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!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bags Filling

First Course Fully Tamped
Mostly Untamped. Huge difference in size.

So my muscles are growing. Really. You should see my arms. Tamping is not for the faint of heart. Not having to transport dirt is such a blessing. I have been speeding up and my bags are looking good now that I'm half way through the second course. It takes fifty bags to go around the pinto bean plus four and two half bags for a buttress. I did just over thirty bags yesterday. Each bag takes 9 gallons of dirt which I have to take down into the pit. I am blogging because I needed to take the morning off. Think it's best not to drive myself to physical collapse but to let my body acclimate at its own pace.

Soaking in pits is excellent. It melts the clay and makes the dirt more uniform and just seems to be more stable to me. Plus it's very passive except for having to loosen it up a bit and mix in a bit of dry dirt because the top comes out a bit moister than necessary. I've been experimenting with how to close the bags and how to diddle. I turn the bags in inside out and then kinda push the corners in a bit so they don't protrude when I put the first bucket of dirt in. They don't really stick out much anyways but the smoother they are, the easier plastering will be. There's a drawstring on the bags so what I've been doing is firming the ends and either drawing the string shut or just folding it over and pushing it against the other bag. Don't think it needs more than that.

Covering with plastic works great. There's always moisture inside in the morning and very little cracking on the bags. VERY firm and solid.

I am looking forward to the arrival at grade level. I can only imagine how much easier it will be to fill bags that aren't three feet down!

I'm loving this. The wind doesn't get to me anymore--I can eat, sleep, cook and work in it. I'm loving the work. I'm loving the routine. I'm loving the isolation and solitude (though feel free to come break it--and I mean you, Claire!). I love looking at the pit and coming up with new ideas and seeing my house grow before my eyes. I love the quiet and the beautiful moons. Speaking of which, I love laying in a hot spring every night. I love the river every afternoon. I love the exhaustion and the insatiable hunger (I'm gonna get a burger today to try to remedy that). I'm just loving this.


  1. Hope you're going to Five Star Burgers for that burger!

    It's great to see your progress and that you're enjoying yourself. I'm two weeks off from moving out to my land, then probably another two before I start building, and I can't wait. I too am looking forward to the development of muscles, and all the rest of it.

  2. Alyssa,

    I would like to buy all of your humanure.

    Don't ask why just name the price.

  3. I went to the Trading Post Cafe. I've been checking up on your blog waiting for you to get out to your land. Exciting!

  4. You can't afford my humanure.

  5. Shoot, I live right by Trading Post. Getting out to the land - yeah - I'm officially in the overwhelmed stage with all this. I'm having a garage sale on Saturday and feel completely unprepared. Too much to do and too little time.

  6. Very cool to see your progress, Aly. I'll be building with mesh bags as well. Your bean shape is interesting.

  7. Thanx! Checked out your blog. Sounds awesome. I have a kitty too :-)