leave old job....leave old home...enter new home...engage new life...maintain what matters

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A (Minimalist) Alternative Home Builder's Week

1 day.  1 picture.  1 paragraph.


My mind is out to kill me.  Having finally figured this out, nearly all my success now comes from teamwork.  So I’m proud to announce a new House the Land Built team member:  Kathy, plumbing fixtures sales rep for Goodin Co in Rochester MN.  Before meeting Kathy, my mind had already decided on a tub and sink made of cast iron.  So recyclable!  But Kathy---who actually made the fixture selection process quite fun---is the kind of team member that listens.   Really listens, not only to what I say (often the output of my murderous mind), but drills down to find out who we are and what we really want.  After uncovering our rainwater harvest-composting toilet- solar powered leanings, she suggested an acrylic tub and e-granite kitchen sink. “Unlike cast iron, these materials keep the water hot”.   Genius!  Now our solar panels might actually generate enough hot water for Linda to soak in, even after I wash dishes.  And then, when Kathy saw how important it is that our home welcomes you, she made sure we select an easy to use shower fixture.  Now, unlike our Minneapolis home, you needn't worry about sloshing out of the shower, towel-wrapped, to ask a red-faced me how to turn on the shower.   

We knew we’d picked the right architect when Paul asked us what kind of house we wanted and he actually listened to our quircky response, a Mary Oliver poem which ends, “And still I believe you will come, Lord,  you will, when I speak to the fox, the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know that really I am speaking to you whenever I say, as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.”  Though the physical foundation of our home is sand and cement, Paul designed us a home that rests upon our most precious values:  (1)  connect us to the Land and (2) welcome friends, family and community.  Above is our entry, where our home will try and welcome you when, at long last, you arrive.  I’m hoping you’ll feel as invited as I did today when Tom the Builder and his crew finished the cedar siding.  For now you’ll just have to imagine the smell, so intoxicatingly resinous.  Even if you’re not quite wanting a hello hug from me, perhaps, as you enter the porch, you’ll feel nestled by the Land;  the hillside seems to pour over the rim of the retaining will.    But we're excited to see you and don’t want you to linger on the porch forever.  So Paul entices you---by the white flow of the long ceiling---forward toward the far door, which I can’t wait to open and say, “Come in, Come in.”

Gutters, not just for getting rid of water anymore.  Tthese gutters will turn what I previously perceivd as waste (excess water) into value.  I just love using what the Land already provides.  Why drill a well when the Land provides so much clean water as rain?  Beautiful, drumming rain.  Our gutters will play two roles:  catching the rainwater dripping off our steel roof then transporting it---like a little river---to downspouts.  The first 50 gallons---the dirtiest water---will be diverted to rain barrels while the remaining, much cleaner water, will course through underground pipes until gushing into our 5400 gallon underground cistern.   With some additional filtering as its pumped from the cistern into the house, the water is now ready for use.  The gutters will harvest rainwater from 2000 of our roofs 2400 square feet, thus providing us with 1100 gallons of water each time it rains one inch.  While I love a sunny day, I wonder what rain will mean to my new life.  How will I feel when I hear rain drumming on our roof and sloshing down our gutters?  I can’t wait to find out.

Yes, this is exactly what it looks like:  a gut pile, what remains of the deer shot near the campsite by Matt, our neighbor, who we’d given permission to hunt the Land.    A disturbing, if not disgusting, image here on Thanksgiving Day.   I was walking from the cabin to the homesite---an engaging half-mile of wood, pond, pasture and prairie---when suddenly, just ahead, rose feathers.  Startled, I thought they’d never quit rising out of the grass.   Finally, the feathers took form:  red-tail hawk, so magnificent as he climbed over the pond and up the draw.  Then I discovered what I ‘d disturbed him from.  What Matt hadn’t wanted, hawk certainly did.  As red-tail disappeared behind the naked, ridge top oaks, I wondered how he felt.  Was he angry at me?  Did he feel grateful for what he’d just received?  I know I did.  All I could do was bow my head.  To the glory and wonder--and sadness.  Especially the sadness.  I won’t see the deer again, her white flag flashing good-bye as she bounds away.  When we asked Architect Paul to design us a home that connects us to the Land, we set no limits on that connection.  We didn’t say, “Show us only the Disney version.”  I want to feel connected to life, engaged with life, life as I’m coming to know it, the divine circle, light to night to light reborn.    Thank you, deer.  Thank you, Matt.  Thank you, hawk; may you flash out the white as you soar, now deer-hearted, over the Land. 

