Green Homes
Building for the future, today – combining the best of historical wisdom and modern technology.

Building a New Home? How to Keep It Green

 

 Photo source: Pixabay

'There are more and more options on the market to make your life easier when going green. Growing research shows that the choice of greener buildings is becoming more mainstream and less of an alternative choice.

Dodge Data & Analytics conducted a survey with the National Association of Home Builders in 2015, which shows that over a third of house builders are involved in green projects for over 60 percent of their clients. That also means contractors will be more willing to engage with sustainable house builds and for a more reasonable price. Let’s take a look at the most revered and well-known options available for green house building.

Location Is Still Everything

You will have heard this time and time again, so all the more reason to take heed. Avoid building a west-facing house as the sun-exposure may overheat your home and incur major air-conditioning electricity bills. Unfortunately, the elements are a serious consideration in real estate given the suspected effects of global warming, therefore do your research into any flood risk areas, hurricane or earthquake potentials within your chosen vicinity.

Green living tends to extend to how we travel and as such while you’ve probably already thought about it, do keep aware of local transport links and public transport options when building your house. Taking advantage of a train line to handle your daily commute could reduce your carbon footprint majorly as well as decreasing your travel time!

Keep It Size Appropriate

Oftentimes, right-sizing a home reduces its environmental impact — regardless of how green you make a large house, smaller homes always come up as more environmentally friendly. Nevertheless, this does not mean you need to resign yourself to a cupboard under the stairs for eternity. It means being conscious about what space is necessary and appropriate. This consciousness could actually do your interior aesthetics well in the long run. Townhomes come in all shapes and sizes, for example, and new townhomes generally are greener in the building process because you can choose eco-friendly materials or discuss with your contractor how to tailor it exactly to your needs.

Recycle Right

We all enjoy a bargain and what could be better than a bargain that’s good for the environment? If you’re in it for the hunt, visit car trunk sales, auctions and even dumps to pick up reclaimed wood, recycled glass and soda cans to use in counter tops. If you prefer it ready-made, there are many recycling craftspeople out there.

When it comes to insulation, be sure to source it from recycled materials, e.g., clothing scraps or newspapers. While this will increase your initial costs for brand new insulation, over time you rake in the savings by effective insulation keeping energy bills low!

Play It Cool With That Roof

Research scientists and teams of experts have discovered that similar to how wearing white on a summer’s day keeps you cool, painting your roof with a reflective coat keeps your home cooler and saves on air-conditioning bills!

Asphalt dark roofs typically reach up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun on a summer’s day — even if it’s only 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the atmosphere. A simple coating could bring down that heat by 50 degrees. This would also help decrease the severity of an urban heat island.

Photo credit: Burst

Water is King

Water is one of the scarcest resources on our planet, and luckily home builders in developed countries are also more and more aware of their own personal water consumption and the effects of careless waste. Building your house is an important opportunity to prevent water wastage through fixtures and appliances which conserve water. Think low flow faucet aerators and Energy Star rated products.

While there are incentives for engaging in LEED certification, building a green home will not only save you money in the long run, it is also a thoroughly rewarding opportunity to ensure you’re contributing to our world’s sustainability. There are excellent resources out there for green home building, with a vast range of suggestions to make your life easier when going green, so get involved and enjoy it!


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A Debt Free Home from Salvaged Material (and Trial and Error)

 

The following is an excerpt from Builders of the Pacific Coast (Shelter Publications, 2008) by long-time MOTHER EARTH NEWS contributor Lloyd Kahn. A continuation of Kahn's journeys into the creative processes of owner-built homes — their innovative techniques, use of sustainable materials, and essential dedication to the natural elements surrounding their designs — Builders of the Pacific Coast explores the aesthetics and techniques of three master builders in California, Washington state, and the rugged terrain of British Columbia.

Alan Beckwith is a carpenter, gardener, farmer, jeweler, and hunter. In 1980, he bought 40 acres in the coastal California hills, and built a homestead in a valley, the house on the banks of a year-round creek. It’s at the end of a long dirt road.

