Moving Forward - 2015

There are many things that we can accomplish before we complete the detailed design process that will be needed to get a building permit for the Big House.

Steps toward a sustainability camp

Steps we can take this year

Finish the Summer kitchen

Finding water

Bring in a well driller

New gardens

Swimming pond

Uses of clay from pond

Cold storage
Building partitions





Steps we can take this year

The Vision
There is a logic to pioneering a dwelling system that not only heats and cools itself by design, but is also able to provide its inhabitants with all their nutritional needs. Habitation that provides maximum health benefits with a minimum of energy has a creative appeal in its own right. Further appeal will be found among the many who ponder global issues. Supported within a domestic ecosystem, what the people would then do with their lives will depend on how the world unfolds.

There are several steps that we can accomplish with the limited funds presently available. For example:

Summer kitchen
Over the past three years a masonry cooking facility has been erected. (See pictures at the bottom of this link.) The grill and bake oven are in working order and almost half of the footings that will anchor posts to support the roof are complete. With all the timbers on site to construct the roof, this facility should come on line early in the season so that we can produce meals to fuel the rest of the projects at hand.

- Clearing paths for finding water
Having good access to water is critical to any habitation. We know a well-finder with decades of experience who is willing to locate a good place to drill. Presently, however, there are still large sections of the building area that are impassable due to dense patches of prickly ash. Cutting a path through the largest patch, then through the next largest, then the next and the next until the area is completely accessible for dowsing is a project with almost no cost.

- Vehicle passage into the site
Once the well position is located, the task would be to clear a passage wide enough for a well-drilling truck. Such a roadway could cost nothing beyond hosting work parties, though we may need to bring in some gravel if there are any large dips that can't conveniently be avoided. As the road would become the permanent vehicle access to the site, it would be wise, eventually, to rescue the topsoil along the route and put down a solid road-bed.

- Drill the well
This step would cost two or three thousand dollars. Considering the advantage that water on site would create, it would be a top rate investment.

- New gardens
When the well is located, we can finalize where the Big House will go. The whole area has several inches of rich topsoil. Over the portion where the building will be, the topsoil can be dug up and piled onto future garden sites. The most useful growing space will be that which is closest to the dwelling. The topsoil from the building area and driveway could double the rich growing medium in that area.

- Dig swimming pond
There is a large low area to the South of the building site that has the same clay base as the present upper garden. In this area we can likely find clay deep enough to dig a swimmable pond. If it can be dug to six or eight feet (this depth was no problem for the upper garden pond), it would be too deep for water plants to get enough light to grow, so swimmers would not have to deal with pond weeds tickling their toes.

One pond design that we could use secures the circumference of the swimmable area with retaining walls that rise from bedrock up to three or four feet below the water surface. These would allow the edges to naturalize from the underwater wall to above the water line. The result would be all manner of vegetation providing habitat for aquatic and semi-aquatic wildlife. Such an excavation would only cost a few thousand dollars.

With a well in place, on sunny days – which are the days when the pond level would fall most due to evaporation – a solar panel and 12 volt water-pump could top up the pond without any need for an energy storage system. The electric source could also aerate the pond to keep it from stagnating and water gardens in the area. Possibilities also exist for harnesing wind-power.

With visitors able to cool off, enjoy the natural settings and have opportunities to learn about organic growing, sustainable building and other such activities our grounds would be excellent for an eco-camp site. We would have the foundation for an LEV business.

There are several things that the material excavated from the pond could be used for:

- Greenhouse
It is much easier to heat a greenhouse if it is dug partially into the ground. We don't have deep enough soil anywhere that wouldn't flood in the spring, but with masses of excavated materials to tuck away, we could build up berm around a greenhouse and have the same advantage. If we locate where the greenhouse will be in the overall building layout, we could begin to use it in anticipation of the building that would eventually be attached.

- Cold storage.
The same excavated material could also be used to insulate a cold storage/root cellar. Such storage is another facility that could be set up and put to use in anticipation of the building to come.

- Partitions in the building
Remaining clay could be piled within easy range of the building site for making cob to build sound-proof partitions separating individual quarters in the Big House. The same cob partitions would provide thermal mass to help maintain a steady, comfortable indoor temperature.

Collective ownership

The next bureaucratic step is to incorporate a not-for-profit structure. It is not a very expensive process and has long been on our to-do list for when the zoning application process is completed. A well-organized legal structure will make it safer for individuals to embody their hard-earned savings in the project.

Publicizing project

To date, almost all outreach has been by word of mouth. That limitation will end when the zoning application has been officially presented. Whether or not our plan is accepted, it will be time to broadcast the story of domestic ecosystems and how we can pioneer them here in Lanark County. When the zoning is accepted, the story will invite the public to imagine the possibility of ecologically-benign living and to consider joining the process of building an example. (If our application is rejected, such stories will augment a lobbying effort to have the plan accepted.)

Either way, we hope the effort will inspire new members and active participation.