As their leaves power the grass around us,  solar panels---finally mounted today---will soon power our home.  Each of these 12 photovoltaic panels will convert direct sunlight into 250 watts, for a total of 3000 watts whenever the sun shines.  This sun-made power will speed down buried cables into the cellar, where our invertor smartly feeds the batteries, storing the electricity until needed.   Before designing our home, what I appreciated about solar panels is what they DON’T DO compared to other sources (coal, gas, nuclear):  pollute, alter our climate, melt-down Japan and Russia.  But when we asked Architect Paul to design us a home which connects us the Land, a new and more personal value of solar power emerged.  Though it is yet a dream, I like to imagine feeling the sun on my face and switching on a fan. Will I appreciate the flow of power from the sun through the solar panels to the fan-driven breeze now cooling my face?  Now that’s connecting us the Land.  That’s what solar panels DO.  Last week, a lighting store sales-rep asked me a now familiar question:  how long will it take before your solar panels pay themselves back?   This time I just stared dumbly---his question feeling so irrelevant---as if he’d asked how long it will take for our beloved Jim Brandenburg loon photo to pay itself back.  What is the value of my values? 

Driving home from Rochester this afternoon, I told Linda how excited I was about what we’d just purchased:  our new stove.  I know, it’s just a stove for goodness sake.  But unlike floors and walls and roofs and pretty much everything we’ve built so far---except the pictured masonry heater---the stove is dynamic, not static.  We’re going to do something with it:  make real the dream of our new, land- engaged life around it.  Cook for you upon it.  “So far,” I said to Linda, “the only other engaging thing is the masonry heater.”  Beautiful cedar siding is great, but I could have had that in Minneapolis---in fact our garage did.  I came here to engage the Land.  And so, right now, I’m loving the masonry heater.   Even though the masonry is not yet dry enough to stuff the fire box full of wood and ignite a blazing, house-warming fire, I’m enjoying the small fires I light several times a day to dry it out.  I’m trying top-down fires:  big wood on the bottom, newspaper and kindling on top.    Like so much of my new life, it’s an upside-down experiment.  Each day, just before bed, I light one last fire.  So I wonder if even my sleep is turning upside-down:  making real my dreams.
Just so you know,  I’m not intentionally trying to disgust you by bringing up our composting toilet all the time.  This (not always popular) topic arises frequently because we ourselves have much to prepare.  It’s not like we can click Amazon’s composting toilet button.  (Actually, you can buy one online, just not a sawdust toilet system).  Though the most visible, and sometimes disagreeable, component is the toilet itself, the largest and most land-connecting component is the compost bin, or Humanure Hacienda as Joseph Jenkins calls the two-year self-processing center.  And today, I finally finished its foundation:  a deep layer of straw (covered by boards in the picture).  I’d fetched two old straw bales from the tractor shed, loaded them in the trailer, hauled them, bouncing all way, to the homesite.  When I dropped the second bale in the hole, out pops a vole.  As he dove safely under the hedgerow grass, I marveled at the vole’s ability, desire even, to remain in that bale through all the bumping and jostling.  And I wondered what role he (and his myriad cousins) will play in the life of our compost.  There’s so much I don’t know about the world’s built-in recycling system.  And maybe that’s what I like most about our new home:   engaging the mystery, and in so doing, becoming a member of the Land itself, vole be willing.

Thank you for joining my journey this week.Rah-dur!

