Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Great Land Rush (from Edrianna’s perspective)

The Great Land Rush (from Edrianna’s perspective)
Remember when I mentioned that Jim picked up a Real Estate magazine and I asked him what he was doing? Well the short version of this was that he suggested I begin the land hunt because it was a bit overwhelming for him: too many listings to weed through, too many hours on the phone with the agent, too many hours on the computer. Jim was busy designing our house and researching green systems. Of course we talked about what we wanted before I started hunting and one thing we both agreed on was that we needed an agent.

Kathy, my sister in-law (who owns the cabin we are staying in) mentioned her friends, Mark and Tim, who were using an agent they really loved and maybe we should check her out. I got in touch with Mark and asked about purchasing land near Asheville. He sent me a wonderful email about things to look for and the name of his agent: Georgia Gantt with Keller Williams. We talked several times over the phone while we were still in Florida and she started sending me listings. This was our check list: 10 acres or more, private, southern view, tree covered with no lawn to mow, within 45 minutes of downtown Asheville, quiet (no trains or planes or noisy neighbors); we actually didn’t want to be able to see our neighbors if possible, water on the property (stream or creek), 3000 ft in elevation (or higher), starry sky at night with no light pollution, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree!

In the RAW
Purchasing “raw” land can be a bit tricky with all the things you need to consider. We needed to make sure the road to the property was accessible so we didn’t have to put thousands of dollars into constructing one and ultimately maintaining it. We also hoped to find something with a road we could actually drive on since we don’t own a 4 wheel drive vehicle. We needed electricity – it costs big bucks to get electricity on your property if it isn’t already there. We also needed water. The standard is to drill a well – more big bucks! Or you can use a spring – a little too risk for us considering all the chemicals that are being dumped on the land. And where would all the sewage go? Into the new septic tank – ka-ching! And if there wasn’t already septic on the property we would have to do a Perk (or perc) Test. Means just like it sounds; you have to make sure the water going into the drain field will percolate into the ground. Trust me, I didn’t know all this stuff in the beginning – Georgia educated us.  

So with all this new knowledge our check list began to grow. I put all the listings she sent into a spread sheet to organize all the properties based on the features we were hoping for. I sent it to Georgia – lucky woman!

Choose Your Horses Wisely
We met Georgia in the afternoon after meeting with Sundance. She told us ahead of time to dress appropriately because we would be looking at land that day. We complied. I knew I liked her the moment we met – she and I have the same hiking boots. We filled out some paperwork then jumped into her Subaru Outback and started exploring properties. Just about every other car in Asheville is a Subaru Outback and we soon found out why: rock, mud, steep slopes, logging roads, winding mountain roads, hairpin turns, downed tree branches, and horse and cow poo – we drove through it all. Thank goodness we didn’t run into any snow, but if we had, Georgia would have gotten us safely through it. The directions to most of the properties were like being on a treasure hunt: right after the second pond (drainage ditch), straight on till you reach the barn at the end of the road (but then what?), take the left fork (oops, the SECOND left fork).
(J) – I wondered if the signs that read Trespassers Will Be Shot were just bluffs or should be taken more seriously.
I should mention, just because it is funny, the first day out I sat in the front seat and Jim was in the back. Every trip after that Jim was in the front.
(J) – I didn’t know our green journey would include me turning GREEN!

Whittling Down The List
So after the first day out we were a bit discouraged. Only one property held some possibilities for us; but still, it only had a few of the features we wanted. It would require us to construct a long road, it was mostly pasture, we could see and hear the neighbors (especially their howling hound); but the views were incredible!

