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A small gallery

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Taking in the Beauty of Autumn

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This Autumn season is the best I can remember. Seems that it’s stretching on way longer than any other Fall season. I keep saying, “We better enjoy this weekend because it will be the last one of peak color.” But then the next weekend comes and it’s just as spectacular. In fact, it’s only gotten better and better over the past couple of weeks. By this time last year we were lucky to find any leaves still on the trees, let alone any color. According to the local news we aren’t even at peak color yet. We took this photo just yesterday and it wasn’t until I looked at it on my screen that I realized how much green there still is in the landscape.

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It’s funny that when I’m looking at the scene in person my eyes only see all the color. I don’t even notice the green. I think we are going to luck out and get yet another great weekend of colorful leaves flying through the air. I wish this would last for months. I would never get enough of it.

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We started leaf peeping a couple of weekends ago and took a nice motorcycle ride inland (where the leaves change colors a little bit earlier than on the coast). It was such a quaint little ride through the back roads. The farmlands and windy roads made me think about CT. It was just like being ‘home.’

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It’s so nice that we can have all the beauty of the coastline, but yet drive a handful of miles to the west and be in the same sort of rural lands that we are used to. It really is the best of both worlds.

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There is just no end to the number of great motorcycle rides in front of us.

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In addition to the bike rides we also hopped in the car one day and headed down to Damariscotta for their annual Pumpkinfest. The main street was lined with enormous pumpkins, most weighing over 1,000 pounds! I’m still struggling to understand this. Does this happen naturally or are the pumpkins jacked on growth hormones? Anyway, it was a hoot to see the pumpkins all decorated. It makes me long to paint one myself.

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Acadia Day Trip

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I can’t even express how exciting it is that we can take a “day trip” to Acadia. In two hours we can be in one of our all-time favorite places in the world! Still hard to wrap my head around that fact.

We started our leaf-peeping-at-Acadia tradition many years ago . . . way back when we had to drive nearly 7 hours to do it. Back then we used to pack up the car with our favorite toys (kayak, bikes, even dogs) and head up North to play. It would be hard to decide what my favorite activity was. Watching the colorful reflections on the water as we kayaked on the lakes was beautiful. Hiking on the leaf-covered trails was magical, and biking on the endless carriage roads was always a thrill.

This year we added a new, never-been-done-before activity to our Acadia repertoire. This time we took a horse-drawn carriage ride and it probably is in the running for one of my favorite things to do.

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The horses were gorgeous and just looking at them was a big treat. Getting to pet their noses was the pinnacle of making my day. So warm and soft, I couldn’t get enough of them.

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Our driver spent 2 hours telling us all kinds of interesting stories about the horses, the area, and the history behind the park. I guess this is what set this activity apart from all of our other favorite things to do. We never had the benefit of learning so much about this great place.

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The horses did an amazing job of pulling us all the way to the summit of Day Mountain. I have to say it was quite nice to just sit back and let somebody else do all the climbing for a change. I was so content under my fleece blanket, just sitting back and enjoying the views.

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There can’t possibly be a bad time to visit Acadia National Park as it is gorgeous year round, but the Fall is spectacular. Nothing beats the beauty of New England foliage at it’s best. The leaves weren’t even at their peak yet and it was still breathtaking. We took a nice hike around Eagle Lake and I was thankful for the warm sun and the flat terrain.

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We had a little bit of time to kill between our hike and the carriage ride so we went over to Bar Harbor to stroll the shore path. It was such a treat to stumble upon some cool balancing rocks. My love for rocks seems to have magnified greatly ever since I moved to Rockland. I just love rocks and everywhere we go I’m so drawn to them. There was no way I could have walked by and not noticed this scene on the beach.

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I just wish I could have watched whoever did the balancing in action. I also wonder how long these sculptures lasted before the wind knocked them down. I still can’t believe that these things weren’t glued.

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I was sad to have to leave Bar Harbor just as things were starting to get hopping. The place was packed in the evening with people hustling and bustling everywhere. I longed to stick around and join in all the action, but we had to say goodbye to start our journey home. The good news is that it’s a short trip and we can return soon.

