Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Throne of King Albert

We drove to Maryland Tuesday to visit the log cabin in the Catoctin Mountains that Math Man's brother (Uncle Albert) is restoring. There are two cabins set about 100 yards apart on a mountain stream. The view from the front porch where I'm sitting as I write feels much like Frank Lloyd Wright's house Falling Water, the creek seems to run beneath my feet. (It very nearly does in fact, even in this very dry summer.) The natural and found materials Uncle Albert is using, a gorgeous spiral door handle made from a dried and polished vine for example, add to the Wright-like aesthetic in the house.

Unlike Wright's fancy retreat for a wealthy Pittsburgh couple, these cabins were once year round homes for families. Seven people, five children and their parents, lived in Uncle Albert's cabin. The cabin had one large room with a fireplace and wood burning stove, and upstairs, tucked under the eaves, three bedrooms. The main room is not even 400 square feet, upstairs (a ladder folds down from the ceiling for access) has less usable space than that.

I alternated wondering what it would be like to live in a house like this as a hermit — half way up a mountain, with the water burbling by — and as a family almost as large as the one I grew up in, where silence might be found between 1 and 2 am if you were lucky.

When I was growing up, getting six kids ready to go out was a challenge with a single bathroom, now I'm trying to imagine a house where the plumbing consisted of an outhouse and a hip bath you dragged into the kitchen. And laundry?

The plumbing in both cabins has been upgraded since they were first built. Uncle Albert's not quite finished bathroom is a masterpiece, though. The basic function of the outhouse has been taken over by an "inhouse" — a modern composting toilet. Rather than dress this technology up in modern porcelain, he's opted for a more elegant, or at least unusual, throne.

The popcorn in the dispenser you can see on the left of the photo is used to provide aerating layers in the compost.

1 comment:

  1. sounds like an adventure on many levels