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Musings Personal Sustainability: How-To Uncategorized

Our House is “Best of the Best!”

Award-winners

We knew we liked our house, and we knew it was energy efficient, but it came as a happy surprise to learn that Efficiency Vermont gave Fiddlehead Construction the 2016 Merit Award in New Residential Construction for their accomplishments in building our house.  We really enjoyed working with Ken Ruddy and the Fiddlehead Construction crew and were impressed with his ability to build such a tight and functional house within our budget.  Coupled with the award winning efficiency results, we are even more excited to spread the word about this awesome home construction company.

Check out the poster displaying our house, from the Better Building by Design Conference:

best-of-best-poster

 

Read the rave review we posted on Front Porch Forum about Ken and Fiddlehead:

We would like to let our local community know how happy we are to have worked with Ken Ruddy of Fiddlehead Construction for the designing and building (within our budget!) of our new high-efficiency home in Charlotte. 

This is an unsolicited recommendation and our hope is that anyone considering building a new home in the area will consider getting a quote from Ken (425-7019 or rudk1@aol.com ). He’s based in North Ferrisburgh and we couldn’t be more pleased with the house-building process and quality of the end product.

We were interested in building a moderately-sized energy-efficient home and this matched up perfectly with what Ken is trying to do in this area. He’s impressively up-to-date on the latest technologies (heat pumps, air circulation, solar-ready roof, passive solar design, extremely thick walls with air gaps, triple-pane European windows, dry basement, sustainable materials, and more!). The result of his knowledge and efforts is an Efficiency Vermont Gold Tier house that we expect to be low-maintenance and inexpensive to heat/cool.

In addition to the structural and sustainable attributes above we were also blown away with Ken and his crew’s attention to detail and finish work. Ken is a former fine furniture maker so the custom-milled counters, sills, rails, etc. were gorgeously crafted and immaculately installed. We didn’t have to “check up on” the progress of the house to make sure anything was up to our standards – everything surpassed our expectations.

His crew was fantastic. Most importantly they all seemed to genuinely enjoy working on the house and working together. We enjoyed chatting with them and the resulting good vibes is undoubtedly a benefit to the house and made the process that much more enjoyable for us.

From some of the ways we’ve described our house it would be understandable to assume it was extremely expensive and financially out of reach for most people. We don’t think that’s the case at all.  We told Ken our budget, and he designed the house to fit within those constraints.  We don’t think we could have gotten a better value from anyone. There are some inherent material price increases (more insulation costs more money than less insulation) when building an efficient house. But when we considered the long-term costs and benefits it was a no brainer. We plan to be in this neighborhood for the next twenty+ years.  With that in mind, creating a home this way could not be cheaper.  Our entire house runs on electricity (heating/cooling, hot water, and stove), so when we save up enough money to put PV solar panels on our southern roof, we will be able to eliminate all utility costs.

Want to make your home more efficient or build a new energy efficient home?  Be sure to work with Efficiency Vermont.  They offered Ken, as the contractor, and us, as the homeowners, many free services and support to help make our house as efficient as possible  They are an amazing resource to Vermont residents!

Categories
Musings

Moving In!

It’s April vacation week and we’re moving into our new house!  Luckily, rainy days have kept me inside, busily packing and carting over car-loads of boxes, bags, and crates.  One more load of the big stuff, including our bed, will mark tomorrow as our official move-in day!  We couldn’t be more excited about the craftsmanship, artistry, hand-me-downs, local food, house warming gifts, and cheers of support that contributed to the home-building and shelf-stocking process.  We hope you’ll come visit soon to see it all first hand!  In the meantime, some photos:

Home sweet home
Home sweet home
Finished kitchen lit up at night for the first time!
Finished kitchen lit up at night for the first time!
Our moving truck, with some pretty cool bumper stickers.
Our moving truck, with some pretty cool bumper stickers.
Have we mentioned that we love our sunny dining room table?  Awesome work Michael!
Have we mentioned that we love our sunny dining room table? Awesome work Michael!
Fiddlehead Construction sure pays attention to detail.  Check out their custom solution for our island.
Fiddlehead Construction sure pays attention to detail. Check out their custom solution for our island.
Mid-move, dad went home to make the kitchen a vintage porcelain and slate towel rod.
Mid-move, dad went home to make the kitchen a vintage porcelain and slate towel rod.
We still have some work to do in our bedroom.  And where should we put Evan's basketball card collection?
We still have some work to do in our bedroom. And we’re still pondering where to put Evan’s basketball card collection…
Dishes representing all the grandmothers and several great aunts!
Dishes representing all the grandmothers and several great aunts, and our fully functioning bathroom.
I think we dried enough tea last summer...
I think we dried enough tea last summer…
Our pantry is well stocked.  And our fridge is equipped with both of our favorite fermented foods.
Our pantry is well stocked. And our fridge is equipped with both of our favorite fermented foods.
I didn't think I could be this excited about basement shelves.
I didn’t think I could be this excited about basement shelves.
Some items still waiting for just the right place.
Some items still waiting for just the right place.
Categories
Musings

House Photo Update: The Home Stretch

Once again, I’m devoting a blog post to photos of our house progress instead of a story of delicious cooking, home gardening, or great projects to do with kids.  Soon though, we’ll move into our new home.  It will serve as the new site for my gardening, cooking, and crafting adventures!