To see more photos from this trip, please click here.

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A nice entry

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Nulla consequat massa quis enim. Donec pede justo, fringilla vel, aliquet nec, vulputate eget, arcu. In enim justo, rhoncus ut, imperdiet a, venenatis vitae, justo. Nullam dictum felis eu pede mollis pretium. Integer tincidunt. Cras dapibus. Vivamus elementum semper nisi. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus. Aenean leo ligula, porttitor eu, consequat vitae, eleifend ac, enim.

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My Week With Jay Maisel

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It’s been many years of longing to take a Maine Media Workshop just for the fun of it. Normally I go  every year as part of my work training and it’s always been a grueling week of video work. It’s always torture to be on campus, stuck inside a video editing room and only catch glimpses of all the photographers running around having a ball shooting. The grass is always greener on the other side and I always wanted to be “one of those photographers.”

Well, this past week my wish came true. I was “one of those photographers.” After years of contemplating and longing to do it I finally bit the bullet, took the vacation time, plunked down a wad of cash, and signed up for a photography workshop. And this wasn’t just any workshop. This one was taught by one of the best known legendary photographers of this era, Jay Maisel.

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I experienced a strange mix of excitement and terror at the thought of entering his classroom. This guy has a great reputation of being a ruthless hard ass (“prick,” as he would say). Imagine him as the Simon Cowell of the photography world.  If you suck he is going to, in no uncertain terms, tell you so. In front of a room full of peers.

The week started off with a critique of 10 of your best images. Well, let me rephrase that. Not only were you to bring 10 great images, but if you were smart, 10 that you thought he might like. If you showed up with digitally altered images, or in my case a photo of a boat . . . you were toast. The F bombs would fly. Well, they were going to fly regardless, but you were in trouble.

Luckily, aside from my one “F#%&ing-boat-in-the-harbor” photo I made my way through the critique pretty well. What a relief. I thought the pressure was off, but that was just the beginning. For the rest of the week I was to produce 5 photos a day that I was willing to show off, not only in front of the 15 other amazing photographers, but also to Jay. Gulp. That was a tall and difficult order.

Let’s just say I think I was happy for the week to wind down. It was incredibly exhausting and draining. Of course the fact that Karlo so graciously gave me another one of his travel colds didn’t help at all. I was so dragging my tail that it was hard for me to even stay awake during class on Saturday morning. 

Every day I was up for sunrise, hoping to God to get at least a photo or two to take a little pressure off the afternoon shooting. You would have thought that I would have had a ‘home court advantage’ seeing as I live right here in Maine, but I think it made everything more difficult. Like Jay preached, “the hardest things to see are the things you look at every day.” And there is a big difference between seeing and looking. All of those new to this area had the advantage of seeing everything for the first time, but I had to look extra hard to look past the familiarity of everything. It was such a challenge for me.

I think I had a firm grasp of “Light and Color” before I started this workshop. Light is what every photographer is constantly chasing and stalking. It’s easy to understand a photograph that was based on pure light. Color is mostly what it sounds. Although you might tend to think of a photo that is simply filled with color, the concept of “color” is really the play of certain colors together and the photo is taken purely for the colors. Here is my favorite example of a photo taken purely for the color of it.

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But gesture  . . . now that is a tough one for sure. Some photos of people are obvious illustrations of gesture because the people are making gestures with their face or body. According to Jay, objects can also have gesture and sometimes I see it, but other times I don’t. It’s not an easy concept to wrap my head around and for the entire week I tried really hard to get it.

I tried to find gestures in people without seeing their faces. Here are some examples of some obvious non-facial gestures that I was proud to nail.

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Even animals can have gestures and I just loved this one.

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I was able to spot to amazing gestures in simple rain drops – something that I never would have noticed if Jay didn’t teach me to look so hard.

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Here is an example of a combination of light and gesture. The early morning sun cast and amazing shadow on this fixture and the resulting shape made the gesture.