Alan did everything himself: carpentry, plumbing, wiring (solar electricity and hydro), and developed his own water supply. He drives a tractor, maintains several miles of roads, makes beer and wine, and raises pigs and ducks. A lot of people have started homesteads since the 1960s, but seldom have they got as far along as this.

Basically, Everything was Done with No Money

It’s a homemade, home-crafted house with gardens and animals all blending together to create a working entity, a self-created place to not just survive, but thrive. Alan’s not only a good carpenter (he does remodeling and finish work for others), he’s a jeweler, making exquisite gold earrings and other pieces that he sells at Christmas fairs and as special orders.

The first thing he built was a shed, then he and his partner, Lynn Kalani, planted a garden before starting on the house. He’s got photovoltaic solar panels for basic electricity and water/hydro power during the peak of the rainy season. When he first started, “I dragged redwood logs out of the creek (for house posts) with a Volkswagen bus.”

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” he says. “Well, I did and I didn’t.” He means he made mistakes, but also did a bunch of things right. He dug a foundation trench, poured a concrete footing with rebar, using sand and gravel from the creek, and slip forms. Then he got a concrete truck down his long winding dirt road to pour a slab. On top of that, he laid high-fired red Italian tiles.

It’s a wood-framed house and he first built the upstairs, while the bottom was dirt and gravel. “Basically, everything was done with no money.”

Building with Salvaged Material (and Trial and Error)

The 10 windows are tempered glass sheets he got at a local dump, set in redwood frames. He bought a large load of cedar (different sizes) for exterior siding, which he says he’d never do again — the wood bakes in the sometimes 120-degree summer sun, and is starting to fall apart.

I asked what he would use if he were sheathing the house today and he said, “HardiePlank,” which is a paper/concrete board that can be cut with pneumatic shears. Quick to install, takes paint well, sun-proof, fireproof.

I got up to Alan’s one cold December morning. After some good coffee, I took pictures, and we went wild boar hunting. No boars, but we did find a huge chanterelle mushroom (under redwoods, of all places).

That cold night, we sat around the kitchen table with a fire burning and had roasted leg of wild boar (from his freezer), Alan’s potatoes, bought carrots, sautéed chanterelles, Alan’s homemade cider, then homemade beer. The food, the fire, the house, the silence of the night, the vibes, as they say, were all of a piece — the harmony of a working homestead.

In the pantry the day I was there: 2 kegs (20 gallon) of apple wine, 10 gallons of Monukka rose wine, 5 gallons of pear wine, 10 gallons of hard cider, and a case of very hoppy homemade beer.

In addition to vegetables, he’s got 10 apple trees, four Asian pears, four plums, and one each of dwarf peach, dwarf nectarine, pomegranate, and persimmon. He recently planted 100 olive trees to make olive oil. He also grows raspberries, olallieberries, boysenberries, and blackberries. There are two walnut trees, Monukka as well as Thompson Seedless grapes, a Meyer lemon, and lots of roses.

“ There’s a cosmic ¬connection,” he said, when you plant an apple tree, then pick the apples and make apple juice or hard cider. You’re doing it all yourself, from creating the raw food to the final product. “It’s a closer connection between me and the cycle of life.” It’s also unusual in this day and age, when people are so disconnected from the creation of their own food and shelter.

Lloyd Kahn is a sustainable living visionary and publisher of Shelter Publications. He is the author of natural building books, including Home WorkTiny HomesTiny Homes on the MoveShelter II , Builders of the Pacific Coast, and The Septic System Owner’s Manual (All available in the Mother Earth News Store). He lives and builds in Northern California. Follow Lloyd on his blogTwitter, and Facebook, and read all of his Mother Earth News posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Instill Green Practices Into Your Young Family

 

Many families today want to go green and save the environment for future generations. As many as 1 billion trees are thrown away in the form of paper every year in the United States. Add to that the plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and plastic bags, and the impact is enormous.

