Every day our faithful Jupiter escorts me on the 5 minute commute to work. When it’s warm, she lays on the south side of the house, basking and watching. If it’s cold, she comes inside finds a window – and changes it up by watching and basking. Below, she’s stretching to tell me she’s tired of the sounds of saw and nailer – that it’s time to head home for some lunch.

We’ve been impressed, now that the insulation is in, with the warmth in the house – with only the sun/windows/thermal mass as our heat source. For now our thermal mass is embodied in the rammed earth (north) wall. It absorbs heat gathered from the sun shining into the south facing windows. By the end of the summer we hope to have an earthen floor and a masonry stove that will add to the thermal mass of the house. On the day this picture was taken, it was -25 outside, -6 inside at 10 am and above 0 by mid afternoon – making it possible to work bare handed on the insulation, electrical and ceiling wood.

Last couple of weeks, the job has been to cut tongue and groove poplar planks (that Maggie sanded and oiled in summer) to cover the rough wood between the rafters. It took a bit longer as we (Svenn, Ezra and I) were instructed by Maggie to cut them so precisely that no trim would be needed to cover imperfections. Now that we’ve finished the job, we’re happy she set up that challenge. The poplar is so expressive in its simple, unaccented form. (Thanks to Jonah both for help with the ceiling and for a couple of these photos!)

When the ceiling for the main house was done, we moved up into the cupola (CUE-po-la). Here Svenn is doing his magic with the edges. He designed, prefabbed and erected the cupola last fall. Now that it’s looking a bit more finished, he’s envisioning easy chairs, a coffee maker and a hammock in the space. Although I’m trying not to get ahead of the process, that idea is certainly inviting.

Before you start thinking this project is all about form and beauty, let me assure you I’m always thinking about function. Take the electrical wiring. We want to be assured that, while we sleep, there is minimal power being used by the house. The fridge and freezer will both need to keep going, but there are added loads called Ghost Loads in most of our homes that keep working even though we’ve turned them off – like the digital stove clock  or the ‘at-the-ready’ features of a TV. The easiest way to be in charge of these appliances, then, is to add an external switch so that – say – when we’re done watching the TV we can hit a switch on the wall that cuts power to the TV plug. We’ll do the same for the dish washer. Appliances like the fridge and freezer won’t be unplugged and so kill switches won’t be added. Phone chargers will simply be unplugged when we’re not using them. We’ve been told that Ghost Load can eat up as much as 10% of our power use – because they’re, for the most part, always on.


Finally, I want you to know that we’ve dug the well as deep as we can – ending up with 23 feet of depth and, by the looks of it, a good amount of water. Since it’s still freezing inside, I’m not ready to hook up the pump to test the taste and flow of water. Although I did encounter dense clay, sand and small stones, it wasn’t till after hitting water that I ran into a stone too large to dislodge. So, the well is what it will be. We’re very happy we’ll have some water – at least in emergencies – to rely on, and, if the flow is sufficient, we might even run the house (kitchen, bathroom, utility, greenhouse) on the water from this well. Thanks for the cheering (and some jeering) from the side-lines.

Cal, Kristine, and Svenn helped me with the digging – giving us that warm, loved feeling. Herm helped by lending us a sharper auger! and Henry fashioned a knuckle for the pipe extensions so we could fold the pipe over as we lifted the dirt out of the hole, thereby solving the problem of our ceiling being just a bit too low. Genius!