But is there a Costco nearby?
January 4, 2016 7:43 AM   Subscribe

"Also, by dramatising the wildness of the outside, it fetishises the cosiness of indoors." Cabin porn: why hideaways are hot right now (Jess Cartner-Morley, The Guardian) posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (65 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow this post is sexy.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 7:48 AM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Are you sure you want to live like rustic people
You want to see whatever rustic people see....
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:52 AM on January 4, 2016 [18 favorites]


I know a couple of folks who live like this in Northern Michigan... at least one of them has pulled it off successfully and is happy as a clam...

My little house qualifies in most regards except the isolation factor...

"Things" are less important now...
posted by HuronBob at 7:57 AM on January 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Actually, the Quebec park system has a series of simple cabin/cottages that are probably the only way you will get me to the outdoors. It's not exactly glamping, but it's better than a damn tent.
posted by Kitteh at 7:57 AM on January 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Eh, we're getting older and sometimes its nice to come back from hiking in the late Fall to a nice fire and even a hot tub (for the wedding anniversary trip). We still break out the tents in the Spring and Summer, though.
posted by charred husk at 8:02 AM on January 4, 2016


I'd love to have a cabin, but when I've toyed with the numbers there's no way that owning one makes the tiniest bit of sense for our particular situation.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:04 AM on January 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I feel so ahead of the curve! I used to rent a cabin for a week at the Grand Canyon every year (until SB1070 passed). It was glorious. No phone, no TV. Just me, a notebook, my knitting, a few books, and the little cafe at the Bright Angel. I really want to go back.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:05 AM on January 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'd actually like to see an AirBNB style discovery tool for cabins that allow you to toggle different filters for things like:

- has electricity
- has flush toilets
- has hot water
- has gas stoves
- has satellite tv
- has a driveway

and then I'd turn them all off and find the cabins that I really want. On a mountainside, under a clear night sky far from light pollution, without the continuous hum of a generator or the roar of traffic.

For anyone who lives in New England, I've been a fan of the High Cabin operated by the AMC, as well as the Randolph Mountain Clubs' backcountry shelters. Sunrises from Crag Camp are amazing.
posted by bl1nk at 8:08 AM on January 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


Isn't part of it the fantasy of escape from stuff? Without actually getting rid of stuff? With, in fact, acquiring more stuff?

With fast fashion and premade food and endlessly updated technology and so on, many of us [who do not live in tiny cabins] deal with too much stuff all the goddamn time. A lot of things are cheap, there's a huge cultural expectation that we consume (and even for someone who tries not to consume, the shoddy nature of goods, perpetual changes in electronics and so on mean that we do a certain amount of constant shopping) and for many of us, access to current cell phones, recent computers, new cars (if you drive for uber or washio or one of those asshole companies) and even fashions is pretty much required for work.

So the [imaginary, fashionable headcannon] cabin is a fantasy of going somewhere where you don't have too much stuff and can't buy more. The closets at the cabin aren't crowded; you have only the dishware that you need in the moment; you're not burdened with a box of dead cell phones for everyone in your household from the past five years. And at the same time, it's a fantasy of novelty and luxury - it's not the reality of having, like, an old underpowered phone or the boots from 1997 that are still good but worn and unfashionable or the same slightly pilly wool blanket you've had since you were twelve.
posted by Frowner at 8:10 AM on January 4, 2016 [29 favorites]


the new ideal is more about isolation than largesse.

Not a thought about cabins per se, but man, if I had a dollar for every friend who wanted to "move out to a cabin in the woods and live sustainably and get away from all the stupid people in the big cities," I'd be a rich man.

It's actually been a huge, bothersome thing to me for the past decade, every time I hear someone whinging on about such an idea, because it's such a huge cop-out from taking part in society.

To me, it's up there with Zombie Apocalypse fantasy, it's a sheer rejection of being part of society, through the lens of "I would get to make my own ideal world." Because dealing with other people is difficult, people prefer to just bail from the game of dealing with other people entirely. Plenty of those who complained followed through, at least one tried to make it all the way to Belize. (not McAfee.)

In a time when our politics is at a deadlock because people are unwilling to work with each other more than ever before, when people express this sentiment, it flat out makes me pissed off, because they're part of the god damned problem. If you want to just bail out from society to go live in a cabin, fine, but if shit hits the fan and you need something, go fuck yourself, because you gave up on the rest of us already.

Being part of society is difficult. Taking part in politics is difficult. It is not fun. It is time consuming. It is required if you really want a decently functioning society. Running away from it is the wrong answer.