Children are taught about the environment and often learn how to recycle at school. But if families don't practice green habits at home, they're less likely to stick. Parents play a crucial role in instilling green practices into their family. Doing so will help your children to be aware of the impact each person has on the environment and allow you to all work together to reduce your carbon footprint as a family.

Basic Recycling

Probably one of the simplest things you can do as a family is to begin some basic recycling practices. Purchase recycling containers and place them in your kitchen. Teach young children how to sort by paper, plastic and aluminum. You should also have a bin for perishable items, such as banana peels and egg shells. You can use these to create your own compost pile.

Organic Gardening

Speaking of a compost pile, if you aren't already keeping a small garden for your family, you should consider starting one. Even if you have limited outdoor space, you can grow a few plants in containers on your patio or a windowsill. Not only will you control the food itself and avoid contact with pesticides, but you'll also prevent pesticide runoff from commercial crops, which is detrimental to the environment. By growing your own, you reduce the need for mega crops.

Conserve Water

Some areas of the U.S., such as California, suffer from droughts and water shortages. Water is a limited resource and may one day become scarce in even more areas. Because of this, it is vital to conserve this life-giving commodity. There are a number of things you can practice that will teach children to save water.

Ask them to wet their toothbrushes and then turn off the faucet while brushing teeth. Over time, this type of energy conservation adds up. Instead of running a sprinkler for hours on end during the summer, fill a small pool and encourage them to play in that instead. If you must water your yard, put your sprinkler on a timer to make sure you aren't over-watering. Go ahead and let the kids run through it while it has to run anyway. Reduce the time each person has for showers as well.

Adjust the Thermostat

Encourage your family to set the thermostat just one degree warmer in the summer and one degree cooler in the winter. This will not only in reduce energy use but will also save you money on your energy bills. Once they are used to that one-degree adjustment, make it a challenge to go another degree in one direction or the other, depending upon the season.

Keep going until you raise or lower it as much as you comfortably can. You can save a whopping 10% on heating and cooling costs  if you adjust your thermostat to between seven and 10 degrees for only eight hours during the day. If you are out of the house for a portion of the day, that is a good time to make the change.

Combine Trips

The average American takes about four trips each day, and 87% of those are in personal vehicles. That requires a lot of fuel and releases a lot of emissions into the environment. On top of that, the cost of fuel adds up, as does the wear and tear on your car. Even if your family is crazy busy, try to find ways you can combine trips and reduce the number you are taking as a family.

Instead of going out every Saturday, plan a backyard staycation. Yard games, a barbeque and an outdoor movie are a great start. If Susie has soccer practice until six and Johnny has a guitar lesson at eight, plan to stay in town for the two hours between rather than running back and forth. You can utilize the local library as a study spot or grab a bit to eat as a family.

Plan errands in a circular fashion whenever you can. Start at home and go in a circle to complete tasks until you return home. This will keep you from crisscrossing back and forth and wasting gas.

These are just a few ways you can begin to live greener and also save money at the same time. As you commit to green practices, you will likely come up with even more ways to make a positive difference and reduce your carbon footprint.

Bobbi Peterson is an environmental blogger who started the blog Living Life GreenFollow Bobbi on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Read all of Bobbi’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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First Steps for Installing an AC Unit

 

Keeping cool during these scorching summer months is more important than ever. Luckily, there are more energy-efficient air conditioning units on the market. Windowsill units are the easiest to handle but have a limited capacity. If you have a larger home, then a central unit is required.

The leanest way to install a central air system is for you to set it up and let the professionals handle all the wiring and dangerous chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency states that a licensed professional is required to handle the refrigerant for your unit.

Confirm Building Code Requirements (or Limitations)

Three agencies write the residential building code requirements: The IAMPO mainly deals with plumbing, the International Code Council takes responsibility for the safety and building structure, and the NFPA deals with fire safety.

