Saturday, February 14, 2015

First 2015 Earthship Workshop Weekend- May 2-3, 2015

We've pinned down a weekend for our first earthship build workshop of 2015! We will be hosting the first of several more "formal" workshop weekends on Saturday, May 2, 2015 and Sunday, May 3, 2015 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM each day. The cost will be $25 per person for the WHOLE weekend and mainly covers the cost of food and making copies of any material handed out. We will provide breakfast and lunch both days (meat and veggie friendly) and camping is available upon request. While we will host more informal, FREE work and skill building weekends every other weekend throughout the building season (April 2015- October 2015), the workshop weekends will be more informative, will include much more time for question asking and answering and we will be providing some handouts outlining the information we plan on covering.

 The first workshop weekend (May 2-3, 2015) will cover the "Tire Foundation" portion of building an earthship. We've refined our process throughout the past year and would like to pass on our tips and tricks of making progress swifter and less physically taxing. Thus, this first workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Site preparation
  • Obtaining building materials and obtaining special permits through the EPA 
  • Overall costs of building an earthship
  • "Pounding" a tire by hand 
  • "Pounding" a tire with a pneumatic tamper
  • Installing drainage
  • Building the berm
  • Compaction tests via geotechnical engineers
  • Constructing a half-tire, etc.

While there will be portions that will be discussion and Q&A, a great deal of the weekend will be physical in nature as we've learned best by doing and feel this is the best way to obtain a realistic view of what it is like to build an earthship home.

We ask that all participants are over the age of 16 and that those between 16 and 18 years of age attend with a parent or guardian. Be dressed to get dirty and if you have any of the following items, please bring them with you (marked with your name):
  • Gloves 
  • Protective eyewear 
  • Boots 
  • Shovels 
  • Sledgehammers 
  • Hand-tampers 
  • Buckets
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Water Bottle- We will have drinking water available on-site but please bring a water bottle with you if you have one handy to save on having to use plastic cups.
If you'd like to camp the whole weekend, let us know and we will ensure you have a suitable place to do so!

You can secure your spot for the workshop via PayPal (see below) or you can send a $25 check to: Lauren & Zachary Craig, 2687 S. River Rd., Cedarville, OH 45314. Once we receive payment, we will send you a confirmation email with any updated information. PLEASE NOTE: If the weather doesn't cooperate (i.e. too much rain), we will plan on holding the workshop the next weekend (May 9-10, 2015).  We will contact you via email and/or telephone to confirm date change should  inclement weather arise.

Do you plan on camping on-site?

Here are some pictures from our build last year!  We finished up the year with 5 courses of 9 complete and our goal is to have the tire wall done by Summer 2015... come on out, learn truly beneficial skills, meet like-minded people and help us reach our goal!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Updated Earthship Floor Plan and Building Permit Feedback from our County!

The past month has been heavenly!  We departed the world of The Earthship for a tad and entered into a softer, easier realm of family and friends throughout the holiday season.  Not to say imperative to-dos haven't popped up and had to be tackled but we've certainly made the most of our vacation from tires and dirt.

In early December, we finally submitted our sealed earthship home drawings to our county for plan review and we just heard back this week!  We received an adjudication letter with a list of corrections to be addressed.  As I was reading through the list, I felt a greater sense of relief with each passing item as each one was something that could be addressed by our architect and/or with some quick research on our part.  We most certainly aren't out of the woods yet, but we are hopeful that we are in the last leg of the building permit process!  And to think, only one year after we started building our home... hahaha.  In this case, the home came before the permit!

Speaking of architects, we would like to pass along our architect's information as he has been tremendous in helping us out on such short notice!  His name is Matthew Stanfield from FiELD9 Architecture and he is based out of Mansfield, OH.  He specializes in sustainable, modern architecture and actually came out for our first workshop weekend last April!  CLICK HERE for the link to his website.

This is the most recent version of our floor plan.
Please note, however that the following drawing is for demonstration purposes only.  We disclaim any liability should one attempt to build a home or structure from the drawings we have included in our Secondhand Home Project blog.  Also, this image may not be used or reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without written permission from Lauren and Zachary Craig.  

