Life in a Small Cabin


In my part of the world it has been raining for days and days and days. Hard rain, the kind that dances on the pavement, makes big puddles, and turns the ground sodden.  The skies are unrelenting grey, the cloud cover so low I can’t see a 100 yards from my house.  (I normally have a panoramic view.)  We keep the lights on all day to dispel the gloom.  I’m getting cabin fever.

How easily that phrase comes to mind – and how ridiculous! In my “cabin,” I have many rooms.  I have the distraction of radio, television, internet, books and the telephone.  I have electricity, that allows me to keep the lights on.  I have natural gas that keeps the fireplace burning with no effort on my part.  I have running water – no need to visit an outhouse.  And I have a vehicle that allows me to travel in comfort and connect with others. If I think I suffer from “cabin fever,” what did our forebears suffer during long winters when deep snow cut them off from fellow human beings?

From Wikipedia: “Since prairie madness [cabin fever] does not refer to a clinical term, there is no specific set of symptoms of the affliction. However, the descriptions of prairie madness in historical writing, personal accounts, and Western literature elucidate what some of the effects of the disease were.

The symptoms of prairie madness (cabin fever) were similar to those of depression. The women affected by prairie madness were said to show symptoms such as crying, slovenly dress, and withdrawal from social interactions. Men also showed signs of depression, which sometimes manifested in violence. Prairie madness was not unique from other types of depression, but the harsh conditions on the prairie triggered this depression, and it was difficult to overcome without getting off of the prairie.”

The short story, “The Lamp at Noon,” by Sinclair Ross gives an indication of the overwhelming sense of helplessness of a woman on the prairie during the dustbowl. The isolation, fear, and daily life in harsh circumstances overwhelm her.  Would a friend have helped?  Even a casual visitor from the outside world?  Ellen is imprisoned by hardship, dust, poverty and loneliness-a graphic description of cabin fever. “One’s a Heifer,” by the same author follows a similar theme.

The photo at the top of this blog is of a replica log cabin close to my home.  The collage at the left is of the interior. The whole building is roughly 12×24 ft.  It is one room with the bed, the baby crib, the cookstove and the table all squished in together.  Note the “distractions” for the woman of the house–the cookstove, the wash tubs, the sewing machine, the baby crib, the baking cupboard, the hand-braided rug, the handmade quilt, the spinning wheel, the water bucket–“women’s work is never done.”  Imagine a whole family, mother, father, baby and likely other children, living in these tight quarters.

In my stories, my heroines have space to call their own.  My heroes embrace the rugged landscape.  Children run and play, unfettered by fences or timetables.  Note, I write fiction.


So, now that I’ve considered the true source of the term “cabin fever” I’ll stop my grousing, turn on my full-spectrum lamp, and enjoy my photo-album of sun-filled days.

What about you? Does the weather get you down?  What are your coping mechanisms?



Views: 402


  1. Diana L.

    Can you please post a larger version of that cabin interior? I’d love to see that.

    • Alice Valdal

      I can’t post a larger photo on the webpage, but you should be able to copy the photo to your own computer and enlarge it there. The photo is actually made up of three pics, the centre one shows most of the cabin, the one on the top and the one at the bottom show corner views. Amazing how much stuff is crammed into a small space!
      Thanks for writing.

  2. Carlene

    I enjoyed and understand what you write Alice … especially living there myself for 19 years. Now living in very real winter weather, I need to go out every few days or I would go absolutely mad. So off to the library; or coffee with a friend … even to get in my nice warm car and go for a drive …
    I don’t think I would have survived the early days of living in the middle of nowhere during the gloom of winter. The first 13 years of my life I lived in a small prairie village. Outhouse, ringer washer, a pump for water, party phone lines, wood burning stove and a coal furnace. So it wasn’t that many years ago when there were hardships … especially for my parents.
    Now a days hardships seem to be simple things like misplacing the cell phone!!!!!
    Thanks for sharing such a great blurb … got me thinking of the old days …. my Dad loves talking about those days. ????

    • Alice Valdal

      Glad you enjoyed a walk down memory lane, Carlene. Party lines–I remember listening in to the teenage neighbour sighing that she “had nothing to say.” My Dad would be apoplectic about her tying up the line when he had something urgent to say!

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