Sunday, January 25, 2009

Theoretical Urban Homesteading

Was talking to a friend about my obsession with round alternative houses. She lives in one of those Glenwood bungalows I mentioned here. It's a great house, but like many houses built in the 1920s and 1930s in Glenwood, it needs a lot of work. I told her the larger Solargon house kits cost around $36,000. "It would almost make more sense to tear my house down and put up one of those," she said. But that's exaggerating, first because she estimates it would only cost around $20,000 to fix up her house, and also because her house has more than twice the square footage of the Solargon.

Plus there are a lot of other Solargon costs, because you'd have to factor in the price of the lot for a building site, and cost of pouring a foundation, and costs of getting somebody to put the Solargon together and wire and plumb it, new appliances, etc.

Then again the Solargon is likely to be more energy efficient and save money over time, partly because it is small. And rehabbing an old house is always more expensive and complicated than you thought it would be.

I have a large husband and two cats. I don't know how well we'd all fit into about 700 square feet laid out like this. It's not terribly different from what we have now, just smaller, but we'd certainly have to get rid of a lot of stuff. But we got rid of a lot of stuff when we got married and moved in together, and it was painful at the time but in retrospect not such a big deal. If it meant being able to jump off the hamster wheel of bills and debt, well I don't think we'd notice the lack of stuff so much.

When I think about it, the biggest space problems we'd have are related to books, kitchen stuff, clothes, and cat litter boxes. Not that cat litter boxes are all that big, but you can't put them just anywhere. Built-in storage might solve the book, kitchen stuff and clothing problem, but living in a small space with litter boxes is still going to be tricky.

I went on vacation to Mongolia one year, and spent some nights in a ger (otherwise known as a yurt). From the outside they don't look very big at all. But something about the roundness and openess of them makes them seem pretty big and comfortable on the inside. They're covered in felt. It was astonishing how cool they were in the scorching-ass heat of the Gobi desert, and how warm they were in the cold Hinti Mountains once somebody lit a horse dung fire in the stove. I love round living spaces.

That's one thing I'd want in my Solargon that might be hard to engineer and would take up valuable space: a wood stove. Though I would probably try to burn horse or cow shit in it. To hell with chopping wood. Cow or horse shit is probably one of the most renewable resources on the planet. We could sneak into pastures, or hell, maybe even get permission, and bag up free heating fuel every winter.

Our biggest obstacle is that we're already pinned down by mortgage payments, don't have enough cash handy to outright pay for land and a new Solargon, don't want to have two sets of mortgage payments, and the housing market sucks so it might take a while to sell our place. Renting makes a lot more sense in some regards. When you want to move you just give notice and leave regardless of how the real estate market looks.


Melinde Parrish said...

All ownership is temporary. That said, should I win the lottery or otherwise come into a large sum of money, I'd be happy to share some wealth with you so you can get a Solargon. Somebody's got to be the first one around here to own one. Might as well be you!

verona said...