I've been sick with a bad cold all week, but I pried myself off the sofa this afternoon and took a walk down our wee woodland path. Our house is on a 2-acre lot, and most of our trees are north of the house, but there's a quarter-acre patch to the south that I plan to turn into a tiny woodsy circuit. It's all visible from our big south windows, so it will be enjoyable from both outdoors and in.
The entry point from our front yard:
That post is our personal weather station, provided by Efficiency Vermont to collect data for their study of our house's performance. The white bags to the left contain topsoil that was cleared from our site for construction and will soon be turned into raised garden beds (more on that below).
Heading deeper into the woods:
Our whole neighborhood is overrun with wild raspberries (red and black), but it's hard to pick most of them because of the prickly brambles. I've cleared this pathway hoping to access them better, and I'll also plant more spring bulbs to enjoy before the brambles start to grow. So far I've planted a smattering of daffodils, hyacinth, and squill, but I hope to load the woods with all sorts of shade-friendly bulbs.
Turn to the left and you can see the road:
Walk down the slope and turn left again to face the house:
I still haven't decided where to carve out the rest of the path, so the only way out is back the way I came:
The lot next door is not likely to be developed—our uphill neighbor bought it for extra privacy—so we don't foresee any invasive construction in that direction:
And now the front yard. The dirt is rock-hard after two years of being driven on by construction vehicles. But later this month our excavation contractor will come and terrace it into a large fenced garden. He'll build three retaining walls made from boulders, put down a layer of sand for drainage, and then cover it all with topsoil.
This year I'll concentrate on growing vegetables, but I'm sure I'll sneak some ornamentals onto the property as well. There's a spot near our driveway, north of the garage, that would look delightful with some flowering trees if I can find any that don't require full sun:
You can see the edge of the deck outside the front door—it's a lovely spot in the afternoon once the sun goes past the top of the house.
So that's the "Before" series, which I hope will be replaced over the years with heaps of charming "After" pictures. It's probably a good thing I don't realize how much work all of this will be!
Occupant behavior can make the difference between an efficient house and a wasteful one. Notorious energy hogs include plasma TVs, old refrigerators or freezers, ice-makers, and dehumidifiers. And don't overlook sneaky items like DVRs, always-on computer and entertainment equipment, etc.