The circular room at the southeast side of the home is to be made with bottle bricks.  Our plan is to create a circular play and craft room entirely from bottles, and traditional framing to achieve a stained glass effect that will inspire us each day.  This room along with the root cellar off the kitchen and our rocket stove bench are my most favorite features of the home.

We hope to begin working on our home once more this April once the ground and our brains and bodies have thawed out for the year.  This is the first year I've actually appreciated the winter season.  I feel that the closer one lives off the land, the more one yearns for a hunkering down and relief from the demanding seasons preceding it.

April will certainly be a full month for us as we are looking forward to our second son, Eivin Nikolai, being born as well!  I realize that this almost certainly will mean I won't be slinging dirt and tires this year though which is bittersweet.  My main focus will be taking care of our two sweet guys and finding ways to keep them entertained throughout the building process this year.

One way I plan to do so is through planting a garden so that we can have easy access to fresh, healthy food options on our land as we build this year.  Eivin will be a tiny guy, so he will be delighted to be strapped to my body while Elliot and I plant and nurture our garden.  We will be trying out the Square Foot Gardening technique this year as it seemed the most concrete, methodical way of creating a manageable garden with two kiddos in tow.

While I may be out for the count this year when it comes to partaking in the actual building process, we will again be inviting anyone and everyone (over the age of 16) to assist in our earthship build for 2015!  Once a date is finalized, we will be sure to post information about our first big skill building/ work weekend.  The fee for this weekend will only be to cover the cost of food for participants.  However, should you desire to bring your own food along, the cost will be free!  We're hoping to draw a big crowd to mark the start of our 2015 building year so please pass on the word!  All throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall, we will be inviting those of you interested out each weekend to help us reach our goal of getting under roof this year and in the process, gaining the skills to build an earth-rammed tire home for FREE.  Here is the flyer I'll be posting all around the surrounding areas in coming months.  Please feel free to print off as many copies as you'd like or send it as an image to anyone you know who may be interested!

Cheers everyone to a brand spankin' new year!!!  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

If Family & Friends Were Our Houseplants, They'd be Dead!

I realize I've been slacking or just outright ignoring our blog lately but so much of what has been swirling about in our lives lately seems to be "life stuff."  We found out 14 weeks ago that we are pregnant with our second child and are due to meet him or her in April 2015!  While we had tossed around the idea of having another child, this one still came as a surprise to us both.  Needless to say, this pregnancy has been vastly different thus far than my pregnancy with Elliot.  I've been battling with exhaustion and depression but both began to lift as I entered the second trimester... which would be why I haven't written much in the past 2 months.

Note: Actually, I'm writing this post before 7 AM which is nothing short of a miracle.  I used to wake up with Zac each morning a little after 5 AM but the second the pregnancy symptoms set in, I've been sleeping until the last possible moment each day

As with becoming pregnant, life doesn't stop when you're building an earthship home, either.  Zac has been given more responsibility at work which he has really enjoyed but which has taken him a bit further away from the build than we would have anticipated for this stage in our build.  Additionally, he has been putting out fires in several other areas of our lives too; fixing anything and everything that needs repaired.  Our tractor and Zac's car both went out of commission in the same (beautiful) weekend so the earthship went without a second look so that both issues could be resolved before the work week began again.  Zac's constant "fire-fighting" has played a role in Zac being away from us more than we would like.  However, with all the rainy, dreary weather we've been having lately, he hasn't been able to work much outside.  This has afforded us time together when he gets off work which was something we used to take for granted.  These moments all together when we are all able to give one another our full attention have been MUCH needed and I feel that this ugly weather has granted us some gorgeous time together.

We aren't too proud to say that the past year or so has been utterly exhausting and we are looking forward to the much needed downtime this winter will provide.  Our plans are to spend  the winter laying out the systems of our home, submit our updated sealed plans from our architect to the county (YAY!!!), organize the vast areas of our life that have been largely ignored since April 2014 and dust off the cobwebs of friendships and family relationships that have been sadly neglected during the build.... oh, and prepare mentally and physically for the birth of our next little one all in the midst of living in transition!

