Friday, April 15, 2011

So it begins

Well, after much thinking and visualizing and scheming with Shannon, we're feeling more comfortable with the plans for our home. I've started researching the things we need to do in order to get started, and that will happen just as soon as the last of the snow is gone. Planning the logistics is the hardest part. And then of course making sure we have enough money to do all the things we want to do this summer.

So here's what we've come up with so far:

The first thing I need to do is get a driveway put in. This is crucial, as it then gives us access to the property for heavy equipment and have someone drill our well and install the septic system. It also is needed so that we can bring the logs to the property that we will be using for the walls and beams of our cord-wood house.

We will need a permit from the Mat-Su Borough for the driveway. It's a $50 fee and they send out an engineer to take a look at the location and make sure things are good.

Besides the driveway, the next most important thing we have to do, if we want to build next summer, is gather the logs. We have to do it this summer so that they can age a bit. Most articles I've read recommend letting the logs age for at least 9 months, the longer the better. The purpose is to allow the logs to release as much moisture as they can before they are grouted into the walls. This helps reduce shrinkage (yes, I laugh every time I see that word) and minimizes the amount of re-grouting around the logs later.

We are also going to be looking out for used materials that we can use in our house like doors, windows, hardware, tile, and whatever odds and ends. I think we need to clean out our garage so we have a place to store these things.

I've learned one very valuable lesson here, one small decision is like knocking over the first domino. It can affect a whole row of them, and before you know it, there are hundreds of other dominoes scattered all over the floor.

As we have been trying to refine the vision for what our house will look like, we realized that in order to do this we would need to spend allot of time on the property. We haven't been able to do this yet and it's also one to the main things we need to do. Our vision is to be on the land at various times of the day and sort of let the land speak to us and tell us where the house needs to be. We want our house to work with nature, and not have to bulldoze our way into it if we can avoid it. We want our house to blend into the environment, not standing out.

Hopefully, our next blog will include pictures of our land and some markers showing the outline of the house.

Until then,

Love and Peace to you!!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Day Before April Fools

I spent a few hours on our land yesterday with my friend, Joey Brost. It was good to get outside after spending a day short of three weeks at work on the North Slope. We built a fire, drank some beer, and just had some guy time. My faithful wife stayed home and minded the youngin's, baked a pie, mopped the floors, darned some socks and waited expectantly for my return. (Ok, ok, I'm just going to tell you that I'm full of crap, plus I've had a couple of beers and I'm just making stuff up. It's also April

The sun was shining and it was great to be outside. It occurred to me today that what I am searching for in a home is built of and includes the things of nature that we enjoy. The natural light, the random and uneven lines, the raw elements. My love of homes and structures built by nature have developed to the point that driving through a modern neighborhood brings upon me a feeling of un-naturalness. It's hard to explain. It's as if something elemental is missing. These straight lines are out of place.

Now, I have to stop, and before you guys get all offended, I understand tastes are as unique as the people on this earth. So I understand that my own feelings may be unique. I know that we all strive to transform whatever house we may choose to live in into some sort of home, with our own personal touches. Now that I got this out of the way....

The types of home that catch my eye are ones that incorporate elements of nature into it's design. They use curves and irregular surfaces. They use stone and natural wood. They are build by the hands of people who love what they are building. I love reading blogs that chronicle the experiences of those building their dream house, and especially if that house it one that uses it's environment to its full potential and minimizes the use of non-renewable resources.

In the future, we intend to give you a little glimpse into the decision-making process as settle on the plans to build our own home. It's going to evolve and change as it goes, much as nature does. I can't wait to see how it turns out. But for now, there's just too much to write about and it's a bit overwhelming to pick just one topic. Hopefully in the coming posts we'll be able to narrow it down a bit.

So what does all this mean? It means I'm enjoying an evening at home with my family, dreaming, and loving life. It means that this blog has no agenda but to include you into our lives and give you something to read when you are bored. So go love your family, and dream the things that make this life full, and then start making them possible.

