I hope for this blog post to be a general guide for those who plan on building their home (earthship or otherwise) with their own two hands. The premise is to provide others with a "heads up" so that you know what to expect along the way.
First Trimester: The Planning Stages
Welcome to the first trimester of your sustainable home build! You're likely feeling giddy with excitement and cannot wait to meet your future home. You may be feeling a bit nauseous from all the anticipation but rest assured it will subside by the second trimester (the building phase) and be replaced by a burst of energy along with some newfound aches and pains.
Months 1-4: You don't know it yet, but a seed has been planted that will forever change the course of your life. Throughout the years, you've picked up information along the way about the way the world works and you're not about that life. You intuitively know better. You know that you don't have to conform and that there must be another way. You go to your “nine-to-five” job every day, spend little time with family, mow your lawn, buy preservative-filled, pre-packaged foods, and you're exhausted and uninspired. You're at the end of your rope but you don't fully know why or what could possibly change. Soon, these gut instincts will come to fruition and the wheels will be set in motion.
Month 5: By now, you are likely feeling so fed up that you've decided you must do something about it. You begin to open up to your family about a desire for another life. A simpler life where you generate your own resources instead of paying a third party to keep you and your family afloat. You're longing for real connection in your life and are sick of superficial conversations and friendly acquaintances. You want to feel a part of something and yearn to be interdependent with your fellow man. You're feeling frustrated though because you don't have a solution. You simply know something must change. Perhaps you'll leave the country. After all, Sweden is a great place to call home! You could take up a life with a different culture altogether and start fresh somewhere. Hmmm... What to do, what to do? You simultaneously think "well, my life isn't bad. I mean I'm not starving, I'm in relatively good health. I have shelter. What more could I want? Maybe I just need a shift of perspective."
Month 6: Nope. Nuh-uh. Hell to the no! Can't do it. Won't do it. Must do something different stat! Your family is beginning to give you the stink eye for being a bit stranger than they thought you were. They nod their heads in approval when you talk about your discontent but give you blank stares all around. They think, "There’s nothing wrong with the American dream! We've made so much progress! What's not to love?" You pick up on their feelings and so, you begin talking to those like-minded, "peculiar" friends you have instead and you begin scouring the internet for ideas of an alternate life.
Month 7: By George, you've got it! You'll build an earthship home! It makes perfect sense and your future seems bright for the first time. The grass is the greenest of greens. The sky is the deepest of blues. The world is your oyster and dammit, you're going to make the most of your time on this earth. You are going to be a proud owner of an earthship home! You can hardly stand it and begin spending every waking moment thinking about it. You find it hard to sleep though because your worldview is expanding. You're seeing everything in a new light. Nothing can stop you now!
Month 8: By now, your earthship is growing more and more with each passing day. Your sleep is disturbed as you can't stop thinking about how you're going to make this all happen. How much money will I need to begin? Can I really build it myself? Will I be a good earthship owner? What phone calls do I need to make so that I can begin setting things in motion? Nausea usually begins to set in at this point in your earthship pregnancy as you are starting to grasp how many stones lay unturned in your endeavor and how many to-do's you must now find a way of packing into your daily life along with working your ho-hum job, taking care of your family and keeping up the appearance of your home [that you now couldn't despise more for being a time-suck].
Month 9: You begin obsessively watching YouTube videos about earthship building in your spare time and while on-the-job. You secretively steal away to your office/ cubicle/ bathroom to watch whatever you can about alternative, sustainable building techniques. Your appetite is ravenous for knowledge about this life you have chosen to lead and so when you get home, you ignore the appearance of your house and binge on Netflix documentaries like Garbage Warrior, Food Inc., Tapped, More Than Honey, and begin connecting the dots that were once gut instincts. This increases your nausea though because you're even more totally disgusted with the American Dream than ever before. You're finding it difficult to hold superficial conversations with co-workers, family and friends and spend the majority of your time in your off-the-grid fantasy life.
Month 10: You've become vegetarian if not vegan at this point, especially after viewing all those documentaries and are eating better than ever before. Your mind and body are sharp but nausea still persists as you are still stuck in this old life! On the agenda for this week is to call a Realtor to begin looking at land for sale. Also, look into obtaining a loan if need be and getting your finances in order. Earthships may be made of junk and dirt, but they still cost money my friend! This week, your family will likely sit you down and share their concern for your mental health and overall well-being. They “love you” they say, and are hoping that you are making the right decision for your family. With a wild grin, you share far too much information about your dream home and watch them glaze over. They are more concerned now than ever.
Month 11: This month, you look for land with your Realtor; searching for your perfect patch of heaven. The nausea is beginning to subside as you begin visualizing yourself in your home and allow yourself to truly get pumped up for the ride that lie ahead! On the agenda this month is to find a free-thinking architect who knows what an earthship is and is up for the good fight that lie ahead. This path isn't one for the faint of heart, Dear One.
