Tiny Cabin: Summer Vacation

Between frequent rain and the busy end of the semester, we basically managed to maintain the property and insulate the walls of the tiny cabin.
We’ve ordered parts for the bathroom, including a mop sink for a shower. We couldn’t find a shower basin smaller than 32″ x 32″, and we needed something along the lines of 27″ x 27″. After a couple YouTube DIY videos, Chuck was ready to pour the concrete himself and tile it. I love his determined spirit–it is what has taken us this far–but we are ready to streamline our process. So when I ran across the mop sink for $125 and free shipping, we jumped at the chance.
The components for the bathroom are ready–they just need to be assembled. The first and greatest task is the composting toilet. The compost bin must be away from the house and sheltered from the elements, and we need to dig a trench for the piping system. I can’t remember what we were expecting when we bought the toilet two years ago, but it seems more involved now than when we purchased it.
Once assembled, we’ll need a solar panel to make the pump work. But one thing we won’t have to worry about is water–it takes only 1/4 a cup to flush.
So, last week Chuck worked first on clearing the land and then on assembling the shed which will house the compost bin. The shed will also give us a place to store other items taking up precious space in the cabin.

On different days he had help from his dad, me, and his son Geoffrey. The summer heat hasn’t arrived yet, but we did hit 86 degrees–a drastic change from the 50s and 60s of the week before.

This weekend Chuck’s cousin Scott–who roofed the cabin for us–is coming to help finish the ceiling insulation and panels. After Chuck’s fall last year, there are certain jobs on which I insist having professional help.

Tiny Cabin Exterior May 2017

We’re still dodging rain (and, now, mosquitoes), but we should have a few weeks of somewhat pleasant weather. And unlike last year at this time, the tiny cabin has a roof, so even on rainy days we can do things inside.

Tiny Cabin and Spring Break

Spring break at Harding comes early in March, so we were hoping for good weather. Some years we’ve had snow.

This year we were lucky. Not only was the weather clear, it was also unseasonably warm. On Saturday we had a team of five: Chuck, me, Geoffrey (my stepson), Angel (his girlfriend), and my brother Gabriel, who drove down from Jonesboro for his first peek at the cabin in person.

Our main objectives:

  • Hang the back door so that the seams all fit tightly.
  • Install the large glass window (a task for the whole group).

Chuck and I got the back door hung fairly quickly. Meanwhile, Geoffrey, Angel, and Gabriel were busy trimming back the ever-insidious Bradford pear trees. We needed to move a small scrap pile to the big scrap pile that we didn’t realize was on the land when we bought it. Our team cut back the Bradford pears to make that possible.

The glass window is actually a ¼” thick glass tabletop we weren’t using. It isn’t tempered, a process that both strengthens the glass and causes it to shatter in smaller, more harmless pieces should the glass break. However, we plan to place a clear or slightly-tinted film on the glass, which will offer extra support and hold the glass in place if the worst happens.

Installing the window meant one person on a ladder holding the glass, another person holding the ladder, someone trimming the window in foam, and another cutting and nailing up trim. It was truly a group effort.

We left just before sundown, everything picked up and clean except the new piles of Bradford pear branches.

Tiny cabin exterior March 2017

On Spring Break, Chuck and I finished the trim on the side of the house. The lines running up and down the siding don’t match perfectly with the puzzle pieces around them, but we were out of both siding and stain. We had had some stain mixed for the final piece of siding, but the color was slightly off. Then the siding got wet and moldy anyway. I decided I’d rather have mis-matched lines than multiple colors, and that was that. We’ll put up some trim to help cover the seams.

Our other accomplishment: start the bathroom. We brought the composting toilet from our storage room at home. The composting bin is bigger than I realized. I had also envisioned it going just outside the house, but the instructions recommend “no more than 70 feet away from the house.” Granted, we have to dig a trench for the piping, so we aren’t planning on putting it too far away. The bin also has to remain sheltered from the elements, so we’re pricing some inexpensive sheds as a quick fix. Sure, we could build one and possibly save $10, but more than that we are ready to have a functioning cabin!!!

Our goal is for the cabin to be livable this August. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, we live an hour away from where my husband teaches, and he has to commute over 100 miles a day during the school year. Our goal is to live in the cabin part time until my stepson graduates high school in 2018, after which we hope to live in the cabin full time during the academic year. So, if the cabin could just be livable by fall, we could continue putting on the final finishing touches the following year. We hope to have a screened-in back porch eventually as well as a side porch for non-mosquito weather.

Now that the weather is mostly nice, there will be more updates soon!

 

Outdoor Toilet

Friends have been curious about the logistics of building a cabin while not having access to water or electricity. Our power tools are battery-operated, and we charge them at our other home. But what about when we spend the night in our camper, which we don’t currently have a generator for, much less water hookups?

Our Coleman lantern serves us well.

Sometimes we shower at a friend’s.

But there’s one thing we didn’t want to live without: a toilet.

We had a broken chair that Chuck reinforced with boards. He borrowed a jigsaw and cut a hole for a toilet seat. What’s beneath? A bucket with a little peat moss in it—magic, organic material that eliminates odor and helps with the composting.

I admit I was skeptical at first, but days later there is no smell, nor are there flies (and we’ve had some warm days). This potty chair currently sits in a private spot in the woods. We cover the chair with a tarp, but otherwise it’s open to the elements.

Most of us have heard the euphemism “when nature calls,” but an outdoor bathroom brings a whole other level of meaning to that expression.

A Ton of Work…Literally

5-22-15 driveway with partial rockA few days after our sinking episode, we called a gravel truck. The problem: because the clay was so soft, he couldn’t gradually release the rock so that it spread evenly. He just had to dump it. While he went for another load, we spread it with shovels, shoes, and gloved hands.

We hadn’t expected anyone to be able to come out on such short notice, much less deliver multiple loads. Otherwise, we might have had more hands on deck! Instead, it was just the two of us. We had planned to spend the day clearing the new site for the cabin, but we knew this had to be done. More rains were on the horizon, and the driveway was basically a 6’ x 22’ mud hole.

The air was cool and the day was lovely, but after spreading the third load we were worn out—and the driveway was only half done.

Then, the mayor of Higginson himself showed up—tall and serious, with a resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones. He was in the neighborhood because around the corner a stretch of houses were having some sewer problems. [With a composting toilet we won’t have to worry about that!]

He exuded silent confidence while sizing up the situation. He told us he’d be back with a backhoe, and five minutes later we watched, mouths agape, as he smoothed out the freshly-dumped load.

5-22-15 driveway with rock

We asked if we could make a donation to the town, but he wouldn’t take any money directly. Instead, he said, “If you want, go to City Hall and make a donation to the 4th of July fund.” He seems to take his civic position as one “for the people.”

Thankfully, our cabin-building schedule was only tentative, or else we’d be behind. At the moment, we’re under a severe thunderstorm warning, and up to five more inches of rain are expected this week. We’ll go out to the land on Thursday to see if our new site is still above water.