All posts by Earthship Captain

Earthship work at Dash & Y.P.’s

Last year we helped out a number of times at another local Earthship owned by our friends Dash and YP.

Here is a picture of the front.

Now this Earthship is made using domes. It’s modeled more off the simple survival model, rather than the global model. The roof for this is quite a bit different.

We filled in between the domes with dirt, then we covered that with a vapour barrier. The next layer was 10″ (25cm) of rigid insulation which was then covered by a waterproof membrane made of EPDM rubber. The last layer is a concrete slab to cover it all. The slab is used to provide a nice surface on which you can catch water to fill your cisterns.

Well, last Thursday (Oct 11), Dash & YP got a crew together and we poured the slab on top of the roof. Everything was prepared, the forms were made and the metal reinforcement put in place. Here are some pictures of that.

Now when they said they were getting a concrete pump truck, I was imagining the kind with the huge boom attached to it that would hang over what you were pouring, so I was surprised when this showed up.

It’s a similar idea to the boom truck, but small scale and no big crane. You dump the concreted into the hopper at the back of the pump and it pushes it through the attached hose to where you need it to go. A little lower tech, but entirely sufficient for what was needed. Probably cost less too.

Here you can see the hose reaching to the far corner where we started. The truck had seemingly a mile of hose and we only used about four lengths of it so I would imagine that the pump can push the concrete through quite the distance of hose, if you need it to.

Once we got started, it seemed to me a lot like frosting a cake. You squirt out a bunch of concrete frosting and then spread it around into a nice arrangement.

The rate of flow through the pipe is pretty quick so you need to be on the ball as each section fills up quickly.

It didn’t take us very long to fill the whole thing. As we got closer to the end, we would remove sections of the pipe to make things easier. It’s really heavy duty hose, I’d guess around 6″ (15cm) in diameter and you don’t want it piling up or getting kinked.

Voila, finished roof slab.

I do have to mention that the concrete guys were very dubious about this. Questions like, “you want to do what?” and “do you realize you’ll be adding around 40,000 lbs (18,000kg) of weight to the roof?” came up.

I should also mention that of all of the concrete that was used to build this structure, this roof slab is probably one of the few exceptions where using hemp-crete is acceptable. I talked about hemp-crete and the dangers of using it in my Thermal/Solar Heating and Cooling post. In this case, however, the roof slab is not adding any thermal mass to the structure. In fact it is insulated away from the main mass of the building, so using hemp-crete, if you so desired, would only add more insulation. What I don’t know is how porous it is, so you would probably need to add a sealer to it the same way you do regular concrete.

In addition to the roof, there were some interior footings that we poured as well.

Dash and YP hadn’t originally planned to build the interior glass wall that separates the living areas from the green house. They still might not, but they decided to pour footings for those walls in case they change their mind.

We had some left over concrete at the end and we used it to do pack-out between the tires in the interior. That’s where you fill in the cavities between the tires to build the wall out so it is smooth.

All in all, a very successful day.

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More Autumn 2018 Colours

Well, we couldn’t resist taking a few more autumn pictures. It was a good thing we did because now all of the leaves are falling and there are a lot of trees that are bare. No more reds as they are the first to go. Luckily for you, we caught some good pictures when they were in their prime.

These first few are views from the road we live on.

For a while, we had an amazing forest of gold on our property. Even more so if the sun was out.

Caught this one in the morning as the sun was hitting the tops of the trees.

Same picture, but about 20 minutes later.

Sunshine through the trees.

Golden canopy.

To top it off, have some mushrooms.

Autumn 2018 Colour Extravaganza

Here we are in October and Thanksgiving is this weekend, unless you live in the US, then you’ll have to wait until November. In this neck of the woods, Thanksgiving is often one of the best times to experience autumn colours. I have done an autumn post pretty much every year I’ve had this blog and I have to say autumn is probably the most photogenic time of year.

If you haven’t experienced autumn colours before, well here’s your first chance. We were lucky today as it has been rather cloudy and rainy for the last while. We had a huge thunderstorm this morning before sun-up, but it cleared up afterwards and we had a beautiful day. This allowed me to get out and get some really nice pictures around our property.

Sit back and enjoy the photos. Feel free to click on the pictures for larger versions.

September 2018

It’s now getting close to the end of September. The weather is rapidly cooling off here. We’ve had frost several times (and had the wood stove up and running) and the leaves have begun to change colour.

We’ve been doing our regular thing, working on getting some projects finished that we started earlier.

If you recall from previously, we were working on building the drawer for the bottom of the pantry. That has now been completed and you can see the finished results here.

We also finished redoing our front steps. They turned out pretty nicely.

Another project we were working on was finding something to cover up the column of wires that goes from the floor to the ceiling up in the bedroom area. You can see it over on the right side of this picture.

Not only is it a column of wires, but some of them are attached to a set of switches so we can turn on and off the lights in that section. Originally, those wires were embedded inside the wall that made up the closet where the toilet was located. After we removed all of that, we were left with the wires. We had thought of putting up a big wall with closets and storage across that section and putting the wires back inside a wall, but we decided we liked the openness of the trailer better.

So we came up with another plan.

After the big storm that blew down several trees on our property I got the idea of using a log to cover the wires. We had a small maple tree that got knocked down when a big poplar snapped and fell on it. So I cut a section out of it and started to work on it.

First, I had to cut it in half and this was the most difficult part of the entire process. The log wasn’t perfectly straight so I needed something that could follow the curve of the wood. A big format band saw would really have helped with this, but I didn’t have access to one. A friend of ours had one of those portable/hand-held band saws, but it didn’t have enough clearance to cut the log.

So I settled on doing it the hard way with my sawsall/reciprocating saw. And when I say the hard way I am not exaggerating. It took me 3.5 hours to cut that log that was 193cm (76″). Actually, I only made it to within about 20cm (8″) of the end and the saw seized up so I finished it using a hand saw. My hands and arms were pretty woobly after that, but I did end up with the log cut in half.

The next step was to cut out the core so the wires would fit. A router would have been handy for that, but I didn’t have one of those either. I used my skill saw instead. I cut a 2cm (3/4″) trench right down the center of each of the half-logs. Here’s the first one.

After the trench was cut, I reconfigured the blade on the skill saw to be at 45° and cut out the sides, making a triangular trench down the center of the logs. Here you can see the first one is finished.

Despite the curvature of the log, using the skill saw worked quite well. Fortunately, the depth of the cuts wasn’t a lot; if it had been more, it would have been much more difficult to turn the saw to follow the curve of the wood.

Now having the cores cut out of the half-logs, the next thing to do was strip the bark off it. I took one half and Kat took the other. We both had a machete and went to work. It didn’t take long and the machete made short work of the bark.

We were getting close, but I still needed to add a spot for the light switch. In disconnecting the switch from the wires, one of the metal contacts on the switch was pulled out, thus destroying the switch so we had to order a new one. Luckily, Amazon sells replacements.

I took some measurements and cut a spot for the new switch to sit in.

And here you can see the switch sitting nicely in it.

Once that was completed, it was simply a matter of putting it all together. I clamped both pieces together and predrilled the holes for the screws. Then we took it inside, I wired up the new switch, we clamped both pieces together and I screwed it tight.

And here you can see the results. This is the switch side.

This is from the opposite side.

It was green wood so we didn’t put any varnish or other finishers on it yet. We’ll let it dry out over the winter and then see what we want to do in the spring. With the fire running all winter, the humidity drops significantly, so much of the moisture of the wood should be pulled out.

Yay, more things accomplished!