Friday, November 18, 2011

An Alternative Home Builder's Week

So you’re to blame.  Yes, you who responded so enthusiastically to my last blog.  Because of you---and the ‘if some is good, more is better’ principle---I will not only real-time document the coming week’s effort to get the House the Land Built built, but I’m really going to break the blogging rules this time.  I will update the same post each day this week.  Amazing how bad a man can get with a little encouragement. 
Though a window factory delay set the project back 3 weeks, a few non-critical path tasks might happen:
Monday:  Begin installing cedar siding.  Complete root cellar ventilation.
Tuesday: Install cistern for storing harvested rainwater.
Wednesday:  Develop plan to build bathroom counter-top from a ‘local slab of wood’.
Thursday / Friday:   Rack solar panels.  Install local limestone on windows sills and masonry heater.
For sure, I will start small fires in the masonry heater several times a day to help dry the mortar. 

Now I’ll find out what really happens.  Talk to you tonight...

Wow!  For such a buzzing beehive of a day, I personally only had to make a few small decisions. Still, it’s a good thing my little Prius and I arrived before everyone else to light my little drying fire in the masonry heater, because by mid-morning, our driveway looked like a used truck lot.    
In the first truck---a white pickup, so popular in construction---came two guys to install our ‘fat wall’ insulation.  They didn’t need anything from me and I never asked their names.   I did thank them for making the delivered insulation work even though many pieces---huge, 10 inch thick blocks of polystyrene---were factory cut to the wrong size. 
Initially designed to be a low-waste process, I felt bad as sawed remains of polystyrene swirled on the floor like cups outside a McDonald’s.   Thank you, nameless guys, for cleaning up so well.
 In the second truck (actually two trucks:  the big, white boom truck and another white pickup) came Tom the Builder and his crew.  I uttered my polite hello, but all I wanted to do is get a look at the big load of wood on the boom truck:  our cedar siding.  And when I climbed aboard, it didn’t disappoint.  Yes, I nearly got drunk on the smell of fresh-sawn cedar but what really excited me was that it was northern white cedar from True North in Duluth.  Rather than the usual western red cedar, they sustainably harvest the cedar I’m so familiar with, the same that lines the shores of the lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  Yet I really didn’t know what it would look like on our house until I returned at day’s end to find Tom siding up around the garage door.  Probably the most beautiful siding I’d ever seen.

In the third truck (you guessed it, white again) came Curt and Micah, the solar guys.  They tore the forms away from the now solid concrete footing and installed horizontal railings for mounting the panels, like one giant erector set.   Well, two actually:  one for solar electric,  the other for solar hot water. 
By lunch I’d finished my few decisions, so I drove to Winona and shopped.  While not totally successful, I did find jigsaw blades to replace the four I’d broken using Tom’s saw yesterday to cut ventilation holes for the root cellar, a project that, as Linda told Tom, nearly drove me suicidal.    I quietly slipped them (and a few extras) into Tom’s jigsaw box them toured the house with him, admiring the day’s work.  He seemed impressed that his guy, Brent, had managed to put the finishing touch, the ridge cap, on our steel roof. 
So was I!

