Norwegian cabins come in all shapes and sizes with varying degrees of functionality, from rustic off-grid huts to ultra-luxurious second homes. Off-grid living typically entails using an outhouse, relying on alternative power options like solar or wind energy, fetching water from a well, and using a wood-burning stove for heat. At the other end of the spectrum, luxury living customarily includes all the amenities of a normal house, plus additional features such as saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs. Our cabin falls somewhere in the middle.
Built in 1993, my family’s cabin sits at 950 metres above sea level in Tempelseter, Eggedal. There are hardwood floors and wood-panelled walls throughout the main cabin as well as the annex, and a large terrace with endless mountain views that connects the two. In the main cabin, there’s a mudroom, a kitchen, a living room, a washroom, a toilet room (more on that later), and three bedrooms. In the annex, there’s an additional bedroom with a sink and a small living room, which is attached to the storage shed.
I’ve spent quite a lot of time at this cabin over the years, sometimes with family, othertimes with friends, and oftentimes with my dog Cody. When the coronavirus first hit Norway, one of the first measures taken by our government was to ban cabin stays for fear of overwhelming the rural health systems. On the very same day that the cabin ban was lifted, Cody and I headed to the mountains where we’ll be hunkering down for the foreseeable future… at least until the COVID-19 storm settles.
You see, I declared this humble abode my sanctuary long before the pandemic swept the globe. It’s where I came to clear my head after my dad’s funeral, and stayed for nearly four months after that. It’s where I found my feet again after leaving Canada rather suddenly, and spent ten weeks in solitude before deciding to backpack around Southeast Asia. It’s where I brought a handful of friends last summer, one after the other, and reminisced about old times. Most recently, it’s where I came to escape the noise of the world and make the most of these corona times.
Pandemic or not, life at the cabin is simpler and frankly more enjoyable. Though we don’t have cable or internet, running hot water or a flush toilet, laundry machines or a dishwasher, we DO have electricity and heaters, showering capabilities and a toilet solution, ways to wash clothes and dishes by hand, and the glorious mountains at our doorstep. In other words, we live more modestly at the cabin in that our basic human needs are met, but our consumption of resources and consumer goods is moderated. It’s a lifestyle that I’ve come to love, and a place that Cody seems to enjoy just as much as I do… care to take a peek?
They say that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and that certainly holds true at the cabin. Like I said, we don’t have a dishwasher or any fancy appliances for that matter, but we have what we need to cook simple everyday recipes and even pull off our annual Christmas dinner. There’s a full-size refrigerator and a four-burner stove with an oven, plus a water boiler, a coffee machine, a blender, a two-slice toaster, and a waffle maker. As for groceries, I store dry goods like coffee grounds, nuts, rolled oats, quinoa, and beans in glass jars, and I stock up on fresh produce at the local shop every ten days or so. I wash dishes as I go to avoid pile up, and since we only have running cold water, that means boiling water for each wash, a process which I actually find quite therapeutic.
The kitchen sink is our only source of running water in the cabin, so neither the shower nor the bathroom sink are hooked up to a water supply. For the shower, that means combining cold water from the tap with boiling water from the stovetop to reach an optimal temperature – I’ve learned that roughly half and half does the trick. The water pours directly into a white container, which attaches to a hose and powers on by the flip of a switch. As for the bathroom sink, the stainless steel container heats water by itself, so I just fill it up every now and again. Each container holds approximately 17 litres… to put that into perspective, the average 8-minute shower uses 65 litres of water. Needless to say, I shut the water off between soaping, shampooing, and conditioning.
The Toilet Room.
I normally wouldn’t put my toilet on such public display, but our glorified hole-in-the-ground is no ordinary toilet. Beneath the lid, the toilet bowl opens to a two-metre chute that leads to six waste chambers down below. Once one chamber reaches capacity, you simply turn it to the next one. The idea is that by the time the last chamber is full, natural decomposition will have worked its magic on the first chamber, leaving dry and odourless matter. To aid the process along, we throw bark into the chamber intermittently and use our handy poop stick to push down any waste that builds up in the chute, which tends to happen as the chamber nears capacity. Depending on the season, flies like to hang out in the chute and chambers, so we have an aerosol spray to get rid of them.
The Sleeping Quarters.
Between the main cabin and the annex, we have four bedrooms in total – one with a double bed and three with bunk beds like the room that I’ve photographed. Each bedroom has a window, a dresser, a mirror, a row of hooks, a ceiling light, a reading lamp, and a rug. I’ve settled into one of the bunk bed rooms in the main cabin, which has just enough room for Cody to sleep comfortably on the floor beside my bed. I keep my clothes in the dresser and some gear beneath the bed, but apart from that, I haven’t personalized the space much since I basically just use it to sleep and get dressed. In fact, most of my waking hours are spent in the living room, whether I’m here alone or with people. I think you’ll understand why.
The Living Room.
During the day, I work at the dining room table and relax in the seven-seater sofa. Since we don’t have internet or cable, I connect my laptop to my mobile hotspot and I listen to the radio for news. When I’m not writing or doing other work-related tasks, I like to read, listen to music, colour, play the flute, bake, and explore the great outdoors. My favourite feature of the living room is the fireplace, which I generally use when it’s below freezing outside – more so for the coziness factor than out of necessity, since we do have heat. That said, we program our heaters to five degrees Celsius when we close up the cabin, so if we arrive in the dead of winter, the fireplace and the wood-burning stove work in tandem to raise the temperature as quickly as possible. We also plug the toilet and shut the water off between cabin visits, but luckily I don’t have to worry about that when I stay here long-term.
The Outdoor Space.
The location is what sold my family on this particular cabin, both the view from the terrace as well as the proximity of hiking trails in the summer and ski trails in the winter. In the storage shed, we keep our cross-country skis and snowshoes, extra fire wood and shovels, Adirondack chairs and the barbecue, my mom’s kicksled and my favourite hammock chair, and various other practical things. We have an outdoor fireplace on the side of the cabin that gets the late evening sun, and there’s plenty of space for yoga on the terrace when the weather allows. I’ve experienced some of the most magical sunrises and sunsets from up here, not to mention full moons and starry nights, and I’ve seen fireworks light up the entire sky on New Year’s Eve. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like I’m in closer communication with my environment, my living space, and myself when I’m at the cabin. Perhaps you feel it too?
With ♡, Julia Elizabeth