Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
As stated in a previous blog, we had nearly ten very enjoyable years in Australia. When I arrived back in the US to finish the barndominium, the first few weeks were almost overwhelming. I felt I had a very short period of time to get the house livable before Julie got her job transfer. Coupled with projects that were to have been done (but weren't because of contractor conflicts) there were things that had been done that needed to be fixed – mostly due to poor plumbing work. Getting things started was the first battle – getting the right materials and right help. Happily, I managed to find some very reliable help and many of the skills I hadn't practiced heavily in years (carpentry, finish trim and painting in particular) all seemed to come back to me quickly. I was also blessed with very nice weather and good health. And since our two cats arrived happy and healthy from their long journey from Australia, I had a bit of company in our travel trailer in the evenings.
Step one was to shore up the plumbing issues and to tidy up the electrical work which was well along but not quite done. We fixed past issues in a week while scheduling the next few weeks’ work and ordering materials. Step two was to do the dry wall and to get the walls taped, textured and painted. I knew I needed to get to this point by the end of the first three weeks if I were to be on schedule to have the house livable within ten weeks.
In conjunction with doing all the basic interior work (getting the walls done), I felt that it was necessary to get some “hardscape” work done outside. The property is exceptionally soft soil – very sandy – and with a lot of people coming and going over the next few months (as well as for our on-going use), I thought it very useful to build several concrete pads. Over the first three weeks, along with doing the interior walls, we poured a large driveway, a permanent pad for our camper trailer (which was parked inside the garage portion of the barndominium for over 2 years), a pad for our cistern and a large outdoor patio among a beautiful stand of live oaks.
The first two pictures show the wall board activities in the great room and the long hall. The third picture shows the vaulted ceiling of the great room and the insulation foam we put all throughout the ceiling portion of the barndominium. The foam had an immediate positive impact on the insulation of the house. Before the foam, I would come into the barndominium early in the morning and it was very cool – matching the outside temperature of about 50°F. During the day, the house would warm to the outside temperature – about 68°F. Immediately after the foam, I went into the house and it was so warm, I immediately checked to make sure I hadn't accidentally turned on the central heating. I hadn't. The foam had maintained the temperature from the day before and it was still 66°F at 6 AM – the house had cooled only two degrees overnight. I was sure we had made the right decision with the foam and even though it was a bit costly, would repay the investment in reduced heating and cooling bills as well as providing comfort and sound insulation.
The remaining couple of pictures show the concrete work and we made immediate use of the driveway - a good thing as on rainy days, the old driveway area became very “boggy” and difficult. We also made plans to move the camper trailer to its new pad and installed the cistern so that we have a permanent storage of about 2,500 gallons of water making the well pump more efficient and providing significant water supply in the event of a power failure.
Three weeks into the final stages of the build and we are making good progress. Following blogs will show finishing of the barndominium, moving in of our household goods from Australia, Julie’s arrival and our plans for expanding our homestead past the house building and into producing food and livestock.
Lessons learned to this stage:
- It’s very hard to do anything from long distance. Even if the work is done reasonably well, it’s always done better when you’re there. People do what you inspect, not what you expect.
- You can really do almost anything you put your mind to. Perseverance and patience are really important.
- Technology is a terrific aid in projects like this. It’s amazing what you can find on YouTube, Google and other resources – not the least of which are other blogs and articles in MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
- Eat well and sleep well. It’s hard to work at a high pace and maintain high enthusiasm if you’re hungry and tired.
- When things don’t go exactly as you want, look for alternate (often better) ways of accomplishing the same thing. I was amazed how many times an initial disappointment turned into an opportunity to do something better than we originally planned.
Photos By Jim Christie