Building with earthbags is essentially building with adobe bricks without going through the lengthy process of making them. You take polypropylene sandbags, fill them with a moist mix of sand and clay, tamp them down hard and connect the layers with 4 point barbed wire. Then, you cover them over with an earthen plaster.

In reality, I didn't use polypropylene bags. Some Brasilians started a type of construction they call hyperadobe which uses mesh bags, or continuous tubing, made from the same material as the onion or potato bags in the grocery store. They don't require barbed wire, though otherwise the process is just about the same.

As I talk about in the blog posts, my design has been guided by simplicity and efficiency. More than anything, what's been most important to me is to live in a house that I myself, with no building experience whatsoever, can design, build and maintain. A natural extension of that has been the desire to live in a peaceful space. For me that means a home that's in tune with nature, thus limiting the use of imported materials for construction, in addition to those that will be needed later on, such as for heating. Please enjoy reading, ask me any questions, get inspired, and come help and learn!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Life in Taos

Slightly old pics...Will post updated ones in a few days.

It's been a month since I posted, and what a whirlwind. I arrived in Taos and to my land. Life started out a bit chaotic and hectic--maybe more than I had thought it would be, though in retrospect it couldn't have been any other way.

My journey out here started on March 30th, when I moved out of my sublet in Portland, packed everything into the cab of my truck and drove an hour and a half north to serve at a Vipassana retreat. It was an incredible eleven days of cooking three meals a day for 100 people in addition to meditating between four and five hours a day. From there I hopped in my truck at 7am, got breakfast in Portland with April, then drove straight on the road to Santa Cruz, arriving 10.5 hours later. I knew I needed a day off after the retreat, so I added a rest day in Santa Cruz, which was followed by a day of packing everything I had in storage there--piling my truck quite high and tarping over it. Wednesday the 13th I piled into the truck with Kevin and Raku and took off for New Mexico. We pulled an allnighter with nap breaks, arriving 25 hours later. Raku performed stellarly, meowing only for the first couple hours until she meowed by the window when she had to pee, which she did attached to her leash on the side of the road.

A whirlwind, huh? Kevin and I have been out on the land setting up the tent, building a compost toilet, registering my car (I now have New Mexico license plates!) building the actual bathroom, with a shower attached, a little house for Raku and an outdoor kitchen. I have a mostly buried cooler with ice for my fridge and a three burner cast iron propane stove on top of a beautiful table we built to make my kitchen function as well as if I were at home (which I guess I am).
I also bought a 1200 gallon cistern and am having water delivered tomorrow.

Yesterday was a trip to Albuquerque to drop off Kevin and pick up Johnny at the airport. We're sitting in a cafe right now taking advantage of the first cloudy day since I've been here (there are 65/year).We'll probably hang pretty mellow this weekend until Monday. I'm getting a great deal on an excavation job that will begin Monday and finish Wednesday. I'm going to get my driveway, a 60'x100' area cleared and my house dug out 3' for $300. In order to get it for that price I'm getting a rectangle dug out instead of my shape which is no problem because I can backfill around the final shape and it will actually be great to have a little more work space down there.

It's the windy season out here for another month or so. Wind like I've never seen. That's good because it will make me go way overkill on fastening my roof to the house. Though I fell out of it for the first couple days, I still feel inside of this wave of serendipity. I have my friend Jeff out here, whose house we stayed in the first few nights and where Raku is right now, who is a huge orientation help and a great friend. Also, made a connection with this guy Mic before I came who is super sweet (he brought me cattails and rocks!) and knows a lot about natural building resources around here. Also ran into Isabelle, the ex-housemate of my friend Moira the first night here at the Guadalajara Grill. Speaking of food, Taos has great food. What a relief. We'll start building next week so I guess I'm actually on my self-created schedule.


  1. I was wondering how you would hold up in a tent in our wind! Glad to know you haven't blown away yet.

    Man! I'm actually envious of how far you've gotten. I haven't even moved my bus to my land yet. In fact, I haven't even set foot on my land since I paid for it.

    Taos does have great food, although I'm actually not a fan of Guadalajara Grill. My favorite place to eat in town in the Ranchos Plaza Grill, which is right by where I currently live. Maybe we can go there some time.

  2. Hi Aly, congratulations on the big move. My compañero and I just bought land in a rural mountain area in the outskirts of Caracas, Venezuela and are planning an earthbag (with mesh bags) house. Our first project is going to be a bathroom to use while we camp there a couple of days at a time (we still have our two tiny rooms in the city) and build a wee roundhouse, which we can live in while we build our main house. We are planning to do baños secos, where the liquid and solid wastes are separated. What kind of compost toilet have you made and how did you build it, and how has it been to use so far? I'm both excited and nervous about changing my water-wasting bathroom habits (although we do use grey water to flush as much as possible, it's not the same as not using water at all).

    Enjoy your beautiful land and every moment of the process, which I hope you'll share as much as possible because you are a few paces ahead of us and I will be following you every step of the way! :)

  3. Hey Zafra,
    I'm using a sawdust toilet which is a 5 gallon bucket underneath a toilet seat structure. You throw sawdust on it after you use it and when it's full you compost it. Check out the Humanure Handbook on the right hand column on my blog. Plan sounds awesome. Caracas' weather also sounds a lot more inviting than the cold/cloudy/windy/rain going on here right now. Good luck!

  4. Love to check out other restaurants around too :-)

  5. We should "do lunch" soon! By the way, where are you getting your sawdust?

  6. I know I am entering this conversation really late, but I just want to thank you. You are answering many of the questions I have and bringing up questions I didn't yet know I should have. I really want to move to my land after I build it. I hope to build a very small, practice structure and live in that while I build the house.