sustainable living in the great white North
Once again, it’s been a while. I’ve been busy making considerable changes/additions to my life and have been somewhat on the fence about sharing those in a blog. Not because of any privacy issues but because this is, after all, primarily a blog about natural building and sustainable living, though my political views occasionally figure. Suffice to say I’ve been distracted by my other pursuits and made the decision to let Canadian Dirtbags slide for a while.
So what are we planning for the building season? Well, a greenhouse addition for starters. Someone had asked a little bit back whether we intended to go ahead with original plans to add a greenhouse and I believe I hemmed and hawed over the decision. I am getting somewhat tired of building all the time and wasn’t sure whether “more building” was something I was entirely into. I also have an extensive garden to tend that I haven’t had much time for, and plans to incorporate bees, and perhaps ducks and geese, maybe even a goat or two, plus ooh la la some time for me perhaps. So much to do, so little time! At least in Canada where all of the seasons but winter are short.
Having said that, we decided that food production was too critical a matter to slack off on. Especially since some of the changes I’ve made in the last while mean that we’re no longer purchasing any refined or processed foods and are instead going with Michael Pollan’s suggestion to, “eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (If any of you have read “In Defense of Food”, let me know what it was like I haven’t read it.) An raybans d since we are juicing as well as eating, we are going through a lot of produce.
We have pretty much settled on, but not yet purchased, the Rion sunroom. It is not (in my books anyway) cheap but it will save considerable time scavenging and framing to just buy the thing new. We are leaning towards the 14′ model, since our summers are scorching and winters are lengthy. Anything larger than that could be an utter waste of space.
We will be building the back (north) side of the structure with earthbags fo raybans r ease of construction and to provide some good solid mass. We haven’t finalized the plan yet but will be building with the intention of integrating an aquaponics/hydroponics system at a later date. Shane is quite interested in those things and I’m happy to leave him to it. I have seen the results of growing produce hydroponically, as opposed to traditionally, and they do seem to outperform.
If you have seen the pictures of the house, the completed structure will look just like that but with a greenhouse extending 14 feet on the east side of the building, connected by a central foyer. The entire back of the building(s) will be bermed and the long stretch along the south will have an extended garden. I’m excited to see the plan complete this year!
Well, having taken the time to post a rant I figure it is probably high time to update our friends about the actual building progress. Long story short we not in and won be until spring. Short story long, see below of mid November we were still planning on moving into the new place this winter. And then I hit a wall. Upon heading outside in the mornings I started to feel like if I had to spend one more freaking daytoilingI was going to break down in tears. I was kicking at the snow and muttering clever things like, house! From April until November the schedule had been: get up, go to work (house and garden), come home, make supper, pass out, repeat. Which might not have been so bad except that I determined (in my infinite wisdom) to work seven days a week at the beginning of the year. Previous years I taken time to dirt bike, read, visit with friends what a difference a little down time makes.
I had a lot of questions about what the temperature in the new house is like and don feel qualified to answer at this time. Because we haven moved in, we not heating it regularly. Shane fires up the stove and heater (sometimes) when he goes out but there have been weeks when we haven even gone inside. The wood stove in the kitchen does heat things up quite a bit (and quickly). The mass heater takes longer to heat things up but stays warm quite a bit longer. And the passive solar in the living room does add a good amount of heat to the room.
We will finish up berming in the spring. Our intention is to berm at least 3/4 of the way up the buildings on the north, east and west sides leaving only the south side exposed. We didn have time to berm very high this year before the snow fell but you can already tell the difference in temperature between what exposed and what I suspect that because we didn insulate, the berming will becriticalto the liveability of the house. We actually considering buying a small tractor (wheeeeee!!!) and, if we do, that should move things along nicely compared to our manual shovel work.
Of my learned from the year, I would say that the importance of berming in a northern climate ranks near the top. (And don work seven days a week for seven months straight.)The other two big ones: we should have gone with larger (or more) windows in the kitchen and maybe the bedroom (solar gain in the living room is drastically better and does add a good deal of heat); and deciding to put a room on the north side at last minute,in spite of advice, was not the best idea. It in there. We will insulate the room come spring (from the outside) in addition to berming and that should save it. I also think that building lower would not only have saved time but also been more efficient insofar as heating. Granted, we hadn intended cathedral ceilings so much as belatedly changed our minds about a second story and decided to throw a roof up In any case, it looks fabulous but a shorter building would have done.
