Side Walls

We were lucky this week to have two beautiful work days. The side walls are partially framed after a good bit of figuring, deductive reasoning, and internet research. I learned what a 12/12 pitch is/looks like as well as how to cut boards at a 45 degree angle. However, I am still not bold enough to do my own cutting. Aside from being slightly terrified (remembering Frost’s poem “Out, Out”), I’m left-handed. The saw is clearly designed for the other 70% of the world.

I do, however, nail. It’s a great stress-reliever, and the metal hammer makes a lovely sound on 3” nails, like a coin hitting water in a fountain. And the pitch changes the further the nail goes in.

But in spite of my love of nailing (or perhaps because of it), I managed to pull a muscle in my armpit. It has spent the past few days randomly cramping and releasing, reminding me that not all things are “mind over matter.”

We had hoped to have all four walls up, but we ran out of 2” x 4” x 12’ boards, which was just as well since we also ran out of steam. We did, however, get the gravel pile moved to what will eventually be the back porch area (courtesy of two helpful teenagers) as well as finished weed-eating a patch of grass invading the neighbor’s yard.

Highlights included thousands of blackbirds flying overhead, finding a rain puddle that might one day make a nice koi pond, and hours of breathing fresh, clean air.

Monday kicks off three days of rain, after which holiday celebrations will fill our days. We’re hoping for rest, too, and dream of a tinier home.

Flooding and the Tiny Cabin

Some people romantically refer to their home as a “castle.” While our 10′ x 16′ space is not exactly palatial, we do now have a moat.

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I can view my glass as either half-empty or half-full. On one hand, the land we purchased is and always will be low-lying. We did receive an excessive amount of rainfall in a short period of time and a number of counties were under a flash-flood warning, but Arkansas is no stranger to strange weather. This won’t be the last time something like this happens.

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On the other hand, the area of the house is not flooded. Our moving dirt with a rented Bobcat and our hours of shoveling gravel paid off. And unlike our first drive onto the land back in May, our car did not get stuck. Yes, the yard is one big mud puddle, but it isn’t quicksand.

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I foresee more gravel in the future, and possibly a dock made out of pallet boards…but first, four walls and a roof.

Gravel for the Tiny Cabin Site

We ordered a load of gravel–about 20 tons–and had it delivered to the site. The driver was nice enough to not only back up between the trees and dump a pile where the cabin will be, but also sprinkle the rest along the driveway, reinforcing what was already there and adding an additional strip.

On the day it was delivered, we had the first good rain in weeks. Of course, the downpour began just as the driver arrived and ended just as he was leaving.

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We went out to spread it the following Monday–a lovely, but sunny, 92 degree day. It was a bit warm for mid-October in Arkansas, but it’s been an odd year here.

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Whenever I worry that our 160 square foot cabin (plus loft) will be too small, I remind myself how much work it would be to build anything bigger. I’ve never built a house before, but I’ve noticed that in life, upgrading comes with additional commitments. For example, a nicer car comes not only with a higher payment, but also with higher insurance rates and maintenance costs. More specifically, just this weekend, I learned that buying a $99 cordless reciprocating saw also requires buying blades and a $130 battery and charger. What I originally guessed was a $100 purchase turned out to be $250.

A larger cabin may be in our future someday, but this is one adventure on which I prefer starting small.

Spread Gravel

An hour of spreading gravel was about all we could stand. This weekend we’ll make some small repairs to the camper–it should finally be cool enough to sleep there–and then buy the deck block and other materials we need to build the floor.

Composting Toilet: Not Flushing Your Money Away

When we moved into our current home, each bathroom was its own color: sky blue, bright red, and teal. That included the sink, tub, and toilet. With five people in the house, using the toilet only three times a day, multiplied by an average of four gallons per flush, we used 21,900 gallons of water a year, not including showers, laundry, or dishes.

Over the years we’ve remodeled the bathrooms, replacing the toilets with more efficient ones that use a lot less water. Still, we’re wasting thousands of gallons a year of perhaps the most precious natural resource we have.

This time we’re going with a composting toilet. It is what the name implies: waste, through various chemical processes and a little time, becomes soil.

The low end of composting toilets requires only a bucket and peat moss. A mid-range toilet requires frequent emptying, possibly before the waste has finished composting.

High grade composting toilets are expensive—relatively speaking. The one we are currently looking at is around $3,200 (on sale through tomorrow).

That is considerably more than we had wanted to spend (three times the amount of the materials for the shell of our cabin), but it’s still cheaper than a septic tank. And rather than empty the waste ourselves, a solar-powered battery will suck it out of the house and into a composter. The great thing is, it only has to be emptied once a year, after it’s through composting.

Letting Go as an Act of Faith

Let me be clear: I have a LOT of stuff. I keep things because I think I’ll need them at some point. Or better yet, I tell myself that the Styrofoam container or rubber band from the broccoli will one day be upcycled for some creative purpose.

I can be a hoarder sometimes.

Except that I’ve been living in Gainesville with only a carload of possessions. Now, three years later, I’m back with the stuff I mainly didn’t miss while away. I missed people (and cats), not things.

I still like my stuff. It’s a huge, fleecy blanket I feel safe in.

I was never a Girl Scout, but I wholly subscribed to the motto of being prepared for everything all the time. That is, until I realized a dark motive—the need to be in control.

I wanted to believe that with enough planning, I could prevent disaster. I could hide in preparedness, in distractions—anything to avoid shining a light on that underlying fear. I was terrified of the buzz of busy-ness dying down, of having the security blanket yanked away.

Letting go of things has become, for me, an exercise in acknowledging that I have enough—more than enough. That things will be all right. Or that if something terrible happens, there was nothing I could have done anyway.

That there is only love, and this moment.