Month 12: This month marks a turning point for your earthship fetus. You've found your perfect land! You've put in an offer and it has been accepted. You begin doodling incessantly at work; trying to figure out the perfect layout for your home. You are speaking to your architect more than your mother at this point and all the garbage you used to pay attention to has gone by the wayside. Your lawn is atrocious and you're getting nasty looks from neighbors. Your friends and family think you've died or run off and joined a cult. You are blowing up Facebook with all things Earthship/ off-the-grid life.
Month 13: You've received a rough draft of your earthship home drawings from your architect. You get the phone call from him/her and plow through everyone and everything in your path to the nearest computer where you bring up the drawings for the first time. You have heard your earthship's heartbeat and you breathe a sigh of relief. This. Is. Really. Happening. You open up another tab in your internet browser and "share" "the news" with all your social networking followers. You've "come out" to everyone in your virtual world! It's on like Donkey Kong, Ladies and Gents.
Second Trimester- The Building Phase
Month 14: Since you've finally "come out" to those in your world, "raised your freak flag high," and begun embracing everything that is your earthship future, your first trimester earthship pregnancy symptoms are easing up. Everyone in your life has been introduced to your authentic self and you are on fire! To do's this month include firming up your earthship drawings with your eccentric, awesomely progressive architect and learning all there is to know about your county's residential building requirements. If you're lucky enough to live in a "no-man's land" where regulations are lax if not absent altogether, consider yourself a seriously lucky person. If you live in a more populated, highly regulated county, pick up a chainmail suit next time you hit up the renaissance supply house because you'll need it for the battle ahead. While bed rest may be necessary for sanity's sake, you won't have that opportunity. Earthships are the most demanding type of child you could ever be pregnant with and you will simply have to push even harder when the going gets tough.
Month 15: Your drawings are ready and you've hopefully begun sourcing used tires from local tire dealers. Uh-oh! You still have to obtain your Beneficial Use of Tires Permit from the good 'ole Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as your building permit in order to start construction in month 18 so you'd better get a move on, my friend! Now that friends and family have a general understanding of what you're hoping to do, they're starting to ask some of the more logistical questions. “So, are you going to be pooping in a bucket now?” “Will you have electricity?” “Is your floor going to be made of dirt?” “What will you do in the winter when it gets cold?” You politely inform them that you aren't opting for a third-world residence and will have all the same amenities as they do. Your home will generate them, however, and you will have freedom to live life as you see fit instead of going to a nine-to-fiver to pay corporate overlords the toll to simply stay afloat. Sadly, they still don't truly understand and picture you living more like Mick Dodge; running around the forest with unkempt, wild hair with only animal hides and furs to protect your skin. You can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when they “get it” as they tour your gorgeous home for the first time!
Month 16: This month, you’ll see your sweet lil’ earthship home in black and white on the final drawings you’ll be submitting to your county for approval (or not if you’re one of the Lucky Ones). You’ll head to Kinko’s, print them out and immediately rush to the county with that stupid, wild grin you’ve had on your face since this whole earthship thing started taking form. As you slide the drawings across the counter, you imagine confetti raining down from the heavens, a roar of applause from a crowd of county employees who quickly hoist you upon their shoulders; parading you about the building department with pride and admiration all the while with Earth, Wind, and Fire’s Celebrate playing in the background. Instead, you get that familiar stink eye from the front desk employee as she dares you to speak one more word, let alone continue grinning like the Cheshire cat. You stop yourself from going into lengthy details about your sublime Earthship baby-on-board and cowardly look away and put your head down to dodge the mind-bullets she’s been shooting at you since you walked in.
In addition to submitting your home drawings, it is also time to submit your “Beneficial Use of Tires” application to the EPA so you can save tires from a landfill. Now, if you were building a rifle range backstop out of tires (built almost in the same fashion as an earthship), you wouldn’t be required to submit anything more than a “heads up” to the EPA. Perhaps this is because they deem the stereotypical “gun-wielder” as more responsible than the hair-brained hippy you appear to be. They imagine you’ll give up halfway through and that your land will look like an illegal dump site that ends up yet another piece of paper on their desk to deal with. Little do they know, you’ve got the wherewithal of a cockroach and can withstand anything life throws at you!
Month 17: This month, you begin to put together your earthship nursery by prepping the build site. You make sure that your earthship’s “bed” is perfectly level and stable so that it has the foundation for a fruitful, prosperous life. You have started the first of many Facebook and social networking “shout-outs” for volunteers and you get tons of positive feedback from people in your circle. Your siblings, parents, and some select friends say they’ll be there the first weekend of tire pounding and you feel abounding love and support. Perhaps they’re starting to “get it” after all! Maybe they’ve seen the light and understand what you’re all about!
