Making a Wood Fired Bath Tub

imageimageimageimageimageLiving off the grid is challenging and having a tub to soak in is paramount to health. We have a perennial spring that moves pretty fast so I wanted to utilize it for water. It’s at the base of our property near the creek, which is about a 10 min walk from the woods where we tucked the yurt. I relished the possibility of having a place I could take a bath and relax, and a tub close to the spring, so close in fact that one can not only see the creek but also revitalize in the sound of its rapidly moving water. So we set out to do just that.

Looking online, there weren’t any detailed plans, so we had to make our own. We found a free steel tub one day as we were hunting for treasure at the Habitat for Humanity Restore (of course a cast iron claw foot or any large metal tank would work too). That set the pace for the entire project, which so far we have only spent $7 on (for the caulk and the drain and plug for the tub as ours was missing one).

First we chose the site. As I said, I wanted it close to the water for the ease of getting water to the tub and also for the added benefit of the sweet environment water habitats provide. I chose a spot nestled between two rocks, proving that one can do this project just about anywhere. Flat ground may be easier, but because I bermed one side that saved me some cob fill. When choosing a site, think about how you’ll get water to it and the amount of flow around the tub (preferably not in a busy social area, so you can an soak up the peace and quiet while there).

Next I dug out of the side of the sloping earth to make a level site and dug about a foot beneath the surface of the ground. I did this so I could assure a level spot for the tub’s 4 corners. And because I planned on setting stones under the four corners and pouring gravel amidst that as a type of foundation, I wanted it low enough to just reach level after I set the tub.

Once the site was excavated, I found a host of similarly sized foundation stones and put them in the four corners of the excavation site. I filled in the spots between the stones forming a parallel channel. Of course, you want to have a channel for the fire’s heat to flow under the tub, so leave ample space (I left about a 6 in wide gap, also about 6 in high). Then I filled the space between the earth and the stones with gravel and cemented it in with a cob mixture (mix 2 part sand, one part clay, and depending on how wet your clay is, add water to make a stiff dough consistency) (also, there are many other sites you can research cob and how to find out more about making a good mix so I won’t go into that here. If, in the end, your cob doesn’t turn out right: fear not, add water and make it again. This is such a fun building project because its harkens back to your childhood days of playing with mud in the woods making pies. Mmmm!).

 

Letting that dry, I dug out the middle channel a little deeper. Once dry, I set the tub on the cobbed stone foundation and checked for level. We decided to allow a bit of slope toward the drain, to make sure the water would drain easily. When we eventually started filling the tub, we found that we made more of a slope than we realized and thought this may be a mistake. But as we filled the tub with water, we found that the side on the up-slope (also where the fire is, so definitely not where we are sitting) not having as high of water level as the down slope was just fine because our feet were there and so it was inconsequential that the water wasn’t high. Slope is flexible.

After setting the tub, I filled in the bermed side’s gaps with more cob, also using rocks as filler. Using rather large rocks, to small stones saved me from having to make more cob. The point here is to of course make a seal to trap the fire chamber that runs beneath the tub. One can also use cob to build up around the tub to provide thermal mass = keeping your tub water warmer for longer!

I filled in the other side with cob as well, and then set to placing the stove pipe. I chose to put a 6 in diameter pipe 2 ft long half under the tub, fit it with an elbow connecting with a 5 ft pipe going up. 5 ft is a good length (or even longer) to make sure you get sufficient draw from the fire. Essential for warming the underside of the tub!

I cobbed this in, again using small rocks also, to produce a good seal to close off the fire chamber. Smoke, like water, finds a place to escape if there are any gaps, making your firing less efficient! If there are any gaps, simply add more cob! Easy!

For the drain pipe, I cobbed the stove pipe near it to try to buffer any heat from blasting the rubber stopper in the drain. For now, we have a slanted rock beneath the drain, channeling water away from under the tub. Eventually we need to fit a metal pipe (able to withstand the heat) and channel the water farther away from the tub, but for now it flows into a gravel bed.

