Maybe it was the childhood spent in the woods, under the tutelage of parents who loved nature. Maybe it was the will to “deliberate simplicity.” But, in the fortuitous absence of disaster at the house on the river, living without electricity or running water was not such a huge burden.

I’d come well prepared. A new kerosene space heater in the car. A full load of firewood out back. Many, many bottles of water. Food chosen for ease of preparation. I was ready. The house was 46 degrees inside, a good 14 degrees warmer than the temperature required to freeze pipes. Not that I could have checked, anyway—electricity runs the well pump.

Soon, thanks to the fireplace insert, I had the house up to a bearable 56 degrees. The utility room door was opened to allow the warming air to come in. A lantern and many candles lit the space. Food waited in the coolers I’d brought along, chilled by icepacks and the evening temperatures. A good book (David McCullough’s 1776) was waiting to entertain me. The cats were fed and happy. Extra blankets promised to make a cozy nest of the bed. Dinner simmered on top of the fireplace.

Saturday was a lovely day, spring-warm and bird-filled. I fired up the barbecue and made hot dogs. I’d even managed to make potato salad by boiling the spuds on the fireplace top, and adding still-fresh vegetable gleanings from the fridge with the mayo I’d brought with me. The last few bits of ice in the freezer were more than enough for the little drinkie I so wanted.

You may have noticed that I’ve left one physical necessity out of this list of comforts. You guessed it. In the house’s two toilets, there was enough water for a single, noncommittal flush. Not enough for the requirements of the two days I was spending.

So. WARNING: AN UNCHARACTERISTICALLY SCATALOGICAL SECTION FOLLOWS. Necessity dictated a divide-and-conquer strategy. One place for number one. The second for number two. And for the second, I thank my long experience with felines: I created a human litter box. A heavy-duty (no pun intended) plastic bag went inside the bowl. Inside the box, cat litter and Arm & Hammer litter box deodorizer. The seat lowered over that; the lid lowered over it all.

No so bad, really. Less…shall we say…challenging than an outhouse. At the end of the stay, the bag was sealed up and placed inside an industrial-strength contractor’s cleanup bag (which I’d bought during last spring’s floods, in anticipation of a disaster that never came), which was in turn sealed and tossed in the trash. No harm, no foul (again, no pun intended), no biggie.

Funny…I’ve always gotten my back up when people referred to my house as a cabin. It’s not, I’d protest: It’s a real house with air conditioning, heat and indoor plumbing. Well. not this weekend. This weekend, it was a camping outpost with very comfy furniture. A campfire bound by iron with the power to make an entire space warm, with all the ceaseless effort of loading logs and filling woodpiles. And an inside outhouse for my unexpectedly inside-out house.