“I didn’t know precisely how the house would look, but I wanted to get a feel of the land that would soon become my home. I sat quietly listening to the wind and the birds, feeling the sun on my face, and noticing how the light shown through the trees. Our new home and lifestyle needed to fit into this wilderness, not destroy it. An understanding of the land’s rhythms of wind and light and the constant change of animals and plants was imperative. Each day, I returned to the stand of dead oak and the log in the clearing to listen, observe, and get to know our new property.”
~ From Twisted Oak: A Journey to Create a Self-Sustaining Life and Home
Imperative as it is to find the perfect piece of land to build an eco-friendly, self-sustaining, or even conventional home, it is only the very beginning of the journey.
It is our responsibility to take guardianship of the land, caring for it through all of the destructive phases of building.
There is no way of building without disturbing the land in some way. But, if there is ownership of that damage and care given to minimize it, then the property will likely recover and harmonize with the new structure in beautiful and surprising ways.
First, it is essential to take time to get to know the land that will soon become home. Camping on the grounds, walking the perimeter, watching the patterns and paths of the sun in the sky are all ways to connect with our little piece of nature.
Paying attention to the locations of the sunrises and sunsets from the Summer Solstice to the Winter Solstice will supply valuable information for placement of a passive solar house. There are tools available to help map this, but there is nothing better than personal observation.
Note the locations of trees and large plants that will inevitably grow taller. Feel the breezes and sit through a storm to observe which way the winds and rains tend to blow.
Understanding the prevailing winds will help determine the best location for the entry doors, the ideal direction for windows and skylights to open, and how best to passively ventilate the house.
Prevailing breezes are essential to note when locating a composting system relative to an outside gathering area.
Are there areas with fire concerns? Do you want to see the neighbors nearby? Are there patterns of wildlife movement?
Is there a view and how will it define how you place your home? Just because a mountain or ocean view teases from the North or the West, does not mean that all of the glass needs to be on these sides of the house. In fact, this is a fatal design flaw that will lead to expensive heating and cooling costs. (Stay tuned for future Blogs on this crucial topic.)
Now, before the house is built, is the time to consider these critical features of a new home and the land in which it will blend.
Taking notes and observing all the facts is crucial, and if inclined, you may want to consider getting to know your land in an even more profound way. You may want to spend quiet time - listening. Feel free to meditate in this place. Walk the perimeter if this calls to you.
A book that can provide deeper guidance in this direction is “The Garden Awakening” by Mary Reynolds. Mary’s book is about garden design, and homes need to work with nature in many of the same ways as our gardens.
In the chapter titled, Garden Design, Mary lays out tools for intuitively and spiritually connecting with the land, working with symbols and patterns, and incorporating them into the design.
A similar technique guided me to incorporate circles, spirals, arches, and ancient sun patterns into my home and gardens. They pop up throughout Twisted Oak’s interior as well as in the landscaped spaces which are seamless extensions of the house.
It’s impossible to escape the feelings of peace and tranquillity a home is capable of providing when nestled into rather than forced upon a piece of land.