Month 18: Your earthship child will begin to take shape before your very eyes this month. Its skeletal system is taking form and is truly a labor of love. Your very own blood, sweat and tears are going into its formation and as a result, you’re eating more than ever this month. After all, it takes a lot out of you to create such a masterpiece! The community is likely rallying around you at this point and you have many people out to help that very first weekend. You’re full of energy this month as you’re invigorated by the troops rallying your progress! Everyone says they will be back time and time again and you feel as though you’ll be taking up residence in your earthship home in no time. Your county has begrudgingly approved your building plans as you have an architect’s stamp but they secretly assume it will look just like the pile of junk it is being made out of. They are very curious about your build and hope it will work out but again assume that because you are a peace-loving, plant-eating, hippy-dippy-do-da that you don’t have the elbow grease to make it a reality.
Month 19: You have around 1,000 tires to pound to complete the tire foundation portion of your earthship skeleton and have only pounded 100. You are completely overwhelmed now as you are beginning to grasp what it will truly take to bring your earthship baby into this world. You wonder if you have what it takes to make it to through the delivery alive. At this rate, you won’t have the tires completed for another nine months and winter is set to begin in six. You begin to think, “What have I gotten myself into?” This is going to take a LOT longer than anticipated! The family, friends and community supporters who were helping out have already ceased almost entirely as only crazy people would pound dirt into tires in their spare time. You find yourself crying at the drop of a hat and feel a lack of motivation as muscle fatigue sets in.
Month 20: You have chosen to move your target move-in date back another year or so already and are now simply pushing to have the tires completed by the first snow-fly. You are feeling a burst of energy as you feel this goal is much more feasible. You begin aggressively recruiting fellow odd-balls and gluttons for punishment who find enjoyment in ramming dirt into tires and have some regular help at the build site. Your family is beginning to ignore your Facebook invites for another “fun-filled weekend” with tires and dirt and you begin almost exclusively associating yourself with your architect, the three people who show up to your earthship’s nursery to help out and the EPA employee who has been assigned to watch you like a hawk.
Month 21: You only have two layers (of nine total) completed in your earthship home and depression and lethargy begin to take over. Due to increased stress, you are likely to develop a serious illness during this month and your cars, tractor, refrigerator and air conditioner will all break down on your at the same time. Your house will become overrun by flies because you aren’t able to do any dishes and food is rotting away at a steady pace. It is possible, flames will engulf your current residence because that’s the s*** that happens when you choose to build an earthship yourself. Oh yeah, and you will also have to put down your beloved family pet. You feel like death and everything is caving in on you.
Month 22: Things are looking up this month as a new volunteer comes straight from the gates of heaven; peeing rainbows and pooping sunshine. They remind you why you are doing what you’re doing and ensure that you are on the right path. This person will be your Earthship Doula; assisting you throughout the latter months of your earthship pregnancy and throughout the delivery process. They are just as crazy as you (if not entirely off the deep end) and are just what you needed.
Month 23: Due to the support from your Doula, you now have three total layers of your earthship’s skeletal system formed and are more than halfway through your fourth. You haven’t spoken to family for months now and many of your more conventionally-minded, conservative friends have abandoned you entirely; considering you too much of a social liability. After all, you can no longer speak superficially and delve right into topics that make people uncomfortable: politics, money, and religion. You have lost all ability to socialize in a politically correct fashion and are beginning to see mainstream Americans as the crazy ones; all the while appearing more and more lost to those people.
Month 24: It is likely that equipment integral to continuing to form your earthship fetus has broken down yet again but be patient Dear One as you’ll get there… one day. The leaves are beginning to change and holiday decorations are out in stores. It’s bittersweet to know that your earthship fetus will go into hibernation for the winter months now and you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that you won’t be getting into your earthship home anytime soon.
Months 25-28: Just as you enter into the third trimester of your earthship pregnancy, your earthship fetus’ growth has been halted almost entirely. Did you know that it takes more energy to create an earthship baby than it does a human fetus? So be sure to take this time to rest up and begin to build up connections with long-lost family and friends to ensure you still have humans in your life when your earthship is complete. It may seem that other humans will be null-in-void when you have your earthship home taking care of your every basic need but rest assured, other humans, especially those who are like-minded, are necessary to a well-rounded existence!
Third Trimester: The Roadkill Stage
Month 29: The ground is thawing, and so you revisit your earthship's nursery to spruce things up a bit before its growth continues. You’ve spent the last several months resting your mind, body and spirit to prepare for the pregnancy phases that lie ahead. You’ve rounded up a gaggle of like-minded, dirt-sledging folk to help kick off the growth of the last half of your earthship skeleton and so progress is fierce and steady this month. You complete two more layers of your fetus’ skeletal system this month and are showing no signs of stopping! THIS. IS. THE. YEAR. You will be in your dream home by the end of this year as you have last year’s knowledge and experiences under your belt and no one can stop you!