This ends my rant about people who claim to want to disconnect from society and go live in a cabin. Please ignore and return to your regularly scheduled metafilter comments.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:13 AM on January 4, 2016 [36 favorites]


This is country living for people who take coke every day.
posted by colie at 8:34 AM on January 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


To me, it's up there with Zombie Apocalypse fantasy, it's a sheer rejection of being part of society, through the lens of "I would get to make my own ideal world." Because dealing with other people is difficult, people prefer to just bail from the game of dealing with other people entirely. Plenty of those who complained followed through, at least one tried to make it all the way to Belize.

I think it's a stretch to say that "plenty" of people followed through, the number of people overwhelmed by the hassle of day to day modern living is basically everyone who has to do it, and I'd wager huge numbers of them entertain this fantasy, but the numbers of people moving into cabins in the woods is really small.

While it's obviously a fantasy, and one that should remain a fantasy for most people, I don't think it's an unhealthy one. It's useful to think "if I simplified my life completely, what would come with me?" As Frowner says, part of the issue is stuff. My wife and I are moving and we're throwing out huge amounts of stuff: old computers, crummy IKEA furniture that we won't need anymore and isn't worth storing or giving away, cheap clothes that are falling apart and can't be donated. Part of the appeal of the stylized cabin life is that you're free of all that stuff. You take a few things that will last and you make do. You don't need a set of clothes for work and a set of clothes for home. The ruralness of a cabin is a useful thought experiment for an urban person: what is it that attracts me to this place, what would I miss about my apartment, how can I bring some of one into the other, etc. These are by and large day dreams, so the drawbacks are limited.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:42 AM on January 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


My idea of a "cabin" has been really skewed living in Minnesota, where most of the cabins I've visited are really lake houses, not meant to "get away from it all" but really just to "go somewhere different, preferably with a ski boat or a party barge". I know every lake is different and some really are more quiet and remote, but I've mainly been exposed to fairly busy, well-populated lakes.

My experience with the family cabin has taught me a lot about how many bathrooms is too many bathrooms, mainly. It's just another place I have to clean because I've taken advantage of the opportunity to be there, only without the sense of ownership pride I get when I take care of my own house. Frankly, I can walk to my own urban lake if I have the urge to get yelled at by geese so the novelty of cabin life has worn off for me.
posted by padraigin at 8:44 AM on January 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Some people just like quiet and solitude and being surrounded by nature.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:44 AM on January 4, 2016 [15 favorites]


There is a sister society of people who "want to live on a boat" or "sail around the world."
posted by SemiSalt at 8:47 AM on January 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yes, and so what if I want that boat to be the HMS Victory. SO WHAT.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:58 AM on January 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


SO WHAT.

So.... you're gonna need a crew.

O captain my captain.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:00 AM on January 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've been trying to wrap my head around this thread. Lots of families I'm familiar with, mostly consisting of teachers, have or had cabins tucked away somewhere. Of course these have usually been in the family for decades so it was probably a lot cheaper back then. But packing up and "heading to the cabin for the weekend" was a thing for as long as I can remember for many people I knew. Being in a different place can help signal to the brain, "I'm on vacation. I can relax." I get the same feeling when I'm in a hotel room, even if I'm on a business trip.

Or is the problem that rich people are into cabins now?
posted by charred husk at 9:05 AM on January 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


tbh i'd be fine with a two decker third rate like the Nassau
posted by poffin boffin at 9:05 AM on January 4, 2016


It's actually been a huge, bothersome thing to me for the past decade, every time I hear someone whinging on about such an idea, because it's such a huge cop-out from taking part in society.

To me, it's up there with Zombie Apocalypse fantasy, it's a sheer rejection of being part of society, through the lens of "I would get to make my own ideal world." Because dealing with other people is difficult, people prefer to just bail from the game of dealing with other people entirely.


For some of us, it is not just taking our ball and going home because we're copping out. Dealing with other people is difficult. For some of us more than others - see: every woman currently on Crone Island, for example.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:12 AM on January 4, 2016 [12 favorites]


Is this something I'd have to be unable to set up a tent to understand?
posted by oceanjesse at 9:12 AM on January 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


it's a sheer rejection of being part of society, through the lens of "I would get to make my own ideal world."

The cabins featured in the Guardian article are rented by a private members' club and are fully serviced with chefs and pre-mixed cocktails in the fridge when you arrive. They have a bar on site which they boast serves booze till 7.30am. I guess that is an ideal world for most of us. The rest is just set dressing.
posted by colie at 9:16 AM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Where do you get a good pizza? Latte? Bubble Tea? Kalamata Olives? Lengua Tacos? Banh Mi? Cart service dim sum?
posted by FJT at 9:18 AM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Editing out the outhouse/chemical toilet part is the key to good cabin porn.
posted by srboisvert at 9:29 AM on January 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


If you want to just bail out from society to go live in a cabin, fine, but if shit hits the fan and you need something, go fuck yourself, because you gave up on the rest of us already.

