Saturday, January 21, 2012

Even Starbucks is doing it.

I saw an article on Yahoo today about Starbucks building a store from shipping containers. You can read it  here. The article also says that this building is using rain-water collecting and xeriscaping to conserve water. Good for them!

Isn't it beautiful? So glad to see a big corporation doing this.

Photo: Tom Ackerman, Starbucks

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What's next?

So what's next for BaHa Ranch? First, we'll be moving the box onto the foundation. It's gonna look kind of like this (side view):

To do this, we'll have to hire a crane. Unless anyone out there can think of another way to move it? Next, metal straps that were poured into the foundation will be welded to the bottom of the box to keep it in place.

After the box is securely up on its foundation, we'll be installing the windows.

Only the tallest one, leaning on the wall behind the other one on the right, is going to go on this section of our house. The rest are for later. We got these windows, used, for $15 each. We'll also be adding one of two smaller windows that are not pictured here to this section. We got the smaller windows, also used, for $5 each at a Habitat store.

The windows will be framed by a friend of ours so that they are ready to go once the box is on its foundation. A neighbor of ours has graciously offered to do any welding that needs to be done in exchange for loaning him a Bobcat that we had rented. Saves us a lot of money! And to save even more money, we are going to try to make a door from the metal of the box itself; basically, we want to cut out a doorway and then frame the metal that was cut out and use it as a door. We'll see how that goes. We also plan to insulate the inside soon, since the framing is already in place for the walls. Any environmentally-friendly ideas on insulation? Spray-in looks easiest, but that icky pink cotton-candy stuff looks most cost-effective. We're also pondering old-fashioned clay and straw insulation. Does anyone have any experience with that? What are some other options that we could consider? 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Reading up on country living

Just to clarify, I've lived in the country before; in fact, I grew up in the country - not on a farm or ranch, but just in a sparsely-populated area. It was fun as a kid, but as a teenager, I hated it, and I left for the city as soon as I could. Why I'm looking forward to living in the country again can be explained in another post. For now, I just want to post about some of the books I'm reading to study up on country life.

I started out with Storey's Basic Country Skills. This one is awesome. It's huge. It covers every single topic that I could possibly want to read about - solar energy, growing from seeds, preserving food. There are so many things that I would have no idea who to ask, and it's all here. It does have some information on water supply, but we're specifically interested in greywater systems, so I also got Create an Oasis with Greywater by Art Ludwig. Very nice. Has expected costs, do-it-yourself instructions, and common errors made while constructing a system.

Then my mom gave me a pile of books and pamphlets that she's been saving forever. The one of which I am most proud is a copy of Mother Earth News from 1977. The most interesting thing that I've found so far in this issue was an advertisement stressing that people should become energy self-sufficient. Imagine how much better the world would be now if everyone had taken that advice back then? The ad says "...if you're wondering what you'll do when gasoline goes to $.75 or $.85 a gallon as it will..." Of course I know that they were talking about 1970's money...but they are so right about the rising prices and the need for self-sufficiency.

My mom also gave me The Homesteader's Handbook to Raising Small Livestock by Jerome Belanger, from 1974, a 1979 issue of Countryside, and a bunch of pamphlets with dates ranging from 1972 to 1988. It's so funny how the information in all of these publications is still so relevant and useful today. I know that nothing is  going to compare to experience when it comes to learning how to raise chickens, harvest vegetables, and so on, but it's great to have good resources to turn to. Plus, it's just plain fun to see the similarities and differences between life then and now, and I'm finding that there are a lot more similarities than there are differences.

Does anyone recommend any more books? If you have a small farm, how did you get started? What resources did you use to learn how to do all this stuff?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The view from up here

Here are a few pictures of the scenery at BaHa Ranch. Enjoy! Hopefully the landscape ones don't all look alike - they don't to me but I can see how they might to other people. Anyway, here are a few:

And just for good measure, here's a picture of a hot dog with a cold drink:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A bad trip and a good trip

Well, I'm sick (some kind of ick with a sore throat and fever), so all I can really do right now is lay around. Which is not good because I'm burning through these last weeks of my precious break from graduate school. But the good news is that it is now 2012, and this is the year that I will finish school and get my master's degree. So yay! This time next year we'll be living at BaHa Ranch, and I'll be studying my butt off to take the NBCOT exam. And hopefully, I won't be sick.

Since I'm not doing anything, I thought I'd add a post about the really bad trip we took to BaHa ranch a couple of weeks ago. Not to fear, it was followed by a really good trip a week later.

I guess I should mention first that right now, we live about a 4-hour drive (and a world away) from BaHa Ranch. Every time we go do some project there, it is a bit of an ordeal. In December, when we decided to build a shed, all kinds of things went wrong. First, we were locked out of our box. The lock just wouldn't turn. We went to our trusty Ace Hardware store and the guy there sold us some spray to loosen the lock. Well, I'm not sure what all it did, but it melted the paint off the front of the lock, and then the key broke inside the lock.

So we had to call a locksmith (and the nearest one was 20 miles away). I should also mention that during most of this time it was raining, the wood for the shed got soaked, the entire build site turned to mud, and our work clothes were inside the box - so we were stuck in what we were wearing, which quickly became covered in rain and mud (wonder why I'm sick now?). Course we could have cut off the lock, but guess what? We were really smart and bought those disc locks that can't be cut off, so...only option was the locksmith. Well, the guy was great and had the lock off in a few minutes, but by then it was dark. Did I mention that the only lights we have right now are solar-powered? We have to set them outside as soon as we get there in order to have light for the night. So there we were in the dark. Then BA decided that the day wouldn't be a total waste is he could take out the generator and start on the shed. Good idea, but the generator string broke off. By then we were too tired to air up the mattress, so we just slept, uncomfortably, in our sleeping bags (with our little dog tucked inside of mine, where she snored loudly all night). And it was very very cold. Oh, and going home the next day, the trailer that we had rented fell off twice and hit the truck.

Oh, my, I feel awful just thinking about all that! On to the good trip...

The next week, we went back to finish the shed, and nothing went wrong! We built a shed, then went on a date, and then slept comfortably on the air mattress (without the dog, who was wrapped in her own blanket pile for the night). And that's it. We were just thrilled because nothing went wrong, and we felt like we had passed some sort of test. Maybe it was the "Are you really cut out for country living?" test. Maybe it was the "1,000 things can go wrong when you're in the middle of nowhere" test. But you know what? We LIKE the middle of nowhere. And we've figured out how to take care of things when they do go wrong. We've relied on neighbors, friends, and strangers, and learned to ask for help. And we keep learning more and more lessons about how to prepare for the worst and then hope for the best.