Standing Rule: Click on the photos for larger views.


Friday, August 26, 2005

The Geek Speaks

Well, I haven't had much to say since we started this project. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that the geekwif has been speaking quite well for both of us. As you can see, she's posted some of my doodles for the yard and whatnot, and other than that I really haven't had much else to add to the blog. Not sure if I do now, but it seemed good that I should put up something, even if it was just a bit of inane chatter to fill space.

So anyway, yeah, we're pretty excited about the whole dome-home, do-it-yourself, self-sufficient off-grid living thing. Not exactly sure why, except I have this wierd thing about doing stuff that most people won't do, and avoiding doing the stuff that most people will do. Example: it seems like lots of people want a nice 4-bedroom/3-bath house in the 'burbs on 2.5 acres, in a nice development where the biggest choice in housing will be which shade of beige or white for their siding. Call me crazy, but that sounds booorrrriiinnnggg! Our first house was a fixer-upper in a not-so-great neighborhood that we bought for a song and fixed up. The neighborhood has improved over the years, too, and it is the profit from this house that will pay for the land and provide a down-payment on the construction loan. "Sweat equity" is a wonderful thing, and we intend to capitalize on it for this next house as well.

Another example: just about everybody I know drives either a minivan, SUV or truck. A small minority of them actually need such a vehicle, the rest just want one... I don't know why. Status symbol? Fitting in with the crowd? Whatever -- give me a small, fast sports car with a tight turning radius and manual transmission any day! Of course, since we're not made of money I will just have to "settle" for my 2000 Celica GT-S ;-)

After the house is built, I'm really excited to get started on some serious landscaping. I never thought I'd get pumped about moving dirt and rocks around, but the thought of building my own recirculating waterfall/stream/pond just sets me all a-quiver. And of course, before we get there, I get to build my own house! After the foundation is poured, we will have a dome-raising party. This is basically a weekend thing, where you invite all your friends and family to come help you put together the dome framework and exterior sheathing. They provide the muscle, we provide the pizza and pop (beer at the end of the day).

Even though we are general contracting the house and will certainly subcontract much of the difficult work, I am perfectly capable of doing the shell and exterior sheathing, including window and door installation, insulating the dome, interior paneling, running electrical in the walls (along with network cabling and speaker wire, of course!), and lots of other stuff. I could do the plumbing but I just don't want to (anyway the city won't let me, they require a plumber to do it), the roof, the drywall and interior framing, etc. Some of those jobs might be fun, but I simply don't have time to do it all myself and still get the house done in a reasonable amount of time.

What else to say? You may have noticed I originally wanted to have my own shooting range in our yard, but that won't work out due to zoning restrictions. I do enjoy shooting, both handgun and rifle -- I bought my first handgun last year (Beretta M92 Brigadier), and am already looking at a smaller one that will be suitable for concealed carry (Cz P-01, if you must know). Yes, I have a concealed carry permit -- I would prefer a more "unfettered" Second Amendment to the Constitution (that is, an "originalist" interpretation rather than a "living document" interpretation), but I will follow the law even if it grates on my nerves at times.

I am, of course, a computer geek -- specifically, I am a systems administrator and programmer-analyst for a rapidly growing manufacturing company in the Midwest USA. Most of our software is home grown and quite functional, even the code I didn't write myself ;-) I'm a Linux user at home, and we run some Linux at work but we are basically a Microsoft shop. I have to admit I like programming in VB.Net and C#, while my Linux programming skills are rather limited to lightweight Perl and Bash scripting. I've played around with Mono (on Linux) and used it to teach myself C# at home, but haven't really written anything useful with it.

I am also a Christian. This fact probably says more about me than anything else, though not everyone likes what it says (or what they think it says, anyway). As a Christian I know something about faith in the face of difficult circumstances, and believing in something in spite of evidence to the contrary. But quite frankly, I think that it takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a Christian. I could lay out all sorts of logical arguments about why I believe (or why you should believe) in the Christian God as opposed to some other god or no god at all, but in my experience that is a waste of time and energy. What counts is a life changed by the grace of Christ, by the miracle of spiritual rebirth -- nothing else matters. Not even a dome home. But we're still excited :-)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Landscape Plans

The Geek has been practicing his landscaping and drawing skills. Here's what he's come up with for landscaping plans. Of course, this will be carried out over the next several years and may change as we go. Click on the pictures to see a full-size view.