Last May, white wild indigo, like a miniature acacia tree upon our prairie, bloomed for the first time. 
But the frigid winds of November reduced its once proud form to a tumbleweed, now stumbling south, now tumbling north over corn stubble.  Today I discovered how white wild indigo feels.
The day began so smoothly, save for the mud on my tennies after a quick and much needed rain.   I lit my small fire in the masonry heater, then rolled the tractor generator into place while Tom the Builder’s crew returned to beautifying our home with cedar siding.   
Glad to not be needed, I drove back to our little cabin and finished editing two whole chapters of my novel.   In a break between chapters seven and eight, I called Marty at Root River Hardwoods (future supplier of our indoor paneling and doors) wondering if they could build us a bathroom countertop:  a rustic-looking 2 inch thick slab of wood.  Though I’d fallen in love with the chunk of milled boxelder from our Land (see Making Love With the Enemy ) it came up 7 inches short when cut down to usable size.   Expecting to hear ‘sorry but we don’t do that’ from Marty, I was thrilled to find out that not only could they do it in rustic cherry but at a lower price than I’d feared.  Pretty much the first time that has happened on this entire project.  
That thrill propelled me well into chapter eight, until the phone rang.  Plumber Kirk.  I don’t know how he does it, but somehow, by the end of the conversation, I always feel like he’s the boss and I’m taking orders.  Isn’t the customer boss?  Anyway, now I had a ‘to-do’ list:  pick tub, shower and faucets.  My only relief was knowing that our alternative home stole one big item from Kirk’s list:  a toilet.  Tom the Builder already promised he’d custom craft our sawdust toilet.  No doubt the first cherry toilet in Winona County.  The winds already tugging at my roots, I drove back to the homesite for my after-lunch check-in.  Soon I almost wished I hadn’t. 
Tom the Builder was frowning, not entirely happy with the window order.  Not that I could ever make Tom happy when it comes to these windows.  We chose the supplier, Serious, because they claimed to make 50% more energy efficient windows than their competitors, R5.5 versus R3.5  for top-of-the line triple pane.  But Tom, comfortable with the supplier he’s used for years,  always refers to them as “your windows” rather than “the windows”.    And now “our supplier” is not only delaying the project 3 weeks, but Tom’s not confident the order is right.  Still working that.
While dealing with that Serious problem, the poor insulation installers returned to complete two walls.  The insulation supplier hadn’t sent them enough polystyrene.  I love how Tom takes care of us.  He was caught off guard by when they showed him what they planned to install:  a different product.  After much questioning, he determined I was not only getting more insulation (> R40), I was getting it at the same price. 

At the same time as Serious windows and insulation, Excavator Steve showed up to dump two truckloads of rock onto our lawn for the septic drainfield.  He then informed me that tomorrow he’ll install the cistern for storing our rainwater, the only water supply for our house.  Bad news:  Linda will be out of town.  I told Steve that he’d have to somehow make up to her for never getting to see this critical competent of our new life.  He looked more than a little frightened. 
And while all that was going down, I ignored a phone call from Tom Heim, the 77 year old farmer who’d sawed our boxelder with his amazing home mill. 
I’d called him yesterday, thinking maybe he could saw our bathroom countertop out of his own wood.  Now, after dealing with Kirk and Tom and Steve and insulators, I was pretty much ready to just go with Marty at Root River Hardwoods.  I knew they’d do well by us.   Then---and the only way I can explain this is to say that a power greater than myself intervened---I climbed the stairs to the Yoga porch. 

Gazing out, I thought how I could nearly see Tom Heim’s farm, seven hazy miles distant upon the next ridge.  I got into the car and drove to Tom’s. 
Our home is all about one thing:  the great connection.  The connection to the Land.  To you and all our friends.  To our new community, including Tom Heim. 
So now, after sorting through dusty pallets of old and dry wood, I’ve returned home with another option:  a gorgeous slab of maple, felled and milled by Tom Heim himself.  Of course Linda needs to see it before we go forward.  But I’m already in love.  Again. 
How many times can one man fall in love?
Unlike yesterday, today began horribly, then improved until, at last, even I---the energizer bunny as Tom the Builder call me---ran down my battery.  I hope a couple amps remain, because there’s quite a story to tell.
And that story must begin with the horrible.  As soon as Tom the Builder lumbered out of his truck, I could see the writing on his face.   And I could get the source:  the windows.  “Your windows” as Tom calls the R-value=5.5 Serious Windows.  It’s not like Tom to just blurt out the problem.  So, patiently listening, I pieced together the real problem:  the door.  Serious is making one door for us, possibly the most important door, the  all-glass door at the end of the Corridor leading out onto the porch, welcoming you out onto the Land. 
Problem is we won’t get the door we want for another 6 weeks.  Worse yet, Tom lacks confidence that when it arrives it will be what we need.  So we’re bringing in the magician:  Architect Paul.  We’ll see what spells he can conjure.  Stay tuned.
Having nearly bottomed out, I sprung back up like a rising bungee jumper when Excavator Steve arrived.  After 3 years of studying, designing and biting my nails, we installed the storage tank for our rainwater harvest system, the system that will provide us (and you) with all our water .  The moment Steve finished digging the 12’ deep hole off the northeast corner of the house, the big truck backed down our driveway.  On its bed (two beds actually) lay 3 concrete rectangles to be assembled one on top of another like a layer cake.  Except this cake (14’ long,  7’ wide and 8’ deep) will hold 5400 gallons of water. 