What is the acreage threshold at which I am told to go fuck myself when I wish to call an electrician or place an Amazon Prime order or go to the hospital, or whatever I have the dirty effrontery to "need" even though I live more than the regulation number of miles from my neighbors? I am perfectly safe from being expelled from the ranks of the deserving because I am an apartment-renting urban dweller, so this is hypothetical for me. Or is it? Even if I stay urban and maintain my extremely important Social ties to my employer and landlord, have I already bailed out of society on account of having no husband or children or church affiliation, no attachments to the local community in blood or in law? Certainly that is a judgment from my fellow citizens that has a lot more historical precedent behind it, and a lot more rational basis too.

One of the great benefits of living in modern society is that you can you can be as physically remote as you please from your fellow human beings and still access emergency services (geography permitting) and communications networks when you need to; you don't have to risk death and hypothermia and complete isolation just because you want to live in the middle of nowhere, which is a fine desire to have whether or not you share it. I have no more interest in barring shaggy bearded cabin-dwellers from access to the benefits of society because they don't talk to their neighbors or join the PTA than I do in barring the uninsured from being helped at the emergency room. If that is the kind of callous inhumanity that a fierce and weird allegiance to "society" breeds, than society is not, actually so great. What weirdo rural introverts owe to me, you, and society is to pay their taxes, serve when they're called up for jury duty, and refrain from shooting me if I wander onto their land by accident. Allowing them to live like that without penalty is what society IS FOR. Because we can.

I can't think where all this resentment comes from unless it be from the fact that people like this can't be punished and brought to heel by the classic tool of group shunning, because they're already happy not to see or talk to people. It ought to be the opposite of the classic mistrust of the Rootless Cosmopolitan but it sure sounds pretty similar. Society is not the enemy of the cabin-dweller even if its superfans choose to be, out of spite; it is the thing that makes it possible to live that way. thus, I would argue, if you despise anyone who chooses to take advantage of these fine features of society, it is you who are bailing out of it, and not the loners with their questionable decor and problematic demeanors.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:30 AM on January 4, 2016 [38 favorites]


- has electricity, - has flush toilets, - has hot water, - has gas stoves,- has satellite tv, - has a driveway

and then I'd turn them all off


A log cabin cottage (or two) is a great pleasure on a rainy day, and no tv makes it doubly so. We're out of cell range, for the most part as well, which unplugs even the most recalcitrant 14 year old social media addict.

The other modcons though, those are essential for families, especially those with kids and older folks. People were a lot more willing to go to the lake for a week when we installed laundry---total game changer. Now a two week stay with a half-dozen kids is nbd.

If my 70+ y/o parents want to stay a week the landline phone makes that all the much safer too. No hassle propane heat is nice for them too, especially in the shoulder season.

But we've had a bunch of discussion about putting in microwave internet or a mobile femtocell. So far it's too expensive, but I have a feeling that that battle will be lost in the next decade.

Where do you get a good pizza?

I'm considering making an outdoor pizza oven my summer project this year.
posted by bonehead at 9:33 AM on January 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


oceanjesse: Is this something I'd have to be unable to set up a tent to understand?

Sometimes four people want to be able to play cards, even if it rains.

I like organizing backcountry cabin weekends as an intro experience for people who want to do outdoorsy stuff but don't feel ready to commit to the whole investment of getting a tent and cooking supplies. Usually when I pitch a High Cabin weekend to my friends, it's all "the cabin is just an hour's hike from the parking lot and the views are great, and all you have to carry is clothes, food, and a sleeping bag Then we can watch meteors!"

Cabin weekend -> car camping weekends -> backpacking tent weekends -> backpacking week vacations is the usual entry path for my group, and even those of us who like doing the backpacking week vacation thing still do cabin weekends because we understand that not everyone has the same definition of comfort.
posted by bl1nk at 9:37 AM on January 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


What is the acreage threshold at which I am told to go fuck myself when I wish to call an electrician or place an Amazon Prime order or go to the hospital, or whatever I have the dirty effrontery to "need" even though I live more than the regulation number of miles from my neighbors?

Based on my in-laws experience in rural Ontario, a few acres is the tipping point between dense enough to serve for utilities and being left to your own devices (internet, water, sewer, gas. Everyone gets POTS). Five acre lots is too much, but we're served (or could be) at the lake on single acres. Getting contractors for work is easy enough in both rural ontario and cottage country. Mail, in both cases, goes to a office 10-15 minutes away. Prime same-day delivery only works in (US) city centres. Emergency services, fire, police, ambulance, won't guarantee service on private roads in my part of the world, which leaves out a lot of cottage properties, but permanent residents on county roads are typically fine.
posted by bonehead at 9:42 AM on January 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


If you're reading this stuff and have experience with diy-type, timberframing type construction, could you please memail me. /selfish-plug
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:51 AM on January 4, 2016


The closets at the cabin aren't crowded;

Heh. Maybe in a rental. In a multi-generational family, the cottage is where old furniture, linens, indeed any random junk that "too good to throw away" goes. The closets are full, of 1970s board games, puzzles, Reader's Digest books, clapped-out Ikea furniture and musty old rugs. At least until one generation passes on the the successor generations look at each other and mutually agree that nana's old towels really don't need to be kept.

