Thursday, April 08, 2010

I had to run like a fugitive

On one of the two pieces of land I’ve narrowed it down to, I felt a cool breeze wing by today, beneath the oaks and the pines. Ray Jardine, patron saint of ultralight hikers, always talks about the microclimate that exists under trees. I swear, in the woods, it feels ten degrees cooler. Even with the 99-degree temperatures that parts of Alabama experienced this week. Parts of Alabama where I was camping.

It’s a lot cooler up in the highlands, under the trees, than down in the valley. Many degrees cooler. It’s weird to be thinking about how to keep cool rather than how to keep warm--too long in Maine, I suppose. But the primary climate challenge in the south is cooling rather than heating.

Maybe that’s why I’m beginning to tip, ever so slightly, in favor of the ridgetop land. I’ve pretty much narrowed my choice down, and the two fall on either side of the highland/bottomland conundrum. Do I want to risk bad soil? Or do I want to risk flooding? Do I want to be far away from all neighbors? Or do I want good water on my land?

I do like privacy a lot. Maybe it’s because I was just at the high land today that I’m leaning towards it. It’s both farther from the neighbors and closer to civilization--to places where I can shop and find a job and meet people. I do have to start thinking about how I’m going to make a living out here in the middle of nowhere, at least until I get my hot sauce company off the ground. Or write a guidebook. Or a best-selling novel.

But here’s what I’ve been thinking about for housing.

Earth ships are the greenest building method I’ve discovered yet.


Anonymous said...

If one of your list items really is flooding vs. bad soil, I would choose bad soil hands down. We've been micro farming for just shy of two years now, and amending soil is not that difficult.

It will really speed up if you get chickens - composting my girls' manure has made some of the most amazing stuff (we also have two non-manure compost bins in rotation). Then there 's cover cropping for green manure...surprisingly, I could go on and on and on.

Shoring up areas that get flooded out is another matter entirely - it's relatively easy back by our pond, but not so much in areas where we're trying to grow our food. Water can do a lot of damage.

I know there are many other factors you're considering, just wanted to get my two cents' worth in about soil.

Oh, and I love the earth ship homes! My husband is a little preoccupied with micro architecture, so right now I'm just trying to convince him that our four-room house makes me very happy and that I don't want to experiment living in a boat-sized space with a toddler. (Watching the PBS documentary "Ice Blink" a couple of nights ago did not help my argument.)

Melissa said...

I don't actually think the lowland piece would flood, but it is something I worry about, and it does have a pond. It's nice to hear about bad soil, though. I do realize that amending soil is possible, and chicken byproducts are something that are impossible to avoid in northeastern Alabama. I think I could almost get paid to haul waste away.

I've just had a hard time with soil enrichment in the past, and I know the old-school belief is that you can get three times as many crops out of lowland as out of a hilltop. Which I'm sure is true--I just don't have the money for 40 acres of plowed field, with rich loamy soil. So I'll have to do make do with what I can get.

Earth ships are amazing, aren't they? I've seen so many "green" log homes in the course of my travels, but so little of the so-called green building techniques are really green at all. The earth ships use almost all recycled or reused materials. It's brilliant.