Regarding house construction, we’re heading down the “home” stretch!  Tile and wood flooring is in, work is finishing up on trim inside and out, cabinets are being hung, countertops are in the making, and appliances are being delivered.  Efficiency Vermont will be doing their blower door test this week to determine how tight our home actually is.  Based on the quality of the workmanship of Fiddlehead Construction, we think it will prove to be very tight indeed.  During the last sunny but cold week, heat was turned off in the house because it was getting too hot!

As each room develops its own identity, it is easy to start visualizing the house filled with furniture, plants, dishes, friends…   soon!

Views of the finished exterior.  Clockwise from the west, north, southeast and southwest.
Views of the finished exterior. Clockwise from top left: view from the west, north, southeast and southwest.
Slate countertop special delivery.
Slate countertop special delivery.
Sunny basement with a functional washing machine and the soapstone sink from Debbie's Brookline basement.
Sunny basement with a functional washing machine and the soapstone sink from Debbie’s Brookline basement.
First floor bathroom.
First floor bathroom.
Kitchen cabinet progress!
Kitchen cabinet progress!
Finishing touches.
Finishing touches
Categories
Musings

House Photo Update

As new layers are added and next steps are taken on our house construction, spaces seem to grow and shrink in unpredictable ways.  Of course, they’ve been the same dimensions since the beginning.  The footprint of our poured foundation seemed teeny – would it be comfortable to live in a house that small?  When framing went up, everything seemed huge.  And then internal walls made the space shrink.  With insulation they seemed to shrink even more.

Now that painting is almost complete, we’re seeing the spaces as they will actually be!  It feels as though we are very close to the end of a long and exciting journey.  Soon flooring, cabinets, and lighting will be installed, turning our construction project into a home.  Check out some of our most recent photos below:

Baby it's cold outside!  Check out our new siding.
Baby it’s cold outside! Check out our new siding.
An ant's eye view of our kitchen-dining-living room.  New and improved with light fixtures, outlets, switches, sheetrock, and a first coat of paint!
An ant’s eye view of our kitchen-dining-living room. New and improved with light fixtures, outlets, switches, sheetrock, and a first coat of paint!
Bits and pieces...
Bits and pieces…
Sheetrock and a layer of prime really made us love the look of our upstairs spaces.  We won't be doing any more work on the second floor - it will be left unfinished until we need more living space.
Sheetrock and a layer of prime really made us love the look of our upstairs spaces. We won’t be doing any more work on the second floor – it will be left unfinished until we need more living space.
Meet our CERV.  It will be working hard to keep our air fresh and clean.
Meet our CERV. It will be working hard to keep our air fresh and clean.
Categories
Musings

House Photos: Sheetrock edition

Once again I’m hijacking my blog to share photos of our house progress.  We braved single digit temperatures and sub-zero winds to walk over to the site yesterday.  Roof shingling is almost complete, and workers have begun siding the house.  Inside the sun pushed temperatures into the seventies!  Sheetrocked walls are giving us a sense of how each room will feel finished.  Meanwhile, down the road, our dining room table is almost finished!  According to current estimates, we’ll be able to move into our new house in March.  Exciting stuff!

A snow covered view from the west - check out the start to our siding and window framing!
A snow covered view from the west – check out the start to our siding and window framing!
Looking to the north east - our future kitchen.  See the inset area where our fridge will be?
Looking to the north east – our future kitchen. See the inset area where our fridge will be?
Looking south - check out those views and that sun!  Our dining room table will sit near the double windows.
Looking south – check out those views and that sun! Our dining room table will sit near the double windows.
Looking to the west, our living room area, with our front door and bathroom down the hall.
Looking to the west, our living room area, with our front door and bathroom down the hall.
We couldn't be more excited about our dining room table, made by Michael Haulenbeek with beautiful boards from John Monks .
We are so excited about our dining table, made by Michael Haulenbeek with beautiful boards from John Monks .
Categories
Musings

Wintery House Photo Update

It’s chilly outside – only 10 degrees this morning – but inside our new house, it’s nice and warm!  Windows are fully installed, insulation is complete, and the house is wired.  The small motor from a dehumidifier in the basement has been keeping inside temperatures in the fifties!  This bodes well for our future electricity bills.  We continue to be excited about all of the energy efficient options available – a heat air exchange pump, passive solar design techniques, drain water heat recovery system, energy star appliances, and of course, lots and lots of insulation.  Check out the photos below for a visual tour:

