February 2007

By Example - The Quest for Sustainable Living Newsletter
February 2007

Homestead Construction is Underway!

Greetings to our family, friends, alternative energy enthusiasts and fellow homesteaders,

We are happy to report that plans for our sustainable homestead are coming together and that we've already made a lot of progress towards our goal. In December of 2006 the official survey of our future home site was completed and we submitted the paperwork to apply for a minor land split. We recently finalized the sale and are now the proud owners of 2.25 acres of land in the Painted Desert of Arizona.

As the new year arrived we celebrated the completion of our fresh water well, which was drilled to a total depth of 280 feet. In the coming months we will be installing a solar powered well pump that will provide water to our home and gardens. Our next major homestead project will be the installation of a septic system. Though we are currently looking for an engineer to perform a perc test, we are exploring the possibility of putting the system in ourselves.

At present we are focused on planning and have drafted a map of our future home site to help us create a strategy for using our space efficiently and logically. When mapping out locations for our home, the barn, well and septic system we took the slope of the land into account, as well as the sun's position and seasonal pattern. We want to reduce our energy needs as much as possible, and have positioned our well at one of the highest points on our property to minimize the need for pumping water. In addition, the map calls for all future structures to be aligned East to West to maximize solar gain and reduce our heating needs.

Our passive solar home will also be designed to function with minimal power. It's south facing glazing and thermal mass combined with a passive venting system will help our house to naturally maintain a comfortable temperature. A greenhouse on the south side of our home will have a concrete floor to increase our thermal storage in winter months. To take advantage of the sun's energy our house will also have a solar oven and an improved solar hot water system with an indoor hot water storage tank. Our homestead will be off the grid and we will continue to rely on solar panels as our primary source of electricity. In addition, our barnyard will be optimized for the production of methane gas, which we plan to use in place of propane.

The recent progress on our homestead has inspired us and we have become anxious to move out of our travel trailers and into a real home. We plan to move this coming summer and we'll be completely focused on building our sustainable homestead until then. We'll be constructing our home and office, putting in water and power systems, as well as making plans for farm and garden. Thankfully, we'll have help from friends and family who are making plans to be here as we build.

In peace,

Mel & Patrick

Plan for Our Sustainable Homestead

In the first draft of our homestead plan we mapped out the overall layout of structures. Our map defines pathways for water, septic, gas and electric systems, and shows our plans for phone and data lines as well.

Plans for Our Passive Solar House

The second version of our homestead plan shows details of our passive solar home and sustainable farm, including floor plans and ideas for outdoor landscaping.

Staking Out Building on Our Property

Once the homestead plan was down on paper, we went outside and staked out future buildings. It's no big surprise that we've had to make several alterations to our map in order to accommodate existing features of the land.

Photos of Official Survey Markers

We were very excited when the official survey of our property was completed and we took several photos of the new survey markers.

Drilling Our Fresh Water Well

We are very grateful to have a fresh water well on our homestead! We were lucky enough to be present during the drilling process and we got several good photos of the drilling rig. Despite our excitement, our awareness of our water supply is now heightened and we have become greatly concerned by the careless abuse of Arizona's fresh water by coal burning power plants.

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