At the end of 2018, my family was able to experience what we had been working towards for the past two years: an off-the-grid family retreat.
We have always wanted a place of our own that allows us to escape from the city and our busy lives, so we can spend time together and appreciate nature. During the fall of last year, we were able to take the beginning steps of achieving our goal by finishing the last critical building component, the roof. The year was capped off with the installation of the wood stove, allowing us to have shelter from the weather and spend the frigid winter nights cozy inside. Now, we are looking ahead at the next steps – perfecting the interior space.
Building this cabin has allowed us the opportunity to explore innovative technologies and sustainable practices. Sustainability is inherently important for a building that is off the grid. Rainwater is filtered and stored in a barrel for running water, sunlight warms the outdoor shower water supply, the trees that were cut to clear the land have become our source of heat and I’ve enjoyed learning about the solar-powered energy system. Panels will soon be mounted to the new roof to gather electricity, which will be stored into a series of batteries. An inverter converts the battery power to AC and feeds it to the electric panel. With our power limited by the storage capacity of the batteries, appliances, lamps and building systems must be as energy-efficient as possible.
While reflecting on what to write about, the first thought that kept coming to mind was how rewarding it has been to build something with my family. What started as a vision on paper has now come together and taken form. Knowing that you’ve helped put those pieces together is a very energizing feeling. For most of us, this was our first construction project and I believe there is something truly special about learning through making. It’s one thing to understand how the pieces are supposed to be put together, but when you actually participate in rough framing a wall or setting tiles, you understand the how’s and why’s of building. With each new accomplishment, your confidence grows, pushing you to try the next project.
It’s a great feeling to look at something and know you put it together, but much more satisfaction comes from looking at something that you thought you couldn’t do and knowing you stepped up to the challenge. The collective memories of our experiences each week constructing the many components are what give the cabin its charm. We all look forward to the years ahead when we can point to the roof, chimney or floor and say “I helped build that.”