Category Archives: The Cabin

Possum Day

Possum Day
Back in the 70s an 18 year old girl, pen named Dolly Freed, wrote a book about her adventures growing up with her divorced dad outside Philadelphia, in what would be today called a mini homestead. The book was called Possum Living, How to Live Well Without a Job and (almost) No Money. It is now available by audiobook, read by the now grown author.

The title Possum Living comes from the fact that possum’s don’t have to have day to day jobs and can still make a living and survive. Diogenes of ancient Athens was her father’s hero. He lived in an old barrel in the center of Athens and Alexander the Great is quoted as saying if he had not been born Alexander he would have prefered to be Diogenes. The bible gives an idea of the lifestyle in the quote “Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feed them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

So this brings me to today. I am calling it Possum Day.

For as long as I can remember I have dreamed of living in a cabin, away from the “civilized” world. This was my intention when I bought the Pithole Homestead several years ago. But instead of living on the land I have been trying to do a balancing act of living both at the cabin and at the house in town. This has never satisfied me. I want to actually be a member of the forest I live in. I have realized that one main thing has been keeping me from living this way. My vehicle. It is just too easy to jump in the car and head to town, when I really don’t want to.

So with my Declaration of Possum Day I will truly begin my adventure. It may take a couple of months to complete but starting today I will live on my land. My vehicle for now will be only for important trips and emergencies. Eventually I plan on not driving at all. In the 1976 book the girl and her father spent in one year $1498.75. Her fathers reaction was “where did it all go?”. Taking into account the cost of living from 1976 to today and that it is just me and my dog, my goal is to live on around $5 a day, or about $150 a month. For now I will calculate this not counting vehicle costs and taxes, Basically just the basic survival. The end result will be $5 a day, total. This does not mean I will start from scratch but I will make use of the the conveniences I have already setup, such as solar power, and I will attempt to maintain the status quo.

Today’s post is going to be a long one.  In fact probably a week long.
I will document here what I have and what I will do will each thing. I wil list my goals. By the end of this post I will have laid out my entire plan. Possibly, a 5 dollars a day may have been a good idea in the 1970s, but I may decide to adjust it after full consideration. Maybe more like $200 a month. But I will document the journey every day.

So now on with the show.

What do I have now?

Here is my basic budget of $150 a month, leaving a little extra.

Of course this will be supplemented by what nature provides.
Here is my current status.

WATER
My new .5 micron water filter is doing a great job removing rust. I am thinking of attaching a home built, solar powered, UV filter, but .5 micron is actually smaller than most bacteria.

Water well with filter

The 100 foot well provides ice cold water, which I use to keep a few items fresh.

Cooler – cooled by ice cold well water

And of course my solar shower bag heats the water up for a warm shower in the  summer.

    Solar shower

Winter is still heating water on the stove and washing up indoors.

HEAT
Heat is provided by a wood stove and supplemented by a propane tank.

Wood stove with propane heater sitting on top

The tank can feed a heater, a cooking stove, a bright lantern, and maybe soon a water heater.  I can also use the large tank to refill small 1lb bottles.

Propane tank
Propane stove

OUTHOUSE
Well, it is actually more of a porta-potty than an actual outhouse, or a lugable loo, as the Brits might call it.  State laws don’t allow for creating and actual pit outhouse. So I have designed an 5 gallon bucket, composting outhouse, which uses replaceable, biodegradable plastic bags which can then be placed in a composting barrel.

Outhouse
Can with toilet paper and biodegradable bags

POWER
To keep the electrons flowing I have a 3 battery storage bank and a large 100 watt solar panel.

100 watt solar panel with wheel barrow to move as sun changes positions

I also have a smaller 40 watt panel that I feel bad when I see it making electricity but not going anywhere.

    40 watt solar panel
Battery bank
Solar controller
750w 120VAC power inverter

This powers my tv, computer, recharge phones and tablet, provide light and even a fan.

At full battery bank charge I have about 1500watts available.  That’s about 12.5 Amps max at 120VAC (depending on power factor of equipment run) or 125 Amps at 12VDC.  All 3 batteries charged provided about 120 AmpHours meaning I can run a 5 watt LED light bulb for about 12 days continously without recharging.  But they recharge nearly every day.
My well pump requires 220vac with about 3500 watts peak surge so I still use a gasoline generator when I need to pump water, or run heavy power tools.  If I double my battery bank I could probably run my well pump.

tteries Generator with Styrofoam to insulate the noise

So that is the basics, except food.  For now I purchase my food, usually in bulk.

 

Food
Supplies

Soups, rice, pasta, canned goods, etc.  But it is 2018, so I don’t really have to go anywhere to get my food.

