We found each other because we’re both a bit goofy, and that goofiness has led us all over the world. Sometimes it has led us off the deep end, or so some of our friends and family thought when we decided to build an off-grid, earth-sheltered house. In reality, it was one of the best decisions we ever made, and it has rewarded us in many unexpected ways.
When we moved to Vermont, we bought the quintessential antique farmhouse, but, after five years of paying the quintessential gargantuan wood, oil and electric bills that go along with any drafty, mouse-infested home, we decided to make a change. The stint in Germany that preceded our migration to the mountains had exposed us to new and old ideas about building with heating and electric savings in mind. We sifted through folders of clippings and evaluated any conventional and offbeat idea that popped up in the search engines.
Finally, we settled on the idea of an underground house. At the time we didn’t plan to go off-grid – it was still just a fantasy. But our site made bringing in the power more expensive than making it ourselves, and suddenly we had a new research project. Ultimately, we ended up with solar power and hot water and a backup generator. We bought the queen of wood cookstoves (my non-negotiable demand) to heat our house, food, and (in winter) our water.
We moved into the house in the fall, and, aside from having to quickly buy a much more efficient refrigerator, we noticed very few changes in our life. Like most Vermonters – we already used a clothesline 90% of the time, we already had a garden, and we already worshipped our woodstove – but we still patted ourselves on the back for being so green. The reality was we were (and are) slackers, and that was what drove most of our design and energy decisions. It still does now.
So as the Big Guy walked into the house yesterday soaking wet, wrapped in his towel and carrying a bar of soap, I was amused but hardly surprised. It was pouring out and after an afternoon fixing fences, washing off in the rain obviously seemed like a great idea to him(especially since we’re surrounded by trees and mountains and more trees), but I still couldn’t figure out exactly what had motivated it today.
“Saving water,” he announced as he sauntered across the living room, leaving sasquatch-sized puddles on the concrete floor.
Later, as we were both not volunteering to mop up the water, I tried to decide what I love most about this house – the way it fosters zany outlets for our green and/or lazy impulses or the fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere so that no one calls the cops when we indulge in them.