Next is the fire box. On the other side of the tub we are edged right up to a big rock so we have a vertical drop fire box (the only way ours would fit). Of course, if you have more room, you can make a firing area right beneath the tub. We used larger rocks to make the fire box and set and cemented them with cob. It worked beautifully and the fire drew beneath the tub just fine. The fire took about an hour to heat the water, at which point it almost got too hot. I’m sure we’ll get the hang of this over time. One thought is to get in the tub perhaps before it is sufficiently warm because it will certainly continue heating! 🙂 Make sure you collect enough fire wood and set it close to the tub because you’re not going to want to get out and gather part way through your bathing experience.

Also, put a piece of wood (with some small holes drilled through it, so it doesn’t float) on the bottom of the tub, as the metal will get really hot!

The main points are making sure you have a good cob mixture (again you can research this all over the Internet), having a solid foundation for the tub to rest on, making sure your end stove pipe is long enough to make sure you get a good draw, and sealing off the fire chamber with cob. The possibilities are endless as far as aesthetics (making shapes and designs in the cob surrounding the tub and adding stones, etc), placement of tub and what kind of tub, and what type of fire chamber you decide to do.

Hope this helps for anyone endeavoring to make a wood fired cob tub! Happy relaxation 🙂

 

 

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Remind me of your face

Morning, here. Filled with the dreams of the past night. I awake feeling refreshed, excited. A deep excitement stirs within, laced with gratitude.

I feel it pulsing, throbbing like an underground heartbeat. Like a river beneath the surface of the earth bursting up through artesian wells, spouting out of limestone springs. It manifests through the work of my hand as dreams taken flight, birthing foundations.

My gratitude is based on knowing the opposite of this and in the sheer pleasure of being here. Like many things one has waited for, there is often a path building up to the attainment that makes that final meeting of what was once only hoped for, dreamed of simply put, Sweet.

It is sweet to be here, like a piece of dark chocolate turned in the mouth, tasted with all sides of the tongue, the thick black complexity met with quiet delight.

I remember nights on the road close to midnight as i or Ini and I searched for a place to rest our heads, away from the road, from traffic, from the noise, urgency and often violence of a culture set apart from the rhythms of nature. Oh so many nights!!!

And as we returned from a somewhat hectic trip to town yesterday, for a meeting and grocery run, I was greeted by the soft, effervescent illumination of MoonLight filling the forest corridors, making this a new territory for me. Revealing further the nurturance of this place. How it is beginning, more and more, to be Home. A place of rest, joy, sustenance. Yes, of work, too, and of struggle. Yet overwhelmingly a nest, a comfort. My type of woodland comfort.

Cold Spring Bathing

Water purifies water cleanses water makes new

Sometimes life comes through Crystal clear. In some ways I think I may be always hoping for this. Clear sight, the ability to see to the heart of things, to get to the marrow. I have long sought for meaning in life, depth, understanding.

Being here on the land, many of my dreams are starting to unfold. This morning I wanted to bathe. At first I was upset at how that would happen. With so many systems we must make I thought I may have to go to the spring, gather water, carry it up the hill and heat it on the stove. What is usually such a simple task in our modern world would be a many hour ordeal. Yet as the day unfolded and I went down to gather water to take back up for bathing, drinking, cooking, dishes, rinsing seeds, nuts and grains, I realized I must bath in the water near the spring. I also needed to wash my hair, a task I’ve been wondering how people who live close with the earth without modern ammenities have been doing forever. How do other people care for their hair? Oiling? I would like to know some other methods.

But for today, I am blessed with sun. And I was going to take water a ways from the source and wash and rinse my hair.

As I got started I realized that this was actually going to be a powerful baptism. I could feel the voice of the land meeting my conscience pulling out anything I needed to release. Actions I needed to let go of, and thoughts and other ways of being too. A time of forgiveness and preparation was in order. A way of preparing myself to join with the land, with the spirit of this place and all of the ancestors who walked before me.

