Journal: November 13th, 2009

Yesterday morning, I woke up in winter wonder land. There was a fine silvery coat of snow on everything when I burst out of the hut at 9 in the morning, after one quick peek out the window. I love snow, especially in the woods. It was absolutely gorgeous, and almost made the cold worthwhile. Before long, the sun came up, and the snow melted away. I’m sure there will be more. I did manage to build a small snow ET using snow off of the food tent roof…

I spent the rest of the day working on the front windows. It’s a traditional looking two-pane window, with a wooden frame, and fills up most of the right half of the front of the hut. Now that the window is there, my hut basically looks like a platonic house; the kind that I used to draw in kindergarden. Pitched roof, a door, a window. I guess all I need now is a chimney.

As good as it looks from the outside, it didn’t take me long to realize my mistake. The plexiglas I use for my windows provide less insulation than plywood. Which means I actually managed to make my hut less insulated than before. I tried to make up for it by putting up bubble-wrap and mylar on sections of the interior, but I’m not sure it really makes a difference. Mylar reflects radiant heat, but I’m losing most of my heat to conduction, and I don’t think mylar prevents conductive heat loss.

Since today was my last full day here (assuming I actually manage to get out tomorrow), I did a bunch of small tasks to finish up the hut. The first was to build a table-type thing under the window, so I can put my stove on an elevated surface. With the stove there, it made sense to hammer in a couple of nails on the wall to hang my pots and skillet. Then it made sense to line up my spices on the windowsill too, and with the oil lamp that was already there, that corner suddenly looked really homely.

Another minor task I did today was to frame the door. To be honest, this was almost entirely cosmetic, though, it does help seal the door somewhat. I also put in some molding (I think that’s what they’re called –pieces of wood that go where the walls and floor meet), and stapled roofing paper all around the hut, to cover up the “foundation.” The exterior has remained surprisingly dry through the last week of rain and snow, but I think that’s mostly because it hasn’t been very windy. Hopefully the tar paper skirt will help keep things relatively dry.

Tomorrow, I’m packing up camp, and heading out. I’m working under the assumption that I might not come back until Spring. I do hope I can come back for a couple of short stays in between, but it’s going to start snowing for real soon, and the roads might get a little too treacherous for the little Ryomobile.

To be honest, I’m ready to get out of here. That’s not to say that I’m unhappy with the state of the hut, or my camp. I’ve managed to stay on my property well into November, and have stayed relatively comfortable despite rain, snow, and freezing temperatures. If I hadn’t built this hut, this past week would’ve been unbearable. And I’m rather proud of the fact that I’ve broken my endurance record despite the weather; I came here Tuesday the 3rd, and will be leaving on the 14th, which means I will have spent 11 nights here. My previous longest continuous stay was 6 or 7 nights, and that was when it was much warmer too.

The reality, though, is that life’s not quite comfortable enough here yet to be able to stay indefinitely. For me to stay longer, I’d need more/better heating in the hut. I’d also need to figure out a way to bathe, even when there isn’t enough sun to warm up my solar shower (probably a gas powered shower will do). I’ve also been having issues keeping my laptop charged/running, though I mostly only use it to play music.

And, I’ll admit, I miss civilization, and its creature comforts; the warm showers, the warm beds, being able to get up at night to pee without freezing. I also miss my friends. I miss the feeling of being connected, to people and to the world.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about solitude, and my isolation. It’s clear to me that I’m not a true hermit. No doubt, I’m introverted, and I enjoy solitude and isolation. In fact, I need it. But I miss the touch, the embrace, the smile, the voice of a loved one. It’s the kind of warmth that is lacking out here, no matter how warm my hut may be. I realized that as the days went by, I spent more and more time thinking about people I care about, and thinking about time I’ve spent with them.

Over the last two weeks, I found that while I set out to build a hut, a temporary shelter, I was actually building myself a home. I’m almost there. In the sense that this is a place I can always return to, this is a home. It may be the only home in the world that I have. But there’s another kind of home; a home that you share with someone you love, regardless of its physical shape, form or location. That is the home I need to seek now, now that I have a place that I can call home.

13 thoughts on “Journal: November 13th, 2009

    • This blog you wrote about made me cry it was so beautiful I feel you so much in this I just wanted to say that i love watching you hearing your voice you make me laugh and cry your really special and living out there with noone there is a good thing for your mind and your spirit thanks for sharing such beauty and funny times . I dont think i would eat off your pans hahahahaha but let me tell you the spit in the pan cracks me up hahahaha look forward to seeing more of you

  1. Hi Ryo,

    Just came onto your blog from another, and I like what I see. I’m sorry to hear about your heating issues, but it happens.

    For heating water, coleman makes a little ondemand water heater that sits on top of a 40 lbs propane tank. It might be worth it to take a look at. http://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Water-Demand-Portable-Heater/dp/B002OQOAAO or http://www.amazon.com/Portable-Tankless-Water-Heater-Shower/dp/B000TXOJQ4/ref=pd_sbs_sg_3 . Also, what you spend in good insulation will save much more in heating cost, no matter what your budget. Windows will always be the weekest part of your insulation.

    As for your laptop, don’t use it! Unless you want to invest in more power generation (I haven’t yet read how you do it, but I’m assuming a little solar), and instead use an ipod, or similar and headphones. You’ll be using some 1/20th of the electricity. If the cost is to overwelming, you can get small flash based ones for as little as $20 (think, generic ipod nano) and only start the laptop to swap out the music from time to time.

    Good luck to you and your future house.

    • Yeah, the laptop generally sucks a lot of power. I do have an iPod (well, an iPhone), and do use headphones, but if I’m using my circular saw, I prefer to not have wires hanging off of me, so I prefer speakers. I’ll probably just bring up speakers and plug it into my iPhone, and that’ll surely use less power than my laptop.