Not only will it hold it but it will accept the water that slides down our steel roof, flows down the gutter and gushes in underground pipes until spilling through 4” holes at each end of the tank. A one inch rain will gift us with over 1000 gallons.  A simple pump then feeds the water from the cistern, through a 1 micron filter, into our basement pressure tank.  Drinking water will pass one more time through our Big Berkey, filtering out everything, even Atrazine if present.
Perhaps Steve excellence was contagious, because by mid-day he not only had the cistern installed (except for the water) but everyone else on the project seemed to cruise.  Inside the shed, Electrician John installed the service that will feed backup power from the tractor-driven generator to the basement batteries if the solar panels cannot keep them full. 

And the siding.  Oh the beautiful siding Tom’s crew installs.  All day long I kept making excuses to pass by the tower (as we call the two-story corner of our house)  and gawk. 
Though all is not perfect, I feel blessed to be part of something so amazing.  I can’t wait until you come.  We’ll drink the cleanest, freshest water.  We’ll marvel at the kitchen lights, connected directly to that great light of our solar system.   And we’ll bask in the scent of Minnesota cedar. 
You're more than welcome.

What a day!  What a surprisingly wonderful day.  For me yes, but even more so for Linda as I succeeded in withholding from her quite a surprise.  You see Linda works in Minneapolis every Tuesday and Wednesday, so Thursday mornings provide her with a fresh view of the house.  My plan was to totally delight her with what she saw.  And goodness we both could use a little more delight sometimes, especially the kind of delight that only a place called home can provide.  To some degree, we’ve been homeless since March when we began tearing apart our Minneapolis home in preparation for sale.  Though I’m grateful for our little 20 x 20 cabin, its not home. Not like the Land.   Not like the house is already beginning to feel.  And for Linda (and myself) I wanted to bring a little more home to the house.
So, before Linda arrived at the house the morning, I swept.  Pretty much the whole house.  Partially to keep our concrete floors from scratching, but mostly just to feel nice.  Homey.  As homey as a construction site can feel.  In addition to the usual mud and blown in dirt, Styrofoam swirls upon our floor like snow on a parking lot.  Though it sweeps up about as well as a tiny bouncing balloons, I bagged what I could and hid it in the tower shed (the storage space below the Yoga porch and above the root cellar). 

Unlike Styrofoam---debatably the least recyclable material in the observable universe---I create value from all the scrap wood generated by Tom the Builder and his crew:  fuel for the masonry heater. 

Still, “operation delight Linda” needed one more thing.  But seeing as that one thing was out of my control, I killed time by helping Excavator Steve install our septic drainfield. 
While we laid 330’ of perforated PVC pipe into a 3’ deep rock-filled trench, Steve warned me of a potential problem unique to our alternative home:  our drainfield might be more apt to freeze causing the septic to back-up.  Yuck!   Since we our Humanure will be composted rather than flushed, the septic bacteria---the real filter that makes it work---won’t have enough of their favorite food to eat (yes, that’s how the world works whether we like it or not).  And it’s the bacteria that generate the heat (70 degrees even in January) that keeps the septic drainfield from freezing.   Just as I was getting worked up about too much clean water, Linda arrived. 
Indeed she was delighted with the progress on the house, especially the achingly beautiful cedar siding.  But the big surprise had not yet arrived, so I killed time by showing off everything that had happened in two days.  Rainwater harvest cistern.  Fat wall insulation.  Only one thing remained for her to see:  the backup generator service in the shed.  Then what was I going to do? 
But the divine works wonders sometimes (all the time actually but only sometimes I pay attention).  For just as I led Linda out the garage, there stood the big delighter, smiling to see her.  It was Paul.  Architect Paul had come just as he’d told me yesterday.  Big hugs.  Laughing for no reason other than we’re all so happy to see other again.
Two years we’ve worked with Paul to design our dream.  Two trying, wonderful creative years.  And now the dream, mere Paul drawings, were now becoming manifest before our eyes.  And so we reveled as we gave him the grand tour of his imagination.  A few quick and wonderful hours.  Me, Tom, Paul and of course Linda. 

