The House: After cleaning out all the trash from the property, we set about making changes to the house. Two bathrooms have been completely renovated, and small changes have been made to the third. The electrical work has been completed, along with network and phone wiring to all the rooms. For energy savings, we had four Solatubes installed, two in the hallway, one in each full bath, vastly increasing the amount of light, we changed all non-dimmable light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, we installed our solar laundry dryer (clothes umbrella), we added insulation and two solar fans to the attic, we bought a solar oven and I do a lot of sun cooking to reduce the heat load on the house, and we’re getting ready to change out our furnace and air conditioner for a geothermal heat pump.
We still have a lot of projects left to do, but the main ones are getting the geothermal heat pump installed and getting a solar thermal system installed for hot water.
The Property: We definitely learned one thing in this year of record rains, our house needs to be raised or the land needs to be lowered. Lowering the land is a more feasible option and I’ll probably be spending the next year or so encouraging the flow of runoff in less damaging directions. I did learn a lot about the flow of resources, wind, water, leaves, across the property, and I’m building an ecological landscape plan to capture and use those resources. We didn’t do much in the way of landscaping except build two experimental gardens and plant 350 native trees acquired from the Oklahoma Forestry Department. Some trees fared better than others and that also is an important piece of information. The “temporary” pond has had water for the better part of the year now, and has been a source of wonder. We discovered we have a peach tree (no fruit this year, too wet) and a plum tree (fantastic fruit), we also have two other mystery fruit trees, and three wild pecan trees. We have over 100 mature trees in the front and side yards. I haven’t mapped the ones in the undeveloped portion of the property yet.
The Wildlife: In one year, I have recorded 99 species of birds (2 shy of my 7 year record in Lombard Illinois), 41 species of butterflies, 10 species of dragonflies, 5 frogs, 4 toads, 4 lizards, 3 turtles, and 2 snakes. The mammals aren’t so easy to see, but we’ve had deer, bobcat, coyote, plains pocket gophers, of course, eastern cottontail, raccoon, possum, white-footed deermice, and fox squirrels. We’ve had a veritable cornucopia of insect and spiders, some that I’d rather not have in the house, like scorpions, black widow and brown recluse spiders. So far I’ve managed to identify over 70 species of wildflowers just on our property. There are a few dozen more that I’ve identified in the neighborhood.
The Weather: We can’t have a summary without summing up the weather, since it plays such a huge role in our day to day lives. We started our year at Windhaven in extreme drought. Very little rain fell in Autumn until late November, the first time our pond had water. During the Winter we had a couple of ice storms and one nasty blizzard. Peter had two snow days! When Spring came, so did the rain, and more rain, and more rain. By the end of March we were officially out of drought and on our way to record high rainfall. We’ve had 42.93″ of rain since I started recording in mid-February, including the 8.65″ dump of rain when Tropical Storm Erin passed over us, the annual average is about 35″ of rain.
So, upcoming projects for our second year, besides the solar and geothermal, include fencing the east, west and south sides of the property, the north side will come later, getting new gravel for the driveway (recycled concrete), digging swales to control runoff, start planting a food forest, and building a cob chicken coop. That should keep me busy!
I’ll keep you “posted”.