The off-grid shower stall
One of my dearest dreams and visions is about to come true. Not the one about having an expediter for all the shopping, no. The one about warm water falling down - inside the cabin.
After 12 years of living without a shower, we’re finally getting around to setting up a shower stall in our off-grid, no-running-water place. Probably yet another sign we’re getting old and soft, but I can live with that (now that is a sure sign I’m getting old).
Actually, we’ve had a wonderful shower out in the greenhouse for years that beats any fancy shower stall you can buy. Nothing can be more pleasant than standing amid lush tomato and squash plants in a hot, steaming jungle atmosphere and have warm water splashing all over you from a bucket up on the crossbeam. No mosquitoes or flies to bother us, just green leaves, flowers and fruit. The only drawback is that the greenhouse shower season is limited to summertime.
For the remaining eight months of the year, we could have rigged up a similar system in the sauna but somehow, taking a warm shower after a good long sweat just isn’t that appealing. Sam usually throws tepid water over himself and I rub down in the snow. A cold shower - why bother? Also, heating up the sauna every time we want to have a shower seems like a lot of effort to go to for standing under a drizzle of warm water for a few minutes. Not the kind of thing you’d do first thing in the morning during a cold snap.
So, at long last, we’re getting ready to install not only a shower but also a real bathroom sink inside the cabin. Gone will be the mornings of shoving aside the pile of dishes on the kitchen counter to make space for soap and shampoo. No more pondering the pieces of flotsam caught in the kitchen drain as the water dripping from my hair gurgles into the bucket below. At long last a permanent home for the toothbrushes instead of jamming them in between the coffee mugs and hoping that visitors won’t look too closely.
There are many ways to make a shower work in remote locations, of course. Across the Yukon, many variations on it can be found: from a pump, water tank and propane heater affair to the elevated bucket method, plastic shower stall to washtub, drain pipe to just a drain.
I like to keep things as simple as possible (the fewer parts involved, the fewer problems and cost) and want the shower to work especially in the wintertime. In the summers, I’m sure we’ll stick with having a shower among the orange zucchini flowers.
While Sam is out in civilization, I’ve been poring over catalogues and writing down the things he’s supposed to shop for and bring in. A couple of large shower curtains (not ugly ones). Scratch that out again; I’ll order them in to avoid disappointment. A sturdy laundry tub without legs. And a 10-litre container, rather low-sided. That should already do it.
The plan is to raise up the laundry tub on a 30-centimetre high platform in one corner of the cabin, where one shower curtain will protect the walls from the splashing water while the other one will close things off to the front. The 10-litre container will slide underneath the platform to catch the waste water inside the cabin - a cunning idea of Sam’s that will avoid the problem of freezing drain pipes and ice build-up outside, as well as do away with frigid air lurking just on the other side of the drain stopper and making the tub uncomfortably cold to stand in.
The water will be hauled to the cabin in a bucket as usual, poured into a large stock pot on the wood stove and once hot enough, transferred into one of the blue water containers found in any northern home. A little shelf installed above the laundry tub at convenient height to lift the container on - and for under $100 - low-tech and highly efficient, the miracle of warm water falling down inside the cabin will be ready to go. Maybe with this dream about to come true, an expediter is just around the corner. One can always hope.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.