Part II–Heading to Arkansas with colleagues

After our exciting day with the Crowder colleagues, Mark Dowdy, Jessica du Maine, Damian Owens, Lori Thompson and husband Russell and my friend Robert Zerby headed to Yellville, Arkansas.  We traveled the hilly Ozark 2-lane roads past Eureka Springs and Harrison, and got into Yellville at dusk.  It was a COLD weekend on the 16th of October, getting into the low 40s at night and warming to the 50s during the day.  I was stoked that my colleagues wanted to come see my experiment in green building.  My sister,
Tere, and husband, Tom, have already built their off-the-grid home, and have been my inspiration for my studio/garage.  The three of us dug the piers, built the flooring, walls, put up the trusses and attached the metal roofing. This experiment has challenged my definitions of sustainability.  I presented my building plans in a talk at Florissant Valley last May, and will do Part II in May 2010.  My green building premise started with the value and question: “In 100 years from now, how will this building impact the environment, that is, what footprint will it have if I had to deconstruct it?”

I chose materials (for example, less concrete) because the construction process to make Portland cement is very toxic for the environment.  Plus, I wanted to float above the wooded terrain on piers.  I was excited to share with my colleagues what Tere and Tom’s had built for themselves.  They have a solar array for electricity; collect their water off the roof and purify it with filters; and have a composting toilet to save water without a septic system.  Their gray water from sink and shower feeds Tere’s massive gardens and orchards. No waste there! They heat with a wood stove, using the most plentiful and renewable source for energy in their surroundings.  Nature provides downed trees from storms, so they cut no live trees.

I told my colleagues that during last winter’s worst ice storm in a century, when the northern region of Arkansas was without power and even water for over a week, Tere and Tom had heat, water, and electricity.  That sufficiency is what I am building for as well.  So everyone got Tom’s solar electricity story and Tere shared about the building process, when it was just the two of them building a cabin with a loft without a crane.

For fun, Tom builds trails around their 28 acres.  He took all of us on the perimeter trail and showed the real beauty of this property–a year-round spring.  This spring feeds 40 gallons/min into a creek.  The creek had been bulldozed into a road for the loggers before Tere and Tom bought the property.  Tom has been restoring the creek by removing the rocks down to slick rock–the natural bottom.  So everyone could appreciate this journey, Tom showed slides that documented their adventure.

My colleagues were duly impressed with their lodgings, even though the 3 guys had to sleep in the uninsulated cabin over the root cellar. What camping troopers! The warm wood stove made the sharp contrast to the cold when they came in for breakfast.  I had  threatened to put them all to work on my studio, but suggested instead that we hike
and see the Buffalo River with the lovely fall colors.  The pictures in the gallery above speak for themselves. It was an awesome weekend adventure that I will long remember–thanks all for agreeing to come witness my dream.


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