When my partners and I embarked on this project, nearly three years ago, I could barely distinguish between a screwdriver and a zucchini. That tidbit tells you all you need to know about my building skills as well as my gardening skills. My partners on the property were similarly lacking in relevant skills.
Now I’ve hammered, drilled, sawed, plumbed, tiled, and constructed. And grown, in ways I could not have imagined. Kurt Vonnegut’s mythical writer, Kilgore Trout, comes to mind: “How the hell did I do that?”
Imagine what you can do with a little time and some bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. I’m certain, for example, the typical reader could do far better than we’ve done. This is picture-filled post merely illustrates some of the structures we’ve built on this property. For the most part, they speak for themselves. But, always verbose, I’ve added captions regardless.
We’ve at least two structures yet to go. A biochar kiln is currently under construction by a talented neighbor. A solar ice maker is being designed by a colleague. If they are completed before the lights go out, I’ll either include them with a future post or update this post (and include notification within a future post).
Compost tea, a nutrient-rich liquid, is created when water is percolated through compost suspended in the upper half of this 55-gallon barrel. The resulting black gold is accessed via the spigot at the bottom.
Solar still turns rainwater into distilled water, which is then used in our PV solar batteries. Still was constructed from scrap materials.
Arbor will support five kiwi plants. Each of the four female plants is expected to produce up to 100 pounds of fruits annually within about three years. A similar arbor will support our six table grapes.
Awning attached to tool shed keeps hand tools organized and protected from the weather.
Awning protects entry to mobile home, and therefore those who enter.
Cold frame allows production of leafy green vegetables during winter. I wisely left the 80-pound bags of concrete mix in the rain, and now they serve as counter-weights for the twin, 100-pound windows.
Straw-bale chicken coop keeps the chickens warm enough to lay eggs year-around, unlike the neighbors' chickens, who stop laying during winter.
Duck house has split, hinged roof for easy access. Ducks are a bit closer to their evolutionary roots than chickens, so they lay eggs year-around even without insulated accommodations.
Pump house for off-grid well contains a pressure tank and stands in front of the domestic-water cistern. Awning on the right is attached to concrete-block wall around the cistern, and protects bales of hay and straw in the vicinity of the goat shed.
Goat shed is insulated with R-11 insulation, including within the Dutch door (on left). Milking stand (center of photograph) inside the goat shed is matched by an identical stand attached to the opposite side of the same wall (outside the shed). The indoor milking stand is used only during extremely inclement weather.
Awning attached to a tool shed in the garden area is stocked with gardening tools.
Large awning attached to mobile home houses a vice, work bench, large tools, and hay for the goats.
Barn is comprised of a series of awnings attached to a cargo container. Open awnings on the left and right are used to store straw and hay, respectively. Center awning has been enclosed, topped with a skylight, and insulated heavily: It serves as a partially subterranean straw-bale greenhouse (i.e., citrus house). Structure in foreground is an enclosed, subterranean high-humidity root cellar.
Entry into citrus house shows a hole, awaiting a citrus seedling, and the bathboard surrounding the inside of the structure. The bathboard allows citrus to be sprayed daily without soaking the straw-bale walls that surround the bathboard. West, north, and east walls are insulated with straw bales, whereas the south wall is insulated with a combination of conventional fiberglass insulation and rigid foam. South wall and roof are insulated to R-30.
Outdoor kitchen and dining room: Both double sinks are protected from the winter cold with insulated boxes.
This essay is permalinked at Energy Bulletin (check out the editor’s comment at the bottom of the post).