This is a somewhat-to-scale plan for the entire lot. Contrary to common map-making procedures, south is up on our map. There is a small forest of pre-existing trees along the south side. We will plant the privacy trees drawn in along the east and west sides. The Geek originally wanted to build an in-ground shooting range, but we found out our lot is zoned residential, not rural, so that plan has been scrapped.

There are several features we would like to include in our landscape: a fire pit, and above-ground pool, a water garden, a veggie garden, flower beds, fruit trees, and a volleyball sandpit for starters. The placement of these features has changed a bit (see following picture), but the idea is pretty much the same. We may end up spreading it out a bit more than this since we have plenty of space available, or we may add other features over the years. I guess time will tell.

The placement of the fruit trees in this drawing will be changed since the septic ended up right there. The trees will probably go to the west (right) of that. I plan to plant flower beds on top of the drain field and septic area. The vaguely backwards-P-shaped thing is a circular driveway. He wrote "flower garden" in the center, but the two birch trees are located in what will probably be the center of the driveway.

This plan is more recent, so it has changed a bit. We'd like to have a major water feature with a waterfall and stream leading to a pond - all man-made and pump-fed.

The little square piece coming off of the southwest side of the dome house is a 3-story extension. The upper floor will be our master bedroom. The middle floor will be our dining/sun room. The lower floor will be my gardening/craft/all things Geekwif room and a walkout. The path leads from my room to the garden and also to the left toward the other landscape features.

The steps coming off of the
southeast side of the extension lead down to the deck which we want to have lower than the main floor level so it doesn't obstruct the view out of that side of the house. There will be 5 large triangle shaped windows creating a panoramic view on that side.

The Geek would like me to offer this disclaimer regarding the elevation drawing in the upper left corner: He was in a hurry when he drew this and was using a pen, so he couldn't fix it up to look as nice as he would like. Anyway, that is what it will look like if you were to look at the house from the west. The slope may appear a bit steeper than it actually is, but this gives the general idea.

So there it is. Now, if all goes as according to our normal procedures, it will change several times by the time it becomes a reality. But that's all part of the fun of it, right?

Disaster Averted

Yesterday afternoon we had a bit of a scare...well, I was scared anyway. We received an email from our realtor informing us that the seller's agent had been out showing the lot next to ours and noticed that the space marked for the septic system was very close to or even over the property line.

I pretty much went into a panic. How could I let something like this happen? If I'm going to be our general contractor, I need to think of these things. I just assumed that the perk tester would be careful to test within our property lines. What are we going to do if it is outside of our borders?

See, by the time I received the message, I knew the septic system had probably already been installed. The septic guy (I'll call him Mr. S.) was supposed to be out there yesterday and planned to finish in one day. It had rained here in the morning, so I called Mr. S. thinking maybe he was rained out. Nope. His wife assured me that he did finish and informed me that he was out of town for a day and could not be reached. Aaaahhh!!!!

I forwarded the email to the Geek, asking him to pray and secretly hoping he might have some wise counsel in the matter....and he did. He called when he was leaving work and suggested that we go out to the lot right after dinner and see for ourselves. He knew that I wouldn't get a decent night's sleep if I didn't know.

I called our realtor and asked a few questions, like "What do we do if we are out of our property lines?" To which she answered that we'd have to negotiate with the owner - which essentially is the city since we'd be intruding on the easement if we were over - or it would have to be moved. Great. There goes another $4000 we can't afford. So, armed with a 100' tape measure, and even more panic than before, I left to meet my dear Geek at Perkins where we had a nice dinner while he calmly assured me that everything was going to work out just fine. He is so good for me.

After dinner we made the drive out to the lot. Nothing quiets the soul quite like a nice drive in the country. By the time we got there I was feeling better already, though anxious to obtain the answer to our question. We pulled out the tape measure and measured 40' from the edge of the road (which is the north border of our lot). When my husband marked the 40' point, we still had a good 15' beyond him to the edge of the drainfield.

Whew! What a relief! The panic instantly disappeared and from that point on, our little unexpected trip was pure joy. We snapped a few pictures of the new septic (see below) which hadn't been covered yet, presumably so it can be inspected first. The Geek snapped a picture of me - not a particularly flattering one, but the first we have of me at our new home.

