections and I expect that, and accompanying deaths, to grow exponentially as seasonal flu is added on. The price of participating in civilization seems like a fool's bargain on some level, but it's still the only mechanism of cooperation in collective memory that we know to have worked. It can still work.

My roommate had come back early November and we're resuming some semblance of normalcy. My immediate neighbor greeted us as usual and we're back to chatting of fun times. I'm looking forward to her Thanksgiving pie this year too.

Cabin Life: Building Walls

6 min read

Between work tasks and copious sprouts of inspiration, I finally managed to put together the basic structure of the cabin walls. This is my first update on the cabin design in almost three months as I'm slowly making my way home from the work site.

The sturctures will be built on the previous foundation design. This is the overall direction I want to take, the details of which will be decided as I have access to more information as well as a building site. Because so much has happened this year, I don't know when I'll be able to begin, but I want to keep walking as long as I can see the path.

Cabin wall framing
The overall cabin wall framing.
Utility structure
Multi-purpose structure wall framing.

There are probably going to be many revisions to the final cabin layout from now until construction. And there might be revisions during construction as well, but I'm satisfied with this arrangement so far. It gives me the most amount of flexibility should things change.

The wall framing itself is fairly conventional and will use 2 x 4 studs for the most part. While this is smaller than a typical house framing, the sizes are matched to the overall smaller interior of the structures and expected snow loads with the relatively steep roof angle I'm envisioning. The stud spacing will be 16" on center as is typical for the U.S. and Canada.

Depending on the land I'll eventually be able to procure, the longest continous wall and the end wall without cutouts or openings will face the direction of prevailing winds on the building site. This will both improve longevity of the structures and reduce interior temperature swings.

Continous wall interior
Longest continous wall with blocking in-between studs. The blocking layout might change in the final version.
Continous wall exterior
Continous wall outside view showing ample room for insulation.

I decided against standard insulation like rock wool or fiberglass for the most part and will probably stick to two layers of "bubble foil" separated by an air gap for the walls, following the same scheme as the foundation. This will probably be eschewed by seasoned builders for various reasons, but my specific use case isn't a traditional building. My decision was based on time, effort, and cost involved when considering long-term viability in a highly weather-variable area with frequent intrusions from local fauna.

Insects and rodents love all manner of fiberous materials, especially in the woods, and I'd like to limit fiber insulation like rock wool only to the area close to the eventual location of the wood stove.

I may also have to move these structures at a future date and this will be a lot easier without the additional weight of fiber batts. Removable anchoring to the ground should suffice to keep the sturcture stationary in the winds expected in the area I've researching. Naturally, a lot depends on how the climate will change in the coming years, but there will be plenty of metal anchoring for the studs, foundation, and roof rafters as well.

Wall end stud
This is called a "California Corner", also called a 3-stud corner, and it's meant to provide a surface for the interior siding when two walls are joined while saving buliding material. The assembly should give enough structural rigidity and still leave enough space for insulation.
Wall blocking
The horizontal blocking between studs will have to be individually cut to fit the end studs, but this is a minor on-site adjustment.
Continous end wall
The end wall also has no cutouts for windows or doors so the final iteration will likely be centered on the middle skid for proper load-bearing
End wall length
The end wall is cut to fit in between the two longest walls of the structure

The walls will have horizontal blocking between studs to add resistance to shear forces. Traditionally, this was done with diagonal bracing, but since the studs are only 2 x 4, I didn't feel comfortable cutting into them to add the diagonals. This does add a bit more weight to the walls, but I feel that's an acceptable compromise.

End wall blocking
The end wall will also have blocking to add rigidity and will likely follow the same spacing as the longer continous wall
End wall and continous side wall joined
Once joined, the shared structure will add to the rigidity of the corner. The blocking will be installed on each wall before raising either one.

The one aspect that I'm still debating is the size of the door. Having a smaller door on the smaller structure template would make sense if I don't plan on bringing in larger equipment. But it adds to the surface area of the cutout, which is a problem when trying to maintain interior temperatures. I have to balance the aesthetics with practicality in this case, but for now, I settled on a 27.5" door opening for both structure types.

