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Monthly Archives: April 2009

Almost twelve years ago, my family’s farm was partially demolished to make room for a new highway.  The machine shed is one of the few buildings that remain, and that is where I’ve decided to prepare my workspace.  After removing all of the stuff that has collected there in the past several years, I built shelves, a workbench, and a fabrication table.  The length and width of the table matches the outside dimensions of my house components, and it’s perfectly square (ok, very close to square), which will hopefully make the framing easier.  


The major obstacle right now is the fact that there’s no electricity on the farm.  Since I’ve drawn every piece of the structure in SketchUp, I’ll most likely just make a cutlist and use Dad’s saw in town.  However, I’m thinking that this might be a great time to consider building a wind turbine…


I love brutal honesty:

Some really great ideas:

You have to give McDonough credit for sticking to his cradle-to-cradle concept (, but I have a hard time believing that we’ll see a fraction of that technology within our lifetimes.  

Cook + Fox?  Give me a break.

The designs by Rios Clementi Hale Studios and Mouzon Design are pretty solid.  I especially like Steve Mouzon’s comment, “The smaller thing you can create, the more sustainable it is.”  Yeah!

On Wednesday, I helped install a heat pump.  I bottled chardonnay yesterday.  In my spare time, I’ve been organizing the shop.  

My uncles are getting ready to plant soybeans at our farm; last night, I tore apart a hay rack that broke down in the field.  (That’s Ranger Rick, my truck.)


If I had to eat one kind of food for the rest of my life, I would choose food from Tuscany.  Basic Tuscan cuisine includes meats, legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, fruit, olives, and wine.  And, I have a theory for why Tuscan food is so good (or any other regional food, for that matter).  For centuries, recipes were limited by the ingredients that were locally available.  Obviously, certain items could be imported (as far as I know, you can’t grow coffee beans in Tuscany), but today’s practice of shipping tons of food around the world was unimaginable.  So, if you’re cooking with the same ingredients for years and years, your recipes are bound to improve!  It makes sense, right?

My theory dovetails nicely with the Slow Food movement, which promotes eating locally and valuing quality over quantity.  Unfortunately, most of the “food” (i.e. corn) produced in Iowa is processed into animal feed and weird food additives like high fructose corn syrup.  So, most of my food will probably still come from outside of Iowa, but eventually, I’m hoping that eating locally will become more viable.

Anyway, my kitchen is very small, which means that I’ll have to simplify what I eat.  I won’t have room for fifteen types of condiments in my fridge, nor a gallon of ice cream in the freezer.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  


Back in the day, most houses weren’t insulated, and they leaked air (the technical term is infiltration).  To a certain degree, infiltration was good because it allowed fresh air into the house.  When energy started getting more expensive, people started making tighter, more insulated houses.  This saved energy, but it also trapped bad air inside the house, and it wreaked havoc inside poorly designed and constructed building envelopes.

Eventually, people learned that it’s still a good idea to build a house that’s air-tight and insulated, but it shouldn’t be done without the proper ventilation.  This is where a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) is crucial.


Basically, the heat from stale interior air is transferred to the fresh exterior air, which saves a bunch of energy.

Believe it or not, we had an HRV (Dad called it a “heat exchanger”) in our pig nursery when I was a kid.  That was almost 20 years ago IN A FARM BUILDING; it’s a shame that most houses built today don’t have one.

I should be working on my project, but I’m helping plant the garden instead.


The downspouts on Mom’s house connect to an underground cistern. The pipe that connects it to the house is still intact, but she just uses the water in the garden.


For the composting toilet.  (Collected by the carpenters during the final stages of construction at the Santa Maria Winery in Carroll: