The more you surround yourself with belongings, the more of the environment you control. The less you own the more environments you experience. ( maybe like many things, this is only true in some circumstances. It just occurred to me while traveling how much more I was experiencing by not having.
Right now we are living in a primitive dry cabin. It does have electric, but no sink set up. Most dry cabins have a bucket to empty beneath an unplumbed sink, and a spigot tank on top to use as a faucet. Since we don’t have even a basic sink set up, or a stove, or an oven, I have to change gears when thinking of making a meal! A small toaster oven, a single element pot and a crock pot are my main resources.
Living this way really brings to surface how AWESOME crock pots are! With very little mess or prep I’m able to make a whole lot of good healthy food.
Fortunately we have a great u-pick farm nearby, and though I was a bit late in the season for picking, I still got some great local farm fresh AK produce. In addition, my boyfriend got a caribou this season, which we just finished processing. There’s meat in the freezer! Yippee!! So, as always, this recipe is a result of some goods I had on hand. Enjoy!
Crock pot on High for first 1-2 hrs, then Low until you are ready to eat.
(Can be ready within a few hours, but some veggies like turnip may still be a bit firm)
Water- 2 in.
1 turnip diced
1 crushed beef ramen w/ seasoning
1 caribou roast chunk
(place turnip, and ramen in crock pot with a few inches of water, then I stand the roast up in the middle and put future ingredients around it)
1 radish diced
1 carrot (rounds)
1 turnip diced (2nd one)
1 crushed chicken ramen noodle and seasoning
1 diced apple
3-4 C summer squash cubed (and rind & seeds removed)
Add all this to the crock,
White wine and Kombucha for some more taste sensation (fill to level of veggies, above for more soup like, less if more stew like)
On top of everything:
I added ground mustard, oil from marinated artichokes, some marinated artichokes, and roasted garlic.
And of course, taste as you go, adding whatever other spices you feel like!
Recently we moved to a dry cabin that did not even have a sink set up. We did rectify that situation as soon as possible, but in the meantime we had to come up with creative solutions for dish washing. Since we now keep our dishes to a minimum to reduce clutter and dish load, it also means we have to each wash a single bowl and plate basically every meal. Without a stove top, or running water, or a sink! I came up with a multi- purpose solution. I had gunked up the crock pot making a delicious turnip, radish, apple, moose, summer squash concoction (which I should also write about soon, before I forget the ingredients!).
I poured water into the crock pot, put in our bowls and silverware and turned it on low with some dish soap. Within a few minutes warm water and a scrub brush turned out clean dishes in seconds. Then I scrubed the now submerged crock pot walls as well and Voila!
The whole process took less that 30 minutes or so, and now I have a flattering cute top rather than a saggy baggy mess.
So I found this extra large top that I loved the feel and the pattern of, but no way could I wear it in public. So instead of hauling out the sewing machine, I came up with this quick fix. I’ve always liked empire waists that emphasize the bust line, so I simply pulled the front sides of the shirt back behind my arm til I found where it overlapped the back panel of material while still covering my bra line.
Then I pulled the remaining fabric forward while keeping the front material tucked in the fold.
After that I just started from the inside of the back hold point and sewed along my bust line. I actually did that while I was wearing it, but just because I didn’t have any pins on hand and I was just kinda caught up in the moment.
I did the same thing on the other side, just checking the the arm holes seemed about the same size. The whole process took less that 30 minutes or so, and now I have a flattering cute top rather than a saggy baggy mess. This of course would need to be a stretchy knit probably to start with for it to work, but I was pretty happy with the results. As you can see I’m wearing another tank under, just because I didn’t want to worry about revealing too much in pictures, but it is definitely a stand alone piece.
This recipe is so simple I probably can’t call it a recipe, but thought it was worth a share. I had some beet juice and water chestnut liquid left from another food preparation, so instead of throwing them out I used them to replace half the water for my quinoa. It not only gave the quinoa a nice tinted color for an interesting plating, but also was a nice twist on the taste buds. Also if you live in a dry cabin like me, it’s an easy way to use a little less water and utilize available liquids instead of them going to waste. This experience has made me more open to trying this again with some other veg. juices.
Only for the curious
I was recently asked for tips from someone who was going to be trying out the dry cabin lifestyle. It is a big change to go from the option of having streams of hot water flowing with the twist of a wrist to hauling every ounce of water you will use to your home under your own power.
Dry cabin living is not for everyone, this was my first tip. I think most people have a gut feeling if it is something they feel capable of tackling. It requires, by sheer demand of exerted energy, that you form a much stronger understanding of your relationship with water. When I first started living dry in 2009, I don’t think I realized how much it would change the way I think about water.
Tip 2: Each person pick a plate, cup, bowl, spoon, fork, & knife that are uniquely identifiable and stick to those items. See 170121: Dry Cabin Minimalism Marriage This really keeps you accountable for your own mess and in the rhythm of washing things before eating again, to prevent the “dish mountain”. (We do have 2 cups each, but just because one may wander upstairs or stay bedside and then we still have an option without tracking through the house. One is a french press thermos so we can drink hot things, and the other just a glass of our choice)
Tip 3: Do your dishes right after/ during cooking/ eating. When the food is still moist on the plate or pan, it takes much less water to clean (also takes less time because you aren’t attacking stubborn food crusties.)
Tip 4: Most people will have a sink, and use Aquatainers, https://www.amazon.com/Reliance-Products-Aqua-Tainer-Gallon-Container/dp/B001QC31G6 because you can lay them on their side to be a faucet just by opening the valve. The underside plumbing of the sink gets cut off so it will drain into a 5 gal. bucket. (if you live in a warm climate you can set up a more complex drainage system, but here in an Alaska winter water would freeze if you try to divert it out of the house, and just form a gigantic ice mound… can you tell I tried it? ;))
Tip 5: CHECK THE BUCKET OFTEN. You need to make sure you are emptying the catch bucket once it gets around half way full. When you are new to dry living it’s best to add an extra catch tray to set the bucket in, until you get used to internalizing that check as part of your water habit. The Aqua tainers hold 6-7 gal and the bucket only 5… you see the dilemma.