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And here is my trifecta photo of all three: Light, Color and Gesture (Jay’s favorite gesture!)

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Of course, that was just taken as a joke because it was a set up and it makes me laugh every time. The whole point of this type of shooting is not to force or pose any shots. It’s to try very hard at looking closely at the world, waiting for the trigger that moves you, and then shooting at the precise right moment to capture something special – something that would have been gone only moments later.

This was, by far, my first time doing anything like this. I was so far out of my comfort zone, but I’m so glad I did it. I may never get comfortable pointing my camera at complete strangers and I may never even really like this style of shooting, but certainly it will open my eyes to seeing the world differently and more intently. I look forward to seeing how my work will change from this point forward.

If you would like to see a glimpse of my attempts at Light, Gesture and Color, please click on the video below.

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A Walk Through Acadia

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We lucked out with another great weather day and after resting up from our early morning sunrise expedition we laced up our hiking shoes and headed for the trails. I never set out to photograph anything on the hiking trails before because I never wanted to carry heavy equipment. It’s hard enough just getting me up those mountains, let alone cameras and lenses.

I’m so happy that we were with some photographer friends because it allowed Karlo and I the opportunity to explore trails that we never would have on our own. Karlo can’t be bothered walking on flat trails. If there’s no big climb with soaring views he has little interest. So this was the perfect chance to get a different perspective on the park.

We stayed on the low lands and took a close look at nature. I found the time to notice little frogs.

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And pretty dragonflies.

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I even captured some dragonfly porn!

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I took the time to notice some little details that I don’t normally see.

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And found beauty in simplicity.

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I swear on any normal hike I would have never even noticed an open grassy area. I mean how boring is that? Wrong. It was beautiful and I must have taken dozens of pictures in this one spot and no two photos look alike.

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I even had fun just making abstract art out of the grass.

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Then we discovered this gorgeous wooden boardwalk that seemed to go on forever.

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When the boardwalk did eventually end it brought us to this amazing grove of birch trees. Who doesn’t love birch trees?

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We must go back to the is exact spot in the fall. We loved this spot so much we just didn’t want to leave and spent all kinds of time goofing around taking group photos. Here’s another group shot taken by Tara.

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On the way back to the car we walked through some pretty gardens and caught a pop of color and here and there.

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It was hard to get back into the car and head for home. First we needed one more pit stop in Bar Harbor where we grabbed a quick lunch. Here’s our final parting shot. Good bye Bar Harbor. See you again soon.

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How sweet it is to have less than a 2 hour commute back home. And it’s even sweeter that our “Maine vacation” didn’t have to end when we got home. I couldn’t resist taking one more artsy phone pic here at “home.”

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Beyond the Puffins

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Last weekend’s road trip was mostly about the puffins, but we also had a blast exploring more parts of Maine. Because Cutler wasn’t far enough away, we decided to continue East until we ran out of coastline. I think my car was sad to come this far, so close to Canada, but not actually cross the boarder. At least I gave it some time to gaze over across the water and wave to the Canadian Lighthouse.

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Our gang stopped at a cute little place for lunch. There was positively no cell service in this area so here’s the scene at lunch when we figured out that the restaurant had free wifi.

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After getting our fill of emails, Facebook, and lunch our next destination was to Monica’s chocolates. Karlo and I never heard of the place, but apparently it’s pretty famous with chocolate to die for. They offered samples of their decadent truffles.

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I managed to squeak in a taste before the french fries that I ate during lunch decided that they hated me. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise because I had no interest in all the rest of the temptations.

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Now it was time to head back and make a bee line to our most favorite place on Earth – Acadia National Park. It was a long, but beautiful drive and I’m not sure who was having the most fun: Karlo relaxing in the passenger seat, me behind the wheel of my MINI, or my MINI itself! It was a great drive that we are longing to go back and do on the motorcycle.

We finally arrived in Bar Harbor with just enough light left in the sky to snap a few photos.

