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!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Goodbye Summer!

Winter is here...or at least came in last week's frost and is coming again soon. I have been at the house, loving the quiet, solitude and new neighbors. Getting work done with the baby is a completely different experience though; what would have once taken me a good day of work drags on for a month or so.In my overwhelming desire to get everything 100% finished, I have had to accept that there is always going to be something to do. Maybe the house would be more weather and airtight if it had that much needed finish plaster outside, but it'll last till next year and, besides, I have a wood stove. We'll be warm. Speaking of which, now is as good a time as any to put out there that I'm looking for someone to do an exterior plaster workshop on my house next spring. If you are interested or know anyone that might be, let me know!

Since I can't get everything done, I've had to prioritize both what is most important to me for livability, and what would have extra benefit if I completed it sooner. The stairs were key for me, so instead of waiting till sometime next year that I could do them myself, I hired Vince to make them, and as an added bonus he made them much nicer than I would have ever bothered to.

I planted three trees--cherry, apple, and plum--because planting a year sooner means eating a year sooner. I must add that I had impeccable timing. I got the last one planted the day before the crazy rains started so the trees had a very good and wet first few weeks of life. 

The wood stove, of course, was essential. My friend's ex husband is in that line of work and so so kindly, got me the stove and most of the stovepipe for free and installed it for me. Likewise, the solar panel was installed on my shed roof at a fine angle for summer but one that would have resulted in me not having electricity this winter (I'm running on 140 watts and I have a fridge). On the other hand, the shade structure was simply something that I had wanted to build for two and a half years and so I did. It's a beautiful place to lay and watch stars.

There's of course a seasonal aspect to choosing work. Some stuff like pouring cement for the shade structure can't happen in the winter. I want running water in my kitchen, but running flexible copper pipe on my ceiling (it will look cool) to there from the bathroom can happen when there's four feet of snow outside. So can framing in the bedroom for the baby, as well as a million other things that creep onto my list everyday.

For now, it's nice to have a cozy home, remembering that there is infinite time. And an infinite list.


  1. Hi Alyssa, So glad that you and Xiamara made it safely! Sorry we couldn't come to your house warming. Do you have a po box so that we can send you something? I'm so glad that we had a chance to visit while you were in town. Your place looks great, the babe is growing, and is more and more beautiful with each picture. Hope you are well, and I'm so glad that you have such a nice following of people that read and care about you! Much love, claire

    1. Hi Claire! I miss you guys! Ill email you my address. Much love and see you soon. Xoxoxo

  2. My wife introduced me to your blog last year and then grabbed me this evening with your latest update.

    If you get a chance google ubuntublox and or harvey lacey. It sure would have been nice to have a go getter like you take on this project with ubuntublox.

    One of the things I advocate is that women can do as much if not more work in a day than men. Conventional wisdom believes that women have to do the work the same way men do. That's bs and unfair because men work different from women.

    A great example of the way I think vs conventional wisdom is mixing concrete, same works for plaster. Men use upper body muscles to do the work mostly because of strut, think male birds showing off. Women on the other hand don't have the upper body strength, not so much interested in the strut either it seems. But if you look at the women of the world you will see women spending all day long with a hoe working in the fields, lower body muscles, rhythm, and endurance means they can do it all day long, day in and day out, without too much male competition either.

    Back in the day concrete was mixed here in the states with hoes in mixing tubs, great concrete, most of it still viable upwards of a hundred years later. Women can make as much concrete in a day as a man using the hoe and the tub as a man can do with a shovel and a wheelbarrow because the man can't work as long because his way takes too much energy, strut does exact a price.

    I would love to do a workshop at your place. Preferably it would be women doing the work with tools and methods designed for the way women work.

    I'm easy to find, all over the internet because of ubuntublox and other stuff. If it sounds interesting get back with us. Harvey and Glenda

    1. Wow! Your work looks amazing. What I love about must of the natural building world is how committed people are to selflessly spreading knowledge. You not patenting the ubuntublox design is a case in point. So excited about a womens workshop! I will email you through your sure soon. Thanx!

  3. Hi I am looking for agricultural land in NM, I prefer the North West areas that will allow me to build with earthbags. If anyone could please provide me information. Thank you.

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