Staying at Jude in the Adelaide Hills during December was one of my first experiences of planning a holiday without family, and one from which I learnt so much. It was my boyfriend who first brought the new ‘Cabn’ to my attention, and shortly after browsing through the business’ attractive website (featuring glossy video promo), we decided to book- not least of all to satisfy our sustainability/ architecture nerd tendencies.
Cabins and Philosophy
A Cabn is a self-proclaimed tiny house- a member of the movement sparked in reaction to the trend of grossly excessive, poorly designed McMansion homes originating from wealthy American suburbs. Utilising the minimum amount of space and resources required to live comfortably, as well as engaging with nature’s endless capacity to teach are practices at the core of the tiny house philosophy. This increasingly alluring way of living in a world which often seems overwhelming is quickly gaining status through the popularity of books like Cabin Porn or How Much House?. Living deliberately as an act of reclamation of control over one’s life is not a new concept, however. In defiance against the looming Industrial Revolution, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) lived in a cabin of his own making for two years, and recounted his time there in Walden. Thus, he created the first of all modern guides on how to live ‘purely’.
Thoreau wasn’t perfect, though- he has been described as egotistical, and while at Walden Pond his mum even did his washing. Some cabins today are similarly deceiving, concealing wide-screen TVs and the like.
Jude is the first of the Cabn cabins available as holiday accommodation. More are likely to open in the near future, and if it ends up really being your thing they’re even available for purchase. I initially had some doubts about the location, near Stirling, especially as we were staying in summer. Jude is cross ventilated with numerous openable windows, but even so, in the very hot weather the living area became almost unbearable. The neighbouring town’s Subway aircon luckily provided a cool breeze in our time of need. In this regard, I’m excited to see where the next Cabns will pop up! A sea or river-side one would be a dream come true. Meanwhile, Jude in June (or any other cooler month) would perhaps be a more comfortable experience.
I was additionally sceptical about whether this place, 30 minutes from Adelaide, would feel enough of an escape into nature to provide the recharge #CabnLife claims to provide. To my surprise I found that it really does, and in unexpected ways. Without spoiling the experience for future guests, I’ll say that no matter which angle you approach Jude from, she has an incredible way of appearing out from amongst the bush- and just as you thought you’d taken a wrong turn. As the photographs reveal the cabin’s exterior is beautiful; the natural timber and large windows blending into and reflecting the surrounding native flora and fauna.
My Favourite Features
Apart from its ingenious placement on the property, Jude involved some clever components which contributed to the eye-opening time I had there. The obvious focus of the Cabn brand is one of switching off from your technology-oriented lifestyle to reconnect with your environment and yourself. This can be achieved in the immediate way of condemning devices to the provided technology lockbox, but was more deeply realized through simply going about living in the surprisingly unfamiliar conditions.
The compostable toilet was one aspect of Jude that made me feel a direct connection to the ecological consequences of my own actions, rather than the relative removal from the natural world I experience at my own place. Spritzing my intestine sewage with an enzyme spray before being forced to watch it churn away into plant food helped me to meditate upon the world’s waste problem. It felt empowering to be using such a simple piece of technology (which produced absolutely no smell!) to alleviate my environmental impact. Incidentally, it reminded me to finally start collecting soft plastics for recycling at home.
A tank containing rainwater catchment from the roof plus occasional top-ups in summer was our limited water supply. We overestimated its capacity on our first day, and so managed to wash the dishes and perform other essential tasks thereon with a half teapot of water. This challenge made strikingly clear the preciousness of the limited water we have here in SA. How remarkable (and misleading) the standards we manage to uphold back in the city are.
Life at Jude was not so luxe, but far from the effortless idyll depicted in the trailer- and thank god! How boring that would’ve been. I think this illustrates well the tension between the importance of place (specifically the environment and lifestyle of our formative years) to our identities and the fact that we’re actually great at adapting when the intention to do so is there.* It’s naive to believe that ‘less is more’ will instantly appeal to everyone.
Most popular cabins serve as holiday accommodation, but it’s not a bad idea to consider similar dwellings as the way forward in an ever more overpopulated and resource-scarce world. I encourage those who can to get a taste of life in a sustainable cabin, and imaginatively take on its challenges. Or at least, with that same imagination, read and think about the kind (and amount) of space you see yourself inhabiting long-term in the near future. Substantial environmental benefits may result from changes you’ll be encouraged to make. Furthermore, the expressive role of making such changes- recovering your individual agency through aligning your actions with your ecological values- may well lead to gaining of the political and social agency required for all important changes in the larger system.
* ‘The sixth great extinction’, Interview with Dale Jamieson by Nigel Warburton in New Philosopher #14: Nature.