Mailbox

Yes.  Part of my budget was cell phone/internet.  I can order my groceries and supplies through Amazon, etc and have it delivered right to my mailbox.  I plan on putting a special large package box behind the regular mailbox.

ENTERTAINMENT

Yes, I am living in the woods.  Nature is my entertainment.  With bears in the morning, raccoons at night and chipmunks, squirrel, birds and deer 24 hours, there is plenty of nature.  But that is not all.

TV Antenna

Yes.  I have a tv.  And along with broadcast channels I have streaming video over my internet.  Jeremiah Johnson eat your heart out.  Remember, I am posting this online, and part of my meager income is via the internet.  And when I say tablet I’m not talking pen and paper.

Tablet with keyboard

While there is no power, water or sewage connections here, there is an old telephone pole with a telephone connection.  It isn’t connected and with decent cell service here I see no reason to connect it.

I also have many tools and equipment for building and repair.

Mower

(updates will continue throughout the week)

 

Moving in

The time has come to make the big move.  I’ve been splitting about half the time at the house and half at the cabin.  Time to make the cabin home.  Things are set up enough at the cabin, in many ways better than the house.  For now I’ll only go back to the house to get the mail and mow the lawn.  Soon I’ll sell the house completely and stay out of town.

Spring!

There is still a little snow on the ground and it drops below freezing at night, but it sure feels like spring. 44 outside now.

The outhouse survived winter.

So did the solar panel. I’ll be connecting the other panel soon for extra summer power.

And Lily is finding all kinds of things under the snow.

And I put up my Pithole Hermit sign.

Now both panels are chugging out current.

Preparations for Spring

It’s not even the end of January, but it’s not to early to plan and prepare for Spring projects.  I’ll leave this as an open post where I will list my ideas as they come to me.

The first things I am already working on.  Carvings and statues to decorate the trees entering the homestead.  Something similar to these items, only hand made.

 

A New Member of the Pack

But first, today is the fourth anniversary of the previous pack member’s death.  Frisbee never got to see the Pithole Homestead.  She was a good dog.  In her memory.

Frisbee 1999-2013
Frisbee catching treats at Christmas

Now, Introducing a new member to the Pithole Pack.

Lily

She is from the Venango County Humane Society.  They say she is 1 year old and named Lily.  I have considered changing her name but she already knows it.  Also when I say Lily real fast a bunch of times, like yodeling, she gets excited.  She’s a Labrador Retriever mix, just as Frisbee was.

Here’s a few videos

Silly Lily and the Woods

Silly Lily and the Woods Chapter 2

Silly Lily and the Mirror

Silly Lily and the Mirror Chapter 2

Silly Lily and the Rope

Window Dressing

  • Today I did a little dressing up of the inside window frames on the cabin. This is what they looked like unfinished.

Although they were framed and didn’t leak they weren’t very pretty. So I made use of the 1 x 4s I had left from when I took the shelving out of the original shed. A little measuring, cutting, routing and painting and this is the result.

Much nicer.

The Two Bears

 


Two curious bruins were exploring the homestead this morning. One looked in the the window and said “somebody has been sleeping in my bed”.

After reviewing the video I believe what I thought were two yearling cubs was really a mother and her yearling.  The bear who stayed back in the woods appears a bit larger than the one who came to the door.

The Cabin’s Evolution – nearly a years journey

    The Basic Shed
Getting ready to install windows. Interior is still just an uninsulated frame.
Front and one side window installed
Second side windows installed
Added house wrap. At this time the interior has also been insulated and drywalled.
Starting the front porch
Front porch deck
Deck covered. Also note the windowed door installed.
Fully wrapped. Chimney installed.
Painted over the house wrap. I know, you’re not supposed to do that, but the white wrap was annoying.
Porch roof getting close.
Porch roof complete
Starting to install cedar shakes on sides and porch roof

The interior also evolved.

The composting outhouse is also developing.

Not really a composting outhouse.  This basically an outhouse with a removable holding tank.  The outhouse is designed to moved forward on skids after the back panel is removed.  This allows the storage tank to be removed for composting and a new tank put in place.

The storage tank is just a 55 gallon blue poly drum.  It is partially buried but can easily be pulled out.

The outhouse has been built but is not in use.  I am not sure of the township and state legal requirements so I am currently using a portable camping toilet.  I hope to replace the tank on the outhouse with an incinerating toilet which I’m sure is legal and does not need inspection.  Composting toilet are also legal in Pennsylvania but most likely require inspection.  The blue tank does not even have a hole in it yet.  But it looks cool.  When I permanently move here I will take care of residence legal requirements.  At this time the cabin is actually still just a fancy shed.

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