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Lately it seems that most of my time is spent at the computer: planning, writing, communicating, sketching, and even some entertainment courtesy of youtube and TED.
So when we took on a house-sit near Duncan the one main concern was: can I get online?
We’ve been here for a few days now and I am getting used to the sounds of the house, the vistas and the abundance of space. I notice that I move from kitchen to upstairs office to kitchen to bathroom to office to kitchen etc.- and I don’t spend much time in the other areas of the house.

Here’s an exercise I do with participants of my workshops: Draw a plan of your house and trace with a pencil your daily movements. You will notice which places are always visited and which only rarely. Some never get used! Try this for your place and let me know what you discover.

Of course, coming from a 300 squarefoot living space into this ? squarefoot home is triggering all sorts thoughts.
So far I really like:

  • This house is facing the sun!!!! (Sadly this is worth mentioning)
  • The kitchen cabinet hardware that prevents doors and drawers from slamming shut- it slows them down to a gentle stop.
  • The spacious shower- no elbow bumping!
  • Watching all the birds both at the bird feeder and farther away in the wetland by Quamichan Lake
  • Lots of uninterrupted work time (but that’s really not a design feature of this place just  opportunity and intention)
  • Reading some Wendell Berry (ditto)

So while this Sunday is rather stormy outside I will now return to other pages on my computer…..

The breeze/ wind here is reliable- starting mid morning and ebbing in the evening after sunset. There is no electricity yet so nothing can be charged, which in this time of electronics can be a challenge. I brought a small solar charger (mission1) and found out that the cell phones that I have use a different voltage than this one provides.
And the laptop of course needs charging as well, so we will be making trips to Bagamoyo regularly.
Aside from these small struggles I’m enjoying being back here.
Things have changed/ developed a bit since last year.
The house we started last October is nearing completion. Terri and Caito have moved in, even though there’s still work to be done. It will be easier to make progress when they can be on site to move things along.
Things to be done on the house:

  • install ceilings and insulate them
  • finish window installation (security bars are in, and windows are being built)
  • build compost toilet
  • build shower and wash station (there is an existing shower house with toilet away from this house that we use now)
  • install/connect plumbing fixtures
ceiling wanted…

I took a couple of walks since I arrived  and am trying to observe what is happening with the land.
This is a large plot  that has been farmed in the past.  There are two orchard areas: one grows oranges the other limes. Part of the area of the lime orchard has been identified as the best location for the cowshed/ biogas production, and has been cleared for that purpose. A couple of years of non-management of the trees allowed a noxious climbing weed to choke many of the trees. It must have been a big job to free the remaining ones.
The intention here is to apply permaculture principles in the farming and planning. I am talking with Gabriel who has worked with a visiting permaculturist and is now the resident manager of the farm. He is eager to learn more and it helps me a lot that his English is good.
Gabriel showed me a mandala garden that has been started : with banana circles, planted palm, Avocado, Guava and Passionfruit. He talked about his crop of sweet potatoes last season and is now preparing to plant summer crops.
Baobab has now started a new project that brings groups of HIV positive children and youth out to the farm for some education, play and a meal. The people meet monthly at the treatment center where the government gives them medication. The intention with this program is to create a peer network of people in the community that will help infected youth not to feel isolated or marginalized and  also give them a place to speak about their issues with each other as they grow up.   Terri tells me that in her observation medicine is provided but not enough social/ psychological support is given.

a bus arrives for a program

A great need related to this program and other groups that come, as well as to serve residents and workers on the farm is the central kitchen. We had made a plan for it last year and I am working on a simpler design, somewhat reduced in scale. This, I believe will be our building project this year.

Also much needed is additional accommodation so a first “dorm” room may also be built.
You can see there’s much to do….is there anything you can do to help?

 

window at Permalot

Window at Permalot

Daylight comes slowly, and when it rains even more so it seems. The alcove we sleep in is on the east side of the building and has two windows allowing the first morning light to enter my sleep. In the summertime the morning sun tickles our faces, the winter sun never comes over the trees to touch the morningside of the studio.

Arched cob frames kitchen windows

I get up and move into the kitchen where the skylights light up the living space. I hear the rain drumming on the glass. If all windows were gone here the place would be perfectly lit up- if the skylights disappeared it would be dark in here. Daylight (and moonlight!) comes from the sky and if we can’t see the sky through the windows because of vegetation of other structures we don’t have natural light coming in.

window in my sleeping alcove

If not for light, what are windows for? They are the eyes to the world around us: we like to see if there are clouds rolling in, like to know when visitors approach. Working near a window allows us to watch over the children playing outside. I like to be connected to others in the neighborhood just by seeing them out and about. Windows also become the beacon to go to: think of a dark night when you see the lit up windows of a house. They allow a sneak preview of the space you enter: especially in stores. A town is more interesting to walk through when stores show window displays and people sit in window niches of cafes and restaurants.

light from skylights

skylights light up the sanctuary hall

 

When trying to plan an energy conservative house we want to be careful with window placement and sizing. Here are a few tips:

  1. Know the site: understand and observe the sunpath and design the building accordingly for optimum daylighting
  2. Be selective and intentional about size: a window doesn’t need to be large to give view. A window that is close to the eye is like a lense. Try holding a small frame in front of you and notice the difference of area you can see by changing the distance to your eye.
  3. Learn about the different types of glazing
  4. Use Solar tubes for daylight in deeper spaces
  5. There’s not much to see low to the floor: unless you specifically receive solar gain on your floor (thermal mass floor) lift the glass area up!
  6. Light colors on the walls that are facing windows and on window reveals reflect light into your space.
  7. Light from two sides: better two small windows on different walls than one large one; this avoids glare and brings life
  8. If you’re down because the winter days are too short….go outside everyday during daylight hours. Even a few minutes make a difference.

See you out there!

eye to the world outside