On the second day out we found another piece of property we liked better; but…. I should mention that some of the property we were looking at was pretty far out in the country. We received a personal tour from the woman who owned the property (farm!) She was selling off one of the pastures and wooded areas so she could finally retire from her two 6 day a week, 10 hours a day nursing jobs. We started the tour by walking across a pasture in order to find the trail she referred to as the road – not really. Once we reached the summit the views were absolutely breathtaking. We began imagining where our house would sit but quickly realized that we would need an even longer road than the previous property. She regaled us with stories of life on her farm: picking berries, apple trees, how she lets her horses wander free, her disappointment in her relative planting pines that block her view of the river (would have been nice to see),  the numerous deer she sees on the property, which she names; but are hunted by poachers (a bit scary), how her son wants to be a butcher so he practices on hogs at the bottom of the hill (I know we are in the country but that is a little creepy no matter where you come from), and she explained how she wanted the new owners of her property to agree to let her ashes be placed in the abandoned iron ore mine (after she is dead of course). Yikes!  All kidding aside, she was so charming and a delight to walk and talk with and her property was breathtaking; and we were grateful for her overabundance of honesty. We did actually consider it but because of the cost of putting in a road we ultimately decided to move on.

By day three we honed our filtering system. All we would have to do is approach a property and Jim and I would both say, “Pass.” Georgia was such a trooper. She would quietly turn the car around and nod her head in agreement. We saw one or two properties and then were on our way to the next one. It seemed really interesting, came with photos and really clear directions to the site (why didn’t everybody think of that). The piece that intrigued us most was the photo of a sign that read “Loose Horses” hanging from a gate. We made it to this point with no problem, opened the gate and entered. Holy Cow, it was like entering a multi million dollar estate – beautiful. Yep, loose horses. We followed the directions to the left fork (found it with no problem) and went through the second gate. No road issues so far and we were feeling pretty lucky. After a short drive down a nice gravel road (thank goodness) we came to the site. A beautiful mountain laurel, rhododendron, and tree covered property, with massive rock formations scattered throughout. I kept saying to Jim and Georgia, “Do you hear that?” I heard what sounded like rushing water. We followed a bulldozed trail down a sloping hill and then made our way through the thicket until we reached a creek, about 200’ lower than where we parked the car.
(J) – I knew this because I checked it out on my handy dandy altimeter/compass/barometer/clock I got at L. L. Bean for $34.00 (well worth it).
Wow. We started at 3500 feet (500’ higher than one of our prerequisites). And it’s a creek, not a dried up stream that flows only after it rains, but a real creek, it was even babbling. We actually had to figure out how to cross it, it was that big. I started imagining camp fires, tent sites, roasting marshmallows and dark starry nights. We were both sold! Not completely sure if we were still on the property we decided to head back up to the car. I found an animal trail that made the walk (climb) much easier. This property was now on the top of our list, actually it was the only one on our list. We had a few more to see before the end of the day so Georgia turned her Subaru around once again and we headed out. “Pass, pass!” Nothing measured up. It was time for lunch and discuss our recent discovery; we found the treasure. We were very impressed but not sure we had seen the whole property. Georgia set up a meeting with the seller for the next day. 

                                        Here's Georgia and Edrianna given the seal of approval.

Going from Awesome to Wicked Awesome!
The next day we climbed into the owner’s 4 wheel drive and he drove us over to the other side of the property. We had to pass through 4 relatives properties (we found out they were all heirs to the original owner). The route took us past two pastures, small pond (the raccoons ate all the fish), abandoned cabin, logging road, through the creek (no bridge), through the upper pasture where we were greeted by Angus cows (big cows), across the top ridge, and we finally came to a stop in front of downed trees. We had left the road a good while back. The owner got out and directed us to the place on the property where he had intended to build a home. Holy Cow, what a view! This was the wicked awesome part. Sold again!

This is the view from the western end of the property. The mountain in the background is called little Pisgah.
Big Decision
We thought long and hard about putting our home on the site with the amazing view but eventually decided against it. We chose to preserve it and have something we could hike to and be awed by instead of destroying it by plopping a house in the middle of it. Of course we haven’t bought it yet, but we did decide to make an offer. The other things we were considering were how much we liked the other side for a home site: its closeness to the road in, how close it was to utilities, and the fact that the road was already in place.

