Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Scaling back in Todays World.

There is a lot of chit chat about low impact housing, building sustainably with repurposed and recycled materials, reducing our carbon footprint by using alternative energy, and environmentally conscious living. I have found that it is difficult at best to build a house by these principles IF you are building to your local and State Code and you don't have a bottomless pit of money.
Fact: it's expensive to do the right thing according to building codes. There are many "alternative" communities around the Country, where the County looks the other way and allows people to build shelter with  low impact and sustainable materials. I love that, and I wish that there were more communities like that out there.
I will also say that there are actually good things about knowing how to build to "code", though one can also just read up on local code and read books like "Structures, Or Why Things Don't Fall Down" by J.E. Gordon. Checking out books such as Tiny Houses and Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter, or the movie Tiny will also provide a new builder with inspiration on how to build in an ecologically balanced way.
In an area festooned with Earthships, Taos is on the map for it's alternative off the grid homesteads. Some are intentional, some are to code, some are mansions with the murky duality reflected of wealthy ideals trying to bond with sustainable concepts. 
Others are humble, built out of necessity, possibly red tagged, and reflect the real world dichotomy of building something according to your beliefs vs. what you can afford.

This is my third house, and I wish I could say it was all built out of recycled or repurposed materials and was completely off the grid....but we had a finite budget to work with, as well as inspections to contend with, and this is what we came up with.
The house is passive solar (situated for maximum South facing sun light). We cut corners by installing used windows and doors. We are going with wood heat, rather than propane. We are using an on demand water heater to cut down on propane (and they rock). We are going mostly Solar (PV system) to cut out the Grid and its bills. We are using cellulose insulation, way less toxic and better R value for the money. We have a pantry for food storage. We will have a green house for basic herbs and greens. We will catch our roof water for the trees and plants. We are using all the tools and experience we have as builders and metal workers (and artists) to make things rather than buy them. 
I think in the end it will work out for us just fine. The main idea was to cut our house bills to almost nothing as well as living with the lightest footprint we could contend with. 
The end result should be something beautiful, functional and as environmentally sustainable as possible with a limited budget and four hands.

 Cedar and Chris helping with the soffits.

The house as is today.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A View With a House.

Here are a few pictures of the outside of the house so far. Most of the metal sheeting is done(and look at that deck!), we are now finishing up the soffits and the smaller trim details.. then we are ready for the snow and to move our construction inside. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bits and Pieces

The morning air is chilly reading 37°F, and we are  buttoning up all the small stuff on the outside. Nothing like Winter hanging over you to get out there and motivated!
We put on the ProPanel on the roofs this week. I was harnessed in and screwing off a million screws on the steep pitch roof.
The roof is deep blue, which should look pretty great with the (not yet) rusted Corten metal we have as the siding. Interspersed with the metal are a few areas of rough sawn wood, done board and batten style. The top half of the house is done with corrugated Galvalum, to contrast the soon to be red Corten.

Many months ago I took the local waste permit exam, and I put in our septic system on my own. I borrowed a skid steer and backfilled the leech field with gravel. Not a big deal, and $aving some money by going DIY. With some advice and help from my plumbing friend, we passed the inspection.

Again we had some friends rally to help with the roof, and siding, as well as our friend Rick who is building us an amazing looking wood deck on the South and East side.
One day we will lounge on lawn chairs and drink cocktails during sunset while Kodiak plays with his toy race cars ...  I digress

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The skilled Professionals...

This is a shout out to the people who actually do this for a living... and without whose help we would not be able to make this casa happen. I have lived here for a while now (I think it's close to 17 years), and many of the professionals who have helped us now, have helped with other house projects as well. As it is in small communities, we become pals. It is thanks to these relationships one can make it this far even... Kenny Drake, the best backhoe operator I know, next in line would be his son Matt.
The Del Margo's- the family team of awesome electricians. Danny Gonzales, whose family has helped me with projects in the past as well- and for being so darn encouraging!
And the mugs~

Friday, October 18, 2013


And then there were windows! We are officially enclosed. PHEW. The wind is now outside only, and it makes a difference. We could call it Wind NO. 
Kodiak witnessed this exciting moment as well, learning inside vs. outside.
In the evening, we put some work lights in the house and saw it for the first time at night with light only coming from the windows- it looks awesome and we are all very proud. We had to pile into my truck and drive around the area to see it from the road as well. Here are some pictures to remember this moment by. 

