Monday, December 29, 2008
Warming up a little
This has been the season of books for me. Since I'm unemployed, my job is learning and reading. I really needed a few more books to help fill in the gaps. My sister-in-law sent me "Herbal Recipes" by Rosemary Gladstar. It had a recipe I needed at the right time and I've been using the treatment since I found it in the book. It's one of those wonderful books that stays open on the counter and lays flat. The pictures are so beautiful, the one on page 22 is what I hope my herb storage will look like and there is even a section on henna! When I saw the two page highlight on Tasha Tudor, I knew that Ms. Gladstar was OK with me.
A few years ago, my mom bought me a VHS video about Tasha Tudor called "Take Joy". Tasha's take on things was eye opening and it is an amazing video. My dream was changed a little after watching it. I wish I could give one to everyone. She will really put a smile on your face. She has a tree with forget-me-nots all around, right out of a story book and her life has a fairy tale quality. A living one though and why not? When I heard Tasha quote Thoreau - in that amazing voice, I really sat and thought about it. What an inspiring statement, it was the first time I had heard it. I've tried to live by it ever since and it's been true for me:
"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
For my birthday, I got a gift certificate from my sweetest friends and finished out the library for the house building! I needed a few books on stone masonry and slip form. I got "Living Homes" by Thomas Elpel which is what I'm reading now and "The Stonebuilder's Primer" by Charles Long. I've only flipped through that last book and don't know if it'll apply to this project, but I think it will for others if nothing else. I even had enough on the gift certificate to get books on water storage and root cellars which was a bonus. I can't wait to get through them. We really have a good home building library built up from years of picking up books we find through half.com, used book stores and other places. I hope when we're done, we can loan these out to other people.
In other news, Jeffrey got me a banjo. I've always wanted one and every time we go to a music store I ogle them. It just made me cry I was so moved, surprised and just plain excited about seeing a banjo in my lap. Then Saturday morning he told me we had to go pick something up. We all loaded into the car and headed down the road. He kept making fake turns so I would guess the wrong place. Finally he pulled in front of a little diner down the street run by our neighbor. Ahhh, he was taking me to lunch. We went in and there were my friends from my online forum! Also there was a new friend that just joined the forum, but we hadn't yet met face to face. I thought I would faint I was so surprised. Jeffrey invited them over to the house after lunch and I had the best time. I really like the new lady from the group, we have so much in common and she's pretty close to our place too. With one of our friends we talked about how to build the roof, with two others I talked about the root cellar. It's nice knowing people who have already built these types of homes or are working on them.
I stopped drawing for a few days to try to get through the slip-form book. I really like it so far. You can really learn so much just by getting some used books online, watching videos and getting your hands dirty. Of course there is nothing like hands on experience. Jeffrey has a lot more than I do, but we're going to make a small structure first before starting on the house. We'll have some help too and people we can ask questions of if we get stuck. An engineer is going to review the plans to make sure they are structurally sound though. I don't want the roof falling in on my head. The engineer might tell me I'm dead wrong about our plans, but we're taking our shot with as much as we can. We'll be right on somethings and I know there will be things that are wrong or need to be changed.
A couple found us online and are building the same type of house we are (passive solar with slip-form stone masony and earth bermed). They are only about 2 hours away and know of another couple near them building a similar house next year also. We are going to try to work together some how. I hope we can all help each other with questions, tips, finding bargains on supplies and some helping arms when we all need it. I know putting the roof on we're all going to need many hands. We have three friends I am pretty sure can make it up next year. There is an online building group we'll post on when we have some dates and I saw on Steve Elpel's site you can post asking for volunteers. We might also post in the local paper.
Recently, I found a few websites by other people who have built slip form stone masonry homes. This is a good one I've been reading, but there are a lot of good ones out there. http://www.hollowtop.com/cls_html/Rehl_Stone_House.htm
This was an amazing story about a woman who built a three story house by herself using slip form with her older father helping by mixing concrete:
Our house will be so tiny compared to these though. One thing I learned from most owner-builder websites and testimonials is keep it a reasonable size. So many of their houses were just too big for our taste, budget and time.
The overhangs on the solar passive house are very important. I thought I had it figured out correctly, but wasn't 100% sure. A website I found last week called "Sustainable by Design" has a cool overhang calculator that lets you see how much sun will come in during the summer and winter. I set the overhangs to what I had already calculated and then moved through the calendar feature. I decided to go a little smaller to let in more of the early Spring sun.
We were talking about roof insulation and beams vs trusses with our friend that came over this weekend. Jeffrey and I have both gone back and forth on this. We want the look of just beams and I want to hang things from them to dry. We also have to think about what would be best environmentally and the cost. The house is open and there is a big span in the middle. Trusses would have to be covered with some sort of sheathing but could easily make that span. Beams may not work and they are expensive. We could put posts in the middle of the floor if we have to, but would rather not. Putting beams on the ceiling just for aesthetics is waste of money. So I hope we can find some affordable and green way to use beams structurally. We talked about moving some interior walls around to reduce the span and maybe put a little more room in the storage room and bedroom. We mapped the newest house plans out in the snow today with string, a wheel barrow, plywood, rakes, sticks etc. and the bedroom seems really small. Those interior walls are thermal mass walls, pretty thick, so they would be good at bearing the load of the roof. That might be a good solution and I might just move some of the walls around.
Another consideration is insulation. Even though I don't think we need the amount of insulation code requires since it's an earth bermed house, we still need that certificate of occupancy. So if they say R-33 (or whatever code is, still can't pin that down yet), we have to either see what it would take to get the requirement reviewed, maybe there's an exception. Otherwise we have to pay a good sum for the amount of blueboard insulation it would take to insulate the roof to code if we used exposed beams. If we used trusses though, we could use the cheaper traditional batt insulation. We're just going to have to price it all out. I'm afraid my beams might loose.
I've been trying to find incentives or tax breaks for this project. But we're not going to be grid tied, not in a city of over a million, didn't pay sales tax since it was used (not being new is also a problem), not having an installer put it in, and the property value won't go up as a result of the installation; so there's really nothing to write off that I can find. I went through all of the DSIRE programs and none apply. That was a lot of boring reading, but at least there were summaries and not legal type text. Here are some websites though in case it might help someone else:
We had about a foot or more of snow on the ground this week. Then yesterday there was a little bit of a rain and the temperature got up to 54! Most of the snow melted in the sunny spots and the ground was slushy. We went to the property to see where the sun was setting on the hill. On the way there, we walked towards the bottom land to see the creek. You could hear it raging from far away, they are all so full right now. There were small patches of fog moving around on the snow where the sun is blocked all day by the tall, dark, North facing cliff on the other side of the creek. The fog formed over the creek and it's high bank and the cliff held it in place till it spilled over the bank and on to the bottom land. It moved fast for fog over the churning water; curling and swirling up and over the snow bank, diffusing into a large mass and then straight up till it melted in the sky overhead.