Tiny Cabin Update: Emergency Room

The day began simply enough: cool air, soft light. We were tired from the previous day’s work but motivated and optimistic.

Our neighbors, ever generous, let us use their electricity so we could plug in the air compressor for our nail gun. It’s so heavy-duty that I can’t wield it with any accuracy. Then again, I’m not all that strong.

Chuck hoisted the panels from the ground, and I stood in the loft to guide them into their proper place. A 2″ x 4″ acted as a lip the panel could rest against until we nailed it up. The first three panels Chuck nailed while standing in the loft.

We took a break and debated whether we should do the 4th panel with a ladder or take apart the scaffolding inside the cabin and reassemble it outside.

We had been up and down ladders all week, and we always did so with a great deal of care. Nevertheless, I now understand the expression you can never be too careful.

The board went up easily, and I stepped inside the cabin to make sure that Chuck’s nails were going into the rafters and not simply through the panel. All went in perfectly. He was coming down the ladder, and I heard him say, “I’m going to fall.”

Just writing those words makes me break out into a sweat all over again. I saw him mid-fall, and then he hit the gravel and rolled. My memory here is spotty. He sprang up, which surprised me, but then he looked as if he would pass out. He sat down on the floor of the cabin, and I had him lean back. A stream of blood dripped from his head. I yelled for help as I dialed 911 with one hand and held his head with the other.

Our neighbors, who were thankfully outside at the time, came running. Amy brought a towel and John gave me their address–I had forgotten ours since we technically don’t have one yet–and their boys stood by the road to flag down the ambulance, which would not have easily found us otherwise. (I shudder to think that I might have had to leave Chuck alone to run the 100 yards to the road.)

Meanwhile, we began asking Chuck questions to keep him awake. He knew who I was, but he didn’t know the year. He knew who was president, but he had no idea who was currently running for office (which, I’ve been told, is not the worst thing to forget). He didn’t know how he fell, and he kept asking where he was, how he got there, and why his head hurt. The blood gushed from near his eye; the cut was long and deep. I had no idea if any bones were broken or how hard he had hit his head.

Amy did her best to comfort me as she and a friend drove me to the hospital. When I next saw Chuck, he was slightly more aware, neck in a brace, rivulets of dried blood across his face. As they were wheeling him off for a long CT-scan. I heard him ask the attendant, “Is my wife okay?” It made me laugh through the tears, and I’d like to think that was the point when I knew he couldn’t be too terribly hurt.

Still, I sat in the empty ER room alone, the florescent bulbs casting everything in a sterile, cold light, all of the room’s carefully-chosen trappings without purpose, and I realized that without Chuck, my life would very much feel that way.

I didn’t have to dwell on these thoughts long, thankfully, as his boss (and friend), Terry, showed up only moments later. Soon after, a close colleague arrived, and then family–including his best friend Danny, who drove us home.

To briefly summarize three long hours, we found out that Chuck has an orbital fracture but not a concussion. The doctor did an excellent job sewing up the gash–thirteen stitches in a crescent shape around his right eye. He was told to rest for two weeks.

He’s black and blue, with a hematoma in his right arm, but after nine visits to various doctors and the chiropractor, he is walking fine and feeling much better.

We would, of course, like the cabin to be finished, especially before the summer heat sets in. But first there are more important things to rebuild. And plenty to be thankful for.



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.

Water, Water Everywhere

driveway 5-13-15

Driveway 5-13-15 before

Driveway 5-13-15 after

Driveway 5-13-15 after

We finally made it back to the land today. Searcy has had crazy rain–6-8″ in the past seven days. A portion of the property is under water, but thankfully not where we intend to build the cabin.

Once we build the cabin and set up the rain barrel, we should be able to collect about 8,000 gallons of water a year [~250 sq. ft. of roof x .62 x 50″ annual rainfall = 7,936 gallons].

Cabin Site

Cabin Site

Next week, we’re going to brave the weather and camp on the land. We’ve cleared away all the small trees and brush; now we need a chainsaw. We’ve staked out the spot for the house and have to decide the path for the driveway. Once it’s cleared, we can have a load of gravel brought for the foundation.

Then it’ll be time to start building.

Clearing Land by Hand: Before and After


Some gasoline had spilled in the wheelbarrow, so we drove the hour to Searcy with the windows down. It was 7:00 am and a refreshing 64 degrees.

If only we had been able to go straight to work! Chuck had to give a final exam, so we didn’t get to the land until 11:00, when it was 84 degrees and the sun was almost directly overhead.

Chirping followed wherever we worked, with one bird louder than the rest. It was as if the birds had designated a reporter to keep up with our whereabouts. I’m glad we waited to bring the weed eaters, preferring to see how far the hand tools could get us.

driveway before          driveway after

Based on the before and after pictures, I think they served us well. Granted, I took a three hour nap when I got home. We still have to fill in the ruts in the “driveway.” Luckily, there’s a pile of dirt around the bend.

house area before          house area after

The blue spot in the picture is the tarp we laid over our supplies. It’ll be a few days before we get out to the land again–grading takes precedence, not to mention there’s an 80% chance of rain this weekend. Plus, we have some planning to do and decisions to make.

Things I learned: don’t forget a ponytail holder and wear long sleeves (bugs bite, branches are sharp).

Tiny Cabin

My husband Chuck and I are building a tiny cabin this summer on seven acres with a pond just outside of Searcy, Arkansas. I’m looking forward to breathing fresh air and living more sustainably.

We have a little experience with carpentry, but this will be our first ground-up project. The “Thoreau cabin” will be 10′ x 16′ with a loft. We’re also adding a small front porch and a screened-in back porch. Though we still have some details to work out, we’re going off-grid, using solar power and rain water.

We purchased the plans from solarcabin–watch his 3-minute video for the “Thoreau cabin” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTT5kC4V54o

Tomorrow we begin clearing the chosen spot. The car is loaded with shovels, a wheelbarrow, weed eaters, bug spray. and a first aid kit. What we bought: tarp, rope, gloves, clippers, stakes, a straw hat.

May in Arkansas is lovely. The weather should be great, though there’s a 20% change of a “stray thunderstorm.” Even so, it’s all part of the adventure!