Kodiak waving from inside- our view of the Lobster and Taos Mountain.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mini Addition detour..

pantry |ˈpantrē|
noun ( pl. pantries )
a small room or closet in which food, dishes, and utensils are kept.

ORIGIN Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French panterie, from paneter ‘baker,’ based on late Latin panarius ‘bread seller,’ from Latin panis ‘bread.’

Gotta have one- especially because food storage is part of the cheaper living plan. It has been a pretty unsustainable habit to drive 15 miles one way to get food every few days. Once the Brewery opened, that small 8 minute drive has been quite the luxury, and if only beer really was worth a half sandwich...

So, in short, I poured a slab (by hand), which, for the record was worse than I remembered~ figured 9 full wheelbarrow loads, over 300 shovels of either cement, sand or gravel...just harder than I seem to recall in the 90's(wink)
And today I boxed up the small addition on the West side of the house- the Pantry. tada.

Harlan came out for a day and helped with the loft- T&G and a meticulous measuring mind and the loft looks great. Thanks!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Bringing in the Music.

We have had awesome musicians as extra special house guests... and we did put them to work, helping with the house. They set up and played in the skeleton of the new house, bringing in the music to our new home.  It has been a sweet time- thank you Brent and Grey!
On a more technical note we have managed to cover the house with tar paper (thank you to Mister Johnny C. and his buddy, and Oswald) as well as a few sheet of the white foam, R10 for the outside of the house. We are about to order all the metal for the roof and walls, which will be the last step, other than window install, to really get closed in!
We have had our electricians help us out and the wiring is almost done as well.
Kodiak had his 3rd birthday and promised to put in some more time building as well.
It's moving along, albeit slowly~ as the tarantulas are out now, which is the first sign of FALL out here on the mesa.

Thank you to Tomiko Jones for the beautiful pictures below as well!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Getting Sealed Up...

We are almost "in" as they say in the construction world- which means that we have walls and a roof. That really means about 1/3 (at best) of the way to a finished home.
As I have been taking on some of the framing, elbows allowing( pneumatic nail guns are brutal to the body) we are getting all of the walls in place as well as out ROOF! We used a new type of roof underlayment- it's plastic like rather than tar paper- holds up better. Just in time, as the weather is showing us a preview of what is to come- rain, some colder days and the beginning of Fall.
If our bodies hold up a few more months we will be well on our way into a new home. Good thing for that hot tub..

Pics of the "new house" as we don't have a good name for it yet.

Facing East

From the Road

Kodiak's room

Calle Serena View w. Lobster

Looking out to the Sangres

Bedroom and part of the mud room(right)

Looking into the living room from the bath.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Looks like a house now..

We had some awesome help from Sasha and Cedar~ Thanks guys, the sheathing looks great!
So it's August (!) and we are s l o w l y moving along.. we finished putting up the TJI's on one side of the roof today, in the wind(of course).
And onwards- hopefully we will have a covered roof by the end of this week!
Here's a link to a panoramic view- you can click and drag the mouse to see all around- it's pretty cool. 

and to pictures...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Atlas, the Crane Truck, Helping Hands and Nail Guns.

So the framing goes slowly, but it goes. A few hiccups later, we have finished the exterior framing and set the beam and are finishing the interior framing(minimal). Thanks to laboring friends (Joseph!) and very handy crane trucks (Atlas), as well as expert crane operators (Christian) this phase is almost done. As we move into August (yikes), we have just a few more things to do (wink wink). By the next post the house will look radically different, with sheathing and a roof!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


This is always a fun part of house building, as you can now actually see the house from the road... slow going but I will keep posting some pics as we move along. 

 And this is the new K-shack site- ready for visitors! You can see the new house going up behind it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Then we moved the K-Shack...

It really is starting to feel like a crazy board game, where you move buildings, containers, fences and other homely structures from a to b or maybe c. "Yeah, lets just move this thing over here, or over here- oh... it weighs a few tons, no problem!"
The container moved a few weeks ago, now the k-shack, Again I have to commend my partner, Christian for such an amazing job of forklifting and crane trucking talent. Without the guts and the mad skills he has with heavy machinery this would have been a disaster. I'll let the pictures tell the story, needless to say I have a few less fingernails to bite, but the k-shack (named after Ted Kaczynski, as he lived in something as small) is now in its new location, ready for a batch of new visitors!

Friday, June 14, 2013

We have a slab!
After two days of hot hard work, three full truck loads of concrete, ten awesome crew, we have a slab!
Did I mention it was hot, and windy? 

Cheers to all that made it happen- we are now "out of the ground". This is what it looks like: