This video is a good reminder that we are all complete just as we are. That we are whole in ourselves and that when we realize that – then we need nothing and we have everything. I am taking a few moments today and every day to sit in the feeling and practice gratitude for all of the beautiful an amazing things that have happened and are yet to come. Taking nothing for granted, it all becomes a miracle.
Living in the mountains, we are faced with how to deal with waste. With the absence of urban water treatment plants, our septic system is the only system we currently have in place to deal with waste. With the new build, we are required by the county to upgrade our septic system. In fact, all new builds in our area are now required to do so. This is because in the past several years, there has been a considerable increase in water contaminants, specifically nitrates, that are directly linked to septic output. In short – there is more waste material being released into the water table than the environment can handle. The problem has become so critical that the county now requires you to upgrade your septic system if you plan to add on to your house.
We feel a strong responsibility to lower our waste output and to not be contributing to the problem of ground water pollution. We have discussed at length all of our options for waste management and are closely considering the following three options:
Option 1. Upgrade our traditional septic to a new, modern version.
In order to satisfy the country requirements, we would need to install a brand new system rated for at least 4 bathrooms. This is the most expensive option, however modern septic systems are so efficient that they release clean, clear water back into the water table. This would be a huge improvement on our existing system that is 20+ years old.
Option 2. Install an experimental ‘living filter’ septic system
This system is made entirely of biodegradeable cardboard within a couple of weeks the cardboard will turn to mush just leaving the fabric inter twining between all the fingers of sand and washed stone.
This system was specifically designed as a soil absorption system to provide enhanced filtration of domestic sewage normally discharged from a septic tank or effluent treatment system. It can be constructed in naturally occurring soils or in select sand fill placed over natural soils. A primary benefit to GLF is the expanded infiltrative surface areas provided in a very small space thereby allowing construction of a smaller leaching system. The center core and leaching fingers are filled on the inside and the external, filter fabric covered leaching fingers are backfilled with select sand fill. The fingers are spaced 4” apart to maintain aerobic conditions between fingers.
Option 3. Keep our existing septic system and use composting toilets for the new bathrooms
A composting toilet must perform three completely separate processes:
- Compost the waste and toilet paper quickly and without odour
- Ensure that the finished compost is safe and easy to handle
- Evaporate the liquid
Composting toilets use the natural processes of decomposition and evaporation to recycle human waste. Waste entering the toilets is over 90% water, which is evaporated and carried back to the atmosphere through the vent system. The small amount of remaining solid material is converted to useful fertilizing soil by natural decomposition. This natural process, essentially the same as in your garden composter, is enhanced in commercial composting toilets by manipulating the environment in the composting chamber.
The correct balance between oxygen, moisture, heat and organic material is needed to ensure a rich environment for the aerobic bacteria that transform the waste into fertilizing soil. This ensures odor-free operation and complete decomposition of waste.
When human waste is properly composted, the end product does not contain any pathogens or viruses (these are destroyed by bacterial breakdown). This nutrient-rich fertilizer can then be used on plants or around the base of trees, as part of the natural cycling of nutrients, reducing your need for commercial fertilizers and preserving local water quality.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the straight lines of modern architecture, instead preferring the organic shapes of cob and straw bale. However, for those who enjoy a more boxy and modern look, building homes from repurposed shipping containers is a growing trend and a sustainable option if you’d like to use recycled or repurposed materials. Not only are they durable and versatile, but comparative to the cost of new materials, they are also quite affordable.
In feng shui, the front door of your home is referred to as “The Mouth of Chi.” Just as you and I do, a house takes in its nourishment through the front door. This fact arguably makes the front door one of the most important parts of your home.
We want to have good Chi coming in through the front door, and so it seems only natural to create an entryway space that is inviting, warm and spacious – the same as the quality of energy we want to attract and dwell there.
When assessing someone’s home, the first thing a feng shui practitioner will do is to look at is where their front door is. Ideally, you want your front door to be facing the street so that energy and opportunities can easily come off the road and to your door. If the front door does not directly face the street, then your goal is to create a clear path to the door.
A clear pathway and visually appealing entryway will lift your energy as you approach. Something else that is important but often overlooked is the entryway space itself. According to Placemaking Principles, the entryway should be designed with the visitor in mind: imagine the experience of the visitor in all sorts of weather. Ideally, a covered waiting area with optional seating is inviting and accommodating in any weather.
The most important part of planning a homestead is defining your vision of your wants and needs. This Thanksgiving morning, my family sat down together and began our visioning. We made a list of what each member of our family wants in a home.
And we came up with quite a list – enough to nearly fill a poster.
We have been considering building the Permahaus with straw bales for quite a while, given their considerable insulation factor, as well as the fact that they do not contain any toxic or synthetic materials. Colorado’s dry climate is ideal for straw bale construction, since the number one rule with this type of building material is keeping it dry.
Straw bales stack like bricks and allow you to design organic, rounded wall shapes. Once sealed in cob or plaster, a straw bale wall has the appearance of adobe, and would look great against the pine tree backdrop of the surrounding property.
The genesis of the Permahaus goes back to August 2014, when our home flooded. It is an old house, originally build in 1925, and additions have been cobbled on one by one over the last 90 years, most of which were never ‘up to code’. It is for this reason that we suspect we have had so many water intrusion issues, and no foundation to speak of. But that first flooding incident prompted us to pull up the carpet, when we discovered there was no foundation underneath. We soon realized the house had so many issues, it would be nearly impossible to transform it into the sustainable home we had dreamed of. After months and months of struggling with legal issues, mold issues, and feeling as though our plans had been completely thwarted, the idea for the Permahaus was born and we began planning.
To give you an idea of some of the challeneges we were facing, and the state of the house in which we have been living for over a year, I’ve included some photos of the damaged areas.
Here are our property basemaps, which includes rough contours and existing trees. Our sectors map shows all of the outside influences that affect the property, such as rainwater runoff, wind, sun, wildlife traffic, etc.
This plan shows the placement of the existing house. We are dreaming up an amazing eco-house that would replace the old, energy in-efficient house currently there. The new house would be placed similarly, South-facing, and with a built-in greenhouse to passively heat the entire home. More details to come on that!!