Seeing this house take shape has been exciting but brings back memories of our first strawbale home. Because it's been so much on my mind of late, I thought I'd write a little about that experience, maybe exorcise some ghosts.
About 10 years ago we bought an acre of beautiful desert just east of Tucson in an area known as Vail. Our acre was in the middle of a plat of land which had been subdivided in the 60's but because there were no utilities only a few hardy souls had built on their lots. We studied the possiblities. We knew we could do solar and solve the water problem, the C,C&Rs were reasonable and so we jumped at the opportunity and purchsed the land. We started planning our home and soon started building. We lived in a 5th wheel with 2 little boys (about 5 and 8 when we started) for 14 months while we built and then for about 5 years, lived a great life.
We built a strawbale studio and helped other friends with their strawbale houses.
The boys had the run of over100 acres of desert, named all the washes and brought home a never ending supply of treasures. We were visited by rattlesnakes, javelina and illegals searching for water. We were completely "beyond the sidewalks"-off-grid and had water hauled, living with the land not trying to bend it to our will. We harvested water from the roof for landscaping needs and learned to conserve. For many it would have been "living without". But we gained so much: great friends, silence, stars, long walks, watching the summer rains approach from all directions, the smell of creosote, the delight of driving to the Roadrunner Market for ice cream (ice cream is a big deal when you only have a small propane refrig/freezer). Life was good.
Then it happened (cue foreboding music: dummm-de-dum-dum). The BIG BAD DEVELOPER ,ITC Homes, Ron Amiran, Moshe Gedalia, came into town and began buying up property around us. Then came the blading and grading, changing washes and destroying protected Pima pineapple cactus. McMansions sprung up around us, the kind that take 2 air-conditioners to cool. Black asphalt roads and driveways, grass lawns, swimming pools. It was painful to watch. It wasn't that we thought all that land was ours or that no one should ever build there it was the fact that the BBD came in, changed the rules under which we had purchased and then wanted to charge us for the privilege of continuing to live on our land and assess us 10s of thousands of dollars for the "amenities" he brought to us. And was rude, nasty and condescending . We told him we didn't need his amenities, he responded that he didn't care if we "used candles for lighting and had no heat, we would pay anyway". He now has the audacity to claim his homes are energy efficient but doesn't state on what planet. But, it is what it is. This was a dark time for us but eventually we decided that we needed to leave there and so we did. Arizona is a developer friendly state, they (developers) get what they want. We sought legal counsel, spent money, went to the newspaper and could have continued to spend money and fight but were not willing to bet everything we had on winning, not in Arizona. This was not the life we had planned.
And so another chapter opened. Our friend/realtor (but always friend first) Casey knew of some lots becoming available in Civano. We thought and thought and thought. Would we build again? Could we build again? What about all those Civano rules? Did we have the stuff to pour our hearts and souls into another project? Finally, we decided that yes, this was what we wanted to do. We had much more experience now, the boys were older, we would build smaller, more efficient. And so it began.