Most of us live in smaller houses than our parents. The cottage property is, in many ways, our attic.

But the old boardgames are awesome.
posted by bonehead at 10:02 AM on January 4, 2016 [16 favorites]


Everyone gets POTS

...until you lose dial tone one clear, beautiful day. Then good luck getting the phone monopoly to get off their asses to fix it in less than a week (assuming you can find some way to contact them without phone service).
posted by indubitable at 10:05 AM on January 4, 2016


If totally isolated off-the-grid cabins are a bit too intimidating for you, there are always the cabins at Camp Bongopix, which are preserved/re-created in all their retro-80's Ontario cottage charm. No wifi, but the cabins come with wood panelling, second-hand furniture and appliances, VHS movies, cassette players, and old Nintendo consoles.
posted by Kabanos at 10:07 AM on January 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Stringing it in the first place wasn't cheap either. They'll come to the road, but you have to cover the distance to your building. A line through a kilometer of bush was about 10% of our total build cost, back when.
posted by bonehead at 10:07 AM on January 4, 2016


We have a cabin on an island in Northern Ontario. No neighbours. No road access. No plumbing. No electricity. We have a 1930's propane stove and propane fridge in the kitchen, an 1880's woodstove for heat, an outhouse out back for the facilities, and a couple buckets for running water. Just the water out front and miles and miles of woods out back. I love going up there. So peaceful. I sleep better there even though the beds are 80 years old and saggy then I do in the city.

There are a lot of challenges though. Fixing or building anything is very labour intensive - no power tools except a chainsaw, and you have to haul everything over by boat. We cut the grass in the clearing with a scythe because lawnmowers would just be stolen. Security when we are not around is actually a big problem - isolated cabins are easy pickings for anyone going by. Anything worth stealing was stolen decades ago, so the most annoying things about break-ins now are the clean-up and repairs. We don't have money to burn to pay someone a premium for the isolation and water-only access, so we have to do all our own repairs, like re-roofing the place a couple years ago. Reports of high wind storms around there in December now have me worried that we will find a tree on the place in the spring. Again.

Water access means you have to have a very reliable boat. I had to retire my beloved 1956 Johnson last year because I couldn't trust it to always start anymore. Our boat is small, so during storms or high winds we can get wind-bound as it is too dangerous to cross the open water.

The isolation was a big problem on the couple of time over the decades when someone got critically ill. But at least cell phones finally work up there.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:08 AM on January 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


I grew up in a tiny ass cabin in a rural as hell area. It's certainly not glamorous and not something most people could deal with. Hope you like digging up the septic tank yearly, or having to have cats because otherwise all your dry goods would be ravaged by mice, or blasting exposed pipes with a blowtorch to prevent freezing during the cold months.

I enjoy that lifestyle, but it's certainly romanticized.
posted by Ferreous at 10:09 AM on January 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh and nothing's actually to code and is sort of grandfathered in so every repair is done by a bunch of local friends paid in beer and executed like a semi-drunk barn raising.
posted by Ferreous at 10:15 AM on January 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


There was a four-part series by Colin Berry in the San Francisco Chronicle that tackled the whole "off to live in a cabin in the woods" fantasy eleven years ago (parts one, two, three, four), and I remember him blogging about the San Francisco-to-Guerneville experience even afterward; the culture shocks were very real.

That series made an indelible impression on me, because it basically sent the message that it's one thing to fantasize about "getting away from it all," but when you've gotten away from it all, there's a whole 'nothing bunch of "it all" you have to learn to live with.
posted by sobell at 10:17 AM on January 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Heh. Camp Bongopix looks pretty cool, but they ain't "recreating the 1980 cottage experience". That isn't how you would experience a cottage in the 1980's. Everything in a cottage in the 1980's would be left-over used crap from the 1950's and 1960's. I would still want to rent one.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:18 AM on January 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh and nothing's actually to code and is sort of grandfathered in...

All I want out of life these days is a home that's optimized for energy efficiency and ease of maintenance. Why do I ever have to go through a finished surface to repair something? It's just stupid.
posted by aramaic at 10:20 AM on January 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


I can't think where all this resentment comes from unless it be from the fact that people like this can't be punished and brought to heel by the classic tool of group shunning, because they're already happy not to see or talk to people.