The ACCA is the air conditioning association that works with the ICC to provide the manuals that govern the codes and regulatory designs for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). Manual J has the residential load calculations for the region needed.  Manual D keeps the duct system in compliance, and Manual S governs the equipment selection. These manuals are on the ACCA’s website. See this YouTube video series for what code officials need to know about HVAC.

Load calculations measure heat flow from area to the next, depending on the time of year. These measurements vary between different parts of the home. The windows, skylights, floors, wall panels, the orientation of the home, and the doors all have an important role in the measurements. The Manual J will provide the tables for the best match suitable for your unit.

Incorrectly-sized equipment can leave you with an inefficient system. When choosing a unit, pay attention to the heating, cooling, and blower equipment. Manual S is your reference guide when planning your purchase.

You have the choice of a ductless system, creating the duct system, or renovating older ducts. A good contractor can retrofit a new system with the existing system. Ducts are also responsible for how quiet the unit should be and for cleaning the air. The ducts that you will need are based on the equipment and the load calculations.

If you are paying a fee to the Homeowner's Association (HOA), then you will have to take into account any aesthetic and noise requirements that they may have. Do your due diligence and procure all the information that you need. Forewarning: If you violate the HOA terms, then they can potentially put a lien on your house.

Preparing the Home

If you are putting the unit on the roof, then check the integrity of your roof. Keeping your roof maintenance up to date will save you on costly repairs. If you are running the unit through your attic, then be sure to clear any clutter that might hinder construction. (Split systems do not need ducts.)

The contractor should know the proper clearance a system should meet. It is good for you to know exactly where to place the AC unit. If you already have a heating duct system, then this can be used for your air conditioning. Also, check the insulation of the home, because proper insulation and even adding insulation to the attic can lower the costs and your carbon footprint.

AC Unit Installation Safety

Your contractor handles the chemicals needed for your unit. Unfortunately, the usual refrigerants used are the ozone-depleting chemicals called hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC). Discuss with your contractor the HCFC-free options that are now available. Also be aware of the possibility of “sun rot” if the unit is installed in the wrong direction. If the position cannot be helped, then consider a form of shading that won’t have your HOA hopping mad.

Installing central air is not a simple task, so having all the information you need is important. Installing ceiling fans, energy-efficient curtains, and maintaining the cleanliness of your unit will keep this project economical and environment-friendly.

Ashley Morse is with The Cooling Company which has provided the absolute best comfort in heating and air conditioning for Southern Nevada homes since 2011.


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How We Purchased an Older Rural Home and Transitioned to Self Sufficiency

 

In 1987, my fiancé Jude purchased a 1960s house surrounded by grass within walking distance of city center in an Appleton, Wisconsin. The house and yard were not my ideal vision of a home. I was raised as a farm kid and spent the previous seven years as a climbing guide. It was a drafty, cold house with nothing to look at outside.

Faced with a tight budget, we started with interior repairs, added extra insulation in the attic and dug a small garden in the backyard. Looking back, this would be considered “bliss”.

Soil-Building and Solarizing

Transforming the yard. Armed with a spade, I turned over the compacted clay yard while adding compost. Fiberglass pods I had built served us well by extending the growing season. While trees I planted grew, I had to be more selective so plants would find maximum sunlight. Over the years, half of the yard became native perennials — the other half was used for food. For color, hundreds of tulips and daffodils brightened spring.

Energy efficiency and solar heating. In 2000, double-pane windows were installed while replacing roofing and siding. Jude was smart enough to hire a contractor even with my building-trade background. She wanted it done quickly. In 2006, I took solar installation courses at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. I befriended Rob Ryf of Solar Heating Services who helped me install our solar-domestic hot water (SDWH) system with a gas-fired, on-demand unit as a back-up to the new solar thermal collector and 50-gallon domestic hot water (DHW) tank.

One winter day, I noticed cobwebs waving in the basement. On investigation, I saw the backyard through a gap between the sill band and concrete. “I’m heating the backyard!” Running to the garage to find caulk, I noticed the wind swinging power lines across shingles. Changes were needed to make this a comfortable home and keep hard-earned pay in our own pockets.