This is the main gate to our property. It reminds me of entering a ranch. Just a side note, when we drove here for the first time and I got out of the car to open this gate, I looked down and found a large turkey feather. I see this as a symbol of good luck.

Due Diligence
What the heck does that mean? It means, I accept your offer, give me $100 and you have till April 8th to figure out if you still want the property. For us it meant getting a builder on the site to determine if the site was buildable; hire a surveyor to verify the property lines; pay the county $800 for a Perk Test, locate the drain field for the septic tank, and get a permit for the well, hire a real estate attorney, and wait. 
The site topograghy is a amazing. When we close on the property, I'll have the oportunity to take some more shots of the interior areas. There are gigantic boulder and cliff formations throughout the site.
The entire property has the character of a national park.

There is an abundance of Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Springtime Interlude

We just wanted to include this filler, taking a moment to pause and share this beautiful spring we are having at Tom and Kathy’s place.
As you can see, we are not staying in the storage unit we rented. This is Tom and Kathy's cabin on a hill. It has plenty of space for our temporary stay.
This is Luna, our new room mate. I had never been around cats much, claiming not to understand them. I have to say, Luna grows on you. Like all Tom and Kathy's pets, Luna is a rescue and is very sweet. I think this experience will be good for both of us. As for Luna's side of the story, you'll have to ask her.
Daffodils from Kathy's garden.

I had no idea there were so many colorful blooming bushes and trees up here since most of our past visits were in the fall and winter.

This is a Bradford Pear tree starting to bloom.
This tree is on the road to the cabin. Not sure what it is, but I will find out. I think a Weeping Cherry.
A shot of the "Super Moon" rising over the mountain as seen from the cabin. We are truly gratefull to Tom and Kathy for taking us in. This makes our new journey possible. Thanks guys!

Assembling our Team

Our first task after arriving in Franklin, unpacking, getting settled and the trip to the hospital was to meet with the pros we selected so we could find land and build our home. You would think that the first priority would have been to buy land. Well, not us. We met with Deltec first, got the grand tour, were very impressed and put a deposit on our home. Positive thinking, right? We were completely confident that we would find land that was just perfect for us and we were right – but I’m jumping ahead.
(E) – This reminds me of when Jim purchased a Wet Bike years ago because he saw one in a James Bond movie and had no idea of how to ride one. And then, when he met me, we bought a boat but didn’t have a clue as to where we would store it. I guess this shows how trusting we are that things will work out.  

Going Round
If you haven’t looked at their web site yet you might not know that Deltec only creates the shell (outside walls and roof). It is up to the owner to provide the foundation and interior finishes (wall, flooring, electrical, plumbing, heating, etc.). Once Deltec creates your walls in the factory which includes siding, windows, floor and roof trusses they are delivered to the site and assembled in about a week. Cool, huh?

We met with the sales representative, Mark, first for our initial contact and tour of the facility.
(E) – He’s the one who convinced us to give them a deposit. And of course we did. Also reminds me of another funny story and how easily I can be sold on something. Jim took me to Circuit City and I sat down in front of a BIG SCREEN tv and watched T2 (this was about 15+ years ago while he shopped for a new VCR. We left with the TV and a new VCR. And more recently, we thought LA Fitness would be a great place to workout. After a rousing sales pitch from an overly enthusiastic x-drill instructor trainer, I signed up for 4 days a week of personal training. Not a good idea for a person who doesn’t like to sweat.

After, we met with our designated project coordinator, Bill, who will be walking us through the whole process, from start to finish. Since we want to incorporate lots of “green” technologies we then met their Green Team, Steve and Leigha. Everyone was wonderful. We felt like we were making new friends. We could sense their excitement about our project, especially the green team. And even though the model we selected was one of the smallest they offer they treated us as if we taking on one of the grand mansions.
(E) – just in case you missed the post with Deltec’s web page – here it is again:

This is a scale model of a Deltec Home simular in size to what we intend to build. The cut-away roof gives you an idea of the construction. No, I didn't build this model, but I could have.

