Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Joel Salatin's 'Dream House'

I'm reading 'Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal' by Joel Salatin. The man is my hero for so many reasons.  He is owner of Polyface Farms in VA.  I would love to visit sometime.  He made a name for himself in many areas of life, but came more to the public eye in Michael Pollan's 'The Omnivore's Dilemma'.

I daydream about building a completely self-sufficient dwelling.  Using only materials from the land it's on, and not needing any outside energy sources. Pipe dreams.  But that made it all the more fun to read about Salatin's ideas.  

Here is how he describes his 'Dream House':

"First, it would be earth sheltered-built into a hill with a glassed southern exposure.   Gray water would exit to a small purification swamp using hydrologic plants like cattails.  The toilet would flush into a sealed tank producing methane.  Effluent from the methane digester would go into the plant purification system.  The plants could be composed or fed to animals.  The methane would go directly to the kitchen, where it would run the cooking stove and oven. 

One of the biggest costs in a house is the roof.   I would get rid of that cost by installing a simple ceiling covered with a hoop house.

During the day, the second-story greenhouse would collect solar energy which could be pulled downstairs into the house with a couple of squirrel cage fans.  At night, the thermal mass from downstairs would naturally warm the air and it would rise into the greenhouse.  That way all winter we could grow fresh vegetables upstairs.  We could even have a couple of chickens up there for fresh eggs and eating the kitchen scraps.  Because the earth sheltered house would be built into a hill, we could put our freezer and a root cellar underground for energy savings and storage right by the kitchen.  And the house would be cool in summer becuase of the earth shelter." 

"Imagine a housing development where more then 50 percent of the building materials, all water and 50 percent of the energy had to come from the development's landscape footprint.  Edible landscaping would replace Chemlawn. Little earthworm bins would replace garbage disposals.  Cistern would adorn house edges and catch all the roof runoff."

Yeah, imagine!  I do. 

While we're dreaming, I thought I'd put one more quote from the book. This one in regards to what a local food system would like in any particular neighborhood.

"If you've never tasted real homemade jams and jellies, you don't know what you're missing.  If you've never tasted an on-farm processed pastured broiler, then Whole Foods organic will do just fine, thank you. but once you've tasted the real deal, nothing else satisfieds

Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, to paraphrase a Biblical description of God's plans, what could be if local food entrepreneurs were freed up to access their neighborhoods with homemade, artisanal food.  Let me for a moment just describe what would happen.  

We'd enjoy muffins from our neighbor's kitchen, pickles, salsa, and baked goods.  We'd have locally-grown and cured ham and bacon.  Local beef jerky would accompany our kiddos' lunch boxes.  Frozen heat-and eat quiche made from overabundant pastured spring eggs from the neighbor's flock would offer quickie meals on soccer night.  Chicken pot pies, made with grandma's recipe in our neighbor's kitchen could be purchased during that mad-dash-home-from-work-what's-for-supper panic.  We could enjoy a Delmonico steak from a pastured steer that never stepped onto a trailer to be co-mingled at a slaughterhouse with animals of dubious extraction while awaiting slaughter, but rather was killed on its home farm in reverence by the farmer who cared for it. Tender and beyond description.  

All of this washed down with wine from the neighbor's grapes, fermented lovingly in his basement.  Under the watchful eye of the children and the family cat.  Cheese, all sorts of fresh and aged, straight from the neighbor's ten-cow pastured dairy herd.  And ice cream to die for, from heavy cream and molasses grown, milled, and canned two miles down the road.  Are you salivating yet? (yes, yes I am). 

You see, an imbedded local food system could actually exist in the midst of subdivisions and strip malls.  Wherever a few unpaved square feet poked through, edible plants and animals could be grown and processed for the neighborhood.  And without the expensive labeling, packaging, and processing infrastructure requirements, this food could be sold at regular supermarket prices, and it would be infinitely better.  Virtually all of the processed foods currently sold at the supermarket could be supplanted with community-based entrepreneurial fare.  Does your heart ache for this?  Mine does."  (one again, I must say... yes, yes it does)

Off to dream some more...

1 comment:

  1. That sure does sound like a great idea. The food alone would be worth it. : )