There are adjustments to be made when choosing to reduce one’s living space by half. I readily admit, we have chosen the path we are on, though that doesn’t make it any easier to choose which things to keep, give away, sell, or retire. To be honest, we have temporarily rented a 10’x10′ storage shed to help with the transition. Everything that doesn’t fit in the Beach Bungalow, but we’re unable to part with at the moment, has a temporary home in the shed until further determination. It’s not ideal, but whatever…I’m simply not ready to pare my life down to 100 things or less.
I realized the other day that if I combine the summers I spent in this house as a child and the seven years I lived here previously as an adult, I will have lived in this house longer than any other house I’ve occupied. That seems strange to me since I still think of this place as my Grandparents’. There are the things I love about this house & neighborhood and there are the things I hate. I know, hate is a strong word, but it’s true.
First for the hate. I hate the concrete floor. I used to love it. Now…not so much. It’s hard on your feet, your back, your knees. It’s not forgiving to your body. I hate the sandspurs. Sandspurs on the concrete floor is an unexpected eye-poppingly painful experience. I hate the size of our street waste bin. It’s gigantuous and the wheels already fell off. We barely have any household garbage, so it seems silly to have such a giant can, though as I look up and down the street, I see a multitude of gigantuous cans overflowing with garbage; evidence of our throw-away society.
I’m not crazy about living in a more urban-esque environment, though I’ve already been welcomed to the hood by a cacophony of birds, a few dozen monarchs, a box turtle, and one over-sized goldfish. Of course, they are on the love side of the list. I’m not crazy about having a sand pit for a yard, but the dogs seem to enjoy it well enough. As a permaculture observationist, I’m particularly intrigued by what will grow in the sand with no care: prickly pear cactus, blanketflower, Spanish bayonet, smilax spp., wild blackberry, wild petunia (exotic invasive in FL), Southern and Coastal sandspurs, and phragmites (exotic invasive in FL). The latter is actually quite useful for phytoremediation water treatment. Hmmm…I’m thinking greywater.
The things I love: the way the sun pops up in the morning over the neighbor’s fence and drenches our back yard in sunlight, the new streamlined and organized living quarters, the fact that I can vacuum/sweep the whole floor in five minutes, the sand pit that requires no mowing, the neighbor who plays Reveille and the Star-Spangled Banner every morning at 8:00 am, and the fact that I can ride my bike to numerous places for daily needs.
While redefining the way we live, this house also focuses our attention on a few things we normally wouldn’t see or pay attention to; for instance, waste water and temperature. In Stephen Kellert’s Biophilic Design, Pliny Fisk describes how we hide all the mechanisms of living and if we made them visible, we would re-establish a connection and direct interaction with nature. Our little bungalow lacks central heat and air. Built in the early sixties, that was never part of the original structure. We have installed a large window unit, though this time of year warrants open windows and natural air circulation by way of ocean breezes. It’s readily apparent how dependent we are on Industry when we open the windows to access natural breezes and we’re greeted with flies and mosquitoes. The screen is our friend and one of the most important components of living in the subtropics while attempting to lessen our connection to Industrial Civilization. Hmmm…did I just write in a circle? Seems contradictory.
Waste water is the other element at the forefront of our consciousness. It’s complicated, but I’ll try to explain in a rational manner. I believe this area was never intended to be built-out the way that it was with suburban gusto and wall-to-wall condos. In the early eighties, this place was a sleepy little beach town with a few restaurants, beach cottages, and beautiful sand dunes as far as one could see. Our beach house is not in the city limits and therefore derives little benefit from the city proper and bears all the waywardness of existing outside of it. By default and exasperated by the economy, this area is becoming more and more akin to a Libeskind style deconstructed first world. All the homes here were built with septic tanks, even though they are sandwiched between a lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico. Outside the city limits, there is little hope for tapping on to the city sewer. (No, I don’t think humans should be living on this spit of land, but that’s neither here nor there for today.) Anyhow, years ago, we separated our black water from our grey water because the septic tank was malfunctioning and we had no means to fix it properly. That resulted in a beautiful oasis of greenery in the back yard. Now, armed with more knowledge, our hope is to improve that first crude grey water system in such a way as to irrigate some fruit trees AND do no harm to the surrounding land base.
I’ll save the grey water system design for another post, but that will give you something to ponder until next time.