Sun Power
Before we left Florida I researched people who installed solar systems in Western North Carolina. Once again through the BBSH network we were given the name of a couple who are into solar design. As it turned out Steve (the contact through BBSH) works for a company in California called SunWize Technologies, Inc.  that manufactures solar equipment, he is a graduate of BBSH, and participated in a Hero’s Journey in West Virginia that I attended – but we never had the opportunity to meet each other. We connected by email and spoke over the phone. Steve suggested I call Sundance Power Systems  located just outside of Asheville. So get this…Sundance did the solar system that runs the Deltec factory and also a project that I worked on at Duke University.
(E) - Coincidence? I think not! We even drove by SunWize recently on our way to a workshop in Big Sur, California. Part of the workshop focused on synchronicity – makes you want to go hmmmmmm!
This is Adam-very cool dude,even drives a Hybrid

We had an hour and a half meeting with Adam, our solar guru from Sundance, to discuss our solar options. We talked about solar hot water systems, radiant floor heat, photo-votalic (PV) systems, wind, mini hydro and back up systems. We also went over all the tax breaks and incentives.
(E) - We needed a solar recharge by the time we were done!

Now it’s off to find land so we have some place to put all this stuff.
                     "It's a good thing there's no zoning restrictions!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Our Design

We always wanted to design our own dream home from the bottom up. The house we lived in for the past 25 years was retrofitted to fit our needs, however never quite perfect. There was a great southern exposure that we were not able to fully take advantage of. The best views to the backyard were only seen standing at the kitchen sink or from a corner of the dining area. My office had two windows: one facing west and the other south which made the room warmer in the spring and summer and Florida’s afternoon sun can be quite brutal. The best room was Edrianna’s healing room for view and exposure, but had its limits because of the French doors not being shaded some of the day unless the blinds were redirected. Let’s face it, most traditionally designed homes have certain limitations, especially if you want to incorporate green design elements.

One of the biggest problems in any building is wasted space. It is dead unusable area that has to be cooled or heated, robbing you of money and hurting the environment by using valuable resources. Frank Lloyd Wright was a pioneer in effective space saving design. He believed in shared spaces that could be used for two or more uses as well as being just big enough for that intended use. His Usonion home designs going back to 1934 were models of efficient living. Interior rooms were referred to as “spaces” with some of the furniture built in to take advantage of the smaller floor area. Bedrooms were isolated and smaller to encourage family to gather in the living areas. This was “organic living” that had innovations such as passive solar, utilizing thermal mass (more on this later). The next thing I intended to write was going to put me on that darn soapbox about our super-sized ‘McMansion” lifestyles – decided not go there. Anyway our design intention is to get back to Wright’s concepts.

I have used Usonion design concepts in our old house in Florida. This is a built-in desk that I built for Edrianna's healing room. This helped maximize the utility space.

Our front entry had dead space I utilized for video/book shelves

I utilized this niche in our bedroom for books

We both sat down and figured out or needs and space requirements, a good place to start. There’s only two us so the overall house square footage can be smaller than average. We need:
  1. A kitchen large enough to fit two or three people. Efficient storage and counter areas and some counter seating. Also central and open to the main living space.
  2. A family room/dining area with focus on outside view and fireplace. This room would have furniture that could be easily moved to convert into a space for workshops for Edrianna’s work. This will also be our media room.
  3. Edrianna’s healing room/office. Large enough for seating for therapy sessions and space for a healing table. This room has to be private and be able to convert to a guest room. Future use could be a spare bedroom for live-in care when we are really, really old, or just when friends and family visit.
  4. Jim’s office/music room. Large enough for computer equipment, drawing table, music equipment and storage.
  5. Utility room for washer, dryer, laundry tub, space for mechanical systems, recycle/trash and storage.
  6. Two bathrooms
There will be built-in desks, cabinets, bookcases etc. where possible to utilize dead space areas and minimum hall space as well. This is a tall order.