I may end up making the doors from scratch as the location and circumstances permit. This will also likely change in the final version or even during the build itself.

Door wall
The door shares a king stud (yellow) with the wall layout to avoid adding more lumber and is load bearing on the bottom skid. Only the jack studs (pink) are additions to the door cutout.
Door wall length
The door wall is the same length as the end wall, which has no cutouts. I'll be raising the door wall and end wall after raising and securing the two longest walls in their final location first.

The importance of nautral light wasn't lost on me during my camping trips and other outdoor frolicking. Even when living in a borrowed cabin, I noticed how quickly I missed the view, despite having ready access to it all the time. The main cabin will accordingly have two windows while the utility/multi-purpose structure template will have one window. I feel this will give me enough light and access to nature to enjoy, even during foul weather. The doors themselves will likely also have a window to ensure I have light coming in from two directions.

The headers for windows and doors are two pieces of 2 x 6 or 2 x 8 with three pieces of siding in between and insulation between the gaps. The roof won't be that big while it has adequate slope so even with heavy snow, this structure should be more than enough to transfer the load to the ground.

Window wall
This is the most complicated layout of all the wall assemblies. There's one king stud (right yellow) that is shared with the wall layout, but in the final iteration, I think I can share two for each window. The jack studs and cripple studs (pink) will come from cutoffs and extras left over from the rest of the structure, so this will likely be built after the rafters and other walls are built.
Window wall length
The window wall is the same length as the longest continous wall, spanning the entire length of the cabin. The utility structure will also follow this scheme for its window wall.
Window wall and door wall joined
There will be blocking between the studs in the final iteration to add structural rigidity.

There are a multitude of on-site considerations even with this overall plan. The actual placement of the structures will depend significantly on the ground conditions and weather. While I'm specifically looking at snowy areas, I'm hoping to avoid any locations with flooding. But this isn't always possible and there may be other issues with permits and easements.

I still haven't given up on building in New York since I have an affinity to the state. My family lives here and if at all possible, I'd like to be withn a day's drive to see them. Time will tell if this is a practical consideration with my potential budget in the coming years.

Onward to the roof structure.

Return to Civilization

1 min read

I'm leaving the confines of freedom for the relative stability of concrete and corner stores. I've lost count of how many days I've been away, but it feels too long to process currently and too short to appreciate in hindsight. Coming back to the apartment has its downsides as flu season is upon us and not enough people appreciate the impermanence of life.


The shorter days mean longer trips at night to get home. I miss the flicker of backseat hypnosis during long rides at night, but I'll settle for front seat vigilance for now. I expect my roommate to arrive no earlier than November and we can resume some semblance of a past life.

I did get the chance to tinker with some of my cabin designs while away and I hope to resume posting them soon.

We Have Internet

2 min read

It's been nearly a month since being back on the road to a remote site for any kind of durable work. This has been an education on the clockwork of society. I used to work at a gas station as a young lad, many moons ago, and I thought that was a great introduction to the full spectrum of americana. Everyone needs fuel at some point, or ice or some other convenience, and being exposed to that many people so early was illuminating. But that was after 9/11 and, alhough the nation was suffering, it wasn't nearly on this scale.

A stressed creature is quite terrifying when also wounded.

This was my first real chance to sow bits and reap news, and while things seem awful, I'm oddly at peace with all of it. At first, I thought it was an odd detachment from society, despite being a participant, but that seems too easy an explanation. The real reason is probably that I understand there are things beyond my control and I strive to make the best course corrections possible while paying heed to my spotters. They're both at a better vantage point and are more experienced in choppy waters. Sometimes, they get it wrong, but that too is beyond my control. Although, posessing eyes and ears does impart me with a degree of responsibility to cross reference reef sightings.

There might be a short delay between the slow tsunami hitting the crowded beaches and the demolition of confidence off its foundations further inland, but I think the toes are starting to get wet here. Things are about to get interesting before winter.

