My Domestead

I recently bought a 20 year old, 100% off the grid, double geodesic dome near the town of Ward. It sits at about 9000 feet, miles from the nearest power or phone line. I'll add some pictures here later.

There are 3 power systems running throughout. A 120VAC, running off the invertor, 24VDC for lighing, and 12VDC, for 12V appliances. There are both photovoltaic panels and wind generators. There are two water systems, one for fresh water, and one for greywater. The water comes off a cistern, that is filled by a 120VAC pump.

In addition to the domes, there is a garage with an apartment built into it. I'm converting this to my shop and office with it's own power system. Currently it has no power, or real plumbing. There is a funky bathroom with a shower and a non-functional composting toilet, which I'll need to repair as well. A definete project house.

Currently there is no phone, which is a major problem, but solveable. I'm currently considering a satellite earth station, which is bidirectional. I am also considering wireless, but in a rural area, it's hard to find where I can connect the other end. I have a few possible locations, but I'm also not sure I want to install alot of expensive equipment, and leave it on a mountainside someplace. It could be a maintainance hassle. More later as I test out the options.

For some new pictures, go here. I also have a collection of CAD software I'm using for this renovation project that all runs on Linux. Go here for some free CAD tools.

Solar Panels

Wind Generators

Other Electronics

Water & Plumbing

Renovation Update:

I plan to keep a dairy of sorts here as I do major renovation work, as a guide to other folks.

March 26, 2000

This week I ripped the very funky bathroom out of the garage, which only took a few hours, with my kids help. It was a mess. The composting toilet only drained to a bucket, and the water cistern was a cattle trough, mounted up in the ceiling. I've decided to put a wood stove in that corner as I remodel the garage into a shop & office. I'm definetly going to put the new bathroom in the end of the existing walled off garage bay, since that is closest to the septic tank. I've the 2 and 3D CAD work mostly done, I'll add a link once it's presentable.

April 7, 2000

Today I finished putting a stainless steel liner down the chimney, and hooking up a used wood stove I bought to replace the stupidly installed one that was there already. The main problem was I needed a stove that vented from the back, rather than the top, so I could have less bends (bends restrict air flow), than the old system, which barly worked. The old one had a stove pipe that went up to a whole in the chimney about 10 feet up, which was a cresote breeder, cause of the weird drafts. (temperature changes and drafts are the two most important concepts in installing a stove pipe) Instead, I ran my pipe up through the flue, by cutting the old firebox out with a torch. The test fire worked great! The draw was so good, all the flames burned aiming towards the rear vent.

For materials, I went crazy and put in a 25 year warrenty, single wall, stainless steel pipe. As there is almost 36 inches of masonary around the old broken liner, a double wall pipe wasn't nessesary. 28 inches of masonary equals one inch of insulation, which is standard. The main reason for the insulation is to retian heat, to keep cresote from forming.

It took 23 feet of pipe to reach the stove. I also put a T and a cap on the bottom to make cleaning, and long term maintainance easier. On top I put a rotating, wind vane style spark arrestor, and weather cap. As the old liner fell apart from the wind/freeze/snow/melt cycle, I sealed this one up tight. It'll also keep the domestead from wasting heat.

I'm slowly learning to hate owner built housing... I ripped the steps up in the bathroom on the pedestal the composting toilet is on, and after months of wondering, grokked the reality of the plumbing. Not only are all the drain pipe the wrong size, the slope is way off! Both major bummers. So I'll have to replace the main drain pipe so I can hook up a low-water flush toilet. The ground is thawed enough to dig in, so can excavate outside finally.

June 18, 2000

I'm amazed at how many rocks I have to move! Digging out a stone floor may not have been the best decision. I'd guess 30-40 tons later, I have the rocks in the ex-greenhouse dome dug down 2 feet everwhere, and deeper in the places there is plumbing.

I also managed to get the old Carousel composting toilet tank out. That was an interesting project. I first had to remove the floor above it, as the Carousel tank is typically mounted in a basement or in my case, part way in the crawl space. Once the floor was off, I removed the top, which exposed the 4 chambers, which I then dug out with a posthole digger. 99% of it had composed into peat, and had no odor at all. There was a tiny bit that hadn't decomposesed in 5 years, which to me, is more evidence that they just don't work good at this altitude.

July 18, 2000

Rocks everywhere... I'm so sick of moving rocks. I did break down and get some excavating help from SugarLoaf Services (303-258-3725). Having a tractor in your house in as interesting event, one I'm not sure I'd want to repeat. Scott (the driver) was awesome though. He did an incredible job in a very tight space, and saved me months of digging by hand.

I've mostly been ripping things apart all month. Everytime I get into something, it turns out to be a huge project. Nothing was done to code, so it looks like I'll have top redo all the plumbing and electrical wiring. Among other things, there is zero power upstairs in the loft, which I'll need to fix.

August 18, 2000

Finished the sub-floor! At times we were stuck digging trenches in the rocks to put in the floor joists. What a project. I went with 14 inch I beams, because of the 14 foot span I had to cross. We then ran one 32 foot pressure treated beam all the way across the dome. This enabled us to box off a section, and then fill in the ends with more I beams. Once this was done, we covered it with a single large piece of plastic, (for radon mitigation) and then a layer of 3/4 inch plywood. It feels so good to be able to walk on a flat surface. I was getting tired of walking through the uneven, craters left by excavating.

I finally wound up ripping out all the plumbing and rewiring what was there. While at it, I left an extra drain pipe, so I can add a half bathroom to the main dome if I ever want to. It was better to put it in before I sealed up the floor. What prompted all of this was the discovery that the kitchen drain pipes actually went uphill, which wasn't very effective. Now all the plumbing is done to code, with PVC drain pipe. When I got the new Toto "Drake" toilet working, I could only marvel at finally having indoor plumbing again.

Sept 18, 2000

I'm exhausted, but almost there. All that is remaining is some tongue and groove (3 1/2 x 3/8 inch pine) to be put on the walls, and a 3 1/2 hardwood #1 Oak floor. As I've gotten the walls put up, I ran wires for both a 24VDC lines (for lighting), and 120VAC off the inverter for outlets. To make things visually easier, I ran the 120VAC through the bottom of the studs, and the 24VDC through the tops.

Because I built curved walls, to match what was there, I used 2x4s for the studs, and then covered them with a 3/8 inch plywood skin. This skin was to not only make things stronger (I wanted extra support for the loft), but to make it easier to nail the 3/4 x 3 1/2 inch tongue and groove pine strips. The pine matches some of the existing walls, and being light, helps keeps things less dark looking.

It's been nice to have all the plumbing all working, as well as the new outlets and lights. Other than the comfort of knowing everything is working and up to code, it has taken alot of the stress out of living in a construction zone.

Oct 18, 2000

Hopefully by this date, I'll be done! :-) What's left is to install the propane backup heater, reinstall the wood stove, and to put the hardwood floor in.