Gravel Walls

The Walls are Coming!

I’m so excited to be past the trenching and foundation stage and working on the actual walls!  We’ve hired some helpers to come out during the week, and on the weekends sometimes Denise and Jeff come out and may bring friends to help as well.  Thanks to the additional hands, things are moving along a little faster!

On September 6th, Denise and Jeff came out with their friend, Mike.  Keith spent a few minutes teaching them the basic procedures, and off we went.  At this stage we were working with the portion of the walls that will end up underground, so we were filling the bags (doubled up!) with gravel rather than the sand/clay mixture that goes into the earthbags.  By using gravel until we come above ground, we help prevent moisture from seeping into the walls.

IMG_6883 Continue reading

Foundations

Foundation, French Drain, and the First Bags!

Unloading Mini Excavator

Unloading mini excavator.

We’re making steady progress on the earthbag house!  Here’s what we’ve been up to:

On the afternoon of August 13th, after we had finished filling the last of the trenches, Keith rented a mini excavator to dig the foundation and the cistern/utility room, which will be set lower into the ground than the rest of the house.

The first task was to scrape out the footprint of the house, leveling the uneven mounds of dirt and debris and pushing away the grass and shrubs. Continue reading

Natural Building Extravaganza!

IMG_6426On Saturday morning, July 26, I sluggishly opened my eyes in a cute AirBnB bedroom in North Carolina.  It had been a short night–we arrived at 1 a.m. after 16 hours on the road, where I got to see some parts of the country (such as St. Louis) for the first time ever.  The previous weekend I had no idea that I’d be in North Carolina in a week’s time.  I’ll let Keith explain the purpose of the trip below.  He’s my guest blogger today.  Here’s Keith: 

By now, you’re likely familiar with the earthbag house I’m building for my parents.  By mid-July, I had finished the underground utilities and I was about to dig the trenches and pit for the rubble trench foundation and the recessed utility room with the 3000 gallon rainwater cistern.  I had studied earthbag structures extensively, but had zero experience building them or any other natural building structure.  So I decided I should gain some experience before my first project since it is a big project after all and I don’t want to make any mistakes.  So… I Googled “earthbag workshop.”  After following a couple of links, I came across the Natural Building Extravaganza which was a full week of workshops and lectures about natural building.  Three days later Lily and I hit the road and drove for 16 hours out to North Carolina. Continue reading

In the Trenches

In the Trenches

IMG_6354

Keith guides the trencher across the property toward the power pole.

Before we can raise the walls, we must dig the trenches for the power and water that will feed the house.  That was the focus last week.  Keith picked up a trencher from Home Depot’s rental center in the late afternoon on Thursday, July 10th and unloaded it from its little trailer.  I followed him across the property as he drove the machine to the power pole where the digging began. Leroy came over to see the action and promptly seared his hand on the scalding hot exhaust pipe.  Continue reading

Earthbag House Project – The Beginning

Earthbag House Project – The Beginning

Greetings from the American Heartland–the home of my husband’s family, and our home base between the numerous travels we make throughout the country and around the world.  We are in Eastern Kansas and about to begin the biggest personal project either of us has undertaken–building a house for Keith’s parents.

Since their last child (Keith’s sister, 13 years younger) has flown the coop they are ready to downsize from their spacious 5-bedroom home and retire in a small house in the country.  We have some acreage for the place, and Keith hatched a plan.  He likes to be different.  How about a round earthbag house?   Continue reading

Douglas and Glenrock, Wyoming

Wyoming

One of the more interesting aspects of our lives as nomads is seeing where Keith’s work as an electrician will take us next.  There are jobs all over the country and in the past 3 years since our wedding we have lived in Colorado, Louisiana/Arkansas (job was in southern Arkansas, but we started out in a hotel across the state line in Bastrop, Louisiana), Utah, Antarctica, Colorado again, Oklahoma (Keith’s worst job ever coupled with our worst landlord ever), and most recently, Wyoming.  In between jobs we have also traveled to Africa, England, New Zealand, Ecuador, and various parts of the U.S. and Canada, usually touching back at our home base in Kansas between each trip or move.

Wyoming was kind of a spur of the moment thing.  With a bit of a lull on our earthbag house project in Kansas and a dwindling savings account, Keith figured he might as well be making money and looked up some jobs.  He found what was advertised to be a 6 to 8 week commercial job (which actually turned out to be industrial and a lot longer than 8 weeks) in Wyoming and a couple days later I helped him pack up and sent him off.   I helped out with a few more projects around the property and then bused out to join him. Continue reading

Now I Remember Why I Hate Greyhound

Growing up in Mexico, we used to ride the bus a lot.  The bus service got really nice in Mexico around 1990.  You could still ride the chicken bus on  the lowest price tier, but a first class bus didn’t cost much more and it was a really nice ride.  Some even came with complimentary tea and coffee in the back, played movies during the trip, and had big seats that would recline way back.  As a kid, I remember imagining how wonderful the buses in the U.S. must be.  I mean if they were this nice in a third world country, what must the experience be like in the developed world?  Would they have free ice cream, maybe?

Greyhound Bus

Image credit: Stephen Rees

My first Greyhound experience was incredibly disappointing.  So was every Greyhound trip since. The buses are inefficient, often dirty, and can sometimes attract riders who look like they’ve been recently released from prison.  My last trip on Greyhound was back around 2005 or so, and it was just a short one-way jaunt for a couple of hours to pick up a company car.  It was behind schedule, but as I recall I had the whole front seat to myself and so it wasn’t bad at all. Continue reading