Building the Cube– Part 2– Arrival of the Hermit

“In the 18th century, the inclusion of a hermit on one’s estate was regarded as the epitome of country house style. There is absolutely no reason why today’s dandy should not avail himself of the same privilege. It’s a straightforward enough matter to entice a hopelessly drunk vagrant back to your premises using the simple lure of an opened bottle of wine. Once there, dress him in a bed sheet, wreathe his head in foliage and invite him to take up residence in an old barrel with the promise of unlimited alcohol, tobacco and scraps from your table in return for a sterling display of relentless solitude. Such a move not only provides the disadvantaged with ideal employment opportunities, but also enhances your reputation for stylish romanticism. Watch your friends gape in wonderment at the picturesque spectacle as your hermit sporadically peers out the top of the barrel and matters a few enigmatic words of wisdom.”

I must admit, I like that. The trouble is, I appear to be both the hermit and, on rare occasions, the dandy. This will be my 4th night in what I used to call “the cube,” but now refer to as “the hermit house.” For the next year, at least, I will probably be sleeping more nights here than anywhere else; so I now consider myself “living here.”

Chicken feet soup for dinner; yum!

Today’s rain, from early afternoon, was (and still is) one of those practical, consistent, yet not overly zealous rains– just serious enough to make me stay indoors, drink beer, make soup, and attempt this update.  My finances are crap, so today it’s chicken feet soup for dinner. It may look meager, but there are two chicken feet in there. And, anyway, the fridge is full of beer. Actually, the lady at the market refused to sell me just the feet, so I had to buy the whole chicken. No Lotus Tesco here. So, I’m starting with the feet today and working my way up over the next several weeks.

It just gets more and more luxurious. . .

I wish I could take a photo that would encapsulate it all. . . Soup over charcoal, Eric Clapton playing from my hard drive (no 3G here, only Edge, so I can’t even listen to internet radio), an exceptionally well-made door, that I fabricated this morning using scraps, on the bathing/dish washing area in the back (which I enclosed yesterday). I’m reduced to using whatever is left over. It’s kind of funny, because when I started this “odyssey” I thought I’d strive to be economical, so that by setting an example the poorer people around me would be able to make some use of my efforts, even if I was fairly well off; but, as it turns out, the Bank of Japan has conspired against me, and I find myself envying those poor people around me who have running water and don’t need to roam about the coffee plantation with a shovel and a bottle of water when nature calls.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are 11,000 words, in chronologically descending order.

It's no longer a cube, it's a "Hermit House."

This is today’s view from the side. I’d hoped to put up gutters to catch the rain today, but, well, it rained. . .

With a little ingenuity, you can make coffee under any circumstances, but it might not be very good. . .

Since I have a coffee plantation, I felt I should drink coffee from the Bolaven Plateau every morning. But in my haste, I bought “robusta” instead of “arabica,” which is about as fatal a mistake as you can make, coffee-wise. What’s worse, I  had no cup, no filter, no anything. So, in radical departure from common sense, instead of going out and buying the necessary items, I used the top of a water bottle (the bottom of which I use to drink beer) with some linen I had hanging around as a filter, a bowl as a cup, and I just throw the coffee in the little pot I have to steep for a while. It actually works– but not well. At first I held the filter/water bottle by hand, which was quite precarious, and painful, so I cut a hole in a piece of cardboard and set the whole thing on top of two pieces of scrap wood. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Naughty wood! Sit! Sit! Okay, never mind. . .

My truck makes a very nice work bench. However, when you are using scraps of wood such as these that I salvaged, there’s not much you or the Hyundai can do. But this is part of the Way of the Wrong Way.

The photo speaks for itself. . .

This photo sums it up. If I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t be here alone. But I really wish there was someone to clean up after me. . .

Another thing I didn't think of buying. . .

My welcome mat.

Another burst of ingenuity-- beer cup fabricated from a water bottle.

As much as I enjoy drinking beer from a bowl, as I’m drinking coffee these days, I needed a cup, because only backpackers drink 640ml beers from the bottle. The other half became my coffee filter contraption. What on Earth am I doing!

Home, sweet home.

It’s actually kind of cozy inside. A home improvement of relative importance will be getting a ceiling up and insulated– it’s quite hot in the afternoon with just the tin roof overhead.

Cantilevered overhang in the back.

I needed somewhere to shower, hide dirty dishes, and instal a composting toilet. I figured it didn’t need to be fancy, just enough to protect me from the elements. But I was running out of wood, so I had to mostly use scraps. That’s when I decided to make it a cantilevered overhang.

Hinged storm doors-- not as easy as you'd think. . .

It took me most of a day to build these storm doors. I think it was the first time I ever put something on hinges. And no, the whole thing doesn’t fall over if I remove the stick. Now I’ve got a bicycle lock on it for a bit of security when I go to town to get supplies.

This veranda gives me 30% more living space.

The veranda required a full day to accomplish– or maybe it was two. This photo was taken on May 21, my birthday.

The hermit house is just 20 meters to the left of the aquaponic system site. Getting this up and running is my next task.

I think that’s pretty much where I left off from my earlier post. Now that I’m settled in, I can focus on my aquaponic system. I’d better hurry, before it’s completely consumed by the jungle.


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9 Responses to Building the Cube– Part 2– Arrival of the Hermit

  1. james Collister says:

    Jesus Richard thought I started out about as bad as it could be. At least we had a room with a bucket shower and a board to sleep on and no shortage of beer glasses. Not that you do have a beer fridge though.
    See you when I see you next. Jim

    • richard says:

      Hello Jim,

      Important difference. I’m drinking Beer Lao; it makes everything so much more bearable. That said, I’m off to Ubon tomorrow. Can only do the hermit thing for so long. . .

      • james Collister says:

        Should have been in Ubon for the HHH, but non stop rain here, little rubber and no money. Have a good one. Jim

        • richard says:

          I wish I had the luxury of arranging my schedule in accordance with the Ubon Hash. That said, if I’d known, I may have gone to Ubon yesterday. I guess I don’t get Ubon Hash emails anymore. Anyway, today I proved to myself that gutters should be purchased, not makeshift fabricated, so it was a good day, indeed.

  2. Michael Hare says:

    I love your place Richard.

    My worries though are about the “things” that go boom in the middle of the night. Like snakes crawling in under the door, scorpions sneaking in, rats running across the floor etc etc.

    I had these things when I lived in villages on the Island of Malaita in the Solomon Islands in 1968. If you can get a good nights sleep congratulations. I remember the cockroach that dug is way into my friend ear canal and the rat that bit the old man’s nose while he slept.

    I hope you and Eddie managed to get together.

    • richard says:

      Hello Michael, and thanks for that. Right now anything the size of your forearm could probably manage to get in. When I’m done, though (inside doors, ceiling, etc.) my worry will be whether enough air gets in.

  3. Richard, when I had my coffee farm in the Sierra Madre Mountains, of Western Mexico, at least I had a small village where I could drink Green Beer, out of a barrell, and the finest aguave Tequilla in the world. Sorry your pants do not pick up a lot of sticky black resin, as mine did, when I went into my Aribica Jungle. Gary

  4. Colm says:

    Hi Richard,
    A quick question: how did you attach the floor of the hermitage to the gravel bags?
    Excellent, entertaining and informative blog as always!!

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