Design for a retirement cottage began over a decade ago for Donna while she was still living in Houston. After purchasing land deep in the Texas Hill Country, Donna enlisted felllow permaculturaist Shawn McFarland, AIA to create a schematic set of elevations and floor plan (at left) from her own sketches.

When Kindra and Donna began the process of budgeting and staking out the site a few adjustments helped the house fit in a tight spot on a south-facing slope. Moving porches to wrap around the south-east corner optimized the outdoor living space to receive the fantastic view and almost constant breezes from the south-east. Trees on the north and west sides were preserved to protect the house from late day summer sun and winter winds.

The construction method is "bale-infill" with bamboo external pinning. The house was structurally complete with roof before the bales went into the exterior walls as insulation (R-40). The roof was framed in 12" deep TGI rafters provding enough depth for R-45 spray in soy based insulation. Roof surface is concealed fastener galvalume metal with matching gutters. Exterior plasters are: clay, clay-lime, lime underneath 3' over hangs, and earthen plasters under the porch. Interior plasters are earthen, mixed from local clays. Porch posts, exterior window trim, interior bedroom sills, fascia boards and natural edge siding were all milled locally from our native juniper trees also known as "aromatic cedar". Porch beams were almost milled locally from standing dead loblolly pine. Donna's son Larrry contributed several salvaged/recycled materials: travertine tile for interior sills, rock veneer for kitchen island and an old fashioned clayfoot tub for the bath.

Construction began in March 2009, with bales arriving May 1 and substantial completion in mid July. Even in the hottest Texas spring on record, with the last few weeks toping out at over 100 every day, the porch and house provided a comfortable place to work and enjoy siesta.

After years of planning, Donna said of her new house "I asked for a practical, highly efficient structure, what I got was a work of art."