Having Internet at this location has filled my email bin high above my lid so it would take a while to sort through the messages and separate the tins from the trash. I don't know when I'll be able to get back to my apartment, but it seems I'll be able to leave before first snow.

First Day Travelling

2 min read

It feels both great and surreal to head back on the road again. New York still isn't fuly "open" yet, but there are pockets of normalcy that are, hopefully, helping to bring a level of sanity to the self-inflicted madness we're all going through. I'm heading upstate to a virtual dead zone so I don't know if I'll be able to connect and post updates, but I'll be trying either way. On the road, I'll still be working on some cabin ideas.

My home street wasn't as much of a ghost town when I was leaving so that might be a good sign depending on how well the social contract is remembered past grade school. This was also the first good look I had of area after since most of my outings were before sunrise for my morning walks and no one else was around and just to get groceries at other times. I don't know how well my apartment will recover since I know management was, understandably, a little tight on the budget. But I've been told there was enough of a reserve that once maintenance fees start coming in again, things that need fixing will get fixed well before winter. In the grand scheme of things, I'm incredibly fortunate to have a home to go back to.

I love small towns and if I have the choice, I'd live in one. But I've found two Goldilocks Zones for surviving calamity: A sparsely populated area where many or most folks still remain in constant contact, and a densely populated area where groups (maybe just one building and its tenants) act as a single cohesive unit to keep each other safe.

No man is an island...

The New Normal

2 min read

By the end of July, it will be 5 and a half months since "normal" ended for me. The building is still eerily quiet and most of my neighbors who moved out are still away. I don't know how the few remaining folks are making do, but I imagine most are now receiving unemployment benefits.

I'm looking forward to making my mortgage payments in full again without having to dip into my savings. The savings too were dwindling, but I've managed to get a few gigs here and there to make ends meet in other ways. I'm paying the bills as best I can and have cut down on all non-essentials. This part of life was already familiar territory; I just didn't think I'll come back to it any time soon.

I've avoided "staying busy" for its own sake. I felt it was important for my sanity to experience as much boredom as I can, between the little work I have, since I don't know if I'll get to experience it again later in life. This has left my imagination to flourish for the first time since entering the workforce as a kid.

I've been taking a walk every few days in the early morning like I used to and doing so with the mask on has been interesting to say the least. I don't know how effective it really is, but I think the best prevention is still not meeting anyone else on the road at 4AM. Most of the corner stores are open again during their regular hours, with heavy "mask required" signage.

It's strange that I'm getting used to recognizing people just by their eyes and body shape. The winter this year will be interesting too and I don't know how that will fare with the regular flu season on top. I wish I was as enthusiastic about this year's winter as I was during spring since it will be far harder for most folks to deal with. Winter will stil come.

Cabin Life: Building Foundations

4 min read

The dearth of work lately has left me ample space to wedge in design exercises for my cabin. While I haven't finalized the design on the main living structure, I'm getting closer to finishing the others. I've found a good balance between space, cost, and building practicality since I'll be doing most of the work myself. I eventually decided that I'd like to standardize on just two structural sizes.

The main living cabin will remain 8 x 12ft as a base. I feel this is the largest size I'd be comfortable with to spend most of my non-outdoor, waking moments. All other structures will be 8 x 8ft including the library and solar power shed. This size was very carefully considered after looking at cost and space. I was considering under-cabin space, but decided against it due to maintenance concerns and the possibility of having to deal with critters building nests under the structure.

I realized that having larger spaces will mean entertaining the possibility of having more things than I will actually need. This is counter to what I hope to accomplish in the end. There's a difference between having "possibly necessary" things and "I may want that later" things. Extra space for "storage" will attract detritus and I want to avoid it if at all possible.

I was working on the design with OpenSCAD, the same as my wood stove. With it, I found getting the exact cut lengths for each piece of lumber a lot simpler than manually doing the calculations. I don't know if I'll continue using it for other aspects of the structures, but it has worked very well for me so far.

base foundation
Base foundation design. Aspects of this will be shared among all structures.