Not really group shunning. But in my head, there's a definite crossover between people who say "they want to get away from it all", and then constantly complain about, well, everything having to do with other people. Like they complain about standing in line, about traffic, about not getting their water at a restaurant, about having to deal with a slow cashier, about having to talk to someone in customer service. It's ironic that they can't think of all the small miracles and pleasures in our modern life, many of which are possible because we do work and collaborate with other people.
posted by FJT at 10:26 AM on January 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: the acreage threshold at which I am told to go fuck myself
posted by Blue_Villain at 10:28 AM on January 4, 2016 [12 favorites]


because they're already happy not to see or talk to people

I thinks that also a bit unnecessarily harsh. The folks I know who have chosen a more rural, disconnected lifestyle do so, yes partially because they don't want to have to listen to their neighbours dogs, deal with people blocking their drive to drop their kids off at the neighbourhood daycare. But they've also chosen that for the type of society that happens in rural communities. It's long term, based on who you are related to and how deep your roots are. It's slower and much more informal.

But it would be a mistake to think that coercive shunning isn't used and abused in rural life. In fact, many come to the city to escape it.
posted by bonehead at 10:36 AM on January 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's the short-timers, the cottage renters who don't see that, for the most part.
posted by bonehead at 10:38 AM on January 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


shunning and abuse is real fucking easy when there's only 800 people in the whole town and everyone knows everyone else's life story. Police blotters are some rural gossip sheet crack.

The flip side of this is that sort of knowledge can be used for good too. My wife and I lived in my childhood cabin for a few months after years of it being just a vacation place and managed to get utilities turned on entirely without contacting a company just because the person who worked at the post office remembered me from when I was a kid and called a friend to come out and do it.
posted by Ferreous at 10:46 AM on January 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Kitteh: "Actually, the Quebec park system has a series of simple cabin/cottages that are probably the only way you will get me to the outdoors. It's not exactly glamping, but it's better than a damn tent."

Yeah, at my age I'm past tents too.
posted by Splunge at 10:49 AM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is literally my dream, so long as there's internet access. It's less running away from people and society as it is the fact that I am only really calm and relaxed in nature. I want to see the stars, I want to smell the trees and hear the birds. I want to wake up to mountains right outside my window.

I stayed at a cabin on a farm in a pretty remote area of Wisconsin. It wasn't TOO remote since I could see a few other farmhouses, but it was very quiet and DARK. It had electricity and running water, but zero TV or Internet or cell service, which forced me into a different, initially uncomfortable mindset. I was alone with only my own thoughts, which aren't that great all the time.

I certainly wouldn't like to live without any connection; I go stir crazy even when I'm cooped up in the city in bad weather. I spent a week without talking to people in person (working form home, too bitter cold to go out) and I got a little nuts towards the end. So maybe I couldn't really handle cabin life on a more permanent basis, but I'd like to see how long I could last.
posted by desjardins at 10:55 AM on January 4, 2016


All I want out of life these days is a home that's optimized for energy efficiency and ease of maintenance. Why do I ever have to go through a finished surface to repair something? It's just stupid.


I'm talking stuff like the back end of the cabin being held up by a railroad jack and a traffic cone filled with cement. Or windows being semi functioning stained glass that was from when the church down the road was redone in the 50s and it was cheaper to scavenge them than to put in actual windows.
posted by Ferreous at 11:01 AM on January 4, 2016


BTW - Ultimate cabin porn for me?

2 rooms with electricity and plumbing
1 queen size bed
1 fireplace
1 stove and oven with plenty of gas
A large fluffy couch
A rocking chair

I will happily bring with me:
a crap ton of firewood
flannel sheets and a fluffy comforter
Full pantry
Baking pans
Books
Knitting/crochet supplies
A closet full of cozy blankets

Paradise.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:08 AM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm talking stuff like the back end of the cabin being held up by a railroad jack and a traffic cone filled with cement.

Even on the upper end, people I know have seen shit like,

them: "What's with this water running down the hillside?"

realtor: "Oh, this property has on site water features provided by the natural spring upon which the cabin is built!"

them: "..."
posted by indubitable at 11:21 AM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is anyone still working on Camp MetaFilter?
posted by maryr at 11:43 AM on January 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Isn't part of it the fantasy of escape from stuff?

escape from capitalism! - "You may personally be able to escape capitalism by moving off the grid and minimizing your involvement with the money economy and the market, but this is hardly an attractive option for most people, especially those with children, and certainly has little potential to foster a broader process of social emancipation." :P
posted by kliuless at 11:56 AM on January 4, 2016


I stayed at Camp Bongopix this summer, it was super lovely.

