March 2008

By Example - The Quest for Sustainable Living Newsletter
March 2008

Homestead Construction is Underway!


It's been six months since our last newsletter and so much has happened between then and now. To start, last September we moved from our temporary situation onto our property! It is so exciting to finally be living on the land that we own, even though we continue to live in a travel trailer. In order to prepare our homestead for the big move there were many projects we had to complete first and even more projects that have been begun since.

Our first priority was to get running water on our property. Though its been more than a year since we had our well drilled, we elected to install a small submersible well pump ourselves last fall. Our well pump runs completely on solar power and satisfies all of our pumping needs. Once the well was operational, we ran fresh water Pex lines to various points on our property including the trailer, a 1600 gallon water storage tank and several freeze protected farm faucets.

Next, we built a shed to house components from our solar power system and to serve as the center of our utilities infrastructure. Before moving onto the land we also installed a Satellite Internet system, activated our phone lines and connected a toilet to the septic system. Then we were ready to move!

Once settled we immediately began construction of the first major structure to be erected, a passive solar greenhouse. Because of time, permitting and financial restraints we chose to build with stick frame construction rather than with an alternative building method. Even so, we designed our solar greenhouse to retain maximum heat during the cold months and to vent passively in the summer. This means our expense to heat and cool the space will be low, very low, and therefore very sustainable.

With family and friends here to help we've made huge progress on the greenhouse, though there is still a lot to be done. We had our first experience with concrete when we installed the footers and slab for the greenhouse foundation and have since gotten an education on framing, roofing and insulating a structure. We ran all of the water, septic, electric, phone and data lines into the greenhouse ourselves, which was good practice for the day when we finally begin the construction of our home.

With warmer weather approaching we've turned our focus to creating our barn and garden area. We are determined to produce our own food and will be moving forward with this aspect of our sustainability over the next year.

In peace,

Mel & Patrick

Greenhouse Progress

We've erected a passive solar greenhouse on our property. It's the first major structure on our land, but there is still a lot to be done before it's finished.

DIY Concrete Foundation

With help from our family members and friends we were able to design and install the concrete footers and foundation for our passive solar greenhouse.

Plans for Heating Our Greenhouse with Solar

Our passive solar greenhouse is not your typical greenhouse. It is stick frame construction on a concrete pad with south facing windows and clerestory. It is designed to be energy efficient, absorbing heat in the winter and staying cool in the summer.

Snowy Homestead Photos

Last month we had a foot and a half of snow! Not your typical weather for the high desert of Arizona.

Passive Solar House Plans for Our Future Home

This version of our house plan features a cinder block basement that is set into the side of the hill, with a stick frame living space located above. All in all this plan gives us more usable living space in our main permitted structure than previous plans that we have considered.

Moving onto Our Land & Installing the Utilities Infrastructure

Before moving onto our property we installed our homestead utilities infrastructure. We ran all of the water, septic, electric, phone and data lines ourselves.

Installing Our Solar Well Pump & Fresh Water System

We designed and installed a fresh water system for our homestead that is completely solar powered. Our fresh water system includes a Sun Pumps submersible pump, a 1600 gallon water storage tank, a pressure pump, a pressure tank and an underground water manifold.

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