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Then it was time for dinner and boy did we have a great time at the Side Street Cafe. That place is a for sure repeat visit and I already can’t wait to go back. By the time we walked out it was dark and that meant it was time for funky phone photos.

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And a little motorcycle “art.”
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As much as I dreaded getting up the next morning at 4 something AM I just couldn’t miss sunrise at Cadillac Mountain. I knew I wouldn’t enjoy shooting it, but you really can’t visit Acadia as many times as we have and NOT partake in this amazing experience of seeing the sun come up before just about anyone else in the USA.

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Thanks Tara for the great photo!

Our Awesome Puffin Adventure

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There are a lot of cool things to do here in Maine, but this adventure had to be one of the coolest. From the moment I laid eyes on photos of puffins I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I just had to find a way to see them up close and personal and thanks to my awesome new friends my dream became a reality.

It was about six months ago when I got the email invite to take a trip all the way up to Machias, ME to go on a puffin tour. Back then we were still living in CT and the whole thing seemed so far away, both in distance and in time. We booked the trip when there were feet of snow on the ground and Machias seemed like a world away. But by the time July rolled around Machias was just over 2 hours from home. We were so close to seeing the puffins that the excitement was hard to bare.

I’m still thanking my lucky stars, not only for getting the invitation to join my friends, but for the fact that everything worked out so perfectly. Not only was the weather impeccable, but the seas cooperated just enough for us to make the island landing. Not every tour gets this lucky and in fact there were several flat out cancellations in the weeks prior to our trip and many other tours that made it out to the island, but were not able to make landfall. Our trip was very sketchy, but our captain did everything possible to get us on shore safely.

Here’s a map of where we took off from in Cutler, ME and Machias Seal Island where our destination was.

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As soon as you got close to the island you can see the birds swarming. It was an amazing site.

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It took just under an hour to motor out through the open ocean. The swells were huge and although that made for a cool boat trip, it was going to make for a very shaky landing. We had to transfer from the boat to a small dingy to come ashore.

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And making it from the dingy to the shore without getting soaked was quite the challenge, but we all did it safely. Camera gear and all.

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This is the only island where you are allowed to actually come ashore to see the birds and it’s set up for this viewing. Here we are waiting to be taken inland along the boardwalk.

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There are little blinds that are perched in various locations that allow spectators to watch the birds without disturbing them. Here’s where we camped out.

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From the point when we got inside the blind the show immediately started. There were birds everywhere! You heard the constant pitter patter of their adorable feet on the roof and no matter where you pointed your camera you were bound to get a great shot.

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Puffins-8I couldn’t resist this shot because the bird reminded me of myself with the itchy ears!

I was officially in my glory.

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On the ride back to Cutler we just sat back soaking in the sun and sights and counted our blessings for how great the whole adventure turned out.

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To see more photos of the adventure please click play on the video below:

Rockland – Our New Hometown

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I thought it was time to talk about our new hometown. I get a kick out of the fact that all our buddies back in CT have this picture in their heads of us living out in the boonies . . . with the moose. I guess maybe it’s time to set the record straight and explain exactly what our new hometown is like. In a nutshell, it rocks!

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It’s not in the middle of the woods.
It’s not in the boonies.
We aren’t surrounded by moose.
Nor are we surrounded by black flies.
We have more civilization around us than ever before.
And it’s spectacularly beautiful.

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Rather than living in the woods, like everyone assumes, we are actually on the sea! At this present time we are living pretty much in “downtown.” A mere block from the downtown strip, which just happens to be right on the ocean. So close, in fact, that when the wind is blowing the right way you can smell the sea. We can hear the ships blasting their horns when them come into port and we have seagulls in our backyard. Quite a change of scenery for us.

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It’s true that we no longer have our own private hiking trails in our backyard, but I’m adjusting nicely to that. I guess deep down I’ll always be more of a city girl and this level of “city” seems to fit me like a glove. Rather than trail running our runs now take place here:

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Funny, I’m a much better runner now! The scenery is constantly changing, the ocean breezes are always keeping me cool (which is a good thing when you’re running), and I no longer have to outrun the bugs . . . which is a bonus too big for words.

