All posts by Earthship Captain

Martin Earthship Final Course Of Tires

I thought it had been quite a while since we had a nice meaty earthship post, so this one should make up for that. On Saturday morning (Jun 22nd) we headed over to the Martin earthship to help out with their final course of tires. We have been there a few times before, helping out with tires and pack-out, but we missed all of last year and they have made really good progress since we last visited.

In fact, they’re almost finished their last course of tires, so they organized a “Last Tire” volunteer day.

This was the site that greeted us when we arrived. You can see the tire walls are quite high now.

Here is a closer look. You can count nine courses of tires there, which is the total number that they need. Alas, not all of the tires for the last course had been completed, so that’s where we came in.

This is a small cold storage room they added to their design. They painted the tires so people could sign their names on them, those of us who have come by to help out.

The short wall in the front is also complete. That’s the wall the south facing glass is going to sit on.

Going around the back, you can see where they have started their thermal wrap. That will eventually be brought up to the height of the wall and incorporated into the berm.

They have also acquired four large cisterns which will also need to be put in place at the back. These will also be buried by the berm and will hold all of the water that will be caught off the roof.

Standing up above, this shot looks into what will be the interior of the earthship. There is Kat in her pink Earthship Academy t-shirt looking on.

This was a divider wall and was where we were working. Kat decided to get up on the wall and just start pounding tires.

Here you can see her in action.

At some point early on, I was caught stuffing cardboard into tires that were to be filled.

Unfortunately we were only able to stay there for the morning as we had other obligations in the afternoon. And despite all of the incessant chatting (cause, ya know, you can’t get a bunch of earthshippers together without there being lots to talk about) we did get about 3.5 tires filled and pounded. We also got to meet some people who were interested in building an earthship and another couple who already have and have been living in it for about eight years now. It’s always great to go out to these volunteer days just to meet and talk with like minded people.

After the last course of tires, there comes some concrete work for the bond beam and then they will start framing it for the glass. Congratulations to Jay and Erin for finishing the tires and moving on to the next stage. Perhaps if they have another volunteer day this summer we might head down again.


Spring 2019

It has been quite a while since I last posted, I do realize. Over two months this time. Two months ago we were still buried in snow. That has changed now, thank goodness. Let me tell you about it.

Back at the end of March we got ourselves a new toy to improve our lives.

This is a Berkey water filter. Previously, we were buying large bottles of spring water from the store for drinking purposes. Now, with this new doodad, we can just pour rain water in it and fill our glasses from the spout, so no more buying water. Just don’t be in a big hurry for a drink if you just filled it. The filtering process can take quite a long time. We’re talking hours here, not minutes.

Moving forward, April 10th turned out to be a really nice day so we took some pictures.

Yup, still lots of snow.

The sun was out in full strength though, which our solar panels loved. We still had quite the pile of snow up against the plastic shield at that point.

Here are some random sunshine-in-a-snowy-forest pictures.

After a bit of digging, I found the drain pipe for our pond. Here you can sort of see it with a tiny bit of snow across it’s rim.

More snow and forest. Pond too, but you can’t really see that for the snow.

Remember that picture from back in the previous post with the bench buried under the snow? Well, on the 16th of April it looked like this.

We were out snowshoeing that day. It doesn’t look like there is much snow there by the bench, but just behind me there was plenty.

Apparently there was a crazy Kat lady behind me as well. The next one is a picture of where the Earthship will be.

So yeah, April is always a big transition month for us. Easter was in late April this year and we rented a car and drove out to PEI to surprise my Mom and Step-Father for their birthdays. That trip went quite well, but it rained a lot going there and on the way back. Fortunately, we got back before they closed large portions of the highway due to flooding.

Unfortunately, this meant that when we got back home we had another trench through our driveway.

Seeing as we already had the trench dug, we decided to put in a second emergency drain going through there for when the water gets too high. This project was another one of those use-what-you-have-on-hand kind of things. I happened to have some 4″ (10cm) PVC pipe lying around gathering dust so I glued them together to make a long pipe.

