Prototype Rafters

The rafter installation was stopped several days ago to allow for "rethinking". The roof angles for solar, transitions from metal to Lexan, and solar panel mounting system were spinning in Brad's mind and needed to be resolved. This photo is of the new rafter configuration for the main living. The lower area of the roof will be metal roofing. The upper area will be metal roofing as well except over the patio. Lexan, which will let in light, will cover the upper section over the patio area. The solar tubes will be on the south edge of the upper roof, at an angle best suited to capture the sun. Over the patio the rafters and solar tubes will be visible through the Lexan.

Lots going on...

Josh is focused on flashing details, insulation and more sheet rock, Erin cleans the steel posts, while Dan works on the flooring for the guesthouse. Travis and Brad, not in the line of the camera, stayed busy with miscellaneous tasks of clean up, payroll, and a million other details of construction.

Mr. Ed returned from ND this a.m.! Brad and Erin departed for Bellingham this p.m., the crew is off until Monday, and Ed and I have a good movie for the evening.

It's raining, started right after I watered the vegetable garden. Temperature is 61.


Visitor Mark

Visiting from Montana...

my high school friend, Burke, and his wife Karen.



Lynn brings by her friends to check out our project.


"Are you in your home yet?"

This is the most common question I'm asked on the streets these days. My answer, of course, is: "Not yet, but we're closing in on it. I'd guess we're about two-thirds finished."

So why is our project taking longer than the average home?

Many answers to the question but, like so many folks working without a huge crew, it just takes longer. Our modern homes are complex and the ones we see pop up like pimples on teenagers' faces have huge crews. Contractors and subcontractors come out like lemmings to get the job done quickly. There are the crews for sheet rock, plumbing, electrical, roofing, painting, foundation, framing, cabinet work and so forth. Our project is, for the most part, being completed with only two or three skilled workers plus a bunch of unskilled helpers. Brad is our full time leader and guru. Ed and Fran fill in the cracks with part time assistance. Josh and Travis are lifting heavy loads as Brad's key workers. Plus there are others from time-to-time providing expertise, labor, advice, skill, support and friendship. But mostly the crew is small!

The complexity of our project is stunning. The solar heating and solar domestic hot water systems alone have taken a great deal of extra thinking, studying and time-consuming implementation. Brad wants our systems to be as simple as possible. Many of the solar systems being installed are very complex and intimidating for the users. In Brad's effort to achieve reliability and simplicity he, his dad, Paul, and various consultants have been madly drawing, planning and e-mailing back and forth with a million ideas and solutions.

And then there's recycling. We are not doing this the easy way by calling the building supply store and asking for a delivery. We are searching for reused materials. We are pulling nails. We are putting old recycled lumber into a usable form. We are finding old doors and sanding and repainting them. We are landscaping along the way which has included building a greenhouse entirely out of recycled materials; installing a recycled fence and growing a vegetable garden; and building a pond and stream for handling our surface water, with Brad driving the huge monster of a machine to set the rock. All of these "extras" take design and labor time.

We are building small but that does not translate into simple. Our three buildings are very complex. There are angles and structural considerations times three since we're not putting our entire 860 square feet into one building. Each building must have all the building code requirements such as whole house fan, heating, ventilation, insulation, roof with drainage, and so forth. Although each of the three buildings is small, there are still three buildings requiring design, engineering, and inspection. The systems for each building must stand along and yet all three buildings must be coordinated and linked.

The crew's individual skills are varied and complex. One moment they will be sanding wood the next driving a tractor. Then they will be cutting on the table saw, installing a roof, seating a toilet or digging a hole. It is awesome to see the skills that come to the job and that get developed along the way. In a time when it seems people can't fix a leaky toilet or change the oil in their car, it is encouraging to see the young men and women working on our project display such competence.

Would we do our home more quickly, leaving it to others? Nope. We are thoroughly enjoying our personal involvement; learning new skills; working together as a family; tackling new technology; reusing materials that would otherwise go to the landfill; and being intimately familiar with every board, tile and stone used to create our new home.

Once our buildings are completed each will appear very simple. The complexity is so carefully integrated it will be hidden from view. I can imagine the question once we're moved in, "Why did it take so long?"

