Some readers have emailed me lately asking what’s going on and if I had stopped posting. There’s nothing to worry about, it’s just that it was a long and busy winter away from the cabin. I try to keep this blog focused on building the cabin, without any off topic posts or personal ramblings, so when I’m not working on the cabin, I’m not posting. I’ve started several new projects over the last couple of months and, interestingly, they all have to do with water.
First, the bad news. The old well that I had high hopes of restoring is beyond repair. When I bought my property many years ago, there was an old, but still functioning, cast iron deep well hand pump. It wasn’t long before someone stole the pump, which unfortunately is not an uncommon experience up here – I’m sure it’s looking good in someone’s garden right now.
I was originally concerned that the well was hand dug, so I had my neighbor dig around it with his excavator last fall and found that it had a 4″ casing – good news, I thought. I contacted the local well driller this spring to see what my options were. If they could fish out the old drop pipe that the pump thieves had sawed off and let drop into the bottom of the well, they could clean up and restore the well for around $1,000. A couple of weeks ago they tried to get the drop pipe out, but ran into an obstruction 4 feet from the bottom. With the old drop pipe still in place, the well is a dead end. A new 80 foot drilled well will cost about $3,500.
Once I do get my well in place, the water supply system will be ready. My water system is purposefully very simple, and has more in common with an RV than a home. It consists of a 30 gallon water storage tank/drum, SHURflo Classic 12V pump, and a “2 gallon” well pressure tank. For now, the tank is filled manually with water brought from home. In the future, it will be filled from a hand pump on the well via a hose and connector on the cabin.
Many of you will probably ask “where’s the hot water heater?”. I could respond with a comment such as “real men don’t need hot water”, but it would be untrue since I enjoy a hot shower as much as anyone. I gave this a lot of thought, and felt that the type of short visits this cabin gets would not justify a hot water system at this point in time. I can always add one later, and have made provisions in the plumbing to allow for that. If the occasion ever arises where I do need a hot shower, I have a low tech workaround in place. The pump has an alternate inlet that will allow me to feed the system from a different container, such as a 5 gallon bucket. I can partially fill that with cold water from the tank, and add enough hot water heated on the wood stove – not convenient, but functional.
The bathroom and plumbing is as simple as the water system and consists of just a waterless urinal and a shower/tub with exposed copper plumbing. The waterless urinal is probably the most controversial, as it’s not female friendly, and only deals with half of the issue. I wanted to avoid the cost of a septic system, and also not have to worry about winterizing and dewinterizing a flush toilet system throughout the winter. I have a great outhouse (with a beautiful view, I might add) that functions in all weather conditions and is about 50 times cheaper than a legal septic system – Wisconsin is strict when it comes to septic systems. If I was going to live there for an extended period of time, though, I would give a lot of thought to installing a sawdust toilet.
The shower will be somewhat of a multipurpose wash tub/shower consisting of a 35 gallon galvanized tub and a shower curtain on a galvanized conduit ring suspended by magnets on the metal ceiling. I’m elevating the tub on a 32″ square cedar deck to keep the trap and much of the discharge plumbing inside the cabin. The traps I’m using for the shower and sink bear mention since they are waterless and cannot freeze. The HepvO waterless drain waste valve uses a one-way elastomeric membrane to allow the passage of waste water into the drainage pipes. These traps have an added advantage in that air can also pass one-way through the valve eliminating the need for a traditional vent stack or even air admittance valves. The only winterizing I will have to do before winter is to drain the supply side plumbing.
On a non-building related note, the rock pile next to my cabin, which is also the largest one on my land, is being taken away. It’s been somewhat of an eyesore, and years back I was tempted to have the pile buried but never wanted to pay to have it done. It turns out that weathered field stones are now sought after for landscape rock. One of my neighbors asked if he could buy them, but I was happy enough to get rid of them that I traded them for the removal and some other cleanup on my land.