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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Shade Cloth: The Agony and the Ecstasy

Yup.  It’s pretty much ugly.  First its ugly in comparison to the surprisingly beautiful Humanure Hacienda.  And far uglier than our recently finished porches, now graced with limestone walls and cedar wrapped posts.
But its ugly even in its own right.  What chance did it have, there in front of our land-connecting bank of south-facing windows.  Today I feel like I’m looking out of a heavily lidded eye, as if I’m sleepy.  But the time---the time I’d imagined ever since I looked at my first passive solar home picture---had arrived:  shade cloth time.
Its shade cloth time when the sun is low enough to slip beneath the overhang and through our south bank of windows, yet high enough to overheat the house.  And that time is August.  From late May until mid-July the sun painted only the thinnest stripe beneath the inside of the windows.  Then it began creeping and now suddenly leaping as it madly brushes its hot rays upon our window seat.  By the weekend it will spill onto the concrete slab floor.   A passive solar heated house in August:  yikes!
I purchased the shade cloth online two weeks ago.  And yesterday it joined the ranks of our passive cooling package under Principle 1: keep outside heat out (via reflection).   Comparing today’s 11:45 picture with yesterday’s,  I was happy to see it working.  The window seat is still painted, but not nearly such a hot swath of yellow, more the dappled light under a lone oak. 
As is so often the case here at Home the Land Built, I had no idea how to actually hang the shade cloth.  Einstein is often credited with saying, “the best design is the simplest design that works”.  Even if he didn’t say it, I still like it.  I hate overdesign.  I prefer to start simple and add as needed. 
So I started out securing the (apparently strong) cloth to the gutter supports with wire.  Nothing else.  That seemed to work until the breeze picked up this morning, flinging the cloth up and onto the roof.  “Weights,” I thought.  It needs weight.  Addicted to resourcefulness as I am, I hung giant steel washers along the bottom of the cloth with fish line.  They actually looked kind of cool dangling there.  But then a sudden southerly flung the cloth, washers and all, up onto the roof.  Cool would have to wait.  “Work” comes first.
I stapled the fishing line to the outside window trim and so far so good.  I’m afraid to see what the big prairie breeze will do to it.  For now, its keeping outside heat outside.
But as I sit in the living room---looking out through my heavily lidded eye at the ocean of sky---I long for a little more beauty.  Perhaps some origami hummingbirds hovering just outside the windows.  I don’t know.  If you have any ideas, send them my way.  Or better yet, stop down, and together we’ll put some striking makeup on this naked eyelid.


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