WHAT ARE EARTHBAGS AND WHY AM I BUILDING WITH THEM?

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, August 9, 2013

Moving Back Home









I've been meaning to write for a while. By a while I mean months, of course, or even a year if I mean a juicy posting that's actually conveying what I'm doing. As you may have noted early last fall, I was a little behind because I was just too busy trying to get done everything I needed to get done before the baby came, which was a bit early anyways.


When I finally got back to New Mexico early last week, moving into my house a few days later, I started gearing up to write a post about everything that's different in the house. I got a little extra boost of motivation when the Pollinatrix told me that Owen had posted about me again, and some were wondering what had happened to me.

What did happen to me? I took off for California last fall fully intending to come back a few months later to tie up some odds and ends in the house so I could give birth here in February. But then the baby came three months early and we spent two and a half months at Stanford Children's hospital as she slowly but surely grew to five pounds. Neither I nor the house were in a place for us to move back here, so we went to live with my sister and her husband in Northern California. Though initially we were intending to stay quite some time, I visited Taos in June and couldn't stay away much longer. So, we flew back to the west coast, packed up everything, and drove out to live on the beautiful mesa.

I must confess, not only do I not write on my blog anymore, but I don't write at all. Maybe three pages in the past year, plus a few letters that I've written to a friend. Though intending to write this blog post about the house, I feel like I have to describe what this year has been like to convey what life, and my house, and living in my house are like today.

Last summer, spent out here working on the interior of my house, was the beginning of the hardest (and most beautiful) year of my life. That difficulty has more or less wrapped itself up (I hope). The stress of trying to finish a house so that you can have a baby in it (and a place to live with the baby), while feeling so physically ill, becoming a complete emotional mess, and feeling abandoned by almost everyone in your life, including the father of your child, was jarring. I'm grateful for the incredible friends and family who I do and did have and who have been immense supports.

As often happens, at the point of ultimate exhaustion without an iota of energy left, I went into labor. I didn't even know you could go into labor at 26 weeks, which is perhaps why I thought I had just eaten too much Tapatio for twelve hours of contractions. Four days on an anti-contraction med magnesium (makes you hot and thirsty but also retain water so you can barely drink any, plus it constipates you) and I gave birth to an itty-bitty girl that weighed 2lbs 1 oz (1lb 13oz at her smallest), who lived in an incubator and got fed sugar water. I got to hold her almost from the beginning, tucked into my shirt, and also watched her get poked and tested and forget to breathe and slowly grow into the sweet, spunky, curious girl that she is. Meanwhile, I lived in my car for the first three weeks, and then got a room in the Ronald McDonald House (if you've ever heard of them but not known what they do they're amazing—they provide inexpensive/free rooms and much more for families with children in the hospital). I pumped eight times a day (which is more or less your whole day), so that I could establish a milk supply for her and eventually begin to nurse her. And I worried about her constantly. And then, one day, we got released. I got to put her in her car seat and drive away.

And from there I went to my sister's and began to recuperate. And watch my father die of prostate cancer. And let my heart heal. And start to relearn how to breath. And move home. And step back into my former life with a new me and a new baby. And maybe start writing again.

So here I am, in the house. I have a brand spanking new Sundanzer DC fridge, hot water in my shower, beautiful but not hooked up kitchen and bathroom sinks, a dining room table, curtains, a not quite hooked up woodstove, chickens, a closet for my clothes, a bamboo ceiling and, coming soon, a meditation perch and some decent stairs. And, of course, my monkey Xiomara Nightingale.

I hope that this is the start of a good thing and you will be hearing more from me soon.


12 comments:

  1. Hi there -- really enjoyed your blog, as I've been interested in earthbag and superadobe and now hyperadobe for awhile. (Hope to build on land in the Yucatan.) It was a big undertaking you took on with very little help - it looks great and hope you're proud of your accomplishment.
    I noticed the posts were from 2011 so thought you may have retired the blog because of the new little one in your life, and was actually re-reading some posts the other day and said to my partner "I wonder how that lady is doing in her new house?" and much to my delight this new post just appeared!
    A bit like the appearance of an old pal, but I was very sorry to read about the loss of your father. My partner just lost his mother, so when I read of your loss, the time seemed right for a long-time reader like myself to finally write a "hello" and "thanks" and we wish you and your wee girl well.
    All the best, from your Toronto, Canada readers.
    Samantha.

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    1. It's so nice to hear from you. I've been out of touch for so long it's great to know people will still read what I write :)

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  2. Hi, Glad to hear that you are back on board. I think what you've done is amazing. Best of luck and lots of love and peace to you both.
    Veronica
    PS. Writing comes back.

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    1. Thanks. Already witnessing it happening :)

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  3. So glad to see a post from you! I wrote you before, I was the girl afraid of snakes! Unfortunately the fear was bigger than low land cost and I settled for land in Missouri. I build next summer and I am beyond excited. I come to your blog about once a month, checking for updates and getting a bit of inspiration. The house looks wonderful and your baby girl is beautiful. I write also but when my mom passed the words sort of packed up their suitcases and went with her. Then one night, grazing on hummus, there they were! Hope to see more post but no rush, this whole blog is an awesome gift already!

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    1. Hi MissMrs, I was wondering how you were doing on your land in Missouri? My family and I are shopping the various states for where to buy also and I'd love to be near like minded people where ever we end up.

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  4. Your place looks great and the baby is beautiful. Good Job!

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  5. Congrats on the beautiful baby. I missed your blog and hearing about you. My sister was early with all of hers. My nephew who was just under 2 lbs is now 6'9 and in Navy bootcamp. I'm happy your baby is happy beautiful and healthy. Congrats, she is adorable...

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  6. I am so happy to see that you and your new baby are safe at home. I was hoping that you would return sometime soon to finish your home. It turned out great, and your baby is absolutely beautiful. I was hoping for an opportunity to come out and help you finish the house. Stay blessed.

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  7. I remember reading in one of your posts that you hired help. Do you remember the contact information for the gentleman that your hired? I have finally found a piece of land in Taos New Mexico, and I am looking for builder help. Thanks, Blondell.

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  8. Thanks for all the well wishes! Blondell, email me at Alyb23 at gmail and I'll give you some contact info.

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  9. Thank you so much. I feel if I have some help I will do better.

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