This house is on the 2013 Solar Tour.
Sue and I have lived here for about 3 years. We realized after about a week the soil was mostly sand and drained too fast as it was. Most of what was growing on the lot was not suitable for a resilient plan - poison ivy, bittersweet, and wild grape vines were growing up the trees most of which were over mature with many defects and hazards. Since I am arborist with the tools and skills in this area, we harvested the trees, milled many for lumber, some went for fence posts, with the rest becoming fire wood or wood chips. The remaining stumps were ground down and the whole yard was tilled after we mowed down what we could.
With a semi blank canvas and a very big wood pile, we started planning and feeding our soil. We brought in about 3 truck loads of manure, and a couple loads of old rotten hay before winter hit. With it being so cold the smell of the manure was not an issue for long, and once the pile of hay got wet it created it's own heat as composting started.
We spent the first winter in the house pretty cool as to not use much fuel oil. We learned how well the soil temp around the basement kept the house above 50 degrees most of the time when we were gone. By spring we had a wood stove in the basement and started insulating and tightening up the house.
With a pile of steel that was a portable garage that came down from snow load given to me from a friend, and plastic donated from 9 Mile farm, a 12 x 24 green house became a reality. We studied a lot about growing and got some great plants from Rebekah Rice and Nancy White, and thanks to the Master Composter Recycler Program we hit the ground running in the spring.
After the first tilling we have had a no till property, made possible with large quantities of wood chips. The wood holds moisture and nutrients that the sand cannot, as it rots to a black soil aided by many naturally occurring things like worms, fungi, insects, and micro organisms. We learned to start our seeds early under lights in the basement around February, then as they grew moved them upstairs to get sun light till it was warm enough for them in the green house, also some plants will grow year round like kale.
Diversity and resiliency are part of why perennials are big part of our plan. Apples, peaches, pears, plums, quince, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries, currents, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, elderberries, mulberries, are part of our list of food bearing perennials. The guiding rule for plants to stay here is will it feed, heal or help our other plants. There are some flowers I question, but this is all a learning adventure.
Canning, drying, freezing, cool storage, and bulk buying are part of our food system. Growing what works, keeping what we like, and learning how to live better is all part of our food resilience strategy.
We are in the process of getting PV though there is no evidence of it, the same goes for water catchment from rain. We are also considering altering our landscape to help recharge the aquifer.
Transportation has been interesting in that at one point I could walk to work. Sue takes the bus most days. Considering that to build a car takes a lot of energy, our plan is to keep an older one running and then not traveling far with it works for us, plus our income would not support new car without taking out a loan, which would make us less resilient! My hope is someone local starts converting gas to electric vehicles who will share the skills of “upcycling.” Until then I mostly ride a 50 MPG motorcycle or a 100 MPG scooter. My work truck is a small dump truck and the only good, besides the work I can do with it, is it is not used much.
With a tomorrow of possibly less and more local, we are trying to share more. Home seemed to be a good place to share, with so many homes with rooms unused and people not connecting as in the past. We have been joined by a mother and her son to challenge our idea of sharing and community. We have joined many on-line sharing networks, but until there are enough people locally who join and share we will all have to own and pay more and, unfortunately, share and know each other less.
Other Transition Schenectady (TS) members’ and our garden were in the Sunday Gazette (8/23/2012). TS is a local expression of a world wide concern about peak oil, climate change, and economic instability. There are almost 470 groups world wide with almost 150 in the US for more info check out www.TransitionUS.org or www.TransitionNetwork.org
TS took a break for the summer, except for the Growing Group at the Vale Urban Farm, where we have been growing food crops on land in the Vale Cemetery then donating the yield to local groups serving in-need-people groups. TS has been so busy doing this we have not kept up our Facebook or other networks as some might but we are still here. Our next TS meeting will be at our home on October 26 at 2:00 pm. If you are interested in the Transition movement or would like to learn more, please join us. Also, feel free to contact me by email (CF.Tree@gmail) if you have any questions about Transition Schenectady.
But first, come visit Sue and me on the Solar Tour and we will show you what we have done to become more resilient and green!