Now that I have finalized my small house plan on graph paper, I need to get it drawn for the county permits and for the builder. I wish I could build it myself and admire people who can. I have done fixer-upper houses, but never built a house.
My goal is to downsize the area that I have to keep comfortably warm for the long winter months in the New Mexico mountains. I have 10 months of sun that makes passive solar an obvious choice. Ditto the side of a mountain with an existing cutout that makes earth sheltering against extreme cold favorable. The low rainfall and need to collect rainwater from my roof dictated metal roofing and a cistern instead of a living roof for warmth.
It does not get hot here for more than a couple weeks, but I am including a good exhaust fan. With passive solar, overheating can be an issue. For cool intake when I need it, the garage is on the north side, bermed on the east, and will remain cool. If I crack the kitchen door to the north garage while the exhaust is on, it will pull cool air into the house.
I made the house shallow because berming on the north and east and the greenhouse on the west means only south windows. Yeah, claustrophobia! Twelve feet deep solves that issue for me, and no heavy roof load helps too even though it would be nice protection in case of a forest fire. Daily water security trumps theoretical forest fire. Second, I want to keep the place small and cosy for one person. I have an attached greenhouse and garage for snow days. I have two outbuildings and 5 acres for nice weather days.
In the meantime, I have been reading more about earth bermed houses. I shifted the kitchen sink to the bathroom wall for economy but lost the window over the sink. The planned window is deep for plants, though, and will be open for easier access. It means I can add hanging plants, too high to reach across the kitchen counter, but fine with direct access and that will double plant space. Cherry tomatoes would produce all winter hanging in the kitchen. Nasturtiums too. I am good with the tradeoff. Anywhere I stand in my house has a nice view of my private garden.
One other thing I read is that I can use the pile of crusher fines sitting in my soon-to-be living room for a base under the concrete. That means I can spread that pile of crusher fines instead of paying someone to move it to another location. It has to be tamped down, and I can do that too. The prior owners were planning to build, perhaps that is why they dumped crusher fines in the middle of that spot. Another chore for me. Comments welcome!
I have south windows for passive solar, and concrete is good for absorbing heat and releasing it all night. Plus, tile is easy to keep clean. Better than chopping or buying prechopped wood.
I have an electric fireplace that hangs on the wall. Backup or just for “fire” I have gel fuel. In Texas I added a faux fireplace that used up to 3 gel fuel cans. No wood on the prairie, no heat loss through the chimney, and no toxins released into the air. No visible smoke outdoors. Liveable with no supplemental heat.
Here, a simple glass container that uses volcanic rock to bury the can. I have purchased gel fuel in bulk (cuts price in half), but once I distill alcohol I can make gel fuel also. I may not, but having the ability would be nice. It is on my list.
Making alcohol is happening as I write! The hard cider definitely smells of alcohol so when I stirred it earlier I filched a teaspoon of hootch. Yep, alcoholic and mild tasting. I love yeast that makes alcohol for me. I am not even stealing it from them (like honey), alcohol is a waste product, not their winter food supply. I will time removal of one cup before they die to see whether I can keep a live culture like I do for sourdough bread. Sustainable is buy once and keep forever. Eventually I would have my own strain. Food Forest deluxe denizens will live in the small house with me and Little Guy.
I went to Home Depot for 8 more concrete blocks for my raised beds and found a 24×24 inch porcelain tile I really liked. It is an easy size for the kitchen and bath counters, too. Also the shower walls. The whole place is only 400 square feet, so the tile is critical. I bought 2 tiles to top my 2×4 counter I added to my current kitchen. I will not attach them permanently because this is a temporary addition to increase my work space in my trailerstead. They will become two 24×24 tables for my 4 Adirondack chairs on the new patio.
Even so, I am not quite ready to buy the floor tile. It is a new line and hopefully still in stock when I get a permit. I need to get the design through code before buying anything so specific as tile. Once I am sure about the square footage, I can get serious about grabbing tile… unless I find something gorgeous on Craigslist for less.
I took my Papillon, Little Guy, with me. He acted as insane as when I first rescued him. He needs socialization with regular people so there we were with him acting out barking and snarling and flinging himself around. Really charming. I swear he must have lived with an axe murderer, he had gashes on him when I first got him.
I apologized and said he was a rescue dog. Everyone came to see him, employees and customers alike, so it took me a while to get through the place. He was behaving so sweetly by the time we left that I feel a little weepy. I had forgotten how crazy insane he acted when I took him in. His first foster family was going to put him down. He was a scrawny 6 pounds of crazy but turned into 10 pounds of sugar bear.