Solar PV. During the 2007 summer, I added an adjustable rack to the garage for a 1.5-kW PV system. I’d also started removing the siding and digging a 5-foot-deep trench around the basement. Tools were powered by my portable solar teaching display.

Adding much-needed insulation. In the attic, I sealed all holes with my 32-inch foam gun. Keep in mind: With a hip roof, the nails from the roofing are sticking into your head even while you are laying prone five feet from the outer walls. It was a filthy and tiresome job.

I didn’t have the ambition to dig down to the basement footings, so recycled EPS 8-by-4-foot sheets were glued sideways to the upper foundation. I also laid down 2-inch XPS outwards from the wall just under the top layer of dirt surrounding the basement. After attic sealing, we blew in 16 inches of cellulose. I installed 2 inches of EPS on all outside walls. We had enough leftover old vinyl siding to make up for the new dimensions of the house. By September, I was building the PV array rack.

While upgrading our main electric panel, I dug a 100-foot-long trench for utility lines, avoiding my plantings. With cold hands, I completed the PV rack on the garage roof and wired up the array. Our solar power was commissioned on December 7th and the next day, 8 inches of snow fell.

Water harvesting. The following year, I built a hoop house out of recycled materials with a straw bale north wall. All could be removed in spring. We count on food storage for winter use. We also directed rainwater into two buried recycled tanks along with above ground barrels to give us 1,600 gallons of storage for hot summer days and a credit on our water bill.

We were locked into a 10-year utility contract that did not permit me to increase solar output. I could counter that by adding a 2-kW, non-grid-tied system with battery storage. We also decided to add three solar thermal panels for heating.

Completing the Transition Off Fossil Fuels

2010: Biking to work every day, I wanted to rid ourselves of fossil fuel. The 1988 furnace would be given away. The unfinished basement provided an opportunity for in-floor radiant heating. It took friends and Jude to get the under-floor tubing in place and insulated.

One collector came damaged, so we would start winter with three collectors. The fourth would eventually show up the next spring. An air-source heat pump was added to supply heat to the DHW tank while the on-demand unit would temporarily back up the floor heating.

By the spring of 2011, two tanks were installed for floor heating. In summer, hot water from these tanks could be cycled through a radiator to cool tanks and dry the damp basement. Rob added an electric on-demand mini boiler to replace the gas unit. With the cold season approaching, I asked the utility to remove the gas meter.

Roofing on the house and garage were replaced with recycled rubber/plastic slate tiles that would provide clean runoff for garden water storage. They are also hail proof! By November, the fourth solar thermal collector arrived just as roofers where wrapping up.

The first quarter of 2012 was very mild and allowed me to use remaining tiles to re-roof the garage. The new PV system ran the heat pump when cloudy. An adjustable rack allowed me to tilt the panels to absorb more sunlight when the sun is as low as 23 degrees above the horizon and easily shed snow. With the additional PV and solar thermal, we had more cash on hand and enjoyed warm feet and no dust bunnies.

Winter 2013 to 2014 was one of our coldest winters. I logged 15 days below -17 degrees Fahrenheit riding to work. North bedroom walls were cold. Alaskan’s use REMOTE walls (Residential Exterior Membrane Outside insulation Technique). Well, we have about the same weather as Anchorage. It took a bit of courage to plead my case but Jude knew what it meant to me.

By March, I had found recycled EPS. Yes, history repeats itself. Off went the siding and a new shallower trench was dug along the foundation. I purchased a pair of heat recovery ventilators as I was going to be sealing the house even tighter.

A contractor sprayed the entire perimeter of the attic with closed-cell foam. I added two additional layers of EPS to the outside walls for a total of R-35. By August, I was building out the windows and doors. With zero temps by mid-November, I had to be careful nailing on the siding so it wouldn’t explode into pieces.

