Hello strangers!

It’s been a long time since either of us posted.  This summer saw great progress on the earthship, thanks to a pretty aggressive schedule while James was here.  When we said good-bye to James at the end of August we were exhausted.  We knew September would be a wash for the house as we  had two fairs to attend, and our work commitments seemed to increase.

We are back to struggling with time commitments.  The pull of time, work (paid), work (house), homeschooling, and family time are all conspiring to challenge us right now.   We love our work at The Welcome Back MRI and Pain Management Clinic in Kamloops.  It is great work for both of us and we really enjoy the people we work for, and with. 

The kids are branching out this year and becoming more involved in activities on their own…which means more running around for us.  I’ve also taken on some writing/PR jobs.   I never thought when I left Toronto and San Francisco behind, that I’d find PR work in the health care industry again.  The interior of BC is not a hub for that kind of activity.

4-H is really busy and I’m just completing my first year as A leader…without the constant guidance of the long running A leaders of the club.  (I’ve actually been a co-leader for a few years). With all our commitments this year and and without the high energy help of Dennis and Laura-Ann F (whos retired after 9 years at he helm), I found myself barely able to stay ahead of administrative deadlines and often my clients need me when I need to be at 4-H.   I haven’t really felt as though I have been able to do a stellar job for the kids and the parents of the club all year.

This is year four ending for us in the Nutshell, and two years and four months physically building the earthship. I looked out the kitchen window of the Nutshell tonight and saw the moon reflected in the south wall of glass.  I really wish I could be watching the moon from inside that south wall of glass!

It’s why, tonight, at our last general meeting of the 4-H club for the year, I indicated my intention to step back from club duties for the next year.  I still want to be involved, but I am feeling the weight of all our comitments and I see that it is slowing us down in our ability to finish the house.  At this point, we want to keep working.  At two to three days per week for each of us, it gives us flexibility, a very generous income and time to add more $  to the house coffers, essentially ensuring that we will not have to finance construction through our previous savings, or through a bank.

We will have to step back from a few more things in the next months to truly free up time to complete the earthship.  I don’t think either of us knows what that will be.  I suppose we will evaluate as we move forward.

As I read this I realize how disjointed my thoughts are. I kind of feel like that though.  I’m hoping to feel more in control of things soon.  And hoping that means some forward progress again on the house.

Changing priorities…

Life has been incredibly busy the last 9 months.  We worked fairly relentlessly on the Earthship from February 2010 to January 2011.  We accomplished a lot! Last fall, we started homeschooling the kids, I started consulting as a bookkeeper and writer and we skate skied three times a week at our local trails during the winter months.

By the time we returned from the Kimberly, BC conference at the end of January 2011, we were officially burned out.  We proceeded with some work on the house, but since winning the So Nice contest in early February, our work has been intermittent. Quite honestly, we’ve argued a lot about how to proceed.

Some of this came about because I got cold feet about how far into our savings we should dip to complete the house.  Although we are completely on budget since setting it in 2009, I began to feel slightly uneasy about how far into savings we were prepared to go.  It’s ironic in a way…most people argue about how much debt to add to their lives. We were arguing about how much savings we thought we needed to have after our mortgage-free house was built!!

As we were discussing finances through February, Chris had taken over most of the kids’ instruction as I became busier and busier with bookkeeping clients.  Chris and I started talking about veggie oil vehicles and unbeknownst to me in the midst of this, Chris had been visualizing some R&D work on gasifiers.  The parts he won last summer from Victory Gasworks were waiting for him and he very much wanted to be well into this project by now.

I took on the administrative leadership of the kids’ 4-H club and that too, has been taking me away from the house.

Complicating matters (but boosting our bank account) was the extra wrinkle that occured at one of my clients’ place of business.  I needed some help with the accounting software on my laptop because it kept crashing.  Chris thought that the data file should be stored on the company server, so with my employer’s permission, he came in and moved things around. He also got my laptop and another at the office to talk to the network properly.  Basically he impressed my boss and was offered a job looking after the IT functions at this medical facility.  He is THAT good.  So, now Chris has a job, but one, hopefully that will be part-time in a few weeks.

Working elsewhere has been good for both of us.  We’ve forgotten how incredibly competent we both are at whatever we do.  It’s nice to hear other people say so.  We have new things to talk about at the end of the day and it puts our life and choices into perspective.  I think we appreciate each other more; it’s easy to take one another for granted after 22 years.

For the last 13 years Chris and I have worked together on almost everything and we work best when we are equally involved.  So we have been faced with a bit of a conundrum: with our various schedules and commitments, when and how would we get the house re-started?  What is our priority?

I’ve thought that now we are off the roof we could open the construction process to volunteers again.  For safety, we had turned away a great number of volunteers last year.  Having volunteers, though, requires lots of preparation time, too.   We’ve been tremendously fortunate that all our volunteers have been amazing and I’d like to think that we could involve people once again.  But it requires a lot of Chris’ time planning and designing next steps. I’m a great implementer, but lack the experience necessary to design things like electrical and greywater lines.

When the kids’ school year is complete in a few weeks time we will be having a longer conversation about how to pursue our various interests while keeping the house construction going.  Neither of us is looking forward to another winter in the Nutshell, but we’d like to do a bit more kayaking this summer and get a few other projects off the ground, all of which will take us away from house building.

I’m nervous that changing priorities will slow down the house to the point where we lose interest.  I’m worried the kids will have flown the nest by the time we move in (much like my childhood where we finally moved into a half finished house when I was 15).  I’m wondering if we are too tired of it to keep going.

But I’m heartened by the inscription Chris wrote on my Mother’s Day card a few weeks ago.  “It is worth reflecting on past accomplishments, if only to make our dreams seem real…”

So I keep telling myself, “Breathe in, breathe out.”  Life is good; the blessings are great.


Working on the house again…

The flashing for the front part of our roof (and about 10 feet along each side) has been ordered.  Through winter and early spring the rubber roofing has flapped around a bit and ripping was becoming a concern.  We had to design our own flashing, since our roof is not standard.  Chris also ordered the storm collar and boot for the rocket stove pip exiting the roof.  We could not find them anywhere in Kamloops!

I’ve dug a trench in front of the house to put in the french drain (we did this around the perimeter of the building). We can no longer get the backhoe into this space and I was worried that with a few months of hot weather, the ground would be rock hard.  Thankfully our cool wet spring made digging relatively easy. I’m down to the clay subsoil…now we will shoot levels and start sloping the trench to achieve 1/4″ per foot drop over 80 feet (about 20″ drop overall).  We have the perforated pipe and filter cloth and gravel/stones abound on the property so no additional expense there. 

Once this job is finished, we will hook up the septic outlets from the house to the septic tank, and then the overflows from the planters to the tank.  Then we have to wait to move in to take down the nutshell and backfill to the front face (the nutshell is in the way).

We are starting to figure out a solution for the skylights.  Our openings are 4’x4′ and we are trying to come up with a simple, manual opening system for the five skylights in the house.  I think we have a bit of work there.

After that, I think we start on the kids’ rooms.  We’ve decided to try to complete their room first, to give them some space there over summer and fall.  Hopefully by winter we’ll have enough complete in the entire house to move in…we’ll see.