I finally went back to my original firewood business to purchase wood, even though it means hauling the wood up the hill to my house from the driveway, because he has a dump truck. However, he arrived with more-than-a-cord for my $200, and it's dry, small, burnable wood, not the huge rotted stuff that the previous guy was supplying (before he decided to drop trees in the road and take a neighbor's tree--but we won't go any farther on that).
At any rate, we stood in the driveway talking about fuel costs. He suggested propane for the current cat facility, and I lamented that I one day wanted to build a more economical space. He pointed out the back of my driveway. I mentioned there was already a slab there and his eyes got wide and said that cut a lot of money off a project. "Even just a garage, insulated, would be better."
That's something to think about, and so I did. I noodled around looking at pre-fab small barns, but I had already done that route at my old house, and I know unless you sink a lot of money into them, they really aren't cozy.
Then I accidentally came across a straw-bale construction page and saw this:
No, I don't want that fancy cottage. But I loved the idea of something small, attractive, and with a built in bench on the window side (just more bales!). It would likely be affordable, and I might even be able to schedule a barn-raising to get this done. I would need the framing, windows (easy enough to score off craiglist), the roof trusses (or someone skilled enough to build them), good quality very-dry straw bales (straw isn't cheap, but it's cheaper than wood and insulation), wire, and stucco. I could have it set up to be heated with propane, and could run electric underground right from the house. I could also build little straw bale elevated cat shelters on the back for the farm cats (big enough to set traps in!).
What a nice little dream. It would likely even increase the value of this place, if built correctly. This year I think I'll concentrate on clearing off and saving the concrete pad, and moving the brush back. It's right on the gorge, so would be a very pretty spot with the brush gone.