Time to Step Back and Assess

After three years, the hot water systems are efficient and effective. With 4.7 hours per day of solar isolation, the PV system does well covering our energy use. All systems are automated so there is not much thinking involved.

I captured more solar power in 2016 when I moved my old grape vines away from the garage. I built a new arbor for them to shade my van and block the view of my neighbor’s house. This new array has its own charger for the existing battery storage. With this additional 2.1-KW system, we’re able to power more household appliances during the winter.

I feel fortunate to have the time for gardening again. With extra solar power in summer, I added a pumped water feature in the garden.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Setting Up a Solar System and Debarking Logs

Which solar system will it be?

Well, of course we did a lot of research on solar systems before we decided to start building our log home, but if you’ve never dealt with it hands on and know what to focus on things are really confusing.

We decided to check our average usage the years before and then contact companies to ask for a quote based on that information, letting them know that we needed it for an off grid residential log home, set up on a ground mount system and we intended do the installation ourselves. Doesn’t sound that hard, you’d think!

Five companies, five different quotes, starting at 20,000 up to 80,000 can. Dollars! But they all provided information we learned from and made us set up a 48 V system with: 30 panels at 260 W/each and 12 deep cycle batteries (each with a capacity of 300 amp/hours=3600 amp/hours)

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The system also contains a charger controller, an inverter (converting 48 V into 240 V), an AGS (automatic generator starter) that automatically fires up the 17 kw generator  with its 100 l diesel tank as soon as battery voltage drops under a limit that can be set by us, but shouldn’t be below 50 %.

Hardware

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In total the system provides 5000 W/hours under ideal conditions before the AGS starts and that is more than enough to run all of our appliances and power tools.

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We decided to go with energy efficient appliances vs. special off grid as, i. e. the difference in price for a comparable fridge would allow us to buy about 10 more panels! Those would easily run a standard fridge and supply a lot more energy for other appliances too.

Setting up the ground mount system wasn’t that hard after figuring out the direction and the basic angle we want to have it on for now. We did do a lot of reading and it didn’t hurt that Frank has some technical knowledge but generally it’s not too hard to install a system like that.

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People who have not had anything to do with solar energy yet are always quite amazed when they see the system and hear what it’s capable of providing. We will be living off the grid but not having to sit there with a candle in the evening when we want to read. The system even proved itself when a piece on our backhoe broke and Frank had to use our big welder to weld it on again with no problem at all. Nice thing is that we can always add panels and batteries in case necessary. 6

And here a video of the usage during welding.

Debarking logs in the winter. How do it best?

Debarking fresh cut trees is almost like peeling a banana but not so much if you try to do it in the winter when the sap and the bark is frozen solid. We had decided to go with red pine for our log home and after cutting 46 trees each about 50 ft. length, de-branching and transporting them to our place, we still faced the challenge of getting the bark off before spring, to avoid the logs getting infested by bugs.

After starting out with a simple draw knife we quickly realized that that would really be hard to accomplish, especially with the bark on the red pines being so thick. So we did some research after a friend told us about a chainsaw de-barker he had heard of and found the “Log Wizard”.

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This was the perfect solution for us. It is really hard on the arms and shoulders as you need a fairly strong and therefore heavy chainsaw and the attachment isn’t lightweight either, but the razor sharp blades of the planers just dig through that frozen bark.

Here a short video about on how the debarker works.

After “getting in the groove” it took only 5 hours to debark one log. As it was winter there was just enough daylight to get one log done a day, but we were really happy to have found a solution to get the bark off in time before spring.

Next time: "How to cut a nice strait sill log without a proper work place or equipment."


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Meet the ‘Sisters on the Fly’ Mobile Living Gang

The following post is an excerpt from Tiny Homes on the Move (Shelter Publications, 2014) by long-time Mother Earth News contributor Lloyd Kahn. This book chronicles 21st-century nomads: people who inhabit homes that are compact and mobile, either on wheels or in the water. In photos and stories, this fascinating book explores modern travelers who live in vans, pickup trucks, buses, trailers, sailboats and houseboats that combine the comforts of home with the convenience of being able to pick up and go at any time.