This is probably not the best time of the year for me to write (pub raybans licly). I tend to get a little cynical around the holidays. Rather, the cynicism of others starts to wear on me. My biggest annual irritant is those people who (in most un Christian fashion) choose to get up on their soap boxes and bemoan all of the demanding that they say holidays rather than Christmas was the last time a so called foreigner suggested you change any of your traditions? And where did you get the impression that anyone cares what you have to say, be it about a holiday or any other subject? If you are the type who chooses Christmas to vocalize your bigotry, against people whomay or may notshare your religious beliefs (I point out there are MANY Christian immigrants living in Canada, and many non Christian immigrants who could care less what you celebrate let alone what you call it), chances are the only people who will your status or go merrily along with your assessment of political correctness run riot are other ignorant fools. The rest of us fall into the cringe and try to ignore you group, or the deeply offended.
That these same people choose to celebrate Christ birth (which many Christians argue isnotDecember 25th) through massive consumption strikes me as a wee bit sacriligious. I not sure what evergreen trees, presenting people with wish lists, massive spending, overconsumption of goodies, and waste have to do with your Saviour birth but hey I not Christian. There, I said it. I not Christian. Whew. That a relief. And probably a surprise to many who know me as a third generation Irish, white girl. Quel surprise! A third generation Irish, white girl who every year makes a full turkey dinner for whomever I know will otherwise be alone at this time of the year that means somethingtothem. Ironically, that strikes me as the more Christian thing to do than shopping and bigotry.
One last thing let call it a reality check. I surprised with all of the news about Chief Theresa Spence hunger strike and the Idle No More protests taking place across this country that more people aren reminded thatthere were people herebefore ourChristianEuropean ancestors landed here and began to decimate the population. We had (I would arguehave) no respect for Native spiritual beliefs and no attempt was made (on our part) to assimilate. We forced our religion, our way of life, language and self entitlement on the Native peoples, taking their children, their land, and their rights (that hadn hitherto needed to be written as law). Hence the whole messy reconciliation process and lack of equality that persists to this day. So before we get up on our hind legs about our (imagined) persecution, let take a moment to reflect on what what allows us to be so self righteous.
I not suggesting that my Christian brethren shouldn vocalize their beliefs. Au contraire. At this magical time of the year, I would like to advance the concept of embracing your Christianity specifically those tenets that involve kindness, humility, charity, and good will. If there are points to be hadfor saving souls(I think the argument goes, to act as if there are and find out there isn than to , let take a lesson from all of the companies out there so effectively marketing their products and services and make Christianityappealingand not just offensive. Go ahead and put the back in I double dog dare you.
We live on the prairie so wood is hard to come by. Not so for pallets though it seems there are always a surplus of pallets being thrown away. We collect them wherever we go. We even have a friendly store owner who saves them out back for us.
Of the many uses we found for our pallets: perfect firewood for the rocket mass heater, a temporary front landing for our new home (perfect for scraping off muddy boots), compost bins, bins for sand, and sturdy platforms for our lime and cement bags (to protect them from moisture). We also planning on using a few in the construction of a new dog house and recently came across a great idea for gardening on Grow Food, Not Lawns facebook page.
Well, the updates continue to be slow to come and sparse on detail but that because we are still working away. I had hoped we be in by now, with only floors and ceiling to complete before we could start moving stuff over. Who knew floors and ceiling would be so challenging in round(ish) rooms? We were going to go with a natural feel to the floors, a lime finish, but changed our minds at last minute. Partly for the convenience of cleaning and in part for the extra buffer from the cold we decided on a dark laminate flooring (I know, I know not very butgorgeous) and it turns out I suck at cutting laminate floor boards, much as I love the power tools.
Our ceiling took us a while to decide on. All of the aesthetically pleasing options seemed too rich for my blood and the cheaper options were not at all appealing. We finally settled on buying 3/8 inch plywood, cutting it down into and staining them a cedar colour. Very pretty effect and well within budget. Since I was floors and able to finish insulating the place, I decided to try my hand at ceilings. I wasn particularly discouraged the first couple of times I had to take down an entire day work and replace it. I used to the whole trial and error thing at this point in the game and I nothing if not tenacious. But having viewed my latest efforts Shane demotedreassigned me to chopping firewood.
Fine. I good with an axe after years of camping and I don mind chopping wood all day. Not as fond of the hatchet but I mixing up the bigger logs and smaller kindling to give my shoulders raybans a break. But it does mean that the entire burden of finishing the house is on Shane now, and that slowed us down a fair bit considering he does work full time. Nonetheless, he making good progress and with any luck we be in some time in December. I hope.
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