What Are You Throwing Off a Cliff?

Author: Curt  | Category: Efficiency  | Tags: ,

An interesting take on energy efficiency from the Ad Council and The US DOE. I just wish they could have figured out a way to throw early retirement off a cliff.

Foundation Fact: Water Now to Prevent Settlement

Author: Curt  | Category: Quick Tips  | Tags:

Had much rain recently? Yeah, neither have we. Around here, it’s been drier than Steven Wright on Xanax.

Aside from the annoyances that dry spells can causes gardeners, lawn bon vivants, and apprentice rain conjurers, they can harsh the homeowner’s mellow, too. Especially when it comes to the part of the house that holds up the rest of the house: the foundation.

The gaps around this foundation wall indicate that it may already be too late. Photo by C. Shontz

During periods of low rainfall, the dirt surrounding your house dries out and shrinks. As a result, underground voids develop between the soil and the face of your foundation walls. If the dry spell lasts long enough, the soil can contract from below the footings. Without stable soil for footings to bear on, the house drops a wee bit closer to sea level. This settlement causes exterior doors and windows to jam and cracks to develop in your interior walls.

Keeping the ground moist around your foundation prevents settling.

Prevention is simple: water your foundation before cracks become visible (see photo, above right). Set your lawn sprinkler alongside your house and provide a slow, steady stream of water for an hour so (photo left). Proceed with this around around the entire house. Decks and porches are a challenge. But then again, the ground beneath them is continuously shaded, so there may not be much of a problem there.

So, aside from a stuck front door, what happens if you’re not diligent about keeping your foundation moist? Well, nature abhors a vacuum. So over time, the voids created by contracted soil become filled with falling dirt, rocks, and caches of varmint doodads. Once rainfall finally comes, the ground swells up again and exerts unbelievably high pressure against your foundation, possibly causing cracks that leak or even dangerous structural damage.

Got your attention yet?


A Dedication: The Samuel Mockbee Memorial Drinking Room

Author: Curt  | Category: Comfort, Just general overall feeling good  | Tags:

“I think every house should have a drinking room.”

-Samuel Mockbee, Architect, 1944-2001

The above quotation may not be worded precisely as Mr. Mockbee said it, but I remember thinking, “Amen, brother” as I sat in the audience of his lecture at The University of Kansas c1996. I might have even muttered those words aloud to my classmate Tony, who I was certain shared the sentiment. Fifteen years later, as I imagine the details of living in my new (old) house, that sentiment has reemerged.

As I’ve mentioned in several earlier posts, I recently purchased a small bungalow built sometime in the 1920s. As I write this, I haven’t yet fully moved in. I’m taking time now to paint, fix a few neglected things, and add some more attic insulation before settling in.

Though there are only six rooms in the entire place, the one that I think I’ll enjoy the most is the tiny addition off the back. Converted from a porch to a living space probably in the 40s, it measures 8 feet by 12 feet. It faces east, and its windows look out to a dense line of trees and brush. If I were so inclined, I could hang out in that room wearing nothing but a smile, and none of my neighbors would be suitably revolted. It’s the room with the most window area and least pretense per square foot than any other.

I hereby by proclaim this room: The Samuel Mockbee Memorial Drinking Room (est. 2011).

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Right Home ‘Toon Tuesday

Author: Curt  | Category: 'Toons  | 
A little plumbing humor.

(click for larger image)

Space: It’s Not Rocket Science

Author: Curt  | Category: Comfort, Downsizing, Efficiency, Simplicity  | Tags: , ,

I have no argument with people who want to live in—and can afford—big, spacious houses. Heck, I used to own a house with five bedrooms, five bathrooms, and two two-car garages. Yes, two garages.

To be honest, I loved that house. But the day soon came when it no longer served my life and my goals. Forces around me–some in my control, some not–conspired to direct me into simpler living.

Illustration by C. Shontz. Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

I feel strongly that this blog should not attempt to indoctrinate everyone into minimalistic lifestyles. (If I waiver from that goal, alert me.) But for those who sense a nagging urge to steer their lives away from ever increasing levels of complication, worry, and expense, maybe I can be of service.

A good place to start is with our living space.

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Financing Freedom: When it’s Not So Wise to Go with the Flow

Author: Curt  | Category: Downsizing, Sustainability  | Tags: ,

Freedom is expensive. That maybe not be the most erudite statement I could start a post with. It’s probably akin to saying “water is wet.” (Which it is, by the way.) But it’s a good jumping-off point for talking about a touchy subject for most people: personal finances.

In an earlier post, I proffered the idea that freedom is at the core of a simpler lifestyle. Ways of achieving freedom aren’t so easy to execute, however. A few examples that come to mind are:

  1. Quit your job, sell all your worldly belongings, change your name to a monosyllabic chirping sound, and familiarize yourself with edible weeds.
  2. Win the lottery or befriend a wealthy, generous, lonely benefactor. Just don’t count on these to make you happy.
  3. If incarcerated, seek parole.

If none of these apply to you, then you’ll probably need to find another way to finance your freedom.

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