Take care,


Monday, March 28, 2011

Our Dream

We’ve decided to document our journey. But what is our journey? That question is one that will take many posts to answer. And the answers to the question could easily change over time. This dream started somewhere, it’s hard to remember when exactly, and has changed and evolved into what it is today. And the most exciting thing is that it will continue to grow and change possibly becoming something entirely different or. But I guess I’ll try and list the current basics.
We hope for a life of peace (ok, as peaceful as possible with 3 kids running around). We dream of a home built with our own hands, a home without a mortgage. We dream of solar power and wind turbines. We dream of a garden to supply most of our vegetables and supporting local farms for the rest. We dream of composting toilets and warm wood heat. We dream of home cooked meals and bread baked with freshly milled flour. We dream of a simpler life.

Those are just a few of the things we hope for in the future. But our current reality is quite different. We live in the duplex we bought a year and a half ago with a large mortgage. We pay outrageous amounts of money every month on our electric and natural gas bills. Home cooked meals are a rarity. Our gardening attempts have been rather pathetic.

Why Change?

These days, it takes at least two incomes to support a household. The mortgage alone on a standard house keeps one in slavery to the system for at least 30 years. In fact, the current financial system is stacked against homeowners. By the time a person makes their last payment on a typical 30 year mortgage, they’ll have paid nearly twice what the home is worth. And that’s with a “good” interest rate.

And then there are all the other obligations most families are faced with: high utility costs, student loan payments, vehicle loans, consumer loans and credit cards. By the time all is said and done, there is very little, if any, disposable income left. This makes it nearly impossible to get ahead, and most people simply live pay check to pay check. It’s a viscous cycle that keeps a person dependant on a particular job, and if the economy takes a hit, as we’ve been experiencing for the past few years, things can quickly spiral out of control.

Few have enough savings to ride out a storm, be it the loss of a job, a medical emergency, or damage caused by natural disasters. In many cases, all it takes is one of these to cause irreversible financial ruin to a family. And because all of our neighbors and friends are just as strapped and enslaved by the system, there’s very little help available.

To us, this is the worst part of the whole deal. We, as a society, are so absorbed with our own financial obligations that we can’t do a whole lot to help our community, let alone our world. This is further exacerbated by the amount of time one has to spend away from home in order to make ends meet. We’re broke and busy.

What if There Was a Better Way?

Up until a few years ago, we had the same dream every American family had: a large home, nice vehicles, boats, and whatever toys we happened to be dreaming about at the time.

I’m not sure what changed our minds, but that old way of thinking simply wouldn’t do. We quickly racked up a substantial amount of credit card debt. We had student loan payments to make, a car payment, and credit card payments, and rent. Things were looking rather grim.

Had we known then what we know now, we could have saved ourselves allot of stress and heartache over our financial situation. In fact, if we had known what we have come to discover about the options available for low-impact, low-cost, and sustainable living, today would be much different than it is now.

It’s all about our mindset, our standard of living. Most never stop to consider how we live and what impact it is have not only on the environment, but on others in other parts of the world. It dawned on us a while back that there simply aren’t enough resources to provide every person on the planet today the same standard of living we in America enjoy. It’s just not possible. This then leads us to start examining how we live, and how can we can make a difference.

The Path Forward

After much soul searching, some of the ideals that we have come up with are listed in the fist part of this article above. These things take a very small amount of money to begin. They are, however, very time consuming and take a lot of patience to learn and to make a reality.

The other, major piece to this puzzle is housing. We definitely have an idea for what we want, but exactly what that will look like is yet to be determined. And because of the nature of the type of house we would like to build, it will evolve as we build.

We already have our land, 1.4 acres near Wasilla, Alaska, in which we plan to start building within the next year. This summer will be spent planning and gathering the raw materials needed to start construction next spring. We may ever have our well put in this summer.

The dream will take time and a lot of effort to achieve. We’ll continue our day to day life with happiness and contentment. We’ll continue not using disposable paper products and buying our clothes and furniture second-hand or handmade. We’ll continue homeschooling our kids and enjoying them every day. We’ll continue learning more about the lifestyle we desire and making changes when we can.

We hope you enjoy the articles to come and will support us as we venture forward, finding home. We are also hoping that this blog will help us connect with others who are searching for the same way of life. We'd love nothing more than to partner up with others and help build this dream.