I also posted an AskMeFi yesterday about seeking places to be alone, since it seems like there may be some crossover of interest between that and this.
posted by ITheCosmos at 12:49 PM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I lived right in town, on bus lines, near the grocery. In town gets noisier every year with more sirens, more traffic, brighter lights so there are fewer stars. In what may have been foolishness, I bought a (badly) winterized cottage near a small lake, 11 miles from town. I have neighbors on either side, but woods in back, and the lake across the road. The dock is just down the road, the swimming beach just up the road. There are lots of stars, occasionally even the Milky Way. I look forward to the full moon every month; the moonglade on the lake is always special. In winter snow, the moon is so bright you can easily read a book. The lake hasn't frozen this year (hello, global climate change) but it has every other year, and then there are ice fishing shacks and snowmobiles. If you stand on the frozen lake at night, you hear eerie booming as the ice shifts and creaks. Summer is boats and swimming and hanging out on the deck. I have boats, a wood stove and a deck with a view. I have broadband.

It's not really sustainable. Living in town makes better environmental sense. If I'm unable to drive at some point, I'll need to move. It's a 25 minute drive from town, most people won't visit, which is mostly fine. It's not quite idyllic.
posted by theora55 at 12:55 PM on January 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Paradise.

also important: like 15 puppies and a fat orange 3-legged cat to lord over them
posted by poffin boffin at 1:35 PM on January 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah. This is me. I spent 15 years living in the downtown of a very small town, walking distance to my kids' school, the farmers market, the local, the library, my husbands job, and public transit to Toronto. I found my dream job in the weird space between cottage country and the GTA and bought waterfront property wih acres of forest around me. The house is a former cottage we are winterising (I've noticed I am showering less now I have to get out of a hot shower into an unheated bathroom - I hope no one else has noticed), bigger than our last house but definitely keeping a lot of cottage "charm".

And yet, my spring project is to build a cabin several hundred feet away from the main house and the kids and the demands of my husband. Looking, quite honestly, for room of my own. My eldest daughter has also expressed a similar wish, to build her yoga studio and minimal bed-space in the woods near the water. But I know spring is when the mosquitoes are the worst and I fear them swarming the cabin and lifting the roof en-mass to feast upon me. I like the outdoors, but I like it best from indoors, with climate control and a lack of pests.
posted by saucysault at 5:27 PM on January 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


What, when did cottages become cabins? And they've always been a thing? I guess not a thing described as "porn" though.
posted by GuyZero at 6:54 PM on January 4, 2016


The house is a former cottage we are winterising

The slow but inexorable transition of Ontario cottages from seasonal retreats to year-round homes. It's sad but inevitable.
posted by GuyZero at 6:55 PM on January 4, 2016


In Alaska there are quite a few public use cabins. In fact it sounds similar to the Quebec system that kitteh mentioned. It's definitely nice having that resource available. And because they're publicly funded you don't have to worry about maintenance, property taxes, etc. Only problem is they book up fairly quickly on the weekends.

Here's a travel article about some of the cabins in Southeast.
posted by timelord at 7:18 PM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Cottages are cabins that happen to be east of the Mississippi or in Canada.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:25 PM on January 4, 2016


My mom has been gifted her graduate school advisor's "cabin" in rural New Hampshire. It's a beautiful 5-bedroom house - with a separate one bed apartment for said advisor - on ~17 acres with multiple outbuildings. There's a babbling brook running a few feet from the sliding glass door in the master bedroom. There's a quarter-mile-long driveway and no mail delivery. You can sometimes get cell service if you go upstairs. Amazon/UPS will deliver but you have to go to the Post Office for mail and travel 45 minutes by car to get to a supermarket. I was there at Thanksgiving and was totally inspired to give up my life and hide out in the woods. That appeals to me on one level, but I like being in the city too much. I'm a block from a Safeway and can walk or take public transportation to work. I like not having to drive my car.

Someday I plan to become a hermit and may get to live in that house, but for now I'm staying where I am. It's porn in the sense that I fantasize about it, but it's totally unrealistic.
posted by bendy at 8:39 PM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have a cabin, and it does occupy a spot in my head and heart that is within the realm of half-fantasy, half-desire that most people mean when they joylessly describe any deep interest in a thing as pornographic.

Mine slouches in a shambling heap on the slope of Sideling Hill in Orleans Crossroads, West Virginia, with the rails of the busy freight line that also carries the Capitol Limited once each way, each day, between the District of Columbia and Chicago. Dart across the tracks and walk across the broad floodplain and you can wade out into the Potomac and swim, or just float on your back in the sun-dappled shallows with damsonflies zipping around you like you are just a large feature of their geography.

My father bought this place without telling my mother in 1986, in a bout of romantic reminiscence for something nearby that could return him to his childhood visiting our now-drowned ancestral homestead at the bottom of what is called Clarks Hill Lake by the civil and Lake Strom Thurmond by unsavory savages. My mother was furious, and still bears a grudge, nineteen years after he fell dead in his office in our failing business. She has a point, of course, because it really is a dump, but in the years before he died, I became its unlikely savior, showing up each year to redeem it out of the tax auction on the steps of the beautiful old yellow brick Morgan County courthouse that burned down in 2006, until it became my own cross to bear.