We'll just grin knowingly.

Is it punch list time yet?

Mudding the guesthouse began today.

Main Living is Hot!

Ed has been working on electrical non stop of late. The main living building is now "hot" with the panel hooked up and three floor outlets wired.

Main Living Rafters

The first rafters are up on the main living building. Getting the rafters all in place, and then getting the roof on, will seem like a huge milestone. We are, naturally, getting more and more excited about actually living in our new home. We are also getting more and more excited about getting out of the little hole of an apartment where we're presently living. Our focus is just today, not looking too much into the future and keeping our expectations minimal, but as we progress it gets more and more difficult. We are exceedingly pleased with how our new home is shaping up. Brad's design skills are awesome.



Construction Gardening

So often in my landscaping work I arrive at a construction site where there are several, if not all of the following problems: dumped concrete, compacted soil, mounds of trash, fallen trees, trashed understory plantings, piles of lumber, sheet rock and other building materials, noxious weeds in the clearings, machine damage, and cars and trucks helter-skelter. The clients, having purchased a beautiful piece of land, are excited about their new home but almost hysterical about the condition of their land. They are also overwhelmed when they look at it and ponder how they're going to make it beautiful again.

With that in mind, when we began our new building project, one of our first actions was to plant the edges of the property and seed grass every place else. Right up until the first piece of machinery, we had a beautiful in-town park. Once the machines prepared for utilities and foundations, much of the grass was gone, but the edges of the property continued to be lovely gardens.

After the final machine departed in December we've raked and worked the soil to enable us to plant as much garden as we can while staying out from under workers' feet. All automobiles are kept at the edge of the property. Our piles of recycled building materials are pretty consolidated and we reuse all our scraps so our waste material piles are small or being saved for fire wood. Our actual trash is minimal and hauled off frequently. We recycle all aluminum, copper, metal, glass and plastic. Weeding is an ongoing task.

Corn grows near the main living construction. From the neighboring road, because of our planted berm, it almost seems like there is no construction underway. And for lunch or an end of the day break, there are cool, green places to sit and relax. The vegetable garden is fully functional and feeding us from time to time. Just last evening we had wonderful steamed greens with our own onions, beets and zucchini over rice.

Although our building program is taking us quite a while to complete, it will be complete with much of the landscaping in place. We will have a pond, stream, greenhouse, vegetable garden, and all the edges landscaped. We will be able to move into both home and garden at once avoiding the panic I see on my clients faces when they look at their beautiful home sitting on damaged land and with every ounce of budget used up on the building.

The guesthouse under belly

Under the guesthouse gold plywood covers the electrical and insulation, keeping it rodent free, neat and tidy. Josh and Travis completed this work yesterday.

Siding Complete

Josh is putting up the last piece of siding. This one last piece needed to wait until the new swallow babies fledged.


The beams are up,

all nine....


And, here is the old roofing...

Unloading the truck

A stack of rusted roofing

Brad's truck fully loaded

New Roof

This sweet old Island County Fair building is getting a new roof. Brad noticed the removal of the wonderfully rusted old metal roof. And, now, the metal is ours.


Guesthouse Exterior

The guesthouse windows are painted and the siding is finished except for one last piece (tucked away in the rafters) waiting for the swallows to leave their nest. Once the windows are washed and the last piece of siding is in place, the scaffolding can come down. This siding is rescued from a barn demolition in Whatcom County. I preserved each piece, both sides, with a green natural oil.

Details, Details, Details

Our main living building and guesthouse will be heated with hot water (first photo). These heaters will use solar hot water so long as it is available. When the sun fails us, the water will be heated with a hot water tank. The same is true for our domestic hot water. First it will be heated by the sun; and then a hot water tank. The second photo is the electrical and sink plumbing in the guesthouse sink area.

More Main Living Beams

Seven up; two to go.

Porch Beams

Joint Detail


Looking SE

Guesthouse sheetrock in place and ready for taping and mud.



Recycled boards are glued and clamped for future bookshelves in the guesthouse.

Jennifer & Katrina

Guesthouse Sheetrock

Travis nailing up first sheet of sheetrock in guesthouse!