Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Straw Talk

Straw Bale House Update: I've been asked how we became interested in Straw Bale and what resources we used. The net was a great place to start. We stumbled upon on this site which offered up some basic plans... although our house plan is totally different, we liked the roof and wall lines lines of this house. We asked people that had homes we liked, who designed their home and found the designer was receptive to learning about strawbale construction and adapting our vision into a workable plan.

The best book I've come across is Serious Straw Bale. It's a great read regardless of what type of bale house you're interested in. (I ordered ours though Amazon.) Andrew Morrison's site, http://www.strawbale.com/ has lots of free information, (although I did buy his cd's. + well worth it). If you think building Straw Bale is going to save you money, think again. This type of construction will likely cost you 20% more than a traditional balloon framed home. The savings (hopefully) will come with reduced power consumption. Our home is basically one large thermal mass for heat storage in winter and cool storage in summer. Our finished floor will most likely be concrete (although Hempcrete is interesting and more enviro friendly). The interior walls will be one inch thick lime plaster (limestone), for even more thermal mass and the main heat source is a super efficient Crossfire masonry heater. The heater should be able to heat the home with two, one-hour fires each day. More mason heater info.

More eco-chump (ism).... Is must be more environmentally friendly to vacation in Mexico every other year for 2 weeks rather that every year for one week. There must be some way to justify a vacation next year.

Saturday, a Denman Island Fire Dept. call-out had a tragic ending as a reported van fire was fatal to it's owner. The owner (who lived in the van),was a familiar face to all that live here and was certainly part of our diverse culture. Coincidentally, only two days before, I had given him a ride from the ferry to the village.

A tribute to Volunteer firefighters, well said.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I'm an eco-chump

Straw Bale House Update: A week of decent weather was a great help in framing the upper floor partition walls. The picture is taken from the upstairs common room, looking at the bedroom and bath. The stained beam is a collar support for the round dormer roof that's next on the list. A round roof sounded cool at one time, now I'm not so sure.

I think I may be an eco-chump.... This question came up while grocery shopping the other day... Is it better to buy regular carrots farmed in your region or from a "certified organic" farm hundreds of miles away? Take the chump challenge.

Are throw-away cars in our future? North American auto manufacturers will have their work cut out for them if cheap cars hit our market. If cars were sold for $2500, what would be the consequences? Millions of more oil depenadant machines, for sure. If anything should go wrong with them, it may be cheaper to buy a new one than to fix the old one. Cars would become disposable. There may have to be a refundable deposit charged or blue-box curbside pickup for your recyclable Tata. Even lower income families could afford a pair of Tata's... (sorry couldn't resist.) People will be able to afford the Tata Nano, but can the earth afford it?

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Give a man the net and he'll stay home and blog"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I Don't Care!

I don't care about global warming. It's rather irrelevant. There's a camp that believes that global warming is man made and another that says it's a natural phenomenon. The Inconvenient Truth movie has been found to be grossly embellished. Documentaries have aired that state this (warming) is the earth's natural cycle. To me it really doesn't matter.....But let's face it... global warming is now big business. The big corporations...eg. McDonalds and Walmart can't wait to jump on the big green bandwagon. Is this because they care or is just good business? Our Governments can't wait to give grants and tax cuts for green enterprises because it buys votes. Meanwhile...people... average people, like you and me, we make the real efforts to counter global warming... like recycling, switching our light bulbs to cfl's, buying unbleached paper towels, eating less commercial red meat and buying low-flush toilets. We dream about the 100 mile diet. Sometimes we remember the cloth shopping bags and weather permitting, we'll walk the two blocks to the store.... to negate driving the two blocks to pick up our lazy, TV addicted kids from school. In reality, our combined good deed, global efforts may extend the life of the earth, by about 30 seconds. The mega corporate polluters offset our efforts beyond our comprehension. So, I really don't care about global warming... it is what it is. What I do care about is the earth. Man is parasitic to the earth... parasites eventually kill their hosts and move on. Our problem is we have nowhere to move, yet. The important thing is that we stop poisoning the air, earth and water. If we do that, the climate will take care of itself. But, mega polluters also generate mega tax dollars and are mega employers and that means mega votes come polling day. Food for thought.... In the 1940's teams of scientist gathered to save the world by splitting the atom. (boom) Once again the great minds of earth were assembled in the 60's for the "space race". In the 50's a computer with the memory of the one I'm using, (laptop) would've been as large as a house. Do you think If all the money spent on environmental band aids was spent on research to find another way to make the wheels on the cars go round and power our homes and factories, we could end our nasty oil dependence? It seems like a small feat comparatively. Instead we'll pour buckets of cash at global warming symptoms but none at the real cause... our dependence on oil. "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." H.D.Thoreau.

Straw Bale House update: Work on the roof line is progressing while the weather cooperates. Some days there are real decisions to be made... like what size window you you want there? This weekend we went to Demxx in Coombs to scoop a couple of antique, leaded, stained glass windows. Demxx is a treasure trove of recycled building materials for the enviro-builder. The old windows will be stripped from the original frames and remounted in frames made from the Douglas Fir on the property and stained to match the beam work... something I can do in my spare time? I've been extremely fortunate that a long time resident of the Island has agreed to help me build, (at least for the time being). He's in the process of completing his own home, (coincidentally a design from the same home designer) and is well versed in post & beam construction. So far he has been extremely patient with his apprentice, Moi.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Tar, a sticky subject

Yes, survived the the holiday season and have settled into winter lethargy. Becoming a Denman Island tradition, is the loss of our regular ferry, which has been replaced by her smaller sister. This makes counting on making a ferry somewhat of a gamble... such is island life. A short foray into town last week for supplies was an adventure, as the roads were somewhat treacherous.... note the lack of other traffic.

Canada is host to one quarter of the world's remaining boreal forests. Northern Alberta's Precious forests are quickly being eaten up to make room for oil sands strip mining operations to fuel American Automobiles. Currently an area the size of Vancouver Island has been marked for development. Once the trees have been cut down and the animals displaced, the work of poisoning the air and the (once pristine) Athabasca River can begin. But hey, Alberta is debt-free!

Straw Bale House update: 34 new posts and beams have been milled on the island for us. This means that there's work to do even on crappy days. Now that the straw is on the island and the free storage ends in June, there is some urgency to getting the roof on and the floor poured before that. It's our plan to begin baling as soon as weather allows for the drying of the lime plaster. Lime plaster is the exterior and interior finish of choice for a few of reasons....
- it sticks to straw. (very important)
- Carbon neutral - It actually recovers the carbon dioxide it took to make the hydrated lime.
- thermal mass for interior heat storage and cooling.
- it allows the free transfer of vapour through the walls.
- nothing will grow on it (moss, mildew etc)

The picture on the right shows the location of our current home (green circle - low) and the location of the new home (light blue circle - high). A distance of less than a kilometer and about 6 kilometers apart by road.