Putting a square peg into a round hole
Engaging our space planning skills and our limited knowledge of green design, we attempted to assemble this puzzle. I took a crash course in sustainable living by doing research on the internet and reading several books: my favorite being “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Renewable Energy for Your Home.” We went thru numerous variations, while trying to get smaller with each go round. No one plan was quite working 100 percent. In the mean time Edrianna reached out to her community of friends from BBSH and asked for assistance. We received many great responses and advice and one friend directed us two a unique company called Deltec Homes. (Thanks Jan!) This company builds round homes which intrigued us. The best thing is most of the construction is done in a factory using green manufacturing methods and being a round designed home all the supporting walls are on the outside allowing you free reign for interior space. You can use their floor plans or design your own and do as much of the assembly and finish work on your own. To top it off, Deltec is based in Asheville – exactly where we want to live. There are loads of other advantages of round design and I encourage you visit their website: . We will address many of these in future blogs.

Ok, now the design process takes on a whole new dimension. I enlarged a plan drawing from their web site of a 1200 sq.ft. model called the Monterey on my copy machine, creating a usable ¼” scale plan.

Round is more in tune with nature.
We did our best to incorporate Wright’s Usonion design concept as we worked out our needed spaces. The green concepts were equally important such as grouping the bathrooms, utility and kitchen in close proximity so as to use less plumbing material which uses less energy and water. It is important to orient your main living spaces south (which means we need to pick a site with a southern exposure) for utilizing passive solar and natural lighting.
The process of space planning in the round really flowed better for us and after just a few revisions came up with a great plan that we believed would fit our needs. I drafted up a detailed preliminary floor plan to show the Deltec project coordinator and Green Team.

Here is the Plan we came up!

This is a rough sketch of our family room concept. I will be producing more detailed illustrations as we proceed further in our process.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to North Carolina

All was going amazingly smooth with our transition up to North Carolina. Way to smooth; the house closing, packing and loading the 26 foot rental truck (which just fit our stuff exactly). Our two friends Luc and Greg were there to help load the truck and all the heavy boxes and furniture, and we departed the house ahead of schedule on the 24th of February.

Houston, we have a problem…
After departing our home our plan was to drive 3 hours north to Deltona, Florida and spend the night at Jane’s, my sister-in-law. The truck handled surprisingly well seeing as it now weighed some 75,000 pounds (best guess-I have the tendency to exaggerate). Our ETA was about 5 pm and we called Jane to let her know. She informed us that the last Discovery Space Shuttle lifted off recently and traffic may be bad. Our trek was to take us past the Kennedy Space Center so we figured we would be delayed a bit. It took us an extra 1 ½ hours to get to Jane’s. No big deal.
(E) – and that included a very fast stop at Skip’s Boots so I could cash in my gift card and get another pair of boots. A girl can never have too many boots! Plus it also gave Jane some time to make some corn bread to go along with the amazing beef stew she made us. Yum!

The next day we traveled to Jay’s, my brother-in-law, to drop off some furniture and spend the night. The 9 hours went well.
(E) – And Jay made us pork ribs – yum again. You may be thinking I’m only interested in good food and fashion.

The next morning we were to caravan the last three hours up to Franklin. I was to drive the truck, Edrianna was in our car and our nephew, Ben was in his car (the recipient of the furniture and gratefully tagging along to help us unload our stuff at the storage unit and then at my brother Tom’s place. This leg of the trip should be a piece of cake.

Did you know that I am peripherally vision challenged?
Well I started off that morning by beaning myself on the top of my head when I went to scrape ice off the windshield. You see, the truck had overhead storage just above the cab and in my haste stepped up and BAMM! It was almost a TKO. When the ringing stopped and my vision cleared we were off and running (with a nice headache).
(E) – I saw the whole thing happen and it hurt from a distance. I thought he was going to hit the ground; the bang was so loud. I was so glad he didn’t break the truck. We were warned about damage and took out extra coverage just in case. Glad we didn’t have to use it. So now he had a bump to go along with his small cut that happened when he walked into the garage light when we were packing the truck. He didn’t mention that one, did he?

