Playing in the Yard on Bailey Bear Ridge
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Playing in the Yard on Bailey Bear Ridge
Follow along as we share our experiences building our own home. We are neither builders nor architects so we get a lot of help along the way!
 

Playing in the Yard on Bailey Bear Ridge
Rural Ozarks
Madison County
Northwest, Arkansas 72632

Call Us At:
(479) 555-5555

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The mis-adventures of the Bailey family building their own home Playing in the Yard on Bailey Bear Ridge
Playing in the Yard on Bailey Bear Ridge
Why is the Bailey Family Attempting to be so Green

It was around 2002 or 2003 that I started to see the possibility of following a life long dream to live a life that today is called "Green". Since before I was a teenager (a few decades ago) I had dreams of living on a property large enough that I could spread out and live a greener life. In those days the Internet was not available and the current 'green' movement was not in full swing. If you were lucky you may have heard of Ed Begley, Jr. riding his bike to the studios and trying to live his green life but in those days it was just weird.

In those early days my personal concept of being green included things like:
A welcome guest on our property checks up on us.
A welcome guest on our property checks up on us. It was around 2002 or 2003 that I started to see the possibility of following a life long dream to live a life that today is called Green. Since before I was a teenager (a few decades ago) I had dreams of living on a property large enough that I could spread out and live a greener life. In those days the Internet was not available and the current green movement was not in full swing. If you were lucky you may have heard of Ed Begley, Jr. riding his mike to the studios and trying to live his green life but in those days it was just weird.

In those early days my personal concept of being green included things like:
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Read on to see why we do
not mind having armadillos
in our yard
 Grow a garden (Thank you mom for showing us how to garden)
Compost the leaves (Thank you dad for your help in the garden with a huge compost pile)
Work at home (Save Gas)
Use Horses and a buggy or sleigh (Okay, this one pretty much fell through)
Use efficient home heating
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  • Grow a garden (Thank you mom for showing us how to garden)
  • Compost the leaves (Thank you dad for your help in the garden with a huge compost pile)
  • Work at home (Save Gas)
  • Use Horses and a buggy or sleigh (Okay, this one pretty much fell through)
  • Use efficient home heating
In today's fad of going green people think we are living this way because I am a treehugger or just jumping on the save-the-planet bandwagon. Once I was jokingly referred to as a global-warming-activist.

Although I am excited about the personal responsibilities that have come from the current political movement, I am more excited to have better access to the information it has made readily available in books and on the Internet. In my personal opinion this is not a political or even a save-the-planet move on my part. I believe that it is our responsibility as Christians to take care of the earth God gave us and left to our care according to the account in Genesis.

 In todays fad of going green people think we are living this way because I am a treehugger or just jumping on the save-the-planet bandwagon. Once I was jokingly referred to as a global-warming-activist.

Although I am excited about the personal responsibilities that have come from the current political movement, I am more excited to have better access to the information it has made readily available in books and on the Internet. In my personal opinion this is not a political or even a save-the-planet move on my part. I believe that it is our responsibility as Christians to take care of the earth God gave us and left to our care a little over 6,000 years ago.
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And away he goes...
And away he goes... Jennifer and I have planned for this property for many years. Sometimes agreeing and sometimes wishing we lived in a condo, but we are making the best of the whole thing. We have both contributed in our own ways.

Some of the things that we have improved over the years is the way our footprint has been so greatly reduced. Through education and level of trial and error my list from when I was twelve has grown. Here is a growing list of things we are doing or plan to do to be greener in the future:
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Jennifer and I have planned for this property for many years. Sometimes agreeing and sometimes wishing we lived in a condo, but we are making the best of the whole thing. We have both contributed in our own ways.

Some of the things that we have improved over the years is the way our footprint has been so greatly reduced. Through education and level of trial and error my list from when I was twelve has grown. Here is a growing list of things we are doing or plan to do to be greener in the future (this is a continually growing list):
Composing - We compost A LOT of stuff people typically do not consider compostable. If you search the web there are incredible lists of stuff to add to your compost for many reasons. I only turn the pile twice a year and have to do that with a tractor because it is so huge! Having turned it just a few days ago, I found a lot of steamy black earth just aching to get in my garden next spring! (Our second attempt, still a pot-bound garden due to construction but we are working on it)
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Because of the composting and our recycling, the weekly trash for our family of four plus a dog and a cat could be contained in one large trash bag. I have dedicated a small portion of the corner of our barn to plastics that are not taken at the roadside each week. We have a great recycle center in the next county that will take our recyclables but to save gas it is separated and stored till there is a full load worth the trip. To date it has been growing for nearly three years and it will still fit in the back of the Durango with the seats down.
Re-purpose - Okay, so this may be covered under Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but this is important. The cabin we live in at this writing is constructed largely from wood the boys and I retrieved from a house my grandfather built in the 1940s. It has been abandoned and it will one day be bulldozed for commercial building. The house was unrepairable so we spent two weeks dismantling what we could. The wall framing and roof framing are mostly wood my grandfather harvested and milled decades ago. In honor of his responsible efforts the ceiling of the cabin is finished with his 1x8 wood, left natural and even has the old paint in some places.

