Author: Greg Orth, footnote by KO’B
“At the recent Open Studio event held by my wife Kathleen O’Brien, I was lucky to have a chance to talk about our homestead, and the 22 years spent developing Sunwise Farm and Sanctuary. In doing so I was reminded of some of the decisions made along the way that have had time to bear fruit, or not, and have a renewed appreciation for the fortunate choices made so many years ago.
Our original goal was to have more land to grow food, herbs and crops, yet it would require selling the small property in Boulder and buying more Colorado land, or looking elsewhere. Colorado proved to be out of our price range for any land with a water supply, so we opted to visit Asheville, N.C. with a stopover at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill KY just to relax.
Finding Asheville a bit closed in by mountains, we returned to Kentucky, and found it delightful. A year later we were designing a home and looking for the right land, which we found a mile or so from Shaker Village. Though overgrazed by cattle, the land had gentle hills and a pleasing shape and feel, and we could envision a day somewhere in the future when all we hoped for would be manifest through hard work and proper planning.
The house floor plan was designed by Kathleen, and based on a golden rectangle, found in nature’s DNA, and less complex to build. Deep reveal windows were incorporated to increase the sunlight, and a passive solar site plan with a wraparound porch would offer sun or shade as the season required.
Finally, we wanted a building material that was “Green” and smart, thus we chose “Cempo”, a recycled Styrofoam / cement material that should last for centuries and be energy efficient.
The house was to be all electric, no propane, fuel oil, etc. and our local Bluegrass Energy Company recommended we add a Geothermal well to our HVAC system to save on energy, as well as an energy efficient water heater, both of which they would offer a rebate in doing so. It is rare to have a utility bill approaching $100.00, and we capture, filter and use rainwater which seems to never be in short supply.
Now, two decades later, we have a home that has been sunny in winter, cool in summer, overlooking a landscape that is no longer overgrazed, but lush and green, with shade trees to sit under and lovely gardens filled with 100+ varieties of flowers, herbs and vegetables and fruit trees, including figs, which are seldom grown here, yet produce well each year. We have a bamboo forest that supplies raw renewable material for projects in the garden, and is home to thousands of migrating birds from February-June.
It’s true that years ago we were given some funny looks from the locals as we implemented these ideas, we now are at home here and in the community, and value each one greatly.
In closing, I offer support to all who may have a dream that is a bit “outside the box”, and encourage them to see the long-term value that can come from a broader-than-normal perspective.”
Note from Kathleen: Greg is much too humble to write that he not only built the entire home, with the help of our son, over a year’s time, but also wired, plumbed and contracted the building of the quarter mile long driveway. Over the years he installed French drains, built a masonry wood fired bread oven, studio annex, extensive rock walled terraces for gardens. That’s all in addition to maintenance like mowing, bush hogging, vehicle repair, soil amending and growing food while holding down a full time job. I could go on, you see, I love and appreciate my nearly perfect Renaissance man.