I can’t exactly say that our little downtown is “bustling,” but it sure is nice to be able to walk to just about everything we want to do. What a concept. We go for multiple walks a day. One of our favorite daily routines is to walk the one-mile-long breakwater pier. I swear this will never get old. We simply love it. It’s a mile walk on huge granite rocks straight out into the ocean to the lighthouse. Every day it’s a different experience. The wind is different, the tides are different, the skyline is different. Some days we see seals sunbathing on the rocks. Some days we watch seagulls hunting for their dinner. And other days we have to break into a run to escape the rapidly rising tides and/or the threatening thunder clouds. Never a dull moment.

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When it’s not exercise we are after we sometimes just stroll hand in hand, up and down Main Street. Nothing makes me feel more like we are on vacation than “strolling.” Karlo and I only have one walking speed. No matter where we are going or what we are doing we are traveling at warp speeds. I mean you need to get out of our way if we are coming through! But on rare occasions (usually only evenings during vacation, when it’s nightfall and we don’t know what to do with ourselves) we take to the streets to stroll. My goodness, it’s bliss to just walk leisurely with no purpose. The thought of doing that “at home” rather than on vacation is a miracle and I’m cherishing every minute of it.

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I’m not quite totally sure how we came to land in this hometown but we couldn’t be happier about it. It was a match made in Heaven and I’m thanking my lucky stars every single day. We are so looking forward to many more new discoveries about this place in the years to come.

More Net Zero Construction Notes

The further along we are getting in this building process the more apparent it’s getting that not many people know what the heck a Net Zero house is. In fact, we have not run across a single person that knew what it was when we tried to explain that we are building one. And this is not only true for common folk not in the home construction industry, but this also applies to all the home product sales people we encountered. From Home Depot and Lowes to flooring, lighting, plumbing, and fireplace specialists. Nobody has any idea what we are talking about when we try explain that we can’t have use propane for cooking or a fireplace and how important it will be to use healthier building materials. They just think we are tree huggers and then proceed to try to change our minds about propane fireplaces and gas ranges. This is prompting me to want to become a Net Zero evangelist. After living in one I may just feel as though I’m “Born Again” and may start preaching to everyone in sight in hopes of getting them to convert.

Sure I can’t get all that excited about it yet because at this point it does seem a little bit like the promise of Heaven. It does sound an awful lot like Heaven actually. A toasty warm house in the Winter and a nice comfortable house in the Summer  . . . all without having to pay energy bills. Fortunately, unlike actually making it to Heaven, in this case I will be able to live through it and tell my story so everyone knows if Heaven does indeed exist. Only time will tell and we are so anxious to find out.

So in my efforts to help spread the word and educate on this Net-Zero technology I want to blog a little here and there to try to explain what makes a Net Zero home special. I already tried to explain the basics of the foundation and basement being built with thick blocks of insulation. And I also mentioned that the walls would be “doubled.” You can see in this picture the outside wall (that has the window framed in it) and then an additional 2×4 wall in front of it making our exterior walls a full foot thick.

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Both of these walls will be insulated essentially doubling the amount of insulation that a normal house has. And in between the two insulated walls is what is called a “thermal break” of air. I’m not totally sure how the technology behind this works and perhaps I’ll become more knowledgeable when we get that far so stay tuned on that.

Then there’s the roof. On a conventionally built roof you would normally have insulation only in between the roof trusses. Those trusses might be 2″x10″ or 2″x12″. Our roof trusses are 16″ thick as show below.

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Not only are the trusses thicker, but we will have double the plywood under the roofing shingles. Along the same theory as the exterior double walls with a “thermal break” of air in between, the roof is very similar. We have the traditionally covered plywood roof, but then another layer of plywood gets added. The picture below shows the two layers with the gap of air between.

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I still haven’t figured out how all this “air” does so much in super insulating the house, but like I said, I’m hoping to become more knowledgeable about how this stuff works. Right now it’s all very new and very fascinating.