GPS’s can be your friend or a nightmare.
We had set the voice on our GPS to be Karen from Australia. She has a calming demeanor and is very polite. However, I think she is setup for people who live in the remote outback with no major roads. Atlanta is not Australia and Karen sent me (the lead vehicle) on the wrong road as we traveled thru the city. At least that is what I’m claiming. We all had walkie-talkies for communication that only worked with a connection to Edrianna and me. We discovered early on that Ben’s radio had some kind of voice scrambler that converted our normal voices to the language from the planet Whattheheckisthat. I radioed Edrianna and let her know of our dilemma and told her we will exit the highway and turn around. She called Ben on her cell and gave him the update. I found the nearest exit, and when I drove up the overpass to reenter the highway I found the entrance was blocked with a barrier and a Georgia State trooper. Darn! (or something more colorful). I headed down the road and pulled into a parking lot with my puzzled caravan companions in tow. I got out of the truck and informed everyone of my Plan B, which consisted of standing dazed in the parking lot scratching my aching head. I returned to the normal calm person I am and said, “Let’s get back on the road and get more lost and off our path and try to find another turn around opportunity.” What a leader! Ben looked at me with as if I was the supreme leader from the planet Whattheheckisthis, but agreed willingly. Off we went. We tried the next exit and discovered the same thing – blocked road. We turned around yet again and proceeded to get more and more off our path. Our third attempt was successful.
(E) – Three times a charm!
We were finally heading back to find the proper highway.
(E) – This is when Ben phoned me and said in a slightly concerned, confused and very nice tone, “Edrianna, we are heading back toward Atlanta.” I assured him that Jim, our supreme leader, knew what he was doing - RRRRRRIGHT! I’m not sure Ben believed me.

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
We got back on the proper road north and everything was going fine – for a little while. The truck hit a bump in the road and the GPS dislodged from its place on the windshield, sending Karen violently tumbling across the dash board and crashing to the cab floor. Somewhere during all this her calming voice was muttering, “Turn left – NOW.” I didn’t actually hear her but saw the sign to Franklin. I frantically swerved from the right lane to the left lane (of course after checking to make sure no one was in it – sort of) and just barely caught the edge of the exit. I really wasn’t conscious of my fellow caravaners behind me as I made this crazy maneuver.   
(E) – Of course I need to chime in on this one! I saw Jim take the turn and Ben follow as if he were attached to the bumper. There was a car next to me (the last in line) so I couldn’t pull the same “let’s ditch ‘um” tactic. I grabbed my walkie-talkie and calmly asked, “Jim, sweetie, what are you doing?” Ok, that didn’t happen. I yelled out like a football coach interrogating his quarterback after a stupid play, “What the Hell was that!!!” Get the picture? I clung to my walkie-talkie as if it were a life line as I watched Jim and Ben drive out of view. Oh, I have a cell phone, thank God! Only slightly more calm at this point I phoned Jim, my honey, and explained my situation. Long story short I finally caught up with them about an hour and fifteen minutes later when they stopped for gas and to pee.

