Skyview Research Center Development Progress
Last Updated: January 12, 2012

The Skyview Project
The Skyview Project entails the development of unimproved land for our research facility and a small homesite. The project essentially is our way of putting our money where our mouth is, i.e. to look at what it takes to design and build a sustainable facility, cost and time-wise. Everything is being built to, or to exceed, building code and all building is by issued permit from the relevant agencies. Fire and seismic concerns are foremost in our designs, with considerations towards structure longevity a close second. We are doing all of the design and most of the work ourselves, hiring contractors for specialized tasks (e.g. well drilling) or where specialized machinery is required (e.g. pond excavation or road cutting).

Our goal is to create a living and working complex that uses minimal to no imported fuels and makes the most of resources presently on, or created by the sustainable use of the property, including raising a large percentage of the food we eat. Included in the project description that follows are considerations for the road, water system (potable and irrigation), gray and black water waste handling, off-grid electrical and storage, as well as the creation of ferrocement structures. Work was initiated in November 2004, with completion slated for ~2014. The first years will be spent entirely on infrastructure with the house, research and support facilities to be designed and built thereafter.

Concurrent to our work on this project, we continue to support localization efforts (economic, food and energy), We have also played an active role with the county's general plan update, specifically in energy issues. Examples of the work produced can be found at Papers.

 

Plans and Photos of our Progress:
Click on the underlined header to see the photos! {'New' indicates updates this date}

Photos of the Land
Clearing the Land
Land Access and Road Development
Plantings and Gardens
The Bee Hives
The Water System
Pond / Alternative Water Supply
Septic and Other Waste Issues
PV Structure Design and Construction
Design Work that has Inspired Us
House Design and Construction
Photos from Around the Willits Area
Community Bridge Repair

 

A Few Stray Images:

Following the December '08 first snowfall

 

Our solar-charged electric cart for working around the property (modified by yours truly). No outlets required! [info/schematics avail on request]

 

The lightning fires of 2008 created some nice sunsets (though they made working hard)...

 

Our sanity check & constant companion, Juno
{July 2003 -- October 2016, RIP}

 

A Little About the Property and Surrounding Area
The property is located in the Northern California coastal mountain range, roughly 130 miles north of San Francisco and approximately 20 miles inland from the Pacific ocean. Located just at the edge of the coastal influence (fog/redwood line), with an altitude of 1800 to 2100 feet, it is also fairly temperate in climate. Further, it situated on an east-west ridge (rare) with the slopes facing south giving excellent solar insolation. It is partially forested by Douglas Fir, Madrone, Oak and Manzanita. Wildlife includes deer, turkey, quail, bobcat, skunk, the occasional mountain lion, elk and bear, as well as kites, hawks and eagle. Some of the most beautiful reptiles I have seen also live here including alligator and blue-tailed lizards, orange-bellied snakes, rattley snakes (Candy's term) and salamanders. The stream running through the southern border is an old salmonoid spawning run and there are hopes that as downstream runs improve we will see them return here as well. The knoll at the top of the property is reported to be an old indian encampment and workable chert (a lesser material to flint) is found in abundance along with the native sandstone (greywacke) and quartz.

The property is located less than 10 miles from the town of Willits (pop. ~8000). Willits is an old logging community that has experienced a relatively diverse manufacturing base and is generally outside the range of bay-area commuters (and traffic). It is home to the Skunk Train, a continuously-run railroad since the 1880s that runs to this day as a tourist and local freight train between Willits and the coast using diesel, steam and gasoline (trolley) vehicles. It also has a bit of that 'wild west' attitude that includes both the self-reliance and contra-political idealology. As a point of fact, it was once part of the 'State of Jefferson' consideration for secession.

The immediate community (where the property is) is entirely off the grid and consists of over 80 families living on parcels ranging from 10 to 40 acres and in all manners of building materials and philosophies. These include strawbale, cob, post and beam, wood frame, etc. Many are striving for some degree of self-sufficiency and most have orchards, extensive gardens as well as some domestic farm animals and horses. The community's skills are diverse and include builders, architects, inventors and the like.

Within the town of Willits itself is one of the first groups devoted to 'Economic Localization.' This is a concept that realizes that petroleum is running out and that we must learn to re-introduce local economic activities that we currently look to the global economy to supply. It is a large group that has been meeting since about the time we moved to the area and has been blessed with some very high-level speakers (and participants), not to mention growing visibility in the national (and international) communities. More about this project can be found here.

 

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