The building itself is an accidental piece of deconstructionist architecture, built by drunken fishermen in the fifties out of anything they could find, and it stands shakily on a hilarious forest of variously tilted stolen railroad ties that, in some places, seem very confused about what gravity can and cannot do, and the floor joists are too small for the spans they bridge, including one eighteen-foot stretch of unsupported span that I believe to be strong solely because of the abiding faith of termites. It is too large for my uses at approximately twenty-four feet on a side, with two grimy "bedrooms" off a large and badly laid-out room, cannot be warmed to survivable levels in midwinter no matter how much you feed the woodstove, and there are almost literally no right angles to be found anywhere in the structure. If you dare to peek into the rodent-dominated space above the rooms, you'll notice that some of the rafters are actually ornately carved balustrade rails salvaged from somewhere else, but it's best not to peek.

The front windows, if they can be described as such, are strange little sideways sliding frames that I realized several years ago were just old double-hung sash windows mounted on their sides to produce a sort of backwoods picture window looking out into the valley. This, of course, is not the way to install windows, so they've long since swollen shut and cannot be budged. For a time, my father worked at renovations, and built a little addition for a bathroom, and tore out the wallpapered-over paneling to install gypsum board, but with his passing, I began a struggle that, as a one man venture, has been one of the signature failures of my existence.

I replaced the leaking roof, and the remnants of hurricane Isabel shredded the roof and saturated the interior. I repaired that, and another storm tore it again. When my finances were at a low ebb, I couldn't even afford the gas for the hundred and twenty-one mile-each-way trek, and I returned to find the place with a new stench of mold and rot to go with the customary aroma of mouse urine and bat guano. A tree crashed through the power lines and slung my meter off into the woods like a slingshot, and that was the end of rural electrification and my deep but slightly turbid well. The nearby farmer's disreputable nephew cut out all the copper pipes and wiring for meth money some years ago, but I'm not particularly bothered to not have a bathroom in the house, because I believe shitting indoors is a habit best suited to vile housecats.

I hate my cabin, though I can't deny its potential for melodrama and tests of my meditation practice.

For years, the stink of mouse urine and wasp spray was always heavy in the air, but on one of my last trips up, when I arrived on a motorcycle in the dangerous deer-heavy hours, I found the bed pulsating with some sort of interior infestation and instead slept on a sleeping bag atop planks between two chairs. I slept beautifully, without the usual all-night rodential racket in the attic and the regular discovery of little furry things skittering annoyingly along my flanks, and woke to find, in the blue light of dawn, that there were dozens of newly shed snake skins dangling over all the furniture.

Better than mice, of course, and black snakes are both beautiful and nontoxic.

There follows a pattern of my own rise and fall and rise and fall out there. My father bought a shambling ruin, almost brought it to a certain scruffy respectability, then it fell to neglect, until I ended up as the manor of the house, almost brought it to a certain scruffy respectability, then watched it falling into ruin again, unstoppable in the face of my collapsing finances.

It is an enclosure of ruination amid some of the most glorious landscape I know, and so I visit, but endeavor to stay outside, cutting firewood and tending to the small bonfire I keep going on the hillside on my visits so I can sit and disappear into flamespace, and sitting on the little back deck (the porch collapsed seven years ago, alas) with a folding table and my Hermes 3000 manual typewriter, where I can write without heat or hum or the possibility of interference. There was a phone line once, though that's been disconnected since before I graduated from college, as the locals would sneak in and make long distance calls with novelty football phones, and cellphones blissfully failed to work until you crested the mountain and were nearing Berkeley Springs for a bath and a movie at Jeanne's lovely old Star Theatre. These days, the insidious signals are omnipresent, but I leave the phone locked in my pickup truck.

It is a splendid location for solitude, and I love to sit on the hillside and read, or write on my well-oiled old typewriter, pausing to run down to the train tracks to wave at the Capitol Limited or just enjoy the industrial chorus of slow passing freight trains loaded with all manner of things while I pick through the gravel around the rails for coal to burn in my woodstove, though as I get older, I find I fade too easily into regret and the sense of desolation that digs in when I remind myself that the decay up there is just too far ahead of me, and my ability to be a self-sustaining adult is slipping backwards as I surrender to artistry over pragmatism.

I disappear into flamespace, that gorgeous place of emptiness when the circus of my monkey mind surrenders to the old ways, when I sit by the fire, just watching the flames and poking at it with a stick and adding a branch or a log here or there, and I'll suddenly catch the changes in the sky and realize that I have been sitting there, a smouldering stick in one hand, tending to a fire that needs little tending, for hours without a thought of the future, regret of the past, or moment of anxiety, in the presence of dancing oxidation on a mountainside.

