Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Winter House

It's been almost two weeks now since I moved into my "Winter House."

Life has shifted dramatically, and I'm still trying to get used to things like having running water, working at home again, and cooking in a "real" kitchen.  I'm definitely not complaining; it's just very different.

One of the first things I did after getting settled in was bake pumpkin bread in the oven, using organic spelt flour and a pumpkin I got from the Morning Star Farm CSA.  Yum.

I also have been taking baths, staying up late (because I have electric lights!), and buying more food than I need immediately because I can store it in an actual refrigerator, with a FREEZER.

The house I'm renting belongs to a woman named Karen who lives in it half the year and in New York the other half. So I will be here until she comes back in May, which is great timing to move back out to the bus again.

One of the contrasts to living in the bus is having excellent insulation and passive solar gain.   Karen had this house built out of pumicecrete, with lots of south-facing windows, and radiant floor heating.  The result is that it's almost always warm in here, and the heat only comes on late at night, if at all.  I actually lived in this house when I first moved to Taos, and even in the winter, you could sometimes leave the front door open during the day because it got so hot in the house.  It's really amazing how well this place holds heat, which reinforces my decision to build my house with scoria, which is basically red pumice.

Now that I'm building my own house, I'm noticing things about this place that I didn't the first time I lived here.  Like the layout - it's not an ideal use of the square footage, in my opinion.  There are little areas that are not very useful.  This makes me even gladder that I'm building domes, where every "square" inch of space will be used efficiently.

I also feel that the passive solar design is a bit overkill, that there are actually too many big south-facing windows.  It's extremely bright in the living room and one of the bedrooms during the day.  And, as I mentioned, it gets too hot, even in the dead of winter.  Once again, this makes me appreciate Owen's design for the Enviro Dome I'm building, as it incorporates passive solar gain primarily through the French doors that provide the entrance to each of the main domes.

All in all it's nice to be back on the grid again for a while, but I do have to say that there's a certain level of unconsciousness that seems to go along with it.  I can distract myself on the computer or watching movies whenever I want.  I can read until all hours and barely be aware that it's nighttime.  I can run any amount of water down the drain without having to think about how much it is or where it's going.  I can turn on the oven without having to worry about how much propane is left.

Having on-grid conveniences means that my time and mental energy are freed up to focus on other things, but the trick is deliberately choosing what those things will be rather than just falling unconsciously into life-sucking time-wasters, like playing hours of computer Solitaire.


  1. you've made a good observation about living on the grid being an environment where one does not have to make so many conscious decisions about using resources - such as power, water, time . . .

  2. Like Kel, I very much appreciate your observations and I can see how not so pleasant it would be after a while to live on the grid.
    As usual, I find you inspiring :-)

  3. So true. And I am looking forward to some of that pumpkin bread :-)

  4. Hi!

    I found your house picture on google while looking for some small house designs. I really love your house and would like to build one exactly the same; it's warm and seems functional.
    I would really appreciate your advice on the materials used, some raw plans and any other useful information I could use.
    Thanks and will keep browsing your blog!