I added the tape because one of my pipe joiners was a bit cracked. I’m not super concerned about it leaking, as it’s just going to go in the ground.

Anyway, I put the pipe in the trench and started to bury it. I also had some pieces of 2×10 lying around that I put over the pipe after I had filled in around it to try and give it a bit more resilience. It’s not perfect by any means, but hopefully it will prevent the pipe from being crushed if a heavy vehicle drives over it.

Here you can see it all filled in with dirt.

After I finished that part, Kat came out and gathered some of the gravel that had been washed down the ditch and used it to cover the dirt. It has been driven over quite a bit since then and we haven’t had any issues. Hopefully it will do the trick.

Obviously with all of that rain while we were away, most of the snow that was left had melted so it was time to take the shield down from the the front of the trailer.

We just roll it up and keep it in place with some bungee cords. This makes it easy to reinstall in the fall.

This is what it looked like down our driveway near the end of April.

As mentioned previously, our truck died and we were looking for a new one. Well, after roughly seven weeks of searching, we finally ended up with this.

Yup, it’s a big red truck. In case you’re wondering it’s a 2008 Dodge Ram and it had about 328,000km on it. We were on a limited budget so it’s difficult to find a perfect vehicle. We thought this one was pretty decent for what we paid, which is why we have it. It drives and feels quite a bit different than the old GMC, but I’m sure we’ll get used to it.

We’re well into May now and we’ve had the usual frantic bird activity at our feeder this spring. The humming birds have been back for a while too. You know when they show up because they hover right in front of our big window wondering where the hummingbird feeder is.

Speaking of said hummingbird feeder, some of the larger birds get a bit confused.

That’s a rose breasted grosbeak trying to figure out how to get the feeder to dispense some goodness. Unless he can drink through that red patch on his chest, I don’t think it’s gonna work out.

Now that we have a truck again, spring time firewood processing has started. We have borrowed a chainsaw from a friend due to the fact that the recoil spring on mine broke while we were doing our initial harvest. It is smaller and only has a 16″ (40cm) bar on it so we got Kat suited up and we cut up all of the stuff that we dragged out of the forest.

As of today, the full brunt of black flies and mosquitoes has yet to arrive. That will likely change this week as we are expecting some warmer weather. We have been having fairly cool evenings which helps to keep the bugs away, but it only lasts so long.

Well, now you know what is going on, for the most part. I don’t have any news to share yet on the job front, but some opportunities have been coming my way so something is bound to happen soon.

I will leave you with this lovely picture of the daffodils we have in our garden.

Life changes

Have you ever had the feeling that the universe was trying to tell you something? Maybe perhaps guide you in a certain direction? Well, things have certainly been interesting these first few months of 2019.

The weather has been up and down a lot here and I probably don’t need to mention all of the crazy weather that most of North America seems to have gone through this winter. Here is a small sample of one forecast we had back on Feb 23rd.

Yeah, +5C (40F) with rain and possible thunder storm quickly followed by a severe drop back down below -20C (-4F). Nothing like mother nature to keep us on our toes.

Not to worry. Kat and I still managed to go out and have a lovely dinner for Valentine’s Day. We even got all dressed up.

For several days at the end of February, beginning of March, we had this guy hanging around our yard.

If you look at the center of the picture you can see a bard owl. He is difficult to spot and even more difficult to take a picture of. We’re guessing he saw all of the squirrel tracks around our yard and figured this would be a great place to wait for dinner.

On a really mundane, but still nifty to us kinda theme, we discovered that the glass lid we have for one of our pots fits perfectly our thermal cooker pot.

Glass lids are great for being able to watch what is going on without lifting the lid.

In other news, our cats love to sit on laps, especially if it gets chilly.

That picture was taken by me holding my phone over my lap.

And just in case you thought I was hogging all of the cats, here is Kat taking her turn.

