Wednesday, December 31, 2008


December 31st is a time for summation. Listening to NPR, I hear end-of-year thoughts on politics, the economy, movies (Bob Mondelo's Top 20 is our Netflix guide for a year of viewing); and, naturally, I start to think of our own 2008, an outstanding year by any measure. We're comfortably ensconced on the south side of Block Island, the gusts of a winter storm harmlessly howling by, rattling the windows. Chloe and Hazel are thoroughly enjoying their time here; and, despite a shakey start in regard to employment, everything's working out just fine. Our house-to-be is waiting patiently in Sedgwick, and with a little luck my entry for 2009 will be made from Michelle's new office on the second floor. We've had a difficult time balancing the needs of house building, Chloe and Hazel, and Michelle's work. Who doesn't have this juggling act? We tell ourselves that our busy-ness now is a down payment on a more relaxed, slowed down future. Slowing down is now a conscious act, something you've got to have on the back burner of the brain, a constant reminder that hyper-drive is unhealthy. I need this reminder. Otherwise, my gift of being able to focus on nothing but work would blot out the rest. (I realize that what I consider busy is fairly relaxed by today's standards.) I'll abruptly stop there; that's all for 2008.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Germans Take the Lead

Here's a link to an interesting story in the New York Times about a new standard for energy efficient housing.
I could try to incorporate a passive heat exchanger into our house. Maybe a black box next to the wood stove. Fresh air piped in under the slab into the box, warmed with passive solar heat during the day and wood heat at night. The introduction of fresh air into a tight house is a critical piece of the energy efficiency puzzle. Leaky houses spend much of their heating energy warming the cold air filtering in. Without air exchange with the outside, though, the air in a tight house would become unhealthy. I was planning on having fresh air intakes (little circular vents in the walls that can be opened and shut) and your basic exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen. In the middle of January with the house shut tight, the exhaust fans would operate with timed regularity and give us the air exchange we need. But I could, without much trouble, pre-heat the outside air coming in using something like the black box described above. The passive houses described in the NYT story pre-heat the air with the outgoing air and a little help from an electric heating element. A black metal box next to the wood stove work more or less the same way.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Just thought I'd log in for the month of December. I've been firing away for the last few weeks using pneumatic nail guns for shingling and framing, and I think it would be fair to say that I wouldn't be sitting here on Block Island if I had broken down and bought a gun. My reluctance to use the modern tools of the trade certainly slowed the pace. Anachronism has its price. If I'd used a gun, we might be living in our new house right now. But we're enjoying life on the island and looking forward to our return in May.