When we chose the place to put the cabin, there was only one tree that needed to be removed to begin construction. That tree was used as the center post and only center support for the middle of the octagonal designed home.
Recycle Water and catch Rain water - This is frequently associated with those people that are 'way out there' but I am finding that if a little planning is done, a good rain catchment and gray-water reuse system is easy to implement.

We are planning to install two cisterns in the ground behind our house, each at about 6-8,000 gallons in size. Grey water will be collected in one. That gray water will be used to water the living roof and filtered through the soil and other filtration.

This water is then collected along with all other rain water in the second tank. Theoretically, when all is completed, a single 1/4 inch rain may yield as much as 1,800 gallons of water that we will use throughout out daily lives in the earth shelter house and the property as a whole. November 30, 2010
Work at home - I do not think this was my father's plan, but he had an office at home for many years. It showed me that this is a possibility for many people and when I had the opportunity and reason to do the same it did not seem strange to me. We live over a dozen miles from 'civilization' and only go in to town when needed. That not only saves tons of carbon emissions but it saves gas and a significant portion of your yearly budget.
Build Underground - From the contents of this site and many others, you can see that the earth provides a security for a home in insulation value and more. We are building our main home into the top/side of the hill to take full advantage of that. It will result in less needed for heating and cooling and less needed for upkeep of the home in the long run.
No Yard and Little Landscaping - This is not possible for everyone, local ordinances in many towns clearly instruct on how landscaping is to be done. In our setting, we are not under such controls.

We choose to keep the property as natural as possible. Placing buildings in places to keep the most trees is just one aspect.

We do not plant grass, either. Not only does this allow nature to do it's own work, we do not have to use up so much fuel in keeping the grass cut or use water to keep it green.

One very nice surprise we have had is that grass DOES grow naturally here. It is a relatively short grass that seeds out, falls over and dies in the winter. In the spring we get a whole new lawn. We do have to cut it back to keep the snakes at bay, but the energy consumed is far less than a typical urban lawn. We only cut it back a couple times a year; once in the late spring and once in the early summer.

Because we have no investment in landscaping, we do not mind the occasional visitor. Armadillos help keep the bug population reduced along with woodpeckers and flocks of other birds.

The deer occasionally stop by to pitch in and eat the spring and summer foliage and we supplement their feed throughout the year to encourage them to come back often.

Raccoons and coyotes visit, too. This is the down side, but they are easily discouraged by simply shooting a few shells from the shot gun. This is not to kill them but just our way of asking them to move on.

On a less civilized note (please do not take offense at this) I encourage the boys (and myself) to frequently mark the trees on the back of the property line. I read somewhere that this helps mark your territory in terms that the wildlife can understand and help to keep a plethora of critters off the property. That being said, we had a coyote or two right behind the house last night just after our puppy came in from doing his evening doo. We still stay vigilant, just not vigilante.
Go Solar in a Responsible Way - It is easy to put so much in to solar systems that they become so complex that they are useless. In keeping with the KISS principle, we are trying to keep things as simple as possible. I plan to add solar panels, but the addition of batteries is not necessary because we are on the grid. I will gladly send any extra I may generate back to others that do not have solar.

I an also working on building a sun tracking solar concentrator that will keep 12,000 gallons of water stored under ground heated for space and water heating uses. It is a lot, but I have other goals that will involve this cistern, too. This will all be operated with low power pumps and motors made possible by good planning... well as good as I can plan.
Design Home with Large Windows and Proper Overhang - The small cabin we live in is designed with large windows that let the sun flow in during the window and the overhang of the eaves keeps the sun out during the summer months. This helps with heating and cooling to some extent.

