27 July 2007

Missing home...

This is another view of my future building site - and current office al fresco.

I have to say, I find myself sitting in a lovely office in Namibia, in an old old colonial house, and I'm wrapped in scarves and wool vests and still freezing, and I miss my little sauna in the woods, complete with teh wonderful Lucy - she's recovered well from her surgery by the way.

Ground breaking will start shortly after I return home in another week. Next I'm off to Cape Town - which will be even cooler, but they have an indoor heated lap pool which after doing laps and playing at hypothermia here at the hotel roof pool, I'm really looking forward to it.

Anyway, more details to come!

Hope all is well there! (where ever there is!)

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19 July 2007

Lucy is having dental surgery today.
She's a good Gurl and my dedicated side kick.
Batman should have had this kind of support from Robin.
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The mall that was... I wanted to get in there and get some of the cinder blocks, etc.
But that' didn't seem wise, as I was wearing flip flops.
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(thank you Bill!!)
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Summer Time....

Oh My!!

I've been in absentia more than I would have liked. It's been hectic, and there has been some progress on the fortress - though most of it is on paper.

First to offer the excuses:
Finished big project for work - did not want to be within spitting distance of the computer for a few days
Had to get my big mall doors from their hiding place at Joe's. Now at new hiding place.
Had to spend time with family who haven't seen me, because I've been working so much (see above)
Had to take son to have all 4 wisdom teeth pulled (ouch!!) He's doing well.
Had to take Lucy (the adorable dog in all the pictures) to vet this morning to have some back teeth removed
(poor Lucy!)
Had to get ready to go on my upcoming trip for work. 2 weeks in South Africa and Namibia. It will be a work fest, no doubt.
Had to get back on my feet after the work related marathon I've run.

So, that being said and done, I'm back for the moment.

I leave for South Africa/Namibia on Saturday (21 hour flight each way - so much for that carbon foot print reduction thing, huh? but it is for a big international environmental conference, so I guess I don't know, I get greenhouse points?)

In the meantime, We are working on the fortress. We have decided on dimensions (10 ft x 10 ft, plus a 10ft x 3 ft bay window- with the 4 mall doors - facing south) a small loft above with a window to open for convection cooling. a deck (covered in summer) of about 7 ft that wraps around to the side where the "outhouse/composting toilet" will be. For cooling/warming we'll dig a trench 5 ft. deep, that will run around the back yard, and back and blow air 54 degrees (f) into the space. Lots of over hangs, losts of passive heating and cooling. I'd like to get the radiant heating for the floors, so we're looking into that. And more....

My darling husband, Bill, has taken this on with renewed gusto and is hoping to have the pylons set and the trench dug before I get back the second week of August. And then it's building it up from there.... We'll see. I expect it will be interesting.

Work will either slow down a lot this fall or will be fairly busy. At the moment, I just don't know. If it's slow, I'll do the work myself (at least some of it). If it's busy, I 'll pay someone else to do it.

Anyway, that's my update du jour.

More soon!

Very best,

10 July 2007


Since my dilemma with pressure treated lumber I've come to the conclusion, I've had enough pressure lately with everything so I want to keep things green, with no chance of leeching arsenic or other nasties.

And I've spent a bit of time thinking about things, talking with friends and family and well, GETTING MY DOORS!!! (Yes, stashed somewhere in Athens are 4 "mall" doors!!)

So things are on track and getting greener by the moment. Sunday my dear friends Sue and Seumas came down from the mountains and we all went out for brunch. I love these folks. I've known them since I moved to Georgia 20 years ago, and have always felt like they know more about living gently on the earth than anyone I know. They've always done it, with such respect and appreciation for the environment, and everything they do, they do with respect and love. This is no short term "eco fad" for them. They are serious about it. Seumas knows more about vegetation of north Georgia than faculty at UGA, and Sue, well, Sue is just awesome.

Anyway, they are excited about the forthcoming greened house and helping put together ideas for it. I am so excited!! Things like geo-thermal heating and cooling systems, uber insulation, and construction ideas well beyond what I can come up with on my own. I'm very lucky to have them as friends.

More updates forth coming, and, soon plans and more pictures. I have to revise a project document for work first.

And thanks to Green Pa, and Alex for your great ideas and inputs!! Please keep them coming!

06 July 2007

advice needed: pressure treated lumber?

Okay, so I've learned how it work, and it sounds nasty.

Wood is a great building material. It is strong, lightweight, easily worked with tools and relatively inexpensive. The only problem with wood is that many varieties of bacteria, fungi and insects find it appetizing. When wood is in contact with the ground or moisture for any period of time, these organisms attack the wood. Untreated wood like pine will only last a year or two if it is touching moist ground.
Pressure-treated lumber is wood that has been immersed in a liquid preservative and placed in a pressure chamber. The chamber forces the chemical into the wood fibers. The pressurized approach makes sure that the chemical makes it to the core of each piece of wood -- it is much more effective than simply soaking the wood in the chemical.
The most common chemical used to treat lumber used to be chromated copper arsenate, or CCA. In 2003, however, the Environmental Protection Agency restricted the use of CCA in residential settings due to health and environmental concerns about arsenic leaching out of the wood. The most widely used alternative to CCA is alkaline copper quat, or ACQ. Copper is toxic to various insects and fungi that might cause decay. ACQ binds to wood fibers very well and allows wood to last decades even when it is in contact with the ground.
The protection provided by the chemical depends on the amount of chemical that the wood absorbs. In the United States, the amount of chemical is measured in pounds of chemical per cubic foot of wood. For ground contact, 0.40 pounds per cubic foot is needed. For foundations, 0.60 pounds per cubic foot is the standard.
The chemicals in treated wood are generally not good for humans. This is why you see warnings advising you to wear gloves, avoid breathing the sawdust, and refrain from burning treated wood. Keeping small children away from treated wood is also a good idea.
(Okay, I think that pretty much falls WAY outside of the Green scheme at play here)

