Sally and Jim built a passive solar home in West Virginia a few years ago, but this time they are remodelling, and that's always a challenge.
They've added a reflective roof for natural cooling, and a screened porch as wide as the house with a custom sixteen foot interior screen door for cooling circulation. Both features help reduce electricity consumption.
The first of a planned four or five elaborate "Aquabarrel" rain barrels is in place, with an eighty gallon capacity each. They feature an easy to maintain debris filter inside of the diverter tube, 45% more water storage in the same space as a 55 gallon rain barrel with a small foot print 24" x 24" x 52". Also, there's no bisphenol A in the plastic, which is mostly recycled. So not only will Sally have plenty of water for the gardens and flowers, far less will run off to the nearby Little Magothy River.
The composting system is in place, with twin rotating containers, nicknamed "Frank" and "Minnie," so no food scraps or plant trimmings will go to the landfill. All the leaves from all the many trees in the yard are composted as well, to be used as mulch. This reduces the amount of watering needed.
Speaking of trees, there's a huge beautiful Magnolia taking center stage in the back yard, and several big Hollies on the north side. Local Dogwoods round out the middle understory, and you'll find two species of Red Bud. One of them is an unusual variety called "Forest Pansy." There's a Crab Apple tree too. Lots of native shrubs thrive in this little forest, like Inkberry, Wax Myrtle, Mountain Laurel, and Virginia Sweetspire. Native perennials include Solomon's Seal, Jack in the Pulpit and Spiderwort.
When you drive by, you may notice the raised garden boxes where luscious high bush blueberries (three varieties,) strawberries, carrots, lettuce and herbs announce the priorities of the house. In fact, throughout the property, native foliage and flowers set the tone. Less than a fourth of the yard is turf grass, and that is kept groomed by cool little electric mower called a Neuton. Unfortunately, they are popular and sold out for 2012.
It is a great pleasure to have such caring neighbors as Sally and Jim, and we wish them good fortune as they complete their thoughtfully designed home.