View from the west (L-R: downstairs bath, front door, living room)
View from the west (L-R: downstairs bath, front door, living room)
View from the southwest (L-R: living room, dining room)
View from the southwest (L-R: living room, dining room)
View from the southeast (L-R: living room, dining room, kitchen)
View from the southeast (L-R: living room, dining room, back door, kitchen)
View from the north east
View from the northeast
1) Check out that temperature!  We don't even have heating installed yet.  2) Future upstairs bedroom
1) Check out that temperature! We don’t even have heating installed yet. 2) Future upstairs bedroom.
A tour of our downstairs common area
A tour of our downstairs common area

Want more?  Evan made a video tour just after Thanksgiving.  You can check it out by clicking here.  Happy New Year!

Categories
Musings

House Photo Update + Harvest Bounty Recipes

Introducing another split-personality blog post!  With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I  predictably have autumn recipes on my mind.  Luckily, many of my favorite fall harvest veggies already have posts devoted to them.  If you’re looking for some ideas, check out my favorite way of preparing Brussels sprouts, kale, winter squash, and chard.

The real purpose of this post will come as a relief to friends and family who are eagerly (and not without a few subtle and not so subtle hints) awaiting photos of our latest house progress.  Our exterior walls are nearing completion – they’re actually two walls with insulation sandwiched in between!  The roof is ready to accept shingles.  Interior walls have been framed in so we’re really able to visualize where each room will be.  For anyone who has adventurously attempted the rough drive up to the site, this may be the most exciting progress: our construction road is now a real driveway, covered with a smooth packed layer of fine gravel!

View from the west - the exterior walls are almost ready for clapboards!
View from the west – the exterior walls are almost ready for clapboards!
View from the northeast
View from the northeast
View from the southeast
View from the southeast
View from the southwest
View from the southwest
A new driveway, and a battalion of tools occupying our future kitchen
A new driveway, and a battalion of tools occupying our future kitchen
Studs.... studs.... and more studs
Studs…. studs…. and more studs
Imagine the most amazing dining room table (and walls, and floors, and a ceiling) here
Imagine the most amazing dining room table (and walls, and floors, and a ceiling) here
Categories
Musings

House Update: A peek inside

View of the sunset and adirondacks to the west
View of the sunset and adirondacks to the west

As I compared this and last weeks’ house photos, I realized that a shift has occurred.  The exterior photos showed an unchanged structure.  Exciting advances, however, were made inside.  Having received so much rain in the past ten days, we’re lucky that the roof and walls can now shelter work being done to finish the inside of the house.  Here are some visual updates:

View from the West
View from the West
View from the North
View from the North
View from the Southeast
View from the Southeast
View from the Southwest
View from the Southwest
Future kitchen and dining room (along with the magical ability to see through walls)
Future kitchen and dining room (along with the magical ability to see through walls)
Staircases, floor plans, and wiring...lots of wiring
Staircases, floor plans, and wiring…lots of wiring
Signs of more work to come
Signs of more work to come
Categories
Musings

Exciting House Progress

For any of you out there who enjoy my blog for the stories about gardening, cooking, and working with children in nature, forgive me for yet another post full of house photos!  Yes, last week we canned and fermented hot sauce, made butter, did our first frost harvest, and made another yummy raspberry covered flourless chocolate cake.  The focus of our weekend’s work, however, has resulted in some great progress on the landscaping and retaining wall of our new house.  I’ll have to depend on past year’s posts to cover my kitchen and garden projects (click on the links above for recipes, photos and stories).  Now, onto the house…

Many hands make light work!
Many hands make light work!
And the retaining wall is complete!
And the retaining wall is complete!
View from the west
View from the west
View from the north
View from the north
View from the south east
View from the south east
View from the south west
View from the south west

After returning from a day of work at the site, a special surprise was waiting in my inbox: photos of the house from above.  Thanks James!

View from above
View from above
Categories
Home Gardens

Backyard Gardening: The Shopping List

Here’s what we bought to construct a 5’x8′ bed and a 3’x8′ bed, both raised 6 inches:

  • six 1″x6″x8′ cedar boards (cut into 3′, 5′, and 8′ lengths)
  • one 2″x2″x8′ stake, cut into eight 1′ stakes
  • 48 2″ galvanized screws
  • 1 cubic yard compost/loam mix
  • seeds (according to varieties desired and square foot gardening spacing, for small gardens, attending a seed swap is highly recommended!)
Here’s what we made sure we had at the house to help make the bed construction process a success:
  • electric drill (wasn’t cordless, so extension cord too)
  • shovels, rake
  • wheel barrow/buckets (for soil transport)
  • tarp (for dumping soil onto)
  • something to mark planted areas with (popsicle sticks)
  • cleared yard area free of brambles
  • way to play music outside
  • sent invitation to a backyard bbq and garden raising!