It was a very beautiful bath. Not cold at all once I adjusted- the body is very remarkable in this way, and it confirmed what I read about on various Ayurvedic and other worldwide systems about cold baying practices being more rejuvenating for the body, mind and spirit, as well as boosting the immune system.

My modern head may take more time to get used to hurdling old patterns to get down to the creek to bathe, but it was one of the most beautiful and best bathing experiences ever.

photojourney A~gust twothousandfifteen *Ozarks

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In the Ozarks, there is plenty of water. Springs are especially !Magical! places full of wondrous entities invisible to the eye. And the water is delicious.

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There are a plethora of old buildings ready to come down with readily usable materials. Here is an old barn that Ini is salvaging from. It’s quite possible most of the tin roof for our tiny strawbale home will come from this effort.

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Aerial view of the property we’re most likely going to make a bid on this week. It’s mostly surrounded by forest (which we love), 100s of acres of which are inhabited by an ancient (70s) lesbian commune called DragonWagon. That’s Beaver Creek winding to the West. We have met the neighbors and while they are a slightly different brand of Crazy than we are (let me tell you my salvation story!), they seem to be generous, kind, and down-to-earth people (like most of the Missourians we’ve met!).

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And of course, la araña… weaving her web

everything vibrates out from the center
sacred language prevails

in the midst of our violent economies, going back to the earth, where we take care of ourselves as if we are the earth *which we are

…….

I believe this is the only way.

This Year’s Travels Across the US: History, Herstory, the Land’s Story

rainbow above the grand canyon

rainbow above the grand canyon

As we make our way throughout the United States of America, I am reflective on the use and ownership of land- of the rigorous, insane (literally etymologically, unhealthy, unwhole) and whole sale theft and disrespect (can’t really find a fitting word strong enough for what actually took place) on the part of the pioneering and enterprising Europeans to the native groups of this land. Nearly everywhere we go there is the sorry story of some native group pillaged and removed from their homeland.

I feel a sense of loss for their vibrant and wise indigenous (of the land, of a place) cultures. Poignantly do I feel the absence of my own generational land-based heritage. Instead of being something intimately known and loved, land is a commodity, something to own.

There are two songs here that reflect well some thoughts/feelings I have journeying through this land, reflective on history. I want to share them here:

The Nightwatchman – Take Away My Name
and
Diane Cluck – Sylvania

Medicine for the People – My Country

2014, for us, started in Peru, in South America, which is, indigenously speaking, very related and in kinship with ancient native trade routes, customs and beliefs stretching all the way up to what is today North America. I cried many times then feeling the connection the people have with the land, with pachamama. In March, Ini and I went out to Massachusetts to pick up this veggie oil car we love and use so well. I distinctly recall sitting on the Boston Commons watching a squirrel scramble up trees, Unafraid of people or heights. The commemorative placeholders and memorials in that region are largely Patriarchal in heritage and remembrance. A very clearly delineated His-tory.

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Then, an image of homesteading on an Appalachian mountainside. Fresh, cool mountain stream. Generations of people “eeking out a living” in this fertile land. At the local library, I read accounts from ancestors of people who neighbor the land we’re on who say, “Wake up, it’s time to hoe. After lunch, more hoeing. When I close my eyes I see corn and beans.” Their descendants now have a garden, yes with corn and beans, yet also with a motion-controlled radio to scare away deer. Living on the land is tough, they all seem to say. After a few months of dipping my hand in these waters, though refreshed by the mountain spring water, I realize I’m not quite ready to go “back to the land” in such a vigorous -or isolated- way quite yet.

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So back to Indiana, my place of birth and raising. Will I follow the footsteps of my forebearers? Start a business, get a 9-5 working for the Man? I am not quite ready to start a large-scale alternative project to What Is. But we gotta eat, after all. Can’t live on idealism. Yet, the inner drive wants nothing to do with the machinations of my father. We do not see eye to eye; we hardly see the same world at all. Again, jumping the nest after touching base with the karma of birth, we are freebirds once again, taken by the travel.