Month 30: It’s raining, it’s pouring, your earthship fetus is drowning… Nothing can prepare you for an entire month of rain and there you sit inside, separated from your earthship baby-to-be drowning in your own tears while your baby drowns in the rainwater you’d like to be harvesting from your COMPLETED earthship home. Never in earth’s existence has there ever been so much rain in one month! A new record has been established. Bravo, Mother Nature, bravo.
Month 31: The rain has finally stopped, my friend. You’re full speed ahead once more and new earthship support people arrive just in time for the final push in completing the skeletal system. At this point, your hunger and thirst for “earthship porn” has been fully quenched and you avoid any pictures, stories, videos of completed earthship homes like the plague. In fact, you throw up in your mouth a little anytime anyone shares anything earthship-related with you on social networking sites. You are likely feeling as though you’re never going to actually birth this earthship fetus and that it will forever constipate the fruitful, free life you had imagined for yourself. Despite the disgust, you somehow pull strength from the depths of your tired soul to continue charging ahead and complete the skeletal system this month.
Month 32: Now that the skeletal system is finally complete, you can focus on forming the organs of your earthship home. This month, you will install and bury the cisterns and lay all the necessary framework so that the slab can be poured next month. At this point, everything is moving quickly and your faith is restored that you will be under-roof in time for winter! Since the tires are complete, all that’s left is fairly traditional building techniques and how hard can that be?!
Month 33: Growth is steady but you’re beginning to feel the third trimester fatigue and are beginning to waddle from the damage done to your body throughout this pregnancy. You look in the mirror this month and notice more gray hairs on your head and more wrinkles on your face. You have more callouses on your hands and feet than your primate cousins. You have the appearance and odor of roadkill. Your hair is wild, your eyes even wilder but your biceps. Yes, your biceps have never been plumper, firmer and stronger. You might give off the impression of a horse needing to be put down, but dammit, you are one strong, vital, decrepit, smelly, Trojan horse! Strangers begin to avoid you from this period in your pregnancy on mainly due to your appearance and stench. The same goes for family. The only people by your side are those like-minded, wild-eyed, hairy, smelly, peace-loving, hippy-dippy-do-da friends that will become your makeshift family when some blood relatives decide to denounce you once and for all for your far-out views, beliefs, opinions and overall way of life.
Month 34: You’re over it. So over it. People keep telling you you’re “oh so close” to being under-roof and delivering this baby but you don’t believe it. You can’t. At this time, you likely suffer from a real, clinical condition called Post Traumatic Earthship Disorder [PTED]. You find it difficult to sleep due to nightmares about your demise. You’re constantly looking over your shoulder waiting for your tractor to break down, for serious illness to overtake you, for the EPA to find fault with something you’re doing, for your neighbors to report you for something. You find it difficult to trust anyone who affiliates themselves with “mainstream” America. Anytime you see a missed call or receive a piece of mail from a county or government agency, you assume your earthship build will come to a grinding halt. But there is help, Plagued One. FINISH. THE. DAMN. HOME.
Months 35-40+: Because your Earthship Doula is such a positive influence, he/she is able to guide you through the rest of your earthship’s bodily formation. He/she keeps you smiling when you’re losing it, knows just when to crack inappropriate jokes, and when to tell you to take a hike and take time away. Fortunately for you, the nesting phase begins nearing month 37 and you find it within yourself, with frozen snot stuck to your already disheveled face, to finish the shell of the Damn Home and give birth. The delivery is anything but swift and your earthship baby is in the breech position. Forceps are needed to pull it from your sweat and blood soaked body, but you look into its windows and fall absolutely, unequivocally in love. You’ve felt nothing like this before and are overcome with gratitude to all the people who have assisted you throughout this process. You sing the praises of your earthship Doula and know you couldn’t have done it without him/her.
Family and friends whom you’ve lost contact with phone you to come and see your earthship baby. While initially, you couldn’t wait to show it off to the world, you now become possessive and protective. You want your sweet earthship baby all to yourself. No one else could possibly know what it took to bring this home to fruition and so, with the wildest of eyes, you shut the door to the world and enjoy the beauty that is your earthship home. Where you were once speaking maniacally about your earthship baby-to-be, speaking itself has come to a grinding halt. You communicate via guttural noises and swift, jerky movements. You look like a hermit at this point after all and so you spend several weeks filling those shoes with ease. You may be a mere shell of who you once were, but you have the shell of an earthship to show for it.
Congratulations earthship parent! You should be beaming with pride! Now, go shower, ‘kay?