I hope to turn you on to a few wonderful elements of the vintage ­trailering community, which has added so much to my life.  I am a member of an All-Girl gang called the Sisters on the Fly, which numbers more than 3,000 “Sisters” throughout the U.S.A., with a few Sisters in the UK, Canada, and Australia. We are growing by leaps and bounds, and I am proud to be Sister #203.

The group was founded by Maurrie Sussman and her sister Becky, who wanted to fly fish in remote areas with some level of comfort and security. They decided to share this idea with friends and family, inspired in part by their adventuresome mom, Mazie.

Over the years, Sisters on the Fly has empowered women of all ages, backgrounds, and life experiences to come out and camp together in a safe, generous, and joyful way.

The Trailer Life on the Road

Over the years, it has blossomed into a terrific organization that empowers women of all ages, backgrounds, and life experiences to come out and camp together in a safe, generous, and joyful way. The key components of this “gang” are our trailers, which have been restored, modified, gussied-up, and decorated to the nth degree, often with fabulous murals to greet our fellow travelers with.

Our trailers are acts of creativity and love, and the hardest part of any of our ­adventures is packing out to head home. Many of the Sisters have made their vehicular villas so inviting that they prefer them to their regular homes, and it gives many of us a feeling of safety and calm to know that we have a place that will always shelter us within a community of inspired and empathetic gals.

The Sisters on the Fly are pleased to be able to utilize the talents, resources, and camaraderie of the group for charitable acts, in support of organizations like Casting for Recovery, which offers healing and therapeutic fly-fishing retreats for breast cancer patients and survivors.

We have hosted hundreds of events, large and small, all over the U.S., and we often caravan to events together, making “getting there” a good part of the fun as we add Sisters and their trailers to the rolling cavalcade. Bringing a mile-long caravan of these beautiful trailers into settings like Monument Valley or along Route 66 is a thing of awe and wonder!

The Sisters on the Fly has brought so much joy and adventure into my life, and I hope that readers of this post feel comfortable to talk with Sisters as you come across us in the wild — believe me, you will know us when you see us!

“I hope that readers feel comfortable to talk with Sisters as you come across us in the wild. Believe me, you will know us when you see us.”

A Tomboy Gets Lots of Sisters: A Note from One ‘Sister’

Sisters — I never had one that was blood. My sisters were the women that I admired as I grew into an adult: the teachers and coaches that touched my life, 4H leaders, and my grandmother. One in particular was Pat.

Pat was in high school when she took me under her wing. I was eight or nine. She taught me the finer points of showing cattle. She took me to shows, coached me, and listened to me as I struggled my way into being a teenager. When she went to college, she was still my sounding board about boys and rebellion, school, and sports. She was a good listener and always gave solid advice. Way out in the boondocks, she was the closest thing I had to a real sister.

I grew up surrounded by men — my dad and my brother. I was as tomboy as you could get, but I was still a girl and they didn’t seem to understand. Pat was a ranch girl, too, and I thought she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. She taught me about makeup and took me shopping for feminine clothes.

I learned that girls can have horses, cows, and pickups, but they don’t have to give up their feminine side. They can appreciate the outdoors, and when they find others who like the same things, they bond. This is a lesson I’m learning all over again from my Sisters on the Fly.

–Thea Marx (Sister #1323)

Many of the Sisters have made their vehicular villas so inviting that they prefer them to their regular home.

Lloyd Kahn is a sustainable living visionary and publisher of Shelter Publications. He is the author of natural building books, including Home WorkTiny HomesTiny Homes on the MoveShelter II , Builders of the Pacific Coast, and The Septic System Owner’s Manual (All available in the Mother Earth News Store). He lives and builds in Northern California. Follow Lloyd on his blogTwitter, and Facebook, and read all of his Mother Earth News posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.