Boulder, Colorado it is. Yet when we get there to meet some teachers who drew our attention, we find the land far commercialized from the initial hippy hay-day we heard it once was. No fodder for us, we continue on the travel. Well out of vegetable oil fuel for the car, we are now running mostly on the dinosaur bone and ancient fern slop that dictates the actions of so much of our warring and exploitive governmental system. It’s against our internal compass, but it’s “the way things are now.” We continue along on the highways, occasionally off-roading it, like so many others channeled and funneled along the main stream.

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Yet we are not mainstream. For the first time in my life, I catch people stopping to stare at me, whispering about our rig (the car is full!) or possibly about me. I’m not really sure, but I feel the difference. And I continue to feel how far I’ve strayed from being a good daughter of the Patriarchy.

I am not loyal to my government or the mores of the cultures of this land. So much of it ain’t sitting pretty with me.

We continue on through the ancient dwellings of the Southwest, reaping inspiration each step of the way. Pueblos stretching across miles of desert aligned to star and moon, equinox and solstice. These people were in rhythm with the earth. Give me some of that old time living! And the living ancestors of the people of Canyon de Chelly, still farming and shepherding amid the deep canyon walls near the ancient petroglyphs of old. (And even these Navajos were originally removed from the canyon only to be allowed to return a few years later, most of them dead or ill, spirits sick.) So many times I catch wind of what the native peoples did (and at times still do) and I think, “That’s the way I want to live! How to do it this day in age of rentals and bills and impossibly expensive land?”

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As Thoreau once said, perhaps the person who seems out of sync with the dominant culture is just marching to the beat of their own, privately heard drum. In the old days, this internal que could be called someone’s daemon, or creative spirit. Now the church, as in so many cases, has skewed the meanings of old words and daemon is too close to the evil in demon to be commonly employed, Yet it is this creative force which leads me into the future, into the bright realm of possibility, the unforeseen.

Now we are in California and I already, in some ways, feel “at home” again (though Ini and I have established a pretty good home on the road). The freedoms in the air of this most western point on the map are historical as well as current. Diversity is rich, as are alternative lifestyles and natural beauty.

I still don’t know where we’ll land for now; I remain curious about that. Until then, we continue following the trans-migrational rhythms of cyclical nomadics or seasonal workers from coast to coast.

So much of this country is in dire need of soul. And chances are it’s not going to be found on the TV. It’s so important that we can still see our night sky. It connects us Ineffably and magically with so much of what it means to be human. Spend more time outside. Breathe in the winds. Go hug a tree, really. Give thanks for water. Cities and waters are too often polluted. We need to start caring about the places we live, it’s our only way forward if we will pass on any beauty to our future generations. This is a message we so desperately need to hear, and the indigenous cultures, among other uprisings, have it.

a rewilding response of balance to the insistence of neither beyond nor behind

and in response to this

i know too, i have seen and witnessed first hand
living without the “things of modern man” 

the refrigerator, dish washer, hauling water’s not all it’s cut out to be
living in a life behind “the times”, what is called the post-industry
faction of our humans lives

but still i can’t see where we went wrong
and exactly how is the best way to live now

cuz living off-the-grid is not all it’s cracked up to be
running hot water, these all blessings of the modern amenity

yet pollution in our streams, toxins in our detergents
we humans have a calling; i can hear it, it’s urgent!

i know the pain of my upbringing, being raised in the suburbs
i’ve gone around the world witnessing shacks, tents, sleeping on the sidewalks

and i know going back’s not the answer either,
but what are we to do when we’re trapped within neither?

something in between is rising now
something of balance
something, somehow

 

firewood haiku

firewood haiku

first heat: collecting
second: there’s heat in sawing
lastly, in winter