      As for power, I have 60 watts of solar, and a 1kW gas generator that I run for 30 minutes to an hour every day to charge a couple of 12V deep cycle batteries. I use electricity to power a portable freezer, charge batteries (AA,AAA and 12V, 18V batteries for my power tools), and occasionally to use my laptop.

  2. Pingback: Finding a Home in the Urban Forest « Laptop and a Rifle

  3. Great blog, Ryo, have really enjoyed reading it so far.

    I don’t blame you for not wanting to go out in the cold to pee. So why don’t you build yourself a sawdust toilet? They’re simple and cheap to assemble, there’s no odor if you keep the waste covered up, and you’ll have some nice rich compost in a year or two. The book is great reading and available online, including the plans for the toilet…

    http://weblife.org/humanure/default.html

    Be sure to check out Joe Jenkins’ videos on YouTube as well. (http://www.youtube.com/user/jcjenkins01)

    As an alternative to that power-sucking laptop, you might want to check into an Alphasmart portable (3000 or Neo) for typing up your blog posts. Lightweight and durable, instant on, and hundreds of hours on a couple of AA batteries. Can’t beat ’em for knocking out rough drafts, then you can squirt the text onto your laptop later for final editing.

    Look forward to more of your progress. Keep it up!

  4. Oh yeah, I forgot to ask. Given the conflict you’ve experienced between seeking solitude but also feeling the isolation and loneliness of that sort of existence, have you ever thought about getting a dog? Unlike people, they’re always available to go with you, and they never have to get back to their job or family. They can tell you when people or animals are nearby, they can be great conversationalists, and the body heat can come in handy on a cold night (though you might have trouble getting one up into that high loft bed…)

    If you get one big/strong enough, it could even help you shlep supplies out to your campsite… 🙂
    http://www.pulldoggies.com/

  5. Chaburchak has some good ideas. I that alphasmart is an interesting device too. It’s kind of like a modern take Radioshack model 200. I wonder if it runs linux? No truely juicy details on the website.

  6. Sorry, none of the Alphasmarts will run Linux, or anything else for that matter. They’re more like an intelligent keyboard, one you can unplug from your computer and carry around with you and type on whenever you want. Then, when you plug it back in, all the stuff you typed goes spurting back into your computer. Not particularly versatile, but extremely handy if all you want to do is write. Very distraction free. Plus the 700 hours of battery life means you don’t have to worry about power very often. Most users don’t change their initial set of batteries for a year or more…

    The 3000 is an earlier model and can be picked up pretty cheap on Ebay. Neo is newer and has a much better keyboard and screen, but you won’t find as many deals on those — might as well pony up the $219 for a new one (and the three year warranty that comes with it). There’s a third model, Dana, that has a bigger screen and runs the old Palm operating system, but the rechargeable battery doesn’t last nearly as long — something like 25 hours at best.

  7. How about making a quilted curtain for your window? During cold periods it will reduce daylight, but will insulate considerably. Make sure and make it longer and wider than the window. If you can’t or don’t want to quilt, buy a cheap quilt at the thrift store and cut it up. Also it might help to line it with a black piece of material to help absorb heat in winter. In summer, you could change the lining to a reflective blanket, which would keep your hut cooler.
    I am building something similar. Mine will be 6’x12′. I will be using it to camp until we can afford to build our house on our land here in OK. A friend of mine obtained a tiny wood stove very inexpensively from a military surplus store here in OK. Perhaps you might be able to find something similar.
    I am also working on plans to build a sort of ice box. I have this idea of building something where the ice is held in the lid. It would basically be a box within a box within a box. The outside box would be a container for insulation. The second box would be a water tight box for water to collect, and be drained away. The third box in the interior of the other two would be a metal box which would actually hold the food to be kept cold, with a second lid. The exterior lid would hold a block or bag of ice, which would sit on a piece of hardware cloth to allow cold water to drip onto the metal food box. It won’t be large, but enough to hold some eggs, milk, and butter. The design which is sort of a glorified ice chest, would keep the cold from falling out of the ice box when the box is opened. The drain would be funneled out through the greywater drain for my tiny house.
    I also plan to build a gravity feed water barrel, which is piped to my sink in the simplest format possible, most probably with some sort of drip hose set up. The barrel will be on a platform outside of the back of the house. I will haul water, which will be hand pumped to the barrel from my hauling barrel. The hauling barrel will be on wheels, and easily rolled up into a truck, and off on ramps.
    I will be using a bucket style compost toilet. I have friends who compost all their waste this way. It does not smell. My plan is to have a corner water closet, or compost closet (as the case may be). I will have a solid wall on one side, and a curtain. I also plan to have a vent which helps funnel out any minor smell to the outside.
    The bucket toilet, is a very simple system. Put sawdust in the bottom of the bucket, then after each use cover with more sawdust. When full, haul to your special human waste compost pile. Doesn’t hurt to add grass clippings or some other green material now and then. Helps the little friendly compost critters do their job.
    Good Luck!

    Little Bit Farm

  8. If you haven’t come across it before now, you should check out this interesting homesteading book with lots of good ideas for building small and cheap. And the downloadable ebook version is a measly five bucks! Lots of ideas in there that I hope to put to the test once the weather improves. Follow the link:

    http://www.simplesolarhomesteading.com/

    Incidentally, that Alphasmart Neo keyboard that I mentioned up yonder? They’ve cut the price to an even more affordable $169.

    http://www.neo-direct.com/

    Not affiliated with either LaMar or Alphasmart; just likes me some sweeeet bargains… 🙂

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