Sunday, December 28, 2008

A New House

First, let me say that I am pleased and just a little surprised that I have survived the last couple months... and that I haven't killed anyone else, either. Yay! This is good, considering all the change that has been going on.

Second, I have had an epiphany. It happened while I have been the de facto single parent around here while Kevin has been out of town. Shoveling coal. Hauling ashes. Snaking drains. Changing tires. Etc.

My epiphany: I am liable to live another 45 years. I know. I know. Folks are supposed to have realizations of their mortality, not their longevity. But my paternal grandmother died at 93. My maternal grandmother is 93 and still physically as healthy as a horse. My various female great-grandmothers and great-aunts all lived into their late 80s and early 90s (or are still living). Statistically speaking, my life is only half over.

But what does this have to do with shoveling coal? Well, there I was, hauling buckets of ashes out of the basement... up the steep steps to dump outside on the driveway.... and I suddenly had two thoughts: I don't know how many more years I can keep doing this, and O my gosh, I could be alive for manymany years after these steps are unnavigable!

So I began thinking about the house. We have had a whole bunch of plans to repair, improve, and retrofit the house. New windows here. Insulation there. Solar. Mudrooms. Woodstoves. Upgraded electricity. But you know what? This house will never be anything but an old house; and as I age I won't be able to maintain it. (Snaking out the drain in the basement on Christmas Eve helped convince me of this, elbow-deep in ice-cold water, trying to work the snake through the drain as the water slowly rose and stuff started to float around. I hate it when stuff starts floating in the basement. I'm sure I would hate it even worse in 30 years.)

So.... we are going to build a new house. If we start saving now, in about 15 years, after we have paid off the current mortgage, we should be able to take out another loan to put up a new house. With insulation, and good windows, and solar.... I've even found my dreamhouse: the GlideHouse.
Of course, at approximately $300-400K, it is Not the house I am going to end up with. It's a Green house, so of course it is out of my price-range. Go figure. But I intend to steal as much as possible from it, starting with that South wall entirely of sliding glass doors, and the offset master bedroom that gets a full southern exposure, too. The floor plan I like is about 1400 square feet, so I think I can probably find a way to keep the price down. (Man, the neighbors would start giving tours, if we paid 300K for a house....)
I want something for my old age, so I can stay on this property as long as possible. No upstairs. No basement. Good insulation, efficient passive solar heating... as cheap as possible to heat, since I do not expect to be well off in my old age. Might as well plan for solar electric panels (the Glidehouse is "solar-ready", I want mine to be too when we build it, so we can add solar panels as we have the money. We'll still need a cistern.... I am wondering about those ultra-low-flush toilets... the kind that only take a cup of water....

Anyway, I have a spot tentatively picked out on the property. If I can talk any of the kids into living in this old house when I'm way old, I might be able to stay in my "retirement" house until I keel over.


John Michael Keba said...

In 15 years, Shawna, either the "Collapse" will have occurred, or Green houses will not be anywhere near as expensive as now.

Well, I am sure the top end will be, but I have to imagine there will be an "econo-Green" option.

kevin roberts said...

Why not just buy that old 70-passenger school bus for sale in town?

We could align it east-west and paint the north windows black. Bury it in hay bales for insulation. The whole south wall would have windows.

The problem with an ultra-low flush toilet is that they often don't deposit enough water into the leach system to keep the bacterial net wet around the leach lines. Then the leach field dries up and the lines plug. End of septic system.

So if you want something besides our current hole-in-the-ground I'd give up on needing water to make it work. Pigs, maybe?

The glide house design is sound, but we would need to jettison the San Francisco Bay Area attitude that environmentally-responsible design requires a $500,000 structure.

I think the glide house could be stick-built for a fraction of any mass-produced design. No prefab system would be cheap until it can be made by the hundreds. But a decent set of plans could build us ONE to live in for not very much money.

John Michael Keba said...

I hear great things about thatch. :-) And you have more that enough acreage to grow both your bale walls and roof.

I'm not sure what the insurance would be like, though.

kevin roberts said...

If we built it out of hay bales, then we wouldn't need insurance to replace it, just the perishable contents.

There's no better insurance than free replacement materials.

John Michael Keba said...

There is a lot of information here: The email course is a nice primer.

This is just wonderful: I mean absolutely wonderful. I feel hair growing on the tops of my feet just from looking at the pictures.

Hystery said...

Oh my goodness! This morning I've been annoyed with our two bedroom apartment (for five people). I also dream of a new home that is also ecologically sustainable. I like to look at Tumbleweed Houses and yurts. Not that it does me any good but I do like to look and pretend. :-)

Shawna said...

Ooops! I have wandered away from this blog for too long, I think. Thanks, Hystery, for calling me back.

Wonderful house links, John and Hystery. Thank you!

Plans for a new house for this place are still only in the "dream" phase, of course. It will be interesting to see what we come up with, for our old age. I sure hope it has that long windowed wall on the South... such Light!

John Michael Keba said...

Here are 50 straw bale house plans:

and the link to a American "thatcher"

Ten acres of rivet wheat should grow you a 600 sq. ft. 1 1/2 story strawbale house with thatched roof. :-)

Leslie said...

You might also want to dream about "Humanure" sawdust composting toilets-one of my favorite dreams. I think about them every time the stupid water-plumbing backs up.....I think "Mamaw never had this problem with her outhouse!"

kevin roberts said...

Hey Leslie--

Actually, we do have a sawdust composting toilet in the house. I prefer to call it "the litter box."

Outback north of the garden we have two giant composting piles, one for This Year, and one for Last Year. This Year, Last Year goes into the garden, and Next Year, This Year goes in the garden ,because This Year becomes Last Year. Or maybe I have that confused.

The kids just go out and pee into the garden directly, so sometimes we skip the sophisticated steps.