In the beginning, before the straw bale

Well it was bound to happen, we bought a tear down 20 minutes outside a college town in the Pacific Northwest. First referred to as the “Shack of Shame” aka “SOS” we’ve now upgraded it to Hippie Love Shack. I’m positive the remaining walls of this 650 square foot cottage could tell some tawdry tales of debauchery. But who the heck am I to judge? The Shack of Shame is not worth saving. When it is time to tear it down, some items, like interior doors, will be donated to building recycling places, such as Habitat for Humanity ReStore and BRING.

We had a crazy notion that to get what we wanted within our budget we would buy into an area that through our own due diligence appears to be up and coming in a few years. Some of the factors in this process were:

  • How much shale does the area have? (survey says ZERO in the area)
  • Is there fracking occurring within a 100 mile radius? (Nope)
  • Are there pipelines within a 100 mile radius? (actually about 105 miles away there were some that were proposed but it looks like it’s on the back burner)
  • Does the area have zoning rules that could prevent frack pads from encroaching into our area? (Yes indeedy do)
  • Is there coal mining? (No, but coal is imported into state. Although, there was legislation passed to be completely divested of coal for electrical supply by 2035)
  • What kind of permitting issues are there for industrial zones? (Lots and Lots of permitting for both residential and industrial)
  • If fracking were to come to the area, is there a will of the people? (I will NOT accept that old Appalachian adage I heard repeatedly in WV: “It’s just the way it is, it’s our history, there is nothing we can do — You wouldn’t understand you’re not from here.” NOTE:  10 years in the heart of Appalachia, I observed and helped MANY people who tried to make a difference who then were vilified or discredited.  But these folks continue to fight for their beloved WV, and I will continue to help them.  While the majority have simply given up.  And what I can tell you is apathy is very strong not just in Appalachia, but everywhere.  However this new area seems to be a little more vocal about the impact quality of life and environmental issues.)
  • What’s the water quality like? (There are some naturally occurring issues with iron and arsenic, all of which can be fixed with reverse osmosis – that is if you’re on well water which we sadly are not.)
  • How’s the water supply? (Ample, but conservation is always key particularly in the dry summer months)
  • What about radiation issues? (Well, there is Fukushima that has affected the west coast, though reports vary wildly, although WV and other places with fracking are dealing with radiation as well)
  • How about bomb trains? (Yes, but we checked out the blast zone, home-site far enough away from them, except for possible chemical cloud and smoke radius should the unthinkable happen)
  • What are the projected future implications of climate change? (Area is poised to be okay)
  • Earthquakes? (Yes, already experienced one 4.2. “They” say the big one is coming, but I’d much rather deal with that than the issues that surrounded my previous home. I know how scary earthquakes can be, I survived the Sylmar, Whittier, Northridge quakes plus others I can’t remember the names of.)
  • Is there a local festival that lets you walk around half naked on stilts with fairy wings? (You better believe it baby!)

We are building our new home with the help of Organic Forms Design for their expertise on flow of the house and permitting of straw bale construction, something we’re not capable of doing at this time. We are soliciting bids for framing: just the frame to roof as we will do the rest. Therefore, bale parties, sleepless nights, tired arms, exhaustion are all in store, that’s okay, at least I won’t be living near fracking.

We are watching every penny on this build. Upcycling, reuse, sweat equity are all part of the equation. We welcome you to follow along on the journey. Like our Facebook page where there will be quick updates in conjunction with this blog that is ever so slowly coming along but will seriously pick up the pace.

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