It certainly has been a while since I shared an update about the homestead. Now that I look at it, the last time I wrote about it was in the spring of 2020 when we’d planted some saplings out there to diversify the future forest. Since that time, there honestly wasn’t much going on for a while, and then a whole lot happened really fast. In terms of the low-key maintenance things, we did another planting of saplings in the spring of this year (2021), and our landscape specialists Mulysa + Michael of Resilience Design did some more invasive species control. They also built some check-dams to slow the waterflow of the creeks on the land, which helps prevent erosion, while also raising the water levels of the creeks, which in turn makes the water cooler and more habitable for animals. And all during that time, we’ve been saving up for a construction loan. Building out on relatively wild land is a lot more expensive than buying a ready-made home, but it’s so much more rewarding in terms of space and nature and privacy. So, we’ve taken the slower route and have been saving away to create a downpayment for the construction loan we’ll need to build out the homestead.
And now, we’ve saved enough to where that’s actually possible. And that brings us to the realm of “really fast things”. The past few months we’ve assembled a really amazing team consisting of our interior designer, Sam Struck, our landscape + site plan architects at Resilience Design, our green builder JRA, and our amazing architect Dylan Lamar. Sam is a friend of mine, and she has built a house from scratch in the Columbia Gorge as well, so I was picking her brain about the process, and we started talking about what my and Jeremy’s plans were for our home. When I said that I really wanted to make the house environmentally friendly and possibly off-grid, she recommended that I reach out to JRA as a builder. They have a lot of experience in green building, and when we spoke with James (from JRA) it was such a great fit. And then he connected us with Dylan, and the whole group kind of came together.
So after we figured out who all was involved, Dylan started designing the home after talking with us about what we wanted in the structure and looking at some example images I’d shared with him. I’ve spent a LOT of time over the past year reading through design books, and had narrowed it down some favorite images/spaces/architects/exteriors on a Pinterest board I made. After looking everything over, he created the below designs. We’ve got through a few iterations, so I have them marked as V2 and V3, for Version 2, and Version 3. The later the number, the more recent, so basically Version 3 is the current design of the home. It’s still going to change because of budget flexibility, etc, so it’s still a work-in-progress, but it gives you a rough idea of where we’re headed and what we hope to create.
As far as the basic power/water/waste dynamic for the house, Dylan also did some calculations based on the house’s size + location for the energy load. We were hoping to be completely off-grid and use entirely solar energy, but we won’t be able to harvest enough in the winter to keep the house powered because of the energy load that the heating will require, so we will have to be connected to the local energy grid. On the bright side, the solar panels will create more energy than we need in the summer, so we’re hoping we can put that back into the grid (and maybe even get credited for it on our winter energy bills). And Mulysa made a good point, that part of building a resilient home means having back-up options in case things fail. And being connected to the grid will be a good back-up in case a crazy storm hits and we aren’t able to get snow off the roof’s solar panels.
The county also requires a back-up power source for the well pump, so we’ll also have a small propane generator out there, which could be another potential temporary back-up energy source in case a tree falls on the power line or something. And I strongly prefer cooking with gas rather than electric, so we’re going to have a large propane tank (ideally buried) that we’ll get filled a few times a year, and it will go to the stove and also to the generator by the well pump. And if you couldn’t tell from the mention of well pump, we’re planning on doing well water for the house. We’re also hoping to do rain water catchments and store that either in underground tanks or in ponds, and use that for watering the garden + small orchard. And we’ll be doing septic for waste.
Exterior + layout-wise, we’re hoping to do dark stone on as much of the exterior as we can afford. And the rest we’re thinking of dark vertical siding. The house is two stories with a partial basement that’s made up of the garage and a little guest room area, so it’s more like three stories in total when you count the basement. The layout is otherwise very traditional, with the kitchen + living room + my photography space (aka the ‘Dining Room’) on the main floor, and all the bedrooms on the second floor. You can see how the plans have been tweaked below, and off of the drawings/design are by our architect Dylan Lamar of Cultivate Place. So, that about sums up where we are at the moment with things. There’s lots more in the works, and I’ll share another update in a couple months with where we’re at, what’s shifted, and all that good stuff. Right now, I’m just really excited + grateful that we have such an incredibly talented and like-minded group of people working on this project. It’s such a relief to have the homestead plans in motion after years of saving and imagining and thinking. I can’t wait to see where it takes us!