We assume this next little one on the way will provide us with a much needed kick in the hind parts to get our gears turning so that we can get under roof as soon as possible next year; living in transition for as short a time as possible in 2015.  Thus, please forgive us as we won't be shy come later winter 2015 in asking for new volunteers.  In fact, we may get downright pesky about it!  We always welcome new volunteers to learn the skills of building an earthship home and in the process, help us get in our dream home built.  So if you are interested in helping out (as little or as much as possible), please email us to be included on the list for the spring.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How Much Does it Cost to Build an Earthship?!

Surprisingly enough, a home built from recycled materials and dirt is still expensive to build!  As we quickly learned, the vast majority of the cost of building an earth rammed tire home comes within the first several months of the build as items integral to the systems of the home are purchased during this time.  For example, one of first purchases we made were the three 1,700 gallon cisterns which cost us around $7,000.  Below we have a fairly general cost list of everything we've purchased thus far as well as what we anticipate needing prior to getting "under roof"; hopefully now by next Summer!

Costs Incurred Thus Far in Our Build

  • Cisterns (Three 1,700 gallon cisterns from $7,000)
  • Land (5 acres purchased with land loan- $40,000)
  • Architect and building consultant fees ($4,500)
  • Permit application fees ($1,000)
  • Suitable dirt for build (I know, I know, we have 5 acres of dirt... read this post for further information- $3,500)
  • Initial excavating costs to prep site ($600)
  • Equipment rental (Bobcat and Air Compressor- $3,300)
  • Tools and equipment purchased for build (Tractor with Loader, Pneumatic Tamper, Walk-Behind Compactor- $8,600)
  • Waterproofing and drain tile (2 rolls of 8 mil plastic for a vapor barrier, drain tile, and gravel- $600)
  • Framing the structure (fabricated trusses and truss drawings sealed by an engineer- $5,000)
Anticipated Costs to Come to Get us Under-Roof (estimated)
  • Concrete foundation and concrete cap on top of tire wall ($5,000??)
  • Roofing (we are planning on opting for the "rainbow" selection of metal roof rejects- Several thousand dollars??)
  • Windows (many we are using have been donated and are used though we anticipate it will cost less than $3,000 to purchase the rest of the windows for our home)
  • Electrical Supplies (Unknown)
  • Plumbing Supplies (Unknown)
  • Solar Panels (without the batteries as we will be tied into the grid at first- $10,000 or less)
And these items give you a basic shell of an earthship home for around $90,000 (including land).  Now, our choices have affected our budget along the way. If we could wave a magic wand and go back in time, we would have purchased the tractor with the loader right off the bat to save us the costs of renting a Bobcat.  Of course, one could move all the dirt needed by hand with buckets and wheel-barrows but we wanted to get into our home ASAP as we have a young son to think about and want to live in transition for as little a time as possible.  We would have also purchased the pneumatic tamper sooner and if we had, we would likely be done with the tire wall at this point.  We could have paid for labor but chose to pass on valuable skills to those interested instead which afforded us a greater sense of community but likely cost us some time if looking at our process objectively.

We expect the finished home to cost around $120,000 but the upside is that unlike a traditional home, we will no longer be paying for water, heat, A/C, will be paying very little if any for electric, and won't have the utility costs and upkeep costs that come with living in a traditional home.  Earthship homes are super-efficient and take care of those living within its walls.  Outside of the land loan and some money loaned to us by family, we will essentially be mortgage and bill-free when our home is completed (outside of insurance, cell phone bills, etc.)!  This low cost of living affords us the opportunity to be more mindful and take a more active role in creating our future as a family.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Glen Helen Presentation in T-Minus 4 Days!!!

We are so honored to have been asked to share our story at Glen Helen and will be doing so this Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 3:00 PM.  We plan on discussing why we ditched the house with the white picket fence (literally... it was adorable) and chose to build a home ourselves out of dirt and junk instead!  We'll discuss the ins and outs of an earthship and what makes this lifestyle so appealing to so many.  We'll finish up with an overview of our build thus far and will be sharing our most updated house plans.  We hope this presentation will push other people who are teetering on the edge as we were to make more sustainable day-to-day choices because we are truly the typical American family with a limited income.  If we can make this happen, anyone can!

