Journal: August 14, 2010

I apologize for the lack of posts lately. I was in San Francisco for a week to see friends and move out of my apartment, and got back up to Serenity Valley last Wednesday. My garden was still mostly alive, though the water container was still half full, and some of the corn was starting to look a little parched. The soaker lines didn’t seem to be dripping too well, so I went around opening up the pores by squeezing the tube with a pair of pliers. That seemed to work a bit too well, and ended up draining the remaining half a tank (over 20 gallons) in a day and a half. Ooops. I’m finally starting to see more fruits of my labor though, and it looks like I have some zucchini, egg plant, beans and tomatoes on the way.

The hut raising is next week, and I need to order building supplies tomorrow to get it delivered next week, but the design hasn’t been finalize yet. In fact, I haven’t put anything down on “paper” (by which I mean Google SktchUp), though I think I have most of it figured out in my head. I’ve since managed to pick up a couple more like-new vinyl windows at salvage shops (one hanging, one sliding), and also got some very nice scavenged argon-filled Low-E glass from a friends’ dad today. I think I’ll buy one or two more windows that open, but I already have 5 opening windows (all Low-E, double paned), in addition to the 3 aforementioned panes of glass. I’ll also be buying a framed door this time, if I can afford one. Balancing cost vs quality is a challenge, since I want to build something that’ll last and I don’t want to repeat the mistakes from my first hut, but I also need to save as much money as possible. Do I go for the R-5 insulation board for $13, or the R-2.9 ones for $7.50? Is $100 worth the extra insulation? Probably, when I consider the long term benefits. So perhaps I should build a slightly smaller hut, but then, I also don’t want to build yet another hut next year when I decide that this year’s is still too small… On the other hand, the whole point is an experiment in minimalist comfort, so I don’t want to go big just for the sake of it.

The adventure continues…

7 thoughts on “Journal: August 14, 2010

  1. Hi Ryo,

    I love what you’re doing out there. Serenity Valley is a place a lot more people should strive to create in their own lives.

    Have you considered a ‘dogtrot’ design house? It’s a concept that was common in the old, Deep South region where a small cabin was built, then another was added next to it and eventually connected to it by a roofline that covered a porch between the two structures. The covered area might become a summer kitchen area or just a storage space, but it’s a very interesting design concept if you have not considered it before.

    Another plus for that design is the roof area that can be created a step at a time and later used as rainwater collection as you can afford to add the components.

    You asked, so I’ll answer… throw the money at insulation! It’s much more difficult to retrofit insulation once things are built. Insulation pays for itself every day, under all weather conditions.

    Good soil to you,


    • One idea I had early on was to extend my existing hut. I’ve since changed my mind, and decided to build a completely new hut from the ground up, close to the first one. I don’t have enough room to build right next to the first one, but I did put a lot of thought into spacing and layout of my overall camp.

  2. Hi,

    I moved into a Sprinter last August and while converting it to an RV I discovered I have to balance cost, quality, flexibility, effectiveness, ROI, reusability, cosmetic, durability, et cetera. Sometimes it pays to buy the best if you have confidence in your choice. Sometimes it pays to buy cheap then buy the best AFTER you have confidence through experience.

    With regard to thermal insulation. I went with a known product (Home Depot’s Polyisocynurate panels) which is the most effective and easy to install. You should be able to recycle them into any future bldg too. I used the same product in spray foam to seal the edges. It comes in several varieties and one is for windows and doors.


    • Yep, I ended up getting the R-5 polyisocyanurate boards, instead of the R-2.9 boards that were cheaper. I think insulation is worth spending money on. Another thing I’ve had to think about is upgradeability: some things can be re-done or upgraded pretty easily later on, other things less so.

  3. I know this is a late response, but my thought is when it comes to insulation, a good seal can offset the cost of lots off insulation. If you’re going to be careful with a good house wrap, that will work just as well. If not, get the cheap boards for the first layer, and be generous with spray foam around the edges for the best seal you can get. Then follow up with cheaper fiberglass batting style insulation to make it super cosy.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. That definitely makes sense. For my first hut, I basically caulked all the seams, and that seemed to give me a decent seal. I might try some spray foam insulation for this next one.

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