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!


  1. So glad we got this up and running!

  2. Just let me know when to plan the next photo shoot. It's great to see you guys stepping out of the Florida cocoon. When does Jim start growing a beard?

  3. Can't wait for the story to continue! Love you both and All the best!

  4. Woo hoo! I'm so excited to follow your journey. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.