The first step towards a new house is tent life! Doing a major reconstruction of our existing house (essentially building a new home within the original framework) means that we have to get out of the house for awhile. The solution? Tent living for the summer months. It also adds a sense of urgency to finishing the project, since our tent is definitely not set up for a Maine winter.
We got ourselves a tent from Cabela's supposedly designed to "comfortably accommodate up to eight campers". As with most tent-size statements, it is hard to imagine eight fully grown adults having room to relax in the tent, but it is perfect for two people and enough belongings to survive the summer. The tent is 144 square feet, and nine feet at the peak (meaning that not all of those square feet are suitable for standing upright). That's a significant downsize from our house - even though that space was a lot smaller than more modern homes.
A tent is a great option for temporary living. If you're building a house, remodeling, or otherwise in a temporary space, tent living can get you through a season comfortably. It is an alternative to a tiny house (or, can be used while you build a tiny house) or a more established yurt (and again - great if you're setting up a yurt in the mean time) and it can be more long term housing if its set up right. Got land and a plan? A tent may be the right housing for you.
Here are a few of the things I've learned after some time living in a tent:
- It's cold! Our home's only insulation was some two hundred year old corn cobs, there were cracks in the walls in places and the windows certainly didn't hold heat. Without the stove going, it could be chilly in the house. But it's still several degrees warmer than a tent! First thing in the morning it feels like the tent is colder than even the outside temperature. But it warms up quickly. With direct sun the tent becomes a little sauna, and the windows need to be opened to get a breeze going through. Fortunately, we have plenty of covers and pajamas so while our breath sometimes makes icicles on the "windows" we are still pretty comfortable (and it is only going to get warmer).
- It's loud! Our tent is situated just behind the house and shed, at the end of one of our fields. It happens to be a really wet field that contains our vernal (seasonal) pond. So it is completely full of peepers, the tiny frogs that sing the song of spring. From dusk til dawn they create a deafening racket that can be hard to converse over. And around dawn, their chorus gives way to the peaceful sounds of birdsong. It is actually nice for me, because I prefer sleeping with some kind of white noise, but I can imagine it might be tough for some and it is definitely a different experience.
- Comfort comes with organization. I suppose this is true with any living space, but the smaller area you live in the more smart you have to be about organization. We managed to fit nearly everything we use on a regular basis, including plenty of clothing, towels, toiletry, etc, into a space that is basically a tenth the size of the house we had before. First, we eliminated or stored elsewhere everything that we could, then we organized what we kept. Clothes go in large storage tubs that can be pulled out and checked but then slipped back into corners or under other objects. Anything that isn't used very regularly gets put behind or under something else used more often, and every day I do a little bit of tidying to make sure it all makes sense and is easy to get what we need.
- Watch out for animals. Our biggest concern is with the tent is the potential for it to get damaged by our animals. The cats are strictly not allowed inside, finally having to live up to their titles as "barn cats". The goats, when out of their pasture, are kept away in case they start chewing things.
- It can be very comfortable and cozy. We wouldn't be doing it if it was all just cold and loud with no bright spots. The tent is pretty intimate, and you have to be aware of where you are at all times so you don't bump your head or knock something over. But it is very cozy and like all the best parts of camping. Limited space means doing more outside, like my evening yoga which is a wonderful routine to do in the setting sunlight. A little bit of routine changing and tweaking and it is just a new home!
So it is the tent life for the summer! And house construction can get underway in earnest. As I write this the new well is being drilled, and floors and walls are coming down in the old house. It's only a little bit more demolition before the rebuild gets underway.
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