And Linda was indeed, delighted.

Perhaps it was but the whiff of Friday in the air, for it seemed everyone had a good day today.   We all just did our work and did it well.  With one exception, my work felt delightfully routine:  light small scrap-wood fires in the masonry heater, keep the place clean (though for most part the workers do a great job already), keep the tractor-powered generator fueled and running. 

There was one thing I was hoping to do today---something I’ve been thinking about for weeks now---and maybe today I’d finally get the chance.  But driving back to the site after a mid-morning break,  my hopes were dashed when I saw invasion of the trucks.  Now, in addition to Tom the Builder’s crew was Solar Curt’s crew and Electrician John’s crew.   Surely, I now faced a host of decisions.
Yet when I drove down the hill and got out of my Prius, no one descended on me.  They all just went about their work.  Electrician John skillfully continued installing the service which will bring in power from our solar panels and backup generator.   Solar Curt completed the installing the mounting brackets for our solar panels.
Thrilled with the quality of their work and even more thrilled they didn’t need me, I snuck off on foot.   Over the prairie I strolled.  Feathery plumes of grass---higher than my head---waved at the wind’s command.  And as a plume bent toward me, I reached out my leather-gloved hand, gently stripped off the seeds and dropped them into a blue basket hanging from my neck.  I love collecting prairie seeds.  Such a joy to walk, sit even, and pluck away with abandon, if just for the intoxicating scents alone.  Prairie sage.  Mountain mint.   And oh when I mixed them all together in my blue basket.  Had heaven and earth conceived a divine potpourri, they could scarcely have done better.   
But what made this set collecting outing so special, was that the seeds were not for me.   I’d intended them as a surprise for Tom the Builder.  Tom is trying to establish a 2 acre prairie (ours is 41).  But only the little bluestem grass is doing well.  His flowers disappeared and what’s a prairie without the ever changing kaleidoscope of color.  Tom is so disappointed.  So today, as Tom was sitting with his crew in our kitchen-to-be, eating his lunch, I presented him the blue basket.  It was the least I could do to thank him in a small way for the amazing work he’s done for us. 
The afternoon floated on.  And at day’s end, Linda and I begged Tom to join us up in the shed and gaze out the hayloft door at what he’d accomplished.  That cedar siding.  I still can’t get over the beauty of that cedar siding.  Even Tom, a bit of a stoic, could hardly get himself to leave. 
I hope you enjoy gazing through the hayloft door of this blog.  It’s hard to describe the connection I feel to you.  For it, and the gift of your time and attention, I remain very grateful.
I must say I was shocked to see how many of you kept up with this week’s daily blog (blogger gives me generic stats you know).   Whether I can continue finding the time and energy to keep that daily cadence, I don’t know.   I guess this is the part where I ask you, not only for your opinion on the cadence, but for continued encouragement as well.  The comments, emails and Facebook likes fuel me more than you can imagine. 
But that decision can wait until Monday.  Until then, and as always…

Monday, November 7, 2011

An Alternative Home Builder's Day

The Day:  Monday  11/7/2011

6:19 AM  Actually I'm not the home builder, that's Tom Fort and his crew.  But as Tom says, "Mike, I don't know anything about all this alternative stuff.  I need you to manage it."  Building our House the Land Built is my first job during this "refirement" stage of my life.  And this Monday blog is a crucial part of that job, serving both purposes for House the Land Built:  (1) welcome family, friends and community, (2) enable the Connection.  Fortunately for me, I don't know the "rules of blogging" or I'd probably learn that "you should never keep updating the same post", as I'm about to do today.  The blog is the second thing I did today. 

