Now that I live in a small cabin in the woods, I have a new appreciation for several things that I didn't realize that I took for granted.
Distance. I now live roughly 4 miles to the central campus of the University of Michigan. That means a 20-minute bike ride through ice-and-snow covered woody trails to the road, and then down the long slope to downtown, up the other side of the valley of the under-grounded river, and along the boulevard to the university campus. (It's a 40-minute bike ride back home). Oh, and there's minimal street-lighting for the mile near the woods, making night-time riding "fun and interesting".
This means that I have to adjust my lifestyle a little bit. First off, if I realize that I have forgotten something after I hit mile two, I'm not going back for it. Second, the importance of being seen by cars is very high, so I purchased some Blackburn Fleas - really bright rear and front flashing lights. Third, since I don't have a motor-vehicle (and no laundry facilities in-home), I bring my laundry in to drop it off to get washed and folded near campus. Fourth, since I have a large stores on my way home, I can easily make small detour trips to get stuff without having a need to make one huge trip on a weekend.
The plus side of cycling 8 miles a day is that I have started shedding poundage.
Heat. The cottage in which I live is probably close to 100 years in age, and isn't much bigger than a large studio apartment (but it has a loft). One problem, though, is that the windows are old wooden-framed things that really could do with an upgrade to double-glazing that actually closes all the way. Additionally, there is no duct-work in the place, and with a chimney that doesn't draw very well on one end of the room, and a gas furnace with no distribution system on the other end, I find myself constantly thinking about warmth. (Not in the yearning-for-it sense, but more in the it's-in-the-back-of-my-mind sense.) Walking around nekkid during the winter time isn't really an option - if I want to stay warm, that is.
In-door Plumbing. Yes. I have an outhouse. The trek out there at night can be annoying, especially during winter. Luckily, the outhouse does have a space-heater and a light, meaning that cold dark nights are less cold and dark inside the outhouse. I do have an indoor shower and running water in my sink, though. So showering and cleaning dishes isn't that difficult. Still, no laundry, and no dishwasher (not that I need the latter).
Solitude. Being alone in the woods is nice. Really nice. So nice that you really can get quite annoyed when people come traipsing along like it's some sort of public park. True, the public are allowed to walk around in the woods, but it isn't a park. Nor is it their personal place to have their dogs run around off their leashes. (Some people are really. Really. Annoying.)
Cycling. Ask me a year ago if I thought that living 4 miles out of town was a great idea, I would likely have told you that I wasn't for it. However, ask me if I wanted to be a caretaker of a university property 4 miles out of town, I probably would have said yes even then. Especially since I purchased my bike, the commute into town has been not-that-bad (recall, too, that I've only been cycling that route since the end of January, and we've had plenty of sub-zero Fahrenheit weather). The only thing that I wish I really had was some footwear that would keep my toes warm while riding through near-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures.
Use of the Forest
Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):
- No parking in front of the access gate.
- Public use hours are from 6am to 6pm only; no camping on the site!
- No vehicles or bicycles are permitted on the site except those for approved research and teaching use (bike parking available at the main gate).
- Dogs with owners are welcome to visit, but they must be on a leash. (Also see here.)
- Dog owners must carry out all pet waste; please bring your own doggie bag to do so.
- No cutting or collecting of plant material; no hunting or harming vertebrates (this includes no fishing).
- No smoking.