The structures will be at most just 1 - 2 feet above grade. This is probably variable depending on flood conditions, but that too can be dealt with when the time comes.

foundation skids
The structures will be built on three 4" x 4" treated lumber skids with a treated plywood base on top

I settled on creating a sealed underside for all structures. The treated lumber skids or rails will keep the structure off the ground while the plywood, which binds the skids together, will close the bottom to rodents and weather.

foundation skids
Above the skids will sit a treated plywood base, separating the ground from the floor structure.

A skirting around the foundation is still probably necessary either way, but I won't be running any utilities under the structures. This will give me the fewest number of problems should I need to move any of them in the future.

foundation structure
The foundation structure will be made of 2" x 6" treated lumber joists with staggred blocking in the middle. These will be anchored through the bottom plywood to the skids below with screws.

There will be "bubble foil" insulation strips stapled between the floor joists, leaving a small gap between the bottom treated plywood and the top surface. These are a tad controversial in the Tiny House and Cabin building community, but I believe that is due to a fundamental misunderstanding of how it works.

The insulation value is measured as part an assembled unit with an air gap between surfaces. This provides ample heat retention in the winter and, more importantly, doesn't attract rodents or insects unlike most other insulation materials. This is a bigger concern when building in a rural area as I plan to do. Even in rural New York, rodents like mice and rats are still prevalent. I prefer to make my home less attractive to them in the first place rather than having to hurt them later, once they become a problem.

I'll be adding another layer of the same material on top of the joists as a continuous sheet, taped together. I may follow a similar arrangement for the walls and roof since this solution is also significantly lighter than other types and that will be advantageous if I have to move or raise any of the structures at a future date. Since this continous sheet is on the warm side of the structure, I'll be gaining the benefit of a vapor barrier in addition to a thermal break.

foundation top
The final subfloor will be 3/4" plywood or other composite product, and will have a layer of bubble foil directly underneath to act as a vapor barrier and provide a bit of additional insulation value. The walls will be built on this assembly.

I decided that the entire structure will be built with screws. While the shear strength of nails is greater, that's only one parameter in the whole assembly system. The disadvantages of nails far outweigh the advantages for me when taken overall. Besides, the shear strength is not as applicable in a fastening system that's less likely to work its way out of the structure. Screws are also more convenient when building alone as the material comes together more tightly while being fastened.

The main cabin foundation will also be a variation of this, just adapted to the 8' x 12' size.

main cabin foundation
Main cabin foundation

I hope to have the walls and roof rafters designed soon.

Cabin Process

3 min read

Over the course of looking into separating needs from wants, and distilling what's left to absolute necessities, I kept noticing that the specific problems I'm trying to solve are less about the technology and more about how it's packaged. Knowledge and experience are everywhere, if one spends the time to seek them out. Specific functions need to be separated to independent tasks which can be tackled with various methodologies and devices, if needed.

The things I need to get done are basic at the core level: To be fed, clothed, and sheltered. To be sheltered is what the cabin is for. The wood stove is an extension of this. Arguably, the library is as well as sheltering in comfort and safety is an extension of my needs, blending into wants. I haven't sorted out clothing yet, but feeding myself is not far down on the list.

Every action I'll take as part of cabin life will have a specific list of functions. The tasks and functions within these necessities need more attention. Every process needs an order of execution as well.

Before getting most of the work done, I'll need to charge the batteries for my tools, which means building the solar power shed and deploying the associated wiring first.

A rough breakdown of the cabin process, adapted from the previous list:

  • Build the solar power shed and deploy charging infrastructure
  • Build the main cabin relying on the power shed
  • Build the wood stove while sheltering in the main cabin
  • Build the library before the winter
  • Build the farm at first thaw in spring

The mechanism of the composting toilet will be for another day. I'll likely be staying in a tent or trailer until the main cabin is built.

The solar power shed can hopefully be built with a single charge of each tool so that once the wiring is complete, the shed can sustain itself and provide power to charge the tools used. I can then proceed to

build other structures as long as I can procure raw material. Von Neumann cabins with human intervention.

