Folsom's Rainbow Bridge

Folsom's Rainbow Bridge
Rainbow Bridge crossing the American River in Folsom, CA

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fresh Dirt: Pre-Construction in Old Town

Welcome back to Local Fruit. Those of you who know us understand that our family has been on the move this summer. We sold our home in July and look forward to a change in lifestyle. Having lived in Folsom for twenty-two years, we like the nearby Historic District and often just walk the neighborhood to enjoy the eclectic architecture and local color. One of the great things about a historic district is the character of the area; another is the diversity of the people living in the area. The Folsom Historic district is no exception.

In November 2007 we found one of the few vacant parcels in the Historic District. The lot is narrow, only 50’ wide, which was the standard back in the 1850’s when land in the area was first being mapped and divided. Because of the close proximity to the river, gold miners in the area created a settlement that eventually became the town of Folsom. Our particular parcel was once agricultural and owned by Portuguese farmers who provided fruit to the young town. It still has fig trees, persimmons, citrus, pecans, and walnuts. Nearby are many olive trees and grapes that grow along the road.

Not only is the location of this parcel attractive due to the proximity to the river, restaurants, parks, city library, and light rail, but the soil itself is attractive to the gardener in me. There is an orange tree on the lot that had been damaged and neglected by the previous owner. I trimmed and cared for the tree for several years to bring it back. The generous neighbors have helped me water the tree (there is no water to the lot), and now it has its first crop of fruit in the past three years. Once on an early spring day, I was watering the tree and I noticed a sparkle in the soil. After looking closer, I could see small flecks of minerals in the rich soil that sparkled in the late afternoon sunlight. From that space standing by the tree, I could see the arches of the Bridge crossing Lake Natoma through the trees. I thought I even saw the sparkle of water reflecting from under the bridge. How cool would it be to build a two-story home near the river parkway and actually be able to see the bridge and water?

So for the past two and a half years we have owned this narrow lot with the idea of building a home. Using home design software, the home took shape on my computer and we located a builder who built an energy efficient (LEED Platinum) home in the Folsom Historic District. The builder is a really good guy, and he walks and talks efficient ratings; he also learned the idiosyncrasies of building in the Folsom Historic District.

The main goal of this project was to create an energy efficient home that significantly reduces ongoing expenses while also doing our part to enhance environmental sustainability. Other benefits include the lifestyle perks of being closer to the river and within walking distance of all that the community has to offer. Both my husband and I are energy geeks; we want a home that is energy neutral. The home design includes serious insulation, photovoltaic solar panels, and very efficient appliances. The detached garage includes a granny flat that could generate enough income to pay for property taxes if we ever decided to rent it out. We have eliminated pool maintenance, landscaper service, and even the window cleaning service. Yes window cleaning; the old home had great views from three stories up and neither of us are too keen to do ladder work.

The project is finally on the verge of become a reality. The orange tree will be fenced off this week to protect it during grading, as will a fig tree. Yesterday I trimmed the fig in order to reduce its drip line in an attempt to save it during construction. Several orchard trees (fig, persimmon and cypress) will come down to make way for our new home. Although I feel guilty about taking down a few trees, I am eager to see dirt and plan the garden beds for next summer.

We may be about the only crazy people to actually start a new construction project in this economy. It may be self serving, but if we can stimulate our local economy and help put people to work, why not do so? Assuming we break ground in September, the house should be ready in April, in time to prepare for a summer garden. Both building a home and the prospect of finally working the rich soil are exciting to me!

I will be sharing our experiences and photos of the progress over the next year. You may learn about green construction, energy, or the local color of our diverse and eclectic old town.