Word from the Woods: Frozen!

Seven of the past seventeen mornings have dawned in the range of minus 10 to minus 30 Fahrenheit. The snow cover – 12 inches or so – is less than usual for this time of year. Put those two factors together, and they translate into the ground freezing more deeply than usual. Unfortunately, this deep freeze has taken my graywater system along with it.

I get my water from a hand pump atop a well about 300 feet from my cabin. I haul it in stainless steel milking pails, then I fill the white urn above my sink so I have a semblance of running water. Until now, no further work was necessary. Wastewater went down my sink drain, then flowed through a pipe into graywater chambers that are buried behind my cabin, below the usual frost line. From there, the water gradually seeped out of the chambers into the surrounding soil. Now, I will need to collect my wastewater and haul it back outside.

When my cabin was built, I considered a working sink drain a key feature for comfortable winter living. Without it, the “slog factor” of all chores involving water – dishes, laundry, bathing, brushing teeth – increases by an order of magnitude, and the prospect of living drainless through the upcoming winter months seems a bit daunting.

That being said, I’m sure I’ll adapt to my “new normal.” People have lived this way for thousands of years; there are many in poorer countries who still do.

If necessary, we can all adapt to loss of conveniences we previously considered essential. (I realize my list of “essential” conveniences was already more basic than most modern folks, but this one had remained stubbornly on my list until now.)

I’m very fortunate to have a big pot that fits well in my sink to collect wastewater. Right now, the pot feels like quite a gift. I know that may sound facetious, but it’s not – it really does make the difference between a workable and an unworkable situation. In a semi-wilderness setting like mine, simple items that fill a basic survival need are very valuable.

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  1. […] In my off-the-grid cabin, washing dishes and doing laundry often feel like major projects. Before I even get to the washing stage, I must pump and haul the necessary water. Then I wash everything by hand. And, now that my graywater system is frozen, I need to carry the dirty water back out for disposal in the woods. (If you missed the tale of how I lost my sink drain, it’s at https://www.wendyweiger.com/frozen/.) […]