Sunday, December 11, 2011

New Photos Posted!

This weekend the last of the earthwork around the house was completed.  The root cellar is now completely buried, the cistern is buried up to its concrete top, and the exterior walls of the house are buried (about 3 feet on the south and east sides, and 8 feet on the west and north sides).  I added these pictures to Part 4 on the menu to the left.

Also added some new pictures of the interior, including the wood stove!  See Part 4.5 of the pictures.

Currently the focus is on laying in some firewood supplies and finishing the kitchen cabinets.  Can't wait to post those pictures when they're done!

Elements of Our Off-Grid Home

These days it's hard to imagine life without electricity.  I'd say we're equal parts excited and nervous to start our life without it.  We plan to go at least a year without it, and at that point take stock and see how we feel. 

Here's how we'll go about the day-to-day without the grid:
  • Hand pumping water.  (We'll pump into a head tank in the attic, which will provide gravity-fed water to faucets and shower downstairs.)  Our hand pump is specially designed to make it easy to pump even from a relatively deep drilled well.  Here's the company's website.
  • Root cellar.  We have a walk-in root cellar off the kitchen which is completely underground.  In addition to providing winter storage for our keeper crops, it will serve as a refrigerator for much of the year.  We're going to experiment with ice blocks and an ice chest for things that need to be kept colder.
  • Humanure toilets.  Click here for more info - there is even a video featuring the "Poop in a Bucket" song!  (Our system is just like the one featured in the video, except we made our own "loveable lou's.")
  • Wood cookstove.  This is the heart of our home...provides both the heat and the means of cooking/baking.  Our stove was Amish-made in Ontario and is called the "Baker's Choice."  Click here to see the company's website.  We will also run a hot water coil through the firebox to supplement the hot water heater.
  • Propane hot water heater and a few propane lights (yes, we do have a few fossil fuel-dependent weaknesses).  
  • Candles and oil lamps for lighting in addition to the propane lights.
(And no, we're not being paid to advertise.  Just wanted to pass advice along about good products we've found.)

What is House in a Hill?

For those who are new to our project (or those who are still scratching their heads as to why...), here is a relatively brief explanation.  We decided to purchase 10 acres of rural hillside and build a house on it in order to live our version of The Good Life.  There are several aspects of the good life - ethical, financial, nutritional, and cultural.   Ethically speaking, we want to live with minimal impact on the earth, with minimal inputs from outside sources.   Financially, we want to live in freedom from a 30-year mortgage and other forms of debt (and their resultant dependency on high-pay, low-satisfaction careers).  Nutritionally, we want to live on whole, organic, humanely-raised foods.  Culturally, we want to live like people have lived for the past 200,000 years or so (excluding the last century or so).  That is, close to the land, close to our children, participating in our community and filling our days with the honest work of living. 

So, what does all of this personal philosophy boil down to?  A modest 1200-square foot off-grid house, designed and built by my husband (who had no prior construction experience before this project).  A woodlot managed for firewood.  A garden large enough to provide all of our produce needs.  An orchard and berry bushes.  Honeybees.  Chickens and a few dairy goats or sheep (in my wildest dreams, a cow someday!). 

We know it will be hard work, but we think, overall, we will enjoy it.  Or at least find a lot of satisfaction in realizing our dreams (let's be honest here...not every moment of off-grid do-it-yourself living is going to be totally enjoyable).  Really what it boils down to is the belief that hard work that one enjoys (or finds meaningful) is better than easy work that one hates (or finds meaningless).  We've tried the latter and didn't like now we'll try the former and see what happens.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Welcome to House in a Hill 2.0

Hello and welcome to the reincarnation of!  I was so sad to see the website go, and so were many of you who used the site to follow our progress.  My dear husband was a bit of a purist when it came to the website, writing everything in HTML so that we could have our very own website.  I'm perfectly happy to let Google do the formatting (and save hours and hours of time in the process).  

I'm attempting to organize the pictures into "phases" so they're easier to look through - see the list of pages on the left.  I hope you enjoy watching our project unfold!  And thank you to all of our friends and family who have contributed gifts of time, energy, building materials, and brute strength to the construction of our house!  We are so very grateful.