We’re almost there!
We finally made it to Franklin and met Tom and Kathy at the storage unit. We unloaded the bulk of our cargo and headed to their house and cabin. We had lunch and then began unloading the last of our combined 25 year collection of possessions. I had done an excellent job of packing the truck and securing sections with some fancy ratchet straps (lots and lots of straps). I was very proud of my work because nothing shifted during all the mayhem. The last section of the truck was secured with a strap against our mattress and box spring. Let me tell you that these straps work really well until you have to release them. You have to simultaneously press two release levers on the ratchet mechanism and then you release all the tension in the strap; the force that is holding all your stuff in place. This is a very important point. I had perfected my skill at releasing the straps and began working on the last one. Again, BAMM! But this time REALLY BAMM! I felt like I got hit with a baseball bat and the next thing I saw was Edrianna’s desk stool bouncing off the floor of the truck. Much later Kathy told me she heard me mumble, “Ouch, that hurt.” I reached up to my forehead and felt a warm ooze. Blood was running down my arm, into my eye, across my face and rapidly covering my sweat shirt and pants. Tom turned around and asked what was up. I could tell by the look on his face that he was thinking, Oh great, I get to use my first aid kit.
(E) - Let me tell you about Tom, he doesn’t do anything half way. He was totally equipped for the bloody mess Jim had created. He is prepared for any tragedy and I mean ANY. He even had a defibrillator on standby in case Jim had keeled over from a heart attack – shock can do that! The people from FEMA could learn a thing or two from Tom. I’m completely serious! I felt reassured that Tom was taking care of Jim and I knew that he was in good hands. I’m actually surprised he didn’t put the stitches in himself; he probably would have done a good job.

How to get out of unloading a UHaul
Needless to say, Tom rushed me off to the emergency room while I held several large sterol pads and an ice pack to my forehead. Let me say that Angel Medical Center is the friendliest hospital I had ever been in in my life; but when the physicians’ assistant approached me with a staple gun I got really nervous. I’m familiar with using a staple gun to fix a broken screen door but not having one shot into my forehead. At least she was honest and told me it would hurt instead of soft soaping it with the familiar phrase, “This will pinch a little.”

How to get stuck unloading a UHaul
(E) – As Tom drove away with Jim, Kathy and I looked at each other and thought – Break Time! When Tom called to check in with us we told him we opened up the hammocks and were having some beers; but actually, we were unloading the truck one very heavy oversized bulky box at a time. Did you know that wardrobes are quite unstable and can completely flip over while you are carrying them? Sadly it took two attempts to perfect the proper technique. You may be asking yourself – “What happened to Ben?” We had released him from his indentured servitude because he had plans to visit his dad and we knew he still had a long drive ahead of him. We had almost unloaded the entire truck when Jim and Tom returned from the hospital. Kathy and I were quite impressed and very proud of ourselves. I think Jim and Tom were relieved.   

Moving right along
Despite this little “bump” we settled in to our new digs; enjoyed an evening meal with Tom, Kathy, and their 3 dogs; and hit the sack early. I fell asleep with an ice pack on my head and feeling a bit like Frankenstein. Gee, I hope when I get to Asheville I don’t scare the villagers!  
Bad chair!

Our temporary home in Franklin

Sunday, March 6, 2011

This is where our story starts

“Hey Edrianna, do you want to move to North Carolina?”
During a road trip to visit family and friends this past Christmas, we passed through Asheville to spend the day. We only had been here once before the previous year and were very intrigued. It is not a typical rural town that you would normally find in the mountains. It seems to be a hub of forward thinking people, both spiritually and culturally. Some people might say a haven for hippies and “new agers.”
(E) - I heard someone use the word “granola” when describing Asheville; which to me means “organic,” natural, and tasty – which seems like a good thing!
(J) – We also heard that Asheville is doing a lot of “GREEN.”

(J&E) - Just our sort of crowd!

After our first visit we vowed to come back and check it out further and so we did. Just for the heck of it I picked up a couple of real estate magazines and we checked them out when we got to my brother Tom’s place in Franklin the next day. For a while now Edrianna had been hinting about her desire to leave Florida and venture out. I had a kind of vague, not sure, stuck in a solid comfort zone and scared to change my paradigm funk (this sounds like a Bob Dylan song). I went on a vision quest last summer and ever since been discovering new insights about myself and through this transformation I have been doing all sorts of crazy and beautiful things that have been trapped inside me and just dying to escape.

When I dropped the “hey Edrianna” question on our drive back to Florida, I don’t think she was surprised.
(E) – Actually, I was shocked! My hints to move had been pretty subtle but supported by a deep passion and desire to relocate. It was just one of those “have to do it,” unexplainable things that had happened a few other times in my life and proved to work out well. And the numerous hints had always received the reply “Not now but maybe in a few years.” I was thinking it was something we would discuss again 5 years down the road. So when he picked up the Real Estate magazines I even asked, “What are you doing?”