Tip 6: Stay Aware of your remaining water. I keep about 5-6 Aquatainers at my other place. (I will talk more about the water system in my current cabin in a follow up post) When I’m down to my last jug full, I take the others all at one time to go refill. We are fortunate here in northern AK to have such good water. I can fill from a friend’s outdoor tap and get great fresh drinking water. In Fairbanks there are actual water stations to fill, and my boyfriend can put 6, six gal containers upright in his hatchback and the hose has a stop valve so he can fill them all without even taking them out of the car. More amazing is that we can get 36 gallons that way for 50 cents. Yeah, sorry, you won’t find that deal just anywhere. People in Fairbanks who have such good water set ups that you can barely tell it’s a dry cabin have 400-500 gal tanks in the bed of their pick up trucks to fill and just pump it out at home… luxury dry cabin living :). Those places often have gravity fed water and full water heaters and showers.
Tip 7: Get a teapot. This is the water heater for a simple dry cabin. Better than a pot because you have better control for pouring. I mix boiling and regular water in a dish pan with my dish soap and usually put some more on to boil while I wash in case I need a second round. It’s also good to have a drain catch as the less food breaking down in the bucket the less smelly it will be.
Tip 8: Paper Towels are a good friend. If you cook with cast iron, and even some other, a good pass or two with a paper towel will be effective in cleaning out a freshly used greasy pan. Lots of plates and things I swipe first with a paper towel to save on work that would otherwise require a lot of water. Also if you have a pan with things stuck on, much better to add a little water and put it back on the stove to soak off than to apply more and more water trying to scrub it.
Tip 9: Outhouse. These are surprisingly simple. Make sure your pit is deeply dug, and the housing over the top is well built, I can’t give advice on that as mine was in place when I got my place, but it’s lovely. I set up a small cupboard outside to set up an aquatainer, soap dish and hanging towel.. (I will have to take pics and post them on here some day). If you don’t want another water station, always easy to wash hands back at the kitchen sink. I like to have an extra one outside just for the ease. Best not to put toilet paper down the outhouse pit, as this just wastes unnecessary space. I keep a bin for used tp and incinerate it in the wood stove every now and again.
Tip 10: Catch water. I have some buckets to catch rain water off the gutter, just for using on plants etc. There are much more advanced systems for this, but you get the basic idea, utilize your available water if possible.
Tip: 11: Friends/ Solar Shower/ Colander/ Mug/ Tea pot. I would like to eventually make a heated shower system. But for now in terms of showering in winter I either go to a friend’s house, or just wash my hair etc with a mix of hot/cold water poured through a colander over my hair over the sink for a few rounds to wet, sham, rinse, cond, rinse. Again I keep the kettle going in case I need more. In summer time I use my solar shower It’s surprising how little water it actually takes, and I have shoulder length hair. I have a nice spot outside on the land out of sight. I love being out in the sunshine for a shower.
Dry cabin living can be done in many places, but it is not always simple to source water affordably if you don’t live near friends or a metropolitan location.
If you have any questions feel free to write me. Since I’ve been living dry since 2009 it’s hard to think of all things one may wonder.
We each get one bowl, one plate, one knife, one spoon, one fork, two cups….So last week we took all the other serving dishes and put them up on a shelf, off limits except for guests.
Yes, we live in a dry cabin, and it is the dry cabin and minimalism which are married here, not my beau and I. I never intentionally set out to be a minimalist, (and trust me I have a long way to go), but sometimes it’s just the natural answer. I have lived in a dry cabin on and off since 2009. But I have never lived with anyone else in a dry cabin until mid Nov. 2016. So it’s just been a few months and we were fortunate to get a sweet little place.
But time to time we have still struggled with “the dish mountain”. First it’s just a dish or two and you think, “oh that’s nothing, I’ll get it next time around”. Then you get sick for a few days and feel elated if you can muster the energy to make tea. Before you know it “the dish mountain” has appeared. We try to take turns and stay on top of it, but like all things, sometimes we fail. Not liking to fail the same way twice our newest solution is one that we tried on when we were first living together down in Montana in September. We each get one bowl, one plate, one knife, one spoon, one fork, two cups. We cheat a little because we have 2 extra bowls. One is extra large for salads and one is a mini for sauces/ snacks etc. So last week we took all the other serving dishes and put them up on a shelf, off limits except for guests.
So far it’s going well. I love having a clean counter, more space to prepare food and more ease finding the cooking implements I need most. The bowls and plates we use I made in college using an oven safe glaze, so I can warm and bake directly in them if the container warms up with the oven.
I also reduced some of the cooking utensils we don’t seem to use. Now we are easily accountable for clean up. We have to if we want to use our bowl, fork etc again! ;).
UPDATE 1/28/17 I’ve never been so excited before when all my dishes are dirty! I’m not excited to wash them, but was so excited to see how small the pile is, when we even have our favorite pans and utensils all dirty. Wish I had a before picture, but just compare it to your own load when you have a lot of dishes.
So here is a a picture I took yesterday of all of our dishes being dirty and the empty shelf where they would be if clean. (The white coffee cup and everything behind it are usually on the counter, not part of dishes.) It feels great that it doesn’t seem daunting. Actually, it was so undaunting that my boyfriend did them all last night of his own volition, beat that?!
If you are curious about dry cabin living, or minimalism feel free to ask questions. I’ll post more in the future on these subjects, I’m sure.