“The Self-Sufficient Home: Going Green and Saving Money”
[Caption: Dude McLean with "The Self-Sufficient Home" book.]
Way back in 2000, my wife Dolores and I wrote a book called “Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City,” where we detailed how we grew food, recycled household water, collected rain, raised animals, generated power, and more, in our average home in the hilly outback of Los Angeles. We wrote the book because we constantly heard how difficult it was to do the very things we were doing on a very low budget. We knew it wasn’t all that difficult – you just had to make the commitment to do it!
The “Self-Sufficient Home” book is a continuation of that work, but in this case, we didn’t strictly write about what we did in our own home. Rather, I interviewed at least two dozen other home-owners and experimenters to discover the ways in which they were practicing urban self-reliance. In every case, these were private individual who simply chose to take control of at least one aspect of their lives, without waiting for some elusive government solution.
The book is a timeless work, detailing many of the ways that we can live with less water and still live well, and it provides a guideline for others to do the same.
“Self-Sufficient Home” includes an interview with Altadena architect Steve Lamb, who shares all the ways in which homes should be built to take advantage of natural principles such as sunlight, wind patterns, shade, and other site-specific issues. Lamb points out that white roofs, and large overhangs helps keep houses naturally cooler. During the course of writing the book, Lamb took me to a few of the places he’s worked on to show me how it’s also possible to retrofit an “average” house to take advantage of these principles. We also visited Pasadena’s Gamble House to look at the timeless architecture that keeps a place cool in the hot summer, naturally and without electricity.
“Self-Sufficient Home” details the many ways to use less water, and to recycle water. There are interviews with people who collect rain water, with everything from low-tech to high-tech methods. In fact, this is now so “mainstream” that all of the building supply companies routinely sell you all the hardware needed to turn a bucket into a rain water catchment system.
My mother used to have us take the water from washing the dishes and pour it outside on the fruit trees. Very low tech, of course.
In the 1970s, during a previous drought era, I worked with others to retrofit many homes so their “grey water” (everything but the toilet water) could be directed out into the yard for either a lawn, or garden. In most cases, this is a simple plumbing job that any plumber could do, though it is still frowned upon my most city’s Building and Safety departments.
Not big fans of the pointless grass front lawn, we also describe in the book how we mulched the entire front lawn area (in 1986), and grew vegetables and fruit trees on it. All the water came from the washing machine, whose drain hose was disconnected from the sewer and re-routed out into the yard.
Of course, toilets use a lot of water too, so the simplest solution for most people is to get the low-flow toilet. But did you know that there are many alternatives to the conventional flush toilet, from the expensive high-tech to the very simple low-tech methods that have been practiced for millennia. Though local health departments take a very dim view of such toilets, they are proven water-savers that can be safely used in most situations. In fact, I describe in my book two toilet alternatives that I tried successfully for many months.
The book also addresses all the ways in which the average urban back yard can be utilized for food and medicine production. This begins with an assessment of the resources already on the property, coupled with a list of your specific needs and wants.
Where to get your seeds, how to produce plants from cuttings, and ways to create your own backyard fertilizers are all included.
The book shares the specific ways in which various local people, with no government aid and with no whining, went about producing their own electricity, and their own solar-heated water. The reader is guided through the steps of making an electrical use assessment before going out to purchase any solar devices or components. It’s important to do that assessment if you’re going to be your own power producer, so you build a system that is suitable to your situation.
I figured that if I was able to do all these things with limited specific education, and a very low budget, than anyone could do so! I dedicate the book to those I call the members of the silent revolution.
“Self-Sufficient Home” can be obtained via Kindle, and hard-copies are available wherever quality books are sold, or on-line. This is a wonderful book and everyone should have a copy.
[More information about Nyerges’ classes and books is available at www.ChristopherNyerges.com, or via School of Self-reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041]