Expanding our Living Space, Part 1
When we decided to move to the West Texas desert back in 2012, we had the notion that we’d live in an RV while building our own home from locally-sourced natural materials. We had ideas of building an earthbag home. Unfortunately, I was laid off from my job at the University before we were ready to make that plan work. So, we had to change our plans.
We purchased a 12′ x 24′ cabin and had it delivered to our land. Because this was our only home, we had to live, sleep, cook and use the bathroom in a one-room cabin. This meant that we didn’t have enough room to have a “proper” bathroom with a tub and flushing toilet.
It was Linda, me, three dogs and two cats. We had a set of storage shelves, a table, a stove, two twin-sized beds and our solar power equipment all stuffed into 240 square feet. It was…um…”cozy.”
What a Load of Sh!t
For lack of a modern bathroom, we took sponge baths and pooped in a bucket and dumped it into a compost pile on our property. That wasn’t really fun. I had to carry a 5-gallon bucket that weighed about 30 pounds about 200 feet to where we dumped it for compost. It was nasty, smelly work that only I could do because it was too heavy for Linda.
For those thinking about doing this: don’t. Bucket-pooping is fine for a camping trip or in some emergency. But for long-term, it’s a crappy solution. If you’re not going to put in a flush toilet, spend the extra money to buy a proper composting toilet. When it would get warm in our house, that thing would start to stink. There was no privacy partition. So, when we had guests over and I needed to poo, I had to kick everyone out of the house so that I could do my business. Also, guests felt strange about using our facilities, so neighborly visits never lasted too long. Add to the fact that it was only about 10 feet from where we prepared food, we decided that bucket-pooping was something we didn’t want to do forever.
Movin’ on Up
After we paid off our first cabin, we decided to get another. We wanted to have a place to put a bathroom with a flushing toilet, a shower, and a real bedroom. So we started shopping. We found a repossessed cabin at discount. It was 12′ x 32′ with a wrap-around porch. It was exactly what we wanted. While our monthly payment was more than we wanted, we were able to afford it and still survive. We placed the order and had it delivered a few days later.
Because our land is sloped, we couldn’t just drop the new cabin on the ground and call it even. We decided that we would arrange the second cabin perpendicularly to the first. Since we knew that both cabins would need to be raised and leveled, I picked up several 4×4 posts and cinderblocks. One of my neighbors helped me raise and level both cabins. Believe it or not, we used my trusty 2-ton floor jack to do the work. We raised it up a little at a time until the two cabins were mostly level with each other at the point that we wanted to join them.
We decided to let the cabins settle for a few weeks before we built the hallway between them. It’s a good thing we did! We had to make some adjustments to the level before we started cutting holes in the buildings. We removed one of the side windows from the new cabin and turned it into a doorway. We then built a short hallway between them. Since we were unable to get the two buildings totally level with each other, there is a slight slope to the hallway that joins them.
Once we had them joined, the real work could begin! We moved our beds in right away to take some of the space pressure off and give us a little more breathing room.
In my next post, I’ll talk about all the work we had to do to go from sponge baths and bucket-pooping to something that resembled “modernity.”