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!

Friday, October 21, 2011


Today's my day off. Probably the first day off that I am not figuring out something on the house or buying supplies (though I am going to swing by Home Depot) in memory. So, I was pretty determined that I wasn't going to blog either. I've needed a bit of space from my house, in the same way that if you spend 180 days straight with the love of your life you might want to go for a walk by yourself or, god forbid, spend the whole day apart. That would be the reason I've just been posting pictures lately and not writing much, if at all.

 Okay, I'll admit it. Until a few days ago I was sick and tired of my house and would have given anything for it to disappear. Actually, my little brother asked me how I would feel if a tornado hit and destroyed only my house. I told him I would be relieved. And it was the truth. It was. Now that I have a roof and actually live inside, I have fallen in love with my 500 square foot abode in a totally new way. It's no longer that ever-nagging project of improving something else, often resulting in self-neglect (I put off waxing my armpits for 4 months because I felt like I didn't have time), but has become an experience of bonding and beautiful enjoyment. Living inside my house, ironically, I have space from it for the first time.

Admittedly, just living outside took quite a toll on me. I lived in a tent and then a shed for a total of 6 months. Going outside to use the bathroom in all weather, lacking a real kitchen, having all your senses subject to all the elements in a pretty damn harsh climate, wanting to be able to just relax at home. Sitting down here in Santa Fe doing things I thought I would like to be doing on this monumental break day, I realize that all I want to be doing right now is laying in bed and reading a book. Not sick, and not a building book. Healthy, reading fiction that I can now gaze at lovingly on the walls.

Speaking of which. I've missed looking at my books which haven't been all together in a year, and sleeping on my bed which has been away for the same length of time. Being in space that is mine and that won't disappear if I go away on a trip for a month or a year or ten, or if I break up with a boyfriend for the millionth time. Some semblance of permanence for a girl who rarely if ever has much in her life.

Now, also, that my mind is not 99.9% transfixed on a singular project, I'm replugging into the world. Friday, the day the roof went on, was a hard day. That night I started bawling for no tangible reason I could identify. I was swimming in such a sea of emotions--relief, sadness, joy, gratitude--and it was all pouring out. I cried, and have been crying, like I haven't in memory. For the first time in ages, I'm actually able to mourn a relationship that ended sometime before the roof went on, and to remember my human side that wants to wear clothes without holes and stains and is interested in the opposite sex.

I have time. I can see friends, do more yoga, sleep in without guilt, spend five hours at the hot springs. I can do whatever I want because this project no longer needs every ounce of my blood, sweat and tears. Though it does still need my (and your!) humanure. The experience of coming out of an all-consuming vortex is not wholly unfamiliar to me. I've been known, by everyone, to fall head over heels in love and totally lose myself until I snap out of it. Usually that snapping out is a pretty ugly process that involves ex-communicating said love (never setting foot in the house again), being angry (hitting the walls with a jackhammer repeatedly), becoming cynical about men (don't build a natural house!) and swearing off of men (I will never fill an earthbag again!). What a relief that people can actually grow. Not only is it amazing to put all of my creative energy into something, and not someone, that I love, but it's so beautiful to go through and past the obsession stage and see what's on the other side: a much more sustainable, balanced, deeper and eternal love. Not to mention a place to live.

I doubt I will ever finish. At least I hope I don't. Over the next couple of weeks I still have to plaster, gutter, build a wood stove and insulate. By mid-summer of next year I would guess that the house will be as good as finished. But there's always more to do: gardening can expand endlessly and I don't think I'll ever stop wanting to design and build houses whether for myself or others. For now, I'm still a bit flabbergasted that I began, much less roofed, this house. Next time I take a day off I think I'll just lay inside and marvel.


  1. So good to hear you're still in love (with the house)...I think it is different living in it, versus building it. For instance, I have a business that I have worked years to build, and was growing to hate it, whereas I realize now that I don't have to bust my ass so much any more. I can sit back and watch my employees do the hard work (they are paid VERY well), and I can just sit back and manage things, and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

    Good for you...start allowing yourself to sleep in now and then, and pick up that book of fiction.


  2. Congratulations Aly!! YOU DID IT!! What a grand accomplishment, so proud of you for sticking it out and for going through all the other angst (and heat and and and). It looks so cozy and lovely and sheltered. Hope I will be able to see the finished project in the future. Best wishes to you from me and Lake Superior!! Judy

  3. I love this post, and there's so much in it that I want to respond to, but I can do that in person, so I'll just ask the really important question:

    So did you wax those armpits yet? :)

  4. Of course I waxed!! And clipped my toe nails :-)

    Thanks ladies!