The power shed is also the single largest financial investment of the entire project. There's no escaping needing to buy a bank of batteries and solar panels. I'm not comfortable utilizing used panels, especially due to the large initial investment, and since I'll be running 120V cables underground to the main cabin. The reason for separating the power source from the main shelter, as mentioned in the "On Cabins" post is so I can place the main cabin in the shade and I won't need to worry about cooling in the summer. It's quite easy to heat a small shelter in winter. It's also to decouple "tech" from "non-tech" aspects of cabin life.

The power shed will also serve as storage for all my tools when not in use so I can better enjoy the main cabin unmolested by the ambiance of construction. The library will hopefully be built quickly with the leftovers from the main cabin build. Since I'm not running power to it, the structure will be the least complicated.

I've talked before about walking tractors and farming, but I haven't really looked that closely into the mechanisms of land movement. Eventually, I'll need some kind of farm to supplement what I can get at the store, and there will be a greater need to move earth in bulk at some point.

To build or to farm, I'll be moving earth. It would be nice if I can use just hand tools to accomplish this, and that is likely the first step in building the shelters, but it's impractical to rely on hand tools alone when there's no guarantee I'll retain my health as-is in the future. I'd like to try my hand at building an excavator once my welding skills are up to the task. This too will be another unit of functionality in the cabin life.

The Library Shall Have No Lights

3 min read

I had just started reading some of the older cabin related books in my collection due to the abundance of time lately. As part of my cabin plan, I've been allocating time and energy toward finding the least expenditure of resources that's practical while still giving me a comfortable living.

Although not quite a tiny "house" by some measures, the space in which I'm comfortable spending most of my time, besides the main living structure, will probably be the library. An 8ft x 8ft structure with one window and one door with a built-in window or two windows and a door without one built-in. And no other sources of light. This might seem counter-productive for a library, but not running any electricity to the structure was a carefully thought out decision.

I want to spend more time absorbing what I read.

The Internet has trained me to gorge and regurgitate without properly digesting information and I'd like to unlearn this behavior. Most of the time I spend reading isn't as enjoyable when processed through an electronic display. It's getting harder to read books because of my digital habit of scanning before context and nuance are properly steeped in the brew of my transient thoughts. Part of this is the faster pace of information and part is the environment. I feel having the information always available is making it rarely appreciated.

Limiting reading time to daylight hours will also, hopefully, re-calibrate my resting period. This isn't the same as putting the phone into airplane mode or putting time trackers or other such contrivances. I dislike setting alarms when waking up, despite having done so since high school. I don't feel very motivated to set similar alarms to stop reading. Understanding that consumption of information has a limited period of productive use need not come with locks, but with the gradual hint of a setting Sun.

The two sources of light, the window(s) and door, are to give ample illumination to read while giving me the best reading clock possible.

There will also be no clocks in the library.

I've been looking at the best approach to build such a structure, and ultimately settled on a modified ice fishing shanty. That website is a wonderful resource for many other ideas.

Ice fishing shanty

The original plans were for a 6x6 shanty, but the structure is simple enough that modifying it to 8x8 is rather simple. Most U.S. building materials, particularly sheet materials such as plywood, typically come in 2ft increments.

original floor sheets

Because of its size, I feel it's possible to build with mostly leftover material from the main structure and a few other scavenged parts. The windows in particular are simple enough, that I'm sure I'll find some removed from a previous demolition. Their sizes are flexible too. The door doesn't need the immaculate appearance of a mansion either and I'm confident that it too can be scavenged. If I can't secure two windows and if the door doesn't have one, it's a simple matter to install a window in the door with the tools I have.

My book collection isn't that large and I feel a single wall-to-wall bookshelf will give me years of reading. I hope to keep only the books I intend to read over-and-over and give away the rest as I finish them to the local library. I will also plan the location of my cabin near such a library for both convenience and to maintain my contact to the outside world. There really is a difference between solitude and loneliness.