Let’s just go for it!

We returned home the day after New Years and did a marathon clean the house up quick scramble and called a real estate broker that we knew worked in our neighborhood.
(E) - Tony and Shelly Petrolia had been posting their real estate signs in our neighborhood for the entire 24+ years we lived there. That to me meant knowledge of the neighborhood, staying power in the area, and most likely a good choice as an agent.

Tony showed up that Monday afternoon and by Tuesday we settled on a selling price and signed a contract. Our initial thought was that we might sell in anywhere from a few months to a year being that the market is still in a state of flux.
(E) – Tony was a bit more optimistic. He said we could get an offer in a month and if not we would need to lower our price. Even though we heard him say this we didn’t believe it.

This is our plan
Our dream is to buy some land near Asheville and build an eco-friendly home. This sounds simple enough.
Can you be more specific?
Actually we want to find at least 10 acres and build a home that is mostly off the grid, incorporating solar systems for electric and heating, utilizing the latest technologies in earth saving materials, appliances and building techniques. We also want to document this entire crazy adventure for others to follow - ergo this blog!

The Facts
  1. We don’t know much about living off the grid. Although I have worked in the field of architecture and building for over 35 years doing conceptual design and illustrating  It is sad to say I have never worked on one project that is eco-friendly except one, the Duke Smart house located at Duke University in central North Carolina (USA). Living in Florida where we have abundance of sun and as of yet solar is yet to take off.
  2. This project will be potentially expensive, especially using solar, etc. We will have to save money by doing as much of the building ourselves as well as acting as our own contractors.

Guess what? We sold our house in just three days.
What are the chances of this happening?
(E) – Pick the right agent, offer something unique and desirable and price it right – SOLD!

Now we have to disassemble over 25 years of stuff we have accumulated in a 1700 sq.ft. house and garage: two home offices, a music studio, musical instruments, photography equipment, pictures, books, electronics, tools, sporting goods, clothes and several rooms of furniture.  And we have to complete this in about a month. OMG! Oh yea, we said this was going to be an adventure.

Enter family and friends…Since we will be sort of homeless soon, my brother, Tom and his wife, Kathy graciously offered their cabin to us. It is on their property in Franklin, NC and will make a good base camp for us while we look for property and start our build. Fortunately, we will be within 1-2 hours from the area we will look. My sister Cindy and her husband Ernie also offered us refuge and they live a couple hours to the east of Asheville. This is our backup plan just in case Tom and Kathy get tired of us. We promise to be good neighbors.

Edrianna reached out to her community of holistic healers about our intentions and we were rewarded with tons of great advice and resources.

Our relatives and good friends locally are also being supportive, helping with the move and moral support.

Our philosophy
Here’s our confession. Up until now we have only made a few steps to living the green life. We have been driving a 2nd generation Toyota Prius that we paid a premium price for in 2004. This has been our biggest statement. The Prius inspired a few friends and relatives to follow suite and we have all been happy with the fuel savings. We also own a small RV for camping and photo trips; however, it gets decent mileage (averages 17 mpg- because of its small engine and European design). We only travel about 4,000 miles a year in it and hopefully it is way offset by the 47mpg average we get in the Prius hybrid. I started purchasing compact fluorescent bulbs when they were close to $14.00 each. We recycle, although occasionally we get lazy and let items slip into the regular trash. When we both worked in the scuba diving industry we were involved in a few eco-projects. We want to do better and I know we can. Although we never had kids, we have numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and friends with children who are going to inherit our mess and our “do over” may be small potatoes in the grand scheme; however, it feels right.

We are going to do our best to stay off a soap box while writing this blog and just present the facts. We will share our discoveries along the way using stories, photos, web links, videos, cartoons and sketches. Enjoy our adventure!