Please join us at Glen Helen Auditorium (405 Corry St., Yellow Springs, OH 45387) at 3:00 PM.  $5 donation, $3 with donation of a clean wine bottle.  Donated wine bottles will be used in construction of our earthship home.  We so hope to see you there!

From well-manicured lawn with white picket fence to tires and junk...
we couldn't be happier with our choice!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bipolar Build

Our earthship build has been comprised of 68% pleasurable, uplifting, inspiring, memorable times and 32% exhuasting, dysphoric times.  The past couple weeks have been mostly the latter type with some much-needed sprinklings of happy times.  I tend to error on the side of positivity at least where people outside of my close family and friends are concerned and will sugar-coat the glum times.  I feel it is important, however, to let it be known that building an earthship or any other sustainable home yourself is filled with its' fair share of difficult, depressing times.

Having so very little within our control regarding time frame is maddening.  One week it is raining, the next week, the weather is perfect but the dirt is still too soggy from rain earlier in the week. The following week, a piece of equipment imperative to our build breaks down and Zac must halt everything else and work to fix it.  Last Saturday, after having spent every evening after work prepping our old home for the new tenants (who moved in last Saturday), Zac was nearly immobilized in bed and said that he needed to take a day off everything for his physical well-being and for sanity's sake.  And so, he rested a bit and then we took the rest of the day as a family and had the BEST DAY in recent memory.  The next day, he was able to work through some tires with Anthony, our new friend and volunteer.  However, work has been sporadic due to things outside our control and in the past several weeks, only about 40-50 tires have been completed and I feel as though we haven't made much progress.  

Weather is already starting to turn and the Farmer's Almanac is predicting an early and harsh winter ahead.  So today, with no extra hands to help, he felt it would be best to focus his time on beginning to winterize our cistern.  His plan is to build a wooden frame around it and then put slip straw walls around it to ensure that it doesn't freeze when frosty weather hits.  This project will be helpful for our earthship build too as we have (yet again) changed our plans for our bedroom walls and they are now going to be slip straw walls covered with adobe plaster.

He plans on working on this project here and there but was pleased to have gotten a head start on it today.  Zac is going to take off work this Tuesday (September 16th) through Friday (September 17th) to hopefully make some serious headway with our home.  As you may remember, our goal was to complete the tire wall by October 1st and we are still pushing to make this a reality.  If you'd like to come on out to help this week, we would SO appreciate it and will provide meals for you!!!  

And so, we have been struggling as a family the past few weeks to remain positive with Old Man Winter appearing closer than we had imagined so early on in the year.  This sort of thing really has been wearing at both Zac and I and we have found ourselves having to take more time outs than our son to gather our emotions and get ourselves in check.  

I want to be sure that we remain transparent and truly share our experience throughout our build and want everyone to know that should you decide to build such a home yourself, you are in for both the best and worst of times.  We are lucky to have our health as a family but truly, the past couple of weeks have been rough on us.  I know we aren't alone as I've heard other families' similar struggles toward living a more sustainable lifestyle and I know that there is a silver lining to our story.

How we're choosing to look at the cooler weather now is that it will allow Zac some serious rest and recooperation as well as some time to research the plumbing, electrical and radiant floor heating systems that need to be in place before our concrete pad is poured this upcoming Spring.  Perhaps we will feel more prepared for next year's progress and less like the kid in class who is constantly forgetting his homework.  

The ups throughout our build this past year have put us higher than ever before; as I imagine it would feel to be manic.  The lows this past year have sent us into some periods of depression.  And yet, I can say, without a doubt, that we would do it all over times ten if it meant living a life we're proud of and can put our stamp of approval on!

Sky and land shot last weekend while tire pounding was underway

In other news, we will be speaking at Glen Helen this upcoming Sunday (September 21, 2014) at 3:00 PM and invite anyone and everyone out to hear about our "Pathway to a Secondhand Home."  We will share our story about why we chose to jump ship on the American Dream, an overview of what an earthship is and what earthship living is all about and we'll close with some information about our build thus far with a sneak peak of our most updated house plans.  For more information, visit Glen Helen's Facebook Page.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Giving Up Your First-Born, Dirt is for the Rich & Other Matters...