When I was still working for the museum, I would arrive with a small collection of art students, and they'd get it, too, and would bring me out of the void. Suburban children at play in the woods are a thing akin to seeing dogs kept in cages for lifetimes brought out into the sun for the first time, and they lift me out of the sullen stare into impossibility.

“There's, like, no time up here—just trains!” a young man once told me, and it's true, and it's good to know that it's still there for the taking. There's no time—just passing trains and birds in the trees and water flowing in the Potomac and wind along the ridgetop, punctuated by the occasional buzzing caravans of bored local teens heading up the gravel railway access road on their ATVs to get into trouble in Hancock.

On my own, I seldom have the nerve to stay outside well into the dark, because there are too many heavy noises and uncertain rustlings and my imagination is too wild, unfettered by the miseries of bank accounts, deadlines, and to-do lists, but when I have visitors, I love to sit with them around the bonfire at night just talking about everything and nothing and being in that sort of space where nothing is meant to happen, so anything could.

We lay on our backs on the flanks of a low mountain in the Ridge and Valley Appalachians, a range that first appeared four hundred and eighty million years ago in a chain that was then still connected to the Atlas mountains in Morocco, before the continents went their separate ways, and the sky is deep black, the kind you rarely find anymore, and it's far from airports, so the streams of airliners that besiege my own town are flying at their ceilings, lost in the far distance. The stars are bright enough to light your way, and it's hard not to think about how gloriously bizarre it is that you are seeing them in different times—sometimes a few dozen years ago, and others, hundreds of years in the past.

I hate the cabin, though, and I will readily admit that, when I round the corner before I can pull up on the hillside to park, that I'm always a little disappointed that it hasn't finally fallen down the mountain, giving me the best excuse to stop worrying that I am the agent of its decay, and yet—

It exists in its own time and space, far from care and anxiety, and the ruinous wreck of my father's clinging and my own neglect is just a bookmark on a 0.56 acre plot of my own place in the world, which I can hold onto because the annual property taxes and fees hover at a tidy $250, and I've been working, too, on the next era.

Since I've had a pickup truck, I've tuned my eyes into the signs and wonders of waste, and I pause at construction sites where they're tossing out perfectly intact sheathing and framing offcuts and other bits and pieces left behind in the massive inefficiency of modern construction, and, with a little more time on my hands, I've been building modules for a little village of tiny buildings to cluster there. In the back of the community theater I run, the world's most comfortable outhouse is rising even as the weather is getting too cold to work outside, and it is going to be a haven, with bookshelves and a composting toilet and the basics for old school washing-up, complete with refinement and details that most outhouses lack. When I'm done, it'll come apart into panels designed to stack precisely in the truck, which I'll take out to West Virginia and install, so that the second most basic unit of human habitation can be there as the anchor for the next thing and the next thing and the next thing.

When I daydream, it is of the old place stabilized and cleaned out as a sort of gigantic woodshed and screened pavilion, or dismantled and reconstituted into something slightly smaller and built to better plans, surrounded by a scattering of little cubes that'll each sleep a person or three, with a properly built firepit surrounded by benches. The rain will be caught and kept in little cisterns, and solar panels will give us light at night and the ability to charge electronics and run amplifiers for little ambient playtimes under the starry skies, and it will be a place for glorious solitude or warm community, built on a shoestring out of whatever came to hand by me and anyone who wants to come away and break some rules...and I do not know if it is just something I hold onto against the darkest moments of doubt, but it is still there, waiting.

In the velvet darkness of the blackest night, burning bright, there's a guiding star, no matter what or who you are.

And it's absurd, I know, and yet, like a kite I never stop flying, even in storms and gloom of night, it's something that gives me a reason to look up when I'm in over my head and all I really want to do is just give in.
posted by sonascope at 7:20 AM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


> My mom has been gifted her graduate school advisor's "cabin" in rural New Hampshire. It's a beautiful 5-bedroom house

That sounds more like a camp than a cabin. I don't know the difference; I think if one has to ask...
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:55 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I scratch this itch by a few days in a nice Japanese ryokan in an appropriate rural setting.
posted by oxford blue at 4:29 PM on January 5, 2016



I hate the cabin, though, and I will readily admit that


sonascope, I can absolutely see your love-hate relationship with that place. The solitude, the quiet, the fire are all fabulous. I bet you can see a lot of stars. Inside though is less appealing. There are so many things to fix, it's hard to know where (or if) to begin.
posted by bendy at 9:59 PM on January 5, 2016


That sounds more like a camp than a cabin.

I don't know either. I first heard "camp" used in upstate New York to refer to a summer home. I mainly referred to it as a cabin in keeping with the spirit of the article - a remote place, away from civilization.
posted by bendy at 10:02 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


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