But there is:
Borates may be better
Not all pressure-treated lumber is copper-based. Borate-based treatments are also effective at stopping bugs, mold, and rot. Borate lumber treatments have low toxicity levels for people and pets. Borate taken into the body doesn't build up like heavy metals do; our bodies excrete what they don't need.
Borate pressure-treated wood has excellent to outstanding corrosion resistance to common metals, according to standards established by the AWPA. No special fasteners or flashings are required.
Lumber treated with disodium octaborate tetrahydrate (DOT) historically has been used in protected, not exposed, locations because borate leaches from wood when the wood gets wet.
But studies show that borate-treated lumber doesn't leach as much as its reputation suggests.
And borate treatments are getting better. Wood Treatment Products Inc. (http://www.eswoodtreatment.com/) has developed a way to fix borate into lumber better. EnviroSafe Plus is the brand name of this turbo-borate, and it has tested well for borate retention, noncorrosiveness, fire suppression, and nontoxicity of smoke.
I hope not to need much new wood, but for framing the house, as well as the deck materials, I'm sort of wondering what to do here.

Your advice is welcome!!

05 July 2007

News Flash!


Let's review:
- Steve, The (adorable) Builder Guy, had given a very rough estimate of upwards of about $30,000. (!!!!) which left me in something of dither.
- The concept of building underground, or at least as an earth sheltered structure, began to look a bit untenable, because of cost, water tables - the site is next to a dried spring bed, and so alternatives were being considered.
- Found Alex's sight in the UK on Shedworking which is full of really fun and inspiring bits of info for the aspiring shed worker.

- Ran into Brian, the groovy lawyer and fellow kids league soccer hooligan, who loaned me books on "Tiny houses"
- Wanted to get doors from nearby strip mall- thus saving the $1000 + french doors wanted to put in for southern exposure (passive solar in the biz)
- Wanted to maintain the environmental "GREEN-NESS" of the coming structure - after all, that IS the whole idea behind this blog.
- Recalled salvage ethic used all over the world that uses what ever local materials are available, and got to thinking about that.
Introducing Barberitos!!

A favorite family eatery - in the soon to be demolished strip mall.

Went by on Thursday (a week ago) and they were getting ready to move.

Went by on Friday evening and they were closed up - moving to the new store.

Went by on Saturday and talked to Phillip the Manager Guy at the East side location.

Called Corporate HQ (here in Athens) on Monday - wrote check for $5o

AND.... This:



My Dear Son and MY DARLING Husband, and even My Precious Father, spent the 4th of July ripping wood out of Barberitos eastside!! (AND I'm making progress on the doors too!)

Of course, now I have some very nice wood, including some lovely tongue and groove paneling I can use and didn't even have to pay extra for the Mexican Restaraunt scenting, plus plenty of corrugated metal sheeting (Sounds fun in rain storm!) and inspiration, but still no plans firmed up. Those are coming.

Now, you are wondering, why wasn't Mary ripping wood with her family for Independence Day? Where was she?

Okay, first, I was there some, though admittedly The Boys did the lion's share of the work.

And Second, despite fighting two wars a couple hundred years ago to avoid being required to do such things, I was labouring under a British Tyrant. Also known as my senior partner. I HAD to finish my Stakeholder Analysis Report for a project we're working on, so I spent the day typing frantically. The final output was over 90 pages of more information on Stakeholders for the Orange Senqu River Basin than you could ever hope to know. Actually, it was a good report, the timing was just difficult. And in his defense, the British Tyrant just set the date for having it done. Really, he's a good guy. Sometimes, I even agree to let him be my boss.

Now, I have the wood, I have inspiration, I have a lead on more wood, Mom has offered some windows she has stored in the barn at her place, and so, oddly, it seems I have most of the materials, and will need to figure out what to build and then build it.

I'm still sticking to the green ideas. And considering the amount of materials I'm saving from the Athens-Clarke landfill, I think I'm reaching that. The cost savings are incredible, and that will save money for solar power panels, the composting toilet, uber insulation, and other exciting things.

The building will probably not be underground. (bummer) The husband wants to build it on a concrete slab (we'll have to install ourselves). I want to save trees. Brian suggested elevating it some instead, to keep it off the ground and allow air circulation (sounds good in the summer), Steve agrees that would be a good option, and I'm wondering what pressure treated lumber is all about. (Wikipedia?) and if I REALLY NEED it.

And so it goes. The building site it fairly flat, but perched on a hilly slope. I need to spend some time thinking about what I want it to be, look like, alternate plans, etc. And so, that's next!!

Here's the view of the site from down in the dry spring bed. Yes, the dog comes with it. She's special that way.

As always, insights, thoughts, comments, suggestions, and free materials are welcome!
p.s. after the writing orgy yesterday, my brain is the consistency of warm cottage cheese. Rambling is a side effect.

Please remain calm...

02 July 2007



Soon - updates on:

Doors! Doors! Doors!

Wood! Wood! Wood!

Plans! Plans! Plans!

Serindipity ABOUNDS!!

Okay, I'm super crazy busy at the moment - but soon! With photos! I promise!!