A River Otter Runs Through It

Fallen red alder
A red alder, blown down in a recent storm, lies broken across the meditation trail.

April 21 to 25, 2022

Mango and I headed out to River Song early Thursday morning for a long weekend. I didn’t have any plans; I just needed a break from the city. And, I hadn’t been out since a big windstorm went through a few weeks previously.

Mango, the newest love in my life.

Everything was fine when I got there. One tree had come down, but fortunately, it didn’t do any damage, even though it landed on my compost bin. I guess I built that bin more solidly than I thought! However, it’s too big for my chainsaw, so I’ll have to hire someone to come in and chop it up. For now, it’s easy enough to step across.

By Saturday, I was bored silly and sore from spending two days exploring the neighboring hills, so I headed into town to check out an architectural salvage store. The last time I visited, they had some sinks and vanities that might work for creating a kitchenette. Although the current washstand configuration works, it’s messy and inconvenient. I’m always mopping up water. Moreover, emptying the basin at night meant opening the door to let the bugs in. I don’t like bugs.

And, I wanted something that could drain into a five-gallon bucket so I didn’t have to empty it as frequently. Once a day or two, I could dump it in the compost bin. And most of all, I wanted something that would fit in the existing washstand so I could reuse what I already had.

Square sink
Square, porcelain sink from salvage store, $10.

I poked through the selection at the salvage store. Unfortunately, the two vanities were just slightly wider than my front door. Having ready made drawers and cabinets would be nice, but the thought of having to disassemble something to bring them in the cabin was not very appealing. However, they also had a couple dozen bathroom sinks. I’d have to build a cabinet, but any of them might work.

One of the salespeople came to see if she could help me find something. I told her what I wanted: something small, lightweight, and not porcelain.

They had a couple that fit the description. I picked up a round one that had no faucet.

“How about this one?” the young woman asked.

I looked at the sink in her hands. It was huge, square, and porcelain.

Old washstand
The “old” washstand. Water splashed everywhere, and emptying it at night meant letting bugs in.

It was definitely not what I was looking for.


It was flawless. Not a single scratch, chip, crack, or other blemish.

I looked at the one in my hands. It was lightweight, a lot smaller, and metal.


The square one already had a built-in counter. It would be a lot easier to clean up water splashes, and I could cut stuff on it and put hot things on it. I also wouldn’t have to worry about cutting a hole; I could just slap it on a frame and use it as is.

And, it was only $10.

New kitchenette in progress
The legs from the former washstand are repurposed into a new kitchenette, along with other wood scraps.

Did weight matter? Or size? Once I put the round one in a counter, it would probably be just as big. And, it’s not like I was going to carry it anywhere.

“Actually, it’s perfect,” I said, putting the round one back on the shelf. I thanked her for bringing it to my attention. If she hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t even have looked at it.

Back at River Song, I pulled out my existing washstand and disassembled it. I would reuse the legs in the new washstand, and the rest could be repurposed for something else. I found a plywood scrap to add a bit of a workspace next to the sink and cut new frame pieces from 1×2 and 1×3 scraps. It took just a couple of hours, and I had a new washstand. I loved it.

New kitchenette installed
The sink is installed in a new location, creating a kitchenette.

I did have to disassemble it to fit it in the front door, but it took only a few minutes. At first, I placed it where the old one had been, but it took up way too much room. Especially with my table in there, too. But, moved against the back wall, it fit great! The table was still in the way, but the new washstand was big enough to fill both functions, so it wasn’t really needed anymore. It was a cute little table and served me well for two years, but, it was time to go. I disassembled it and used the table top as the lower washstand shelf.

I played around with the design a bit, reducing the footprint while maximizing storage space. There’s room to add another shelf down below, creating a great space for Mango’s food and water dishes. I can make a little cave for her so she has a place to hide when she’s feeling scared or anxious. That will still leave enough room to store the propane heater when it’s not in use.

I also moved the shelf, hanging it above the sink, and installed small shelves in between the wall studs. The small shelves make a great place to store canned goods, as well as other kitchen items. My little butane stove fits great on the little counter next to the sink. And, the sink is deep enough that the water container no longer needs to be elevated.

Mango hunting spiders
Mango, the Great Spider Hunter.

In addition, the shelf under the sink has plenty of room for all four water jugs, as well as the gray water bucket. It’s a lot more convenient and efficient workspace, and it creates more available floor space in the cabin. I’m really happy with the outcome.

So far, I’ve used only scrap wood and repurposed materials to build this. The only thing I purchased was the sink. However, I’m liking this so much, I will probably buy a nice sheet of plywood to create a new counter and lower shelves. I think it would be well worth spending the $40-$50.

After wrapping things up, I grabbed a soda and a bag of chips and headed out for a break on the front deck. Just in time to see a river otter swim by. Sweet!

River Otter
A river otter swimming up the river. You can see her head popping out of the water just underneath that old log.