Little Green Cottage in the redwoods, Northern California
Naturally, people ask me what kind of house I live in! While I love all the natural methods, especially earth and
cob. I chose to buy an old cottage and bring it back to life using
"green" and salvaged materials.
My 1949 house is a total of 1150 square feet,
with solid redwood planking, including a sunroom, and a laundry room
cobbled on sometime in the 1950s. Cottage-style windows, a brick
entry and a formal (if weedy) English garden in front made it a
charming "find." A separate 14' x 20' studio building and a
sturdy goat shed complete the structures. Two giant redwood tree
stumps, more than 12 feet tall, exist on the property, one stump is
big enough to host a Hobbit house inside.
Wood Projects: I
have re-planed all the weathered redwood board fencing to make
beautiful new gates and fences... the cost? Elbow grease. This older
growth tongue & groove wood cannot be bought anymore, and is
better in strength and quality than any newer wood I could buy. So
all salvage is denailed, stripped, planed and recycled where needed.
Replacing subfloors; exterior planking to cover an unused door, and
similar projects let me reuse wood without buying new.
Lime & Clay Paints: I am using a 'free' wall paint made of clay
and lime water and a Chinese invented lime-paper plaster that has
been used on the walls of a guest bathroom, for a very old world
Solar Hot Water: We don't have steady, reliable solar gain, even
in summer, so other methods are necessary. I recently acquired a
water tank, from the 1920s. It is designed to lie on its side, and
intake cold water, and discharge gravity fed hot water. I plan to
mount this at roof level on my patio, and glaze a box around it, so I
can use solar-heated hot water to run the washing machine. ( And
avoid a pricey re-plumbing job to the washer.) I used to use an
old-fashion wringer washer until it dies. For a working 1950-70 model
expect to pay $50-$120. Make sure the motor can operate the agitator
and wringer works).
For showers and household hot water I use an electric hot
water heater and timer, using the timer just 2-3 hours a day cut my
hot water bill significantly. The HWH was placed inside a free shed I
built, from new materials harvested from the scrap pile at a local
bank being constructed. The job manager was happy to see me haul off
the scrap Hardi-planks and 2 x 4s. A new on- demand gas powered HWH
tank will be installed to convert the 100 year old horse barn
into a prime work studio.
Tire Pottery: I have shrubs and
butterfly bushes growing in “tire pots" - car tires cut and
turned inside out, which look like large pottery, and don't hurt the
lawnmower if I run into them.
I barter, trade, and dumpster dive, and have been known to knock on a neighbor's door;or visit any new construction site when they are finishing a project, to salvage any useable materials. It saves them money in dump fees, and they are usually happy to let you take it. Always ask first! Liability laws may prevent you from walking on the site to remove items, and you should always wear sturdy shoes, and gloves, safety glasses or other safety gear when on construction sites, to protect your valuable eyesite, cranium, and limbs.
Finally, I am planning a garden patio poured using a brickmold pattern and Tufastone mix- a natural 'stone-like' recipe I created, made with no or little cement.
The point of all this is that you can literally "find" anything for free, and make use of it in some way. The trick is not to haul home too much scrap and get too far ahead of your projects.
All the best in your efforts
to recycle, reuse, and live lightly on the planet! Charmaine
R. Taylor, Founder
Coast Redwoods on Damnation Creek Trail
image courtesy J.M.Renner
Photo above promotes the 11th Annual Redwood Writers' Conference www.ncrwc.org
College of the Redwoods, Del Norte
883 W. Washington Blvd.
Crescent City, CA 95531
Free Glass: I completed an enclosed glassed-in patio (to replace the dark, leaky wooden one) from a series of 18 cottage-style window, all 6 and 8 pane, salvaged from a nearby 1902 house remodel.
FREE Tile: The local granite fab shop, and tile store has let me haul of tiles for years. I have enough now to tile the rooms in my home, plus the entire floor of my work studio! I have enough selection, choices in colors, styles, patterns to make some very nice floors myself!
Tufastone: I've poured stepping stones and step-offs from a natural lime-clay-fibercrete mix, and embedded them with river stones. I use the sidewall "rings" cut from the auto tires as a base circle for stepping stones, they can be filled with gravel, or a poured Tufastone mix, and are very durable.
"Rub-R-Slate" Flooring: I located the "lost" sixty-year old recipes for "Rub-R-Slate" created by Jack Bays in the 1930s. This asphalt emulsion additive recipe (to clay and paper) can be used to make durable, insulated and cushioned floors over old wood or linoleum for almost free. It can be poured or painted on, and serves as a strong wet resistant base for conventional materials such as carpet, etc., and it can be finished as the final flooring material too.
But if you plan to build anything, get used to the idea that your job site will look like a salvage yard (or even like a 'hoarder') for a long time. Keep friendly relations with neighbors who won't understand you, and hide as much of the "mess" as possible to keep them happy.
Buy as little new, processed materials as possible; save those dollars to hire local labor and give someone else a job, instead of supporting big box stores. And never be afraid to ask for something if it is being pitched out. Soon people will come to YOU with great useful materials, and you can build or repair your own house "Dirt Cheap".