Colorado Earthship Build: Day 9 (Rocks, packout and concrete)

We woke up this morning to a beautiful mountain sunrise. We’re up at 06:30 and the sun has technically risen already, but it doesn’t crest the mountains in the east until about 06:50 so we get to experience it every day. It was extra nice today as it rained quite a bit yesterday so everything was a bit soggy. Having the sun come out to dry things is always welcome.

Today, we woke up to this view.


Mmmm, misty mountains. It was so nice, I had to take another picture.


Yeah, it did look as awesome as you think 🙂

So, if you remember from yesterday how they poured the concrete for the bond beam over the center wall, well, that was a big focus for today. It was getting two more big tire courses pounded with rocks and then another can form for another bond beam placed on top of that. The next bond beam is really important as it will tie into those side walls that Kat and I were working on earlier, plus it will tie into the arches over the garage entrances and the bond beam across the back wall as well as all of the buttresses. It’s one big massive pour, with a tonne of rebar work that will tie everything together.

They had already prepped the first course of tires on the all when we arrived.


Kat and I were assigned to help with that right away as it was a big priority. We were split off from each other, Kat at the east end, myself at the west. I hauled buckets of rocks for a few minutes during the early rush, but then most of the bucket haulers became tire pounders so I took over filling buckets with rocks. This isn’t gravel, it’s rocks.


Not the easiest things to shovel. The basic technique is to put the bucket on its side and pretend you’re paddling a canoe, only in this case you’re paddling through a pile of rocks, not water. I did that for almost three hours. Constantly. By the end of that, my shoulders and elbows were like jelly. However, at that point, most of the two courses of tires had also been complete, so it was a good feeling to know that I helped keep everyone going with rocks for their tires.

I did have to take a break after that. Sat down, drank more water, ate two nut bars and just took a breather for a few minutes. It was around 11:00 when I went over to see what Kat and the rest of the east side gang had been up to.

Apparently I missed the pouring of a concrete slab for the start of the stairs.


We also had the guy with the excavator move a bunch of dirt back up on top where the cistern is cause a lot of the dirt that had been there was pounded in to tires now.


In the afternoon, Rob and Helena worked on the steps. Here you can see the first row of cans.


After the cans, they laid bottles on top of that, then poured another slab and leveled it.


While all of that was going on, Kat and I were viciously packing out the tire wall. I learned some things about packing out today. I actually got to ask Mike Reynolds, why we were packing out with mortar instead of adobe. The answer? Because if it rains, all that adobe will fall out. Additionally, on some walls were you want extra strength, mortar or concrete has much better strength than adobe. Good info to remember.

Another thing I learned while packing out is that mortar is heavy, in relation to the cans. You see, often in videos of others packing out between the tires you see people literally throwing the adobe/mortar at the wall. This is fine if you don’t have any cans placed in it; you can throw it all you want. But when you start putting in the cans, if you throw the mortar, it will totally crush the can. The purpose of the cans are to take up space so you can save on mortar or concrete or adobe. If you crush them, you really don’t get much savings.

So after crushing a few cans, I went a bit more gently.


Remember the wall we were helping with this morning? Well, by late afternoon it looked like this.


Tires all pounded, rebar stakes in place, rebar cage mostly completed, fancy wooden form placed above the door and the can wall form already started. An interesting point to notice, they placed the can form on top of a layer of lath. I didn’t get a chance to ask anyone about that, but it may be due to the fact that they didn’t have time to pack out the tires below like they did for the first one. I’m really just guessing. Maybe I’ll find out tomorrow.

This place is a regular flowing fountain of concrete and mortar. As you can see in the next picture, they also mixed and poured the front footing for the vertical green house wall.


They have three cement mixers going all day, every day. The guys that run those are always busy, and dirty too 😛

Anyway, back at our section, this is where Rob and Helena made it to with the stairs.


The base for the first step is in (part above the bottles) and the start of the second step is in place. The raw concrete will eventually have flag stones installed on them.

I have to say, this was the first day where I didn’t pound any tires at all. It was kinda nice, though the rock shoveling was intense. I have to say, that if you are a professional rower or paddler, if you want to get stronger, paddle some rocks into buckets for a few hours every day. When you get back into the water, it will feel like nothing 😛


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