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, June 22, 2012

What's Been Happening

I've gotten a lot done lately. Along with that is an anxiety that I'm not getting things done fast enough and that there is a sense of urgency. Which there isn't. It isn't even the solstice yet! Today is a day off. A real day off. I'm friends with a couple who keep Shabbat. They don't do it because of deep religious convictions, but because of its original purpose: to force you to break the week, give you time to spend with family and loved ones and to take a rest and to sit with life. They stay at home, or wherever they happen to be if they're on a trip, and don't drive on Saturdays. I stopped by last week to borrow some tools to set up my solar system and ended up staying for brunch and the entire afternoon. I could sense the strong effect of committing to such a thing in a world where a sense of urgency is so pervasive.

I haven't slept well in over three weeks. It could be the coffee (that I gave up for five days or so), the mice in my ceiling, perhaps the cats, the moon. There's many possible causes, but I know in my heart that it's really an overactive mind that is constantly in the what's next. When you're always in the what's next there is no time to truly rest and be in the now.

So what has been getting done? First, I made a chicken coop for six chickens. It took longer than I expected and is kinda ghetto, but it got done and serves its purpose, kinda. Today I went out to let them out of the house and into their small yard (when they're full grown I'm going to let them free during the days) and there were no chickens. I could see their prints outside the house and so knew they had just snuck out through small gaps—they're still quite small—but didn't see them. Soon, however, my cats began to attack them. Well, four of them. Those four are snug in their house and I have no idea where the other two are. They'll probably, hopefully, come back towards evening.

Then I started renovating the shed. I'm putting in a brick floor and mudding the inside, and eventually the outside, so that it's mouse proof since my solar setup and all the wires are in there. As soon as I began to work on it, I realized that it was going to be much too nice to be a shed. It's not done at all, and I'll take my dandy time with it, but it will be an electrical room in a small corner and a guest room for now. That means, of course, that I'll have to build  a very simple shed, probably out of pallets, for my tools. More catchment space!

Once I got brick floor on the small area where the battery/electrical box goes, and mudded the wall behind it, I could set up my solar. Two Sundays ago, Susan and her friend came over to help. It was very easy. I borrowed scaffolding from my neighbor and we attached the panel to the roof, and hooked up the wires. I had no electrical tape and there was the need to splice two sets of wires in one place. In my burning desire to have it set up I just wrapped them together and left them exposed for a day, which isn't the best idea. They're safely under electrical tape now.

My solar setup consists of a 140 watt kyocera panel. I got this as a part of  a solar kit from a company in Flagstaff. It runs into a 10amp Morningstar controller, and into the battery bank. There are two 6 volt 400 amp hour gel batteries hooked up in series, which means that they become one 12 volt 400 amp hour battery. We got all that wired on Sunday and on Monday, my 1500 watt pure sine ramsund inverter arrived. I was so excited to hook it up but unfortunately they sent me the wrong one—24v instead of 12v—so I'll have to wait. Instead I've hooked up a small 400 watt inverter that I used last summer with my car battery to shave my head and charge things. It can't run my circular saw, but I did stick an extension cord into my house from it and had light from my lamp!

The solar really stressed me out. I didn't know anything about it initially, and had no one that could explain it to me. I found some youtube videos showing peoples' systems which was helpful at first, but I only found one video of someone actually doing it. There's lots of little pieces and until they click, which they thankfully did on Friday, it makes no sense. Now it seems very simple. If you are struggling with your system and need someone to explain the wiring etc., please contact me and I will be more than happy to help you as much as I can.

While that's all set up, I still need to connect my inverter and ground both the panel and the negative terminal from my battery. I finally have all the little pieces for that. This week I'm going to mouse proof my walls so that I can take the 500 pounds of sheeps' wool that takes up half my house, and put it in my ceiling. I'll also work on my solar shed and the new tool shed. I plan on taking one total day off every week now, so will probably blog that day, which will be a lot more often. At first I questioned whether blogging counted as working on my house. But then I realized that since it's something I never find time for, it probably doesn't.

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