In one of my pre-earthship build posts, I know I mentioned that our goal was to be under-roof by winter 2014 so that we could work on the interiors during the cold months.  However, we are looking more short-term at this point, as we realize long-term deadlines have no place in the realm of earthship construction!  Our new short-term goal is to be DONE with the tire wall by the beginning of this October (2014).  We are on the 5th course and will have four more courses after this one to complete it.

Tire pounding goes much more quickly these days as long as all the components used to make it happen are in working order.  The past few weeks have been spent preparing for "the next big push."  Zac repaired our tractor which we use to move dirt and then had to repair it again when it broke down recently.  Then, his truck broke down and that needed to be fixed as we use it every time we make a run to get materials for the build.  After putting out those fires, Zac was able to focus his energy on using the remaining dirt on our property to build up the berm level with the 4th course so that we could start on the 5th course whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Fortunately, that very weekend, we had a volunteer stop by (Thanks, Anthony!!!) who worked tremendously well with Zac and the two of them were able to go through the rest of the fill dirt on our property and build up the berm in basically one day's time!

Anthony- the awesome volunteer who helped us bring the berm up!

Speaking of dirt, we had NO IDEA just how expensive sourcing suitable dirt can be!  We assumed people would just want to get rid of fill dirt and that we'd have no problems finding some for free.  Boy, were we wrong!  Dirt apparently is gold these days and no one wants to get rid of it unless you promise them your first born child.  We have purchased 120 tons of dirt thus far and have paid nearly $2,500 for it.  Our original plan had been to dig a giant hole on our property and use that dirt for our build but that would mean renting the equipment to dig said hole and then hope that the dirt was suitable for our building purposes.

All dirt is not equal for earthship building purposes, my friends... another lesson we've learned.  When working with local geotechnical engineers to test the soil we had on-site and were planning to use for the beginning the build we were told immediately by sight alone, "It won't work!"  It still had too much organic matter in it and not enough clay; which is found deeper down.  Thus, we went to plan B which was to buy dirt as we didn't have enough time to keep digging on our land in search of something more suitable.  Truthfully, I imagine that we could get the dirt we need for our build on our property but both time and money come into play there and to be honest, it is so much easier to call someone up on a Monday, order dirt, and have it dropped off Tuesday!  Pick your battles...

In the spring, I called TONS of local excavators, concrete companies, etc. in search of free dirt and came up empty-handed.  In the past couple of months, I've been so burnt out, I haven't thought of doing it again despite our moaning about the cost of dirt.  I tried my hand again at calling around Monday with no luck.  However, I think we may have found a cheaper source and will try to get the rest of the dirt we'll need for the build delivered next week sometime unless the dirt fairy shows up with a GIANT dump truck to save us.

I wasn't lying... he's certifiably insane!
Now, while I'm so over lofty goal-setting, Zac is still super pumped up and says that he would STILL like to attempt to get our home under-roof by Winter... the insanity is one thing I very much love about that guy!

Anyhow, we are planning a HUGE work weekend coming up (this weekend; August 30th, 31st & September 1st) and have a small handful of people who have sold us their souls for various parts of the weekend.  With that said, if you'd like to come on out and share the beautiful work weekend with us, we'd love to have you out!  We plan on working all day each day (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) and on Saturday, we're ending the day at the Clifton Art and Music Festival (literally across the street from the land).  We will be renting the ginormous air compressor I've spoken of in past posts and in assembly-line style, plan to work through the rest of the 4th and 5th courses of tires; if not begin the 6th!

If you've come out to help in the past, I assure you, work is much less physically demanding than it was in the when you helped out (unless you are Zac wielding the Ergo-Tamp, of course) and goes much more quickly!  So please join us a day or two this weekend if you have the time.

We will be working from 9:00 AM- 5:00 PM each day and the address is 2687 S. River Rd. Cedarville, OH 45314.  Online directions are a bit off, but we are essentially on the corner of S. River Rd. and State Route 72.  We have the first gravel drive on your right once you've turned onto S. River and you can see our shipping container from the road.