Also, the large windows allow a lot of natural light to flow in during the day. Since we work at home, we need the light all day long. On sunny days from 6:00 AM to as late as 8:00 PM (in the summer, obviously) we use very little electric light.
Efficient Lighting - All the rage these days is getting rid of incandescent light bulbs. They served us for many decades, but I think the time for change has comes. When CFL (Compact Florescent) bulbs came available, I changed my bulbs as the incandescent bulbs blew out. Now in new construction, there has never been an incandescent bulb here.

Of course, the challenge with the CFL bulbs is the content of mercury. We do not throw those away, but keep them in a sealed container will we get them to the recycle center that takes them.

Two days ago (2010-11-14) I purchased my First LED Light bulb. It was very surprising how bright it was and at half the power required by the CFL it replaced. It cost quite a bit more ($21) but it should last most of the rest of my life. It is the bulb over Adam's bed. I intend to start migrating to LED now.
Harvest My Own Wood - This includes a lot of interesting facets that are both obvious and maybe not so obvious.

We harvest our wood from trees that are mostly within a mile of our home. This greatly reduces the amount of fuel needed to transport them.

I purchased a small and reliable log mill that has nearly paid for itself already. When I need wood I go to what is already cut or mill some more wood and build what I want. This is great because I neither have to drive 24-100 miles in to town to pick up the wood for my next project PLUS I can build in pine, oak, black walnut, maple, cedar or whatever else I can get my hands on.

The trees we harvest are mostly naturally fallen trees as stipulated by the Wildlife Management Area rangers and the law. The ones that we cut down are going to be cut anyway due to construction or endangering surrounding buildings. These are trees that would be burned or carted to the landfill. Neither of which is a great option.
Drive Slower - Currently, we do not drive a very fuel efficient car. It was more out of necessity that we purchased a vehicle like this. Part of being able to harvest the trees and move throughout the area with heavy stuff is having a vehicle that can handle it. We are nearing the end of the loan for the Durango. Once paid off we will be looking at a more efficient vehicle. We are anxious to see what the hybrid and electric market will be offering in the next few years. It will probably not be till 2013 till we see our next vehicle... and even then, this one will be used by us for the rest of it's life.

All that being said, I have found that driving slower has made an impact on our fuel consumption. I have read some interesting studies that have determined that flooring it uses several times more fuel than a nice easy acceleration and creates several times more pollution in the process. On the even more practical side, it even extends the life of the engine and parts of the engine quite a bit!

The younger drivers (myself included at that time) may find it hard to stick to that principle but the sooner it is learned, the better. Parents, set a good example!

The last benefit is that there are less speeding and reckless driving tickets coming your way. That is nice on the budget, too. Funny story: I was accelerating slowly up a hill coming out of a stop sign and an officer pulled me over to see if I was drunk or something. After he left, I kicked my self for not saying, 'I was driving more efficiently to save fuel and take better care of my vehicle.' Instead I had said, 'I was looking for my left turn.' That was also true. Oh well.

 Drive Slower - Currently, we do not drive a very fuel efficient car. It was more out of necessity that we purchased a vehicle like this. Part of being able to harvest the trees and move throughout the area with heavy stuff is having a vehicle that can handle it. We are nearing the end of the loan for the Durango. Once paid off we will be looking at a more efficient vehicle. We are anxious to see what the hybrid and electric market will be offering in the next few years. It will probably not be till 2013 till we see our next vehicle... and even then, this one will be used by us for the rest of its life.

All that being said, I have found that driving slower has made an impact on our fuel consumption. I have read some interesting studies that have determined that flooring it uses several times more fuel than a nice easy acceleration and creates several times more pollution in the process.  On the even more practical side, it even extends the life of the engine and parts of the engine quite a bit!

The younger drivers (myself included at that time) may find it hard to stick to that principle but the sooner it is learned, the better. Parents, set a good example!

The last benefit is that there are less speeding and reckless driving tickets coming your way. That is nice on the budget, too.  Funny story: I was accelerating slowly up a hill coming out of a stop sign and an officer pulled me over to see if I was drunk or something. After he left, I kicked my self for not saying, I was driving more efficiently to save fuel and take better care of my vehicle. Instead I had said, I was looking for my left turn. That was also true.  Oh well.
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Throw Out Less - When we relocated to our present home, we did the normal thing and hired a local company to remove our trash. They said, as a family of four we would definitely need the larger removal plan. We actually paid for it for nearly a year before we realized that we did not even need the smaller plan.

Now, as a family of four, we use the smallest garbage plan available. Not only that, we have never even half filled the provided smallest garbage can. Most of the time a week of trash at our home would fit in a single 11 gallon kitchen trash liner (biodegradable, of course).

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