Yes, it's beginning to feel like home even though currently it's just a great big field with a few trees and a big underground tank with some pipes sticking up.
We agreed that we have a strange mix of feelings there - a hybrid of "Is this wonderful thing really happening?" and "This place already feels like home."

I can't wait until the day when
"driving home" becomes the drive away from the city, rather than the drive into the city. That will be a glorious day!

The Septic is In!

As I've probably mentioned before, I find it perplexing that the first thing the county wants us to do is to get our septic installed. Why not electricity or well? I don't know why it's all about the septic, but I have to admit, I've never been so excited about a sewer in my life.

It was installed yesterday and we went to take a look. Here are some pictures of what will be buried underground in front of and slightly to the side (northwest) of our house.

The Tank.
It's big. See the green pipe sticking up in the back? That will be where we plug in the camper we will live in while building. There will be a pipe going from that spot (underground) to the house (which will be to the left of this photo) when the time comes.

The Tank and Drain Field.
This is looking from the other direction at the tank and down toward the drain field. The four white pipes (two close and two farther away) are the vents. Those will stick up from the ground, but I'll plant a nice flower bed in this area to disguise them. Considering what will be in the ground beneath, I bet that will be one flourishing flower bed!

The Drain Field.
This is looking back on it from the road. The two closer pipes are the ones that were further in the previous picture. Just imagine, in a few months our home will be just to the left of this picture and next year, perhaps there will be the start of a new flower bed right here.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Progress is Good!

The Geek and I met our septic guy out at the lot yesterday. Everything looks hunky-dory! The location we wanted for our home will work out perfectly with the location of the septic system/drain field. He has obtained the sanitary permit and he will be out there first thing Monday morning to get started. By the end of tomorrow we should have our septic system in place!

This means that...
a) we have taken the first step toward building our home, and
b) our existence will now be recognized by the city and county and therefore by anyone else who we might hire as contractors on our project.

I find it really funny that that it's all wrapped around the sanitary permit. Why not the building permit or a land use permit? This little piece of paper is, in fact, our first step toward having the power to obtain a land use permit and ultimately a building permit. With it we can now obtain a fire number and address which means we can hire contractors to dig our well, run our electric, excavate, and pour our foundation!

Needless to say, we are very excited!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Pictures of the Lot

There hasn't been a lot to say about the building process yet. We've hired a septic guy, so that should be done in the next week or two. Once he's obtained our sanitary permit (hopefully today or tomorrow) we'll have an address and people will actually believe we exist. Around here, everything else follows this. If you don't have a sanitary permit, you don't have an address and you can't get electric, telephone, a land use permit - nothing. So this is a pretty significant step forward.

In the meantime, we visited the lot on a sunny day and took some pictures to share. Enjoy!

This was taken at about the midpoint of the length of the lot, facing the road. Do you see the very thin light colored line crossing between the two trees? That's the road. We have approximately that same distance behind me too. Six acres goes a long way! Especially when you're accustomed to about a 1/8 acre city lot.

Looking southeast across the lot. Mostly tall weeds and a few trees. Pretty in a "Little House on the Prairie" way. And it's ours. :-)

I love birch trees. Something about that papery white bark and the way they stand tall no matter their size. We discovered this pretty little birch on this visit. There's another even smaller one behind it. I'm so happy to have birch trees!

Speaking of trees, look very closely and you'll see a fat, fuzzy little baby evergreen in the center of this picture, growing among the abundant weeds.

More Pictures - The Building Site

These were taken the same day as the pictures above.

The Geek is standing on our building site. There will be a big beautiful dome home right there one of these days. We'll have to move the trees you see here and a couple others. We don't want to just dig them up. They should do just fine in another spot on the lot and they're all pretty small, so it shouldn't be a big deal. They look huge in this picture but he's standing quite far behind them, so it's just an illusion.

This is the view we will see out of our south facing span of windows in the living room. We call it Fangorn Forest. A small portion of those trees are on our lot.

Here's a closer look, peering into Fangorn from just outside the forest.

Last, but not least, this is our southwest view. This will be what we see when we sit on the little deck off our master bedroom, only from higher up. Beautiful. Just looking at it makes me want to breathe in deeply to absorb all that sweet fresh air.