First (as I sat at our cabin's little table shining a flashlight on my granola trying not to wake Linda) I did what all project manager's do: worry.  Here's the areas I'm worrying about today.
-Generator maintenance
-Masonry heater support
-Solar electric trenching
-Kitchen planning
-Wood stacking

Now we'll see what actually happens...

7:53AM Surprised to discover I'm not first on the homesite.   Pearson brothers (Electrician John and Excavator Steve) corral me before I can pull out the tractor and start the generator.  "First order of business," says Steve.  "Gun's in my truck.  Can I take a buck if one comes running over the hill?"    After making that decision in the affirmative, they gave me about 1 minute to make the next:  where do I want the electric lines to enter the house and shed?  They needed to trench in power cables from the solar panel to the house and from the backup generator to the house.  Made my decisions and they got to work.

8:32AM  Worked on moving the wood pile needed to feed our masonry heater this winter.  I'd hoped to stack the wood on the porch, but a 3 week factory delay in windows means snow will arrive before the porch is clear.  I'm now stacking the 3 cords of split and dried wood under the shed lean-to.

8:47AM  Tom the Builder called.  His crew won't be here today (no need for generator).  Made plans to visit his office after lunch to plan kitchen cabinets.  Nothing alternative here, just normal cabinets.

9:03AM  Excavator Steve wants to know where to bury the cistern for storing our harvested rainwater (no well).  Decided exactly where to bury the 5000 gallon (14' long x 8' wide x 5' deep) concrete tank off the NE corner off the house. 

9:21AM  While discussing submersible vs jet jump, excavator Steve's back cramps up for no apparent reason.  He dashes off to chiropractor. 

9:36AM  Bullets whir frightenly overhead.  Jump in Electrician John's truck, drive over the prairie to find our neighbor, Scott, and his blaze orange hunting party tracking a deer.  We follow them down to the road where they haul out a huge buck they took on the border between our Land and Scott's. 


10:01AM  Try to stack some more wood.

10:03AM  Helped Solar Installer Curt hang the invertor in our basement.  The invertor is the brains of our off-grid home (no electric line coming in, we produce it all),  controlling the flow of electricity from the solar panels to the batteries, from the backup generator to the batteries and from the batteries to our standard electric panel. 

11:13AM  Pulled trailor back to cabin and filled 30 gallon water tank.  Don't know if Mason Mike will show yet today, but if he does I don't want to be the cause of a delay on our masonry heater. 

12:21AM  Lunch.  Ahhh!  I'm a lucky man to be fed by Linda:  egg and bean burrito with pan seared squash rings.  Still we talked shop:  LED lighting (the only real option for our off-grid home). 

1:44PM  Linda and I drove to Tom the Builder's St. Charles office to plan kitchen cabinets.  Nothing alternative here.  I've gained enough wisdom to mostly just support Linda in getting the kitchen she wants.   After successfully selecting everything except the stain color, suddenly Tom asked me about some other big decisions for which I was unprepared:  downspout placement to support rainwater harvest, drilling holes for root cellar ventillation.  I borrowed some saws to cut the ventilation holes. 

4:05PM  On the way home, stopped at the bottom of our road to measure a downed cherry tree for possible use as a bathroom counter top in case the boxelder doesn't work out.

4:11PM  Returned to homesite.   Excavator Steve, feeling much better after a trip to the chiropractor, had just completed filling in the electrical trenches.  After deciding where best to place the septic tank (standard issue), we stood for a while just admiring the great job his crew had done bulldozing the grade around our house.   Not only will water flow away from our basement, but the Land now rises to hug our home.

4: 27PM Dissapointed that Mason Mike is a no-show.  All that wood is pretty useless without a masonry heater.  Stacked more wood.

5: 24PM  As the early dark descends, Linda arrives with the campsite toilet in the back of the CRV.  Together we unload into the shed what is the prototype for our home's sawdust toilet system. 

5:38PM  Hazy moon.  Almost warm enough to camp.  Linda and I gaze out our "living room windows", debriefing the day and soaking up the dream.

I'm a lucky man.