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 🙂

 

 

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.

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

 

the way i treasure my body: a tribute

For our final assignment, tell the tale of your most-prized possession. If you’re up for a twist, go long — experiment with longform and push yourself to write more than usual.

Lately, I’ve been indulging in these daily prompts. As I reflected on this one, I immediately thought, “My most prized possession? I don’t think I have one!” Then, after a moment’s thinking outside of the box, I knew what my most prized possession is: my body.


my body

tending a garden using my body

tending a garden using my body

when i was a young girl i used my body to climb trees. i was like a little monkey then, scrambling and scuffling amid branches, up and down trunks. sometimes i’d stay in trees for hours pretending i was a mother monkey. one christmas i got a set of “babies” that fit in a snug fanny-pack carrying case. i was SO excited to receive those triplets because what i most wanted to do with them was scuttle up that tree & pretend we were all sitting up there. and then i was so content just to sit up there pretending with my children. thinking back on it now, that was the peak of my satisfaction then, climbing a tree as a mother monkey, babies in tow.

some things have changed since those days. though these things remain: i still love to climb trees, i still have no children of my own, and i still love to use my body in all manner of ways. when i think of my most prized possession, in fact, it is my body which comes to the fore. recently my partner and i moved to the appalachians where we have been experimenting living on an old homestead. we’ve planted potatoes (sweet & not), herbs for tea & medicine & kitchen, carrots, tomatoes, arugula & flowers. we’ve worked on the old shack we’ve been staying in- putting boards, rat wire & steel wool up to keep mice out. we’ve looked into running a pipe from the stream to our shack, which is off the grid, to have easier access at doing dishes, getting water for cooking, drinking & bathing. we’ve met the neighbors & put down some roots. we’ve traveled to the nearby mountain during a festival and sold some hats we got in Peru. all in all, we’ve been settling in and wondering if this could be a place that we eventually build a house & put further homesteading dreams on the ground.

last night, however, many of our dreams finally came crumbling to the ground – maybe they were even aflame and burning down! you see, my partner’s parent’s best friends recently lost one of their tribe to the hantavirus, a virus carried by deer mice (also known as field mice). this has made us cautious from the start about the horrible end-game possibilities of living with mice. and there are deer mice all over our shack; pooping in corners, on our food bins & counters and scurrying about as the dawn breaks or shortly after we retire for bed. it’s all too much! we’ve been putting so much effort into living in this place (and mouse-proofing it!) and really hoped it could be a place we could settle our dreams in, but health is more important.

our current shack sure is cute & we love it, but the problems with the mice have proved to be too much.

our current shack sure is cute & we love it, but the problems with the mice have proved to be too much.

in the end, my body is more important. because this is the vehicle that gets me through life. my breathing is my primary contact with this earth. respiration in and out of my lungs, taking in the earth, letting it feed me down to my cells, and exhaling back into the greater whole. where would i be without my body? i cannot allow molds, funguses, air-borne viruses or any other silent, lurking, invisible slow “killers” to find a home in my primary home, my body!

it feels sad to choose to leave this place. i am grieving today as i tie up loose threads around the property & carry things to again be wisely placed into our car. and while i am feeling this sadness & grief in my body, i am also breathing in my body, and feeling thankful for this opportunity, for the chance to experiment in this way on this beautiful appalachian homestead with its cool sweet mountain fresh spring water, drinkable straight from the source; for its wild delightful mountain air; for its trees & people. for it really is a lovely place. but, in the final count, i need my body, my sacred temple which allows me to interface so freely & jubilantly with the world outside of myself.

for you see, i would be a much different person if i didn’t have my body. being active has always been a part of my life. from taking 6 weeks to ride my bike up the west coast from LA to BC, Canada (you can read more about that awesome journey here: ourdailyride.wordpress.com); playing D1 college soccer; taking innumerable bike rides all over Indiana, Maine, Missouri, California, & Oregon; being a massage therapist for a time; being an outdoor guide & climbing mountains, rock climbing, hiking for days; trekking with my beloved recently in Peru… i use my body for so many things in my life. and i have been with it through sicknesses and challenges and anemia & weak adrenals. when this happens, i feed it what it needs; take proper medications, and i always eat so well.

i have gone through high school in my body, when it looked different than it does now. i have learned to cut the hair of my own body (and shaved my head twice!). i’ve made love with my body, and pushed myself to run faster with my body; two activities which leave me feeling relieved, but in drastically different ways. i have taken pictures of my nude body and posed my body for group shots, for fancy events, family photos, outings with friends & art projects. i’ve felt water in oceans, bathtubs, showers, rivers, cenotes, streams, ponds & puddles caress and careen my body. i’ve grown food via my body & eaten tons of it! i’ve put clothes on my body, gone without clothes & i’ve rubbed mud all over my body,

see! happily rubbing mud all over my awesome body

see! happily rubbing mud all over my awesome body

 

i’ve done so many things with/via my body! my body is my primary focal point as i live. through body-based therapies i’ve learned to listen to my body to find out where emotions are speaking from, and through doing this, i’ve gotten more in touch with my body & emotions. i’ve learned how to use my body to help free my mind. and i love using my body to pleasure myself and others of my choosing. this vehicle through which i travel this globe is my most important possession. i choose to possess and carry it with as much wisdom as i have in any given moment. and if i see that i’ve been making choices that are unwise for my body, i will change those things so that i can live in greater alignment with health and well-being. because my body is an awesome gift & i want to use it the best way i possibly can for many more years to come!!!

firewood haiku

firewood haiku

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