Why add the expense of enclosing a house within a greenhouse? Why would anyone want to live inside a greenhouse? It isn’t like I’m in an area with frigid winters. Wouldn’t an attached or separate greenhouse do just as well?
Throughout my life I’ve been able to live in some uncommon places and situations such as at a ski area, in a storage unit, on a boat, and in a travel trailer. And nearly every sort of environment – on an island in freshwater with a bridge to the mainland, on an island in saltwater with only a ferry to the mainland, in a small desert town, in the high mountains, in the suburbs and big city. Naturally, the way I lived from day-to-day was different in each location and it caused me to think about how interrelated lifestyle is with home.
When I thought about how I wanted to live in retirement I realized I wanted a home-based life, where I could be as self-sufficient as my health and location allowed, and to age in-place as long as I can. When I came across a couple videos by Kirsten Dirksen showing greenhouse-enclosed tiny homes in Sweden and another in the arctic circle, the seed was planted. As I worked through the design challenges to meet my lifestyle goals, living in a greenhouse checked all the boxes.
1) Protected ‘outside’ space
It’s no fun to be out in the cold rain. Here in northwest Washington State, USA we average 138 days of rain per year with many more days of overcast skies. The average temperature is lower than the national average. While I don’t mind going out in the rain, I like it less the colder it is and the older I get. But that doesn’t matter when living in a 35’x60’ greenhouse – stepping ‘outside’ is still sheltered from the rain.
I also have a love/hate relationship with the sound of rain on the roof; love listening to the patter snuggled in a warm blanket but not so much after living in a trailer where the torrent is only a couple feet from my head and wakes me up at night. Hopefully when the rain beats on the greenhouse, the volume can be muffled by closing the doors and windows.
2) For food self-sufficiency
Self-sufficiency has always been attractive since fifth grade when I read My Side of the Mountain about a boy who runs away from home and lives inside a hollow tree. The island where I live is still fairly rural with only a small general store; the closest full grocery is a ferry ride away. While this self-sufficiency requirement is not to grow 100% of my own food or even 100% of my own produce, it is to be able to grow enough produce to materially reduce trips off the island to get fresh food.
I’m in USDA zone 8b (average minimum temperature is 15-20 degrees F) but the perpetual rain limits growing outdoors from late fall to spring. Add to the short growing season predation by deer; the island is lousy with them and there’s a deer path through my property that guarantees they’ll be into whatever I plant. Deer make protective measures necessary – not just a 6’ fence but a minimum 8’ fence. Between the weather and deer, a greenhouse was the logical decision to be able to reliably produce enough food to meet this self-sufficiency requirement.
3) For a daily staycation
There are a number of aspects to living in a greenhouse that are ‘vacation-like’. At a ‘normal’ home I can’t have the doors and windows open year-round due to rain and cold. Being able to have the doors and windows open year round will feel like vacation in a warmer, drier location. And I always want to have the doors and windows open because it should almost always smell good.
The lap pool will provide year-round exercise without a gym membership and without having to share the lane.
Last but not least is the ability to lounge and entertain ‘outside’ year-round and simple things like not having to worry about bringing the cushions and linens ‘inside’ at the end of the evening.
4) It’s a giant ‘catio’
Besides deer, some other wildlife I see regularly on my property include bald eagles, great horned owls, and coyotes. It just isn’t safe for a cat outdoors but it wouldn’t be fair to keep her couped up in a tiny home. Now my cat can be an indoor/outdoor (or is it outdoor/indoor) cat!
5) To win the local gardening competition
Suburbanites may have their quest for the perfect lawn but Islanders take gardening to a new level. Flower and food gardening is an Olympic-level sport. No matter the time of year, whenever folks gather, conversation tends toward plants – winter: comparing ideas of new plants to try next year. Spring: discussions of the local plant sales and who will have the best tomato starts. Summer: humble-bragging about over-abundance of fruit, vegetables, or flowers. And fall: more humble-bragging about all the chores to prep for winter. I’m thinking I’ll be able to catapult through the prelims directly to the finals.
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