Over the Christmas break we were supposed to take delivery of our Berkshire pigs. But suddenly we made a decision to not take the pigs. I guess it is not common knowledge with everyone what we are up to with our farm plans. So, here it is. Perhaps by making our plans public so to speak, the cosmos will line up and everything will go as planned...because they sure haven't so far. It's kind of "The Secret" sort of thing.
Taking on another project like the pigs will only serve to complicate our move more than it already would be should our house sell sometime this year.
Mrs. Schneider and myself along with our two wonderful children have been trying to sell our farm for almost 2 years now! We missed the hot market here in Alberta by a few months and now we just can't seem to get it sold. We currently live on a 40 acre parcel of land only a few minutes west of West Edmonton Mall. We are very close to the city of Edmonton. We are also very close to several large suburban subdivisions. Our property is very beautiful with large mature pine ridges and a hollows of Tamarack and Birch. Interspersed amongst the trees are our small fields and pastures where in the past our chickens and pigs and sheep and cattle have grazed.
Since we made the decision to re-enter the grain production side of farming we have sought parcels of land to rent where we could actually grow grain. Obviously, our property is not conducive to any type of large scale production of grain. When we decided to sell though, we found we were presented with all of these wonderful options and we could start over with whatever we dared dream as far as house options and yards and gardens and orchards. It is a tremendous feeling to have a blank canvas...if only we could get our place sold. We want more land for growing grains and food, less house for maintaining and heating, and a better property layout for becoming more self-sufficient with our food and resources.
For the past several years we have dreamed of nothing but a very simple and small off-grid house. Because we live where we live and don't want to move too far away, we are faced with the facts of bitterly cold winters. So our house of choice will be a straw bale home! I will have to write more about that choice later. The fact of the matter is that straw bale construction is nothing new. There are straw bale homes in the mid-west of the U.S and Canada that are well over 100 years old. They are durable, storm-proof, incredibly warm and efficient, quiet, easy to construct and as important as all that they are extremely environmental in their construction.
Along with what kind of house to build we have also had to decide on our style of house. That is not quite finalized but we know we want something small. Currently, our house is 3000 sq. ft. on two levels. That is just too big. We have discovered that we could quite handily live on nothing but our top floor if we wanted to and all the rest is just a waste of space.
The off-grid stuff is more complex. We live in Sunny Alberta so we would be silly to not incorporate solar electric panels in our design. We will catch rain-water from our steel roofs for both drinking and grey water systems. We will heat in a few ways. The easiest way to heat our home is passive solar or properly located windows and properly designed roof overhangs to allow winter sunlight in the living space and summer sunlight out of the living space. Besides that, we haven't quite decided between a simple wood stove, masonry fireplace, in-floor hydronic heating from an outside heat source like an outdoor wood boiler or maybe all of the above? There are so many heating options to choose from. Part of our decision will stem from what kind of property we end up purchasing. Is there a wood lot for instance?
There has been much to think about. One of the blessings of not being able to sell our property is that we have had the chance to perform even more research than before. The plan shown is one of our favorites although it probably needs to be expanded a little to try to hit the 1500 sq. ft. target. We like how simply the plumbing is incorporated and we love the efficiency of the open space design. A couple short hallways extending from the bathrooms would isolate any noise from the living area to the bedrooms. This is likely the house you will see us building sometime soon.
We would truly appreciate any help or advice from folks who have made the transition to off-grid or alternative housing or anything else you might have to offer. Please wish us luck and stay tuned for much ensuing entertainment should the house suddenly sell!