Monday, January 21, 2013

Pantry in progress

We spent the long weekend building a super deluxe pantry. It's small but designed to stay organized and allow room for fermentation and other projects that need an out of the way spot to hang. Here's an in-progress shot:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Exploratory Demo Payoff

My favorite phrase since becoming the owner of a 125-year-old house has been "exploratory demo". I mean, who doesn't love tearing stuff down? Especially when tearing stuff down undoes inappropriate modifications to the house and might even uncover something beautiful.

After exploratory demo
Tonight, after a long day of wallpaper removal (not my kind of demo), I had the urge to vent my frustration with some good old fashioned smashing. The target of my pry bar? Hideous cardboard ceiling tiles in the stairwell.

Since we moved in, the whole stairwell didn't seem right to me. The ceiling, in addition to the horrible tiles, seemed low. At one point, the whole upstairs had obviously been boarded off from the rest of the house to reduce heating costs. And I had already removed an ugly makeshift doorway from the top of the stairs. But, I thought maybe the sloped ceiling meant there would be stairs to the attic hidden in the wall.

Well, there are no attic stairs hidden in the wall. Instead, under the makeshift ceiling is a beautiful full ceiling. The kind you could hang a chandelier from. The kind that you could hang an over-sized oil portrait in. Gorgeous. It's a little hard to envision with the framing still in place, but I'll post a picture once I get it out.

I'm trying to determine approximately when the false ceiling was installed. The concealed portion has just one layer of wallpaper on it, where the walls below have 4-5. Does anyone know when this type of ceiling tile came into fashion? They're the kind made out of cardboard that fit together with a tongue and groove mechanism.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chicken Coop Construction

 Chickens have been an important part of our lives for many years now. When we bought the house, it was only about 3 weeks before we brought home a handful of baby chicks to raise. We built this home for them over the summer while they grew to outdoor-sized hens.

Our last coop was made of plywood and looked awful. We went for the cute factor this time. Using cedar shakes also meant no large materials to haul, a big advantage since we don't have a vehicle that can transport 4x8 sheets right now.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Permaculture F.E.A.S.T.

This fall, we had the amazing opportunity to donate our new property as a design site for the Permaculture F.E.A.S.T. permaculture design certification class. Over the course of a 12-week class, a group of 16 budding permaculture designers visited and analyzed our site, then created 4 beautiful potential designs for the property. In addition to the 4 master plans, we also received a plan for one detail from each of the students.

Wow. It was a little like getting to be on one of those TLC home makeover shows, only a million times better because the designs were gifted to us by people who share our vision for an abundant, sustainable future.

Now that it's mid winter, we are busy refining these plans, deciding what we can tackle in the coming growing season, and ordering plants so that we can hit the ground running come spring.

To everyone who helped produce these wonderful designs for our new home, thank you.

Here's a taste of what the class came up with:

This group's plan featured a luxurious wood-fired hot tub and a 3-year implementation plan.

A bioshelter that makes use of our old barn and a graceful winding layout were our favorite elements of this design.

We love the edible food forest and outdoor kitchen proposed by this group.

This group focused on borderlines between public and private spaces. Since we want to invite community members in to learn about permaculture principles, we love these ideas for opening up our home while maintaining privacy.

On the last day of class, many of my classmates asked me if I just felt more overwhelmed now, seeing the work we have cut out for us on paper like this. What I actually felt was immense relief and gratitude. Before, we had half an acre of insurmountable blank slate. Now we have direction. And because I took the class, I know the people who created these designs. They are part of my community now. I hope that the class will stay involved with our project, drop in for tea, pick some paw paws, maybe even help us tackle some of the hard projects. De-paving party, anyone?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Whittled Down Caravan in Popular Science Magazine!

We are super excited to be featured in the January 2013 issue of Popular Science magazine! You'll find us in the print edition on page 61 and online in the You Built What?! feature. We had so much fun working with Popular Science to bring the Whittled Down Caravan to a new audience.

The article also makes an exciting announcement: we are working to finalize the plans for the Caravan and make them available for download. It's going to take us a few months to finalize the plans, so email me if you'd like to be notified when they are available.

If you're finding your way here from, welcome! You can catch up on our Whittled Down Caravan adventures here. We also hope you'll explore some of the other sustainable living DIY projects we've featured on this blog, like:
Come back and visit for updates on the Whittled Down Caravan as well as our newest project: turning our 1890s brick house and yard into a permaculture demonstration site.