Having a sizeable property, we do enjoy snowshoeing through our forest. Now we know we’ve had a significant amount of snow, but you lose perspective a bit when you’re walking on top of it. You may recall from previous posts that we have a pond at the back of our property with a bench sitting beside it.

As a reminder, here is a spring picture of it with the pond over flowing.

Back at the beginning of March we were snow shoeing up in that area and I took this picture.

See the bench? It’s that tiny horizontal line across the snow. And then there is this one.

That is a picture of the area we cleared last year where the Earthship is going to be. Looks like Hoth, but with more trees.

In any event, the weather is finally starting to warm up, the days are longer and we are getting more sunshine. Spring also officially arrives on Wednesday. These are all good things.

Then there is what happened today. We were out and about with our truck running some errands and blew the transmission out of it. That isn’t 100% certain, but probably 98% it is the transmission. We’ve had lots of stuff go wrong with our 2004 GMC Sierra pickup over the last while and it’s likely this will be the last straw. So we are now looking for a new vehicle. To make matters more interesting I’m also unemployed right now.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that part. The company I worked for is/was in serious financial dire-straights and I received just under 50% of the pay I was supposed to for 2018. So I quit. No sense keeping a job that isn’t paying you. So not only are we looking for a new vehicle we are also looking for new ways to make an income. Can’t build an Earthship for free, unfortunately.

Don’t get the wrong impression. We aren’t depressed or worrying ourselves to death. In fact, in situations like this, there’s only one thing to do:

Make some frikin’ ginormous yorkshire puddings. Here is a side shot for perspective.

We then take said yorkshire puddings, split them an dump a creamy beef filling into their centers. I put cajun spice on mine for some extra fun.

I do realize that it kinda looks like chunky pablum with brown sugar on top spread over yorkshire pudding, but I assure you it is not. It is a whole bunch of tasty. Got this recipe from the Lard cook book.

Anyway, time to say, “tootilly-pippski”. Don’t let life run you down. Things have a way of working out better than you imagine.

Winter Time Shokugeki

Yes, here we are in 2019 and you’re wondering what is up with us. Well, it’s cold and there is a lot of snow on the ground. Pretty typical winter weather. If you want to know just how cold, I took a screen shot of the forecast on Jan 20th.

For those who speak in Fahrenheit, 0C is 32F, -18C is 0F and -40C is -40F. With those conversions you should be able to get a rough estimate of what is going on here. Mostly cold, though tomorrow (Wed) it’s warming up to 0C. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs with the temperatures this winter.

Anyway, we aren’t working on any major projects right now so we need to find things to occupy ourselves. Kat and I didn’t really give each other gifts for Christmas so we decided to do a shokugeki instead. For those not familiar with Japanese, that means “food war”. The name actually comes from a popular Japanese animated show that Kat and I both love that is all about cooking.

Anyway, we chose dessert for this event. Each of us would make a one serving sized dessert for the other and we would compare the results. We didn’t bet anything, we just chose to enjoy the desserts.

I went first on the weekend of Jan 12/13 and while Kat was out tending to the horses I whipped this up.

Whipped may not be entirely accurate, as it took me 3.5 hours, but there was whipped cream involved so I guess that works. I bet you’re wondering what is on the inside.

There are several aspects to this cake that are not revealed by the pictures so I will give you a full description of the 10 layers.

First, I made some really thin cake rounds, approaching the thickness of a crepe, but not quite that thin. I got the recipe for those from another dessert I made last year.

Then there was stiffened chocolate ganache. If you aren’t familiar with this, you can make really stiff chocolate ganache by using water instead of creme.

I made some whipped cream and also some chocolate meringues.

When I put it all together, the layers went like this (from bottom to top):

  1. cake
  2. ganache
  3. whipped cream
  4. cake
  5. chocolate meringue
  6. cake
  7. ganache
  8. whipped cream
  9. cake
  10. chocolate meringue

Unfortunately, there was supposed to be an 11 layer right in the middle, which I did make, but I forgot to actually put it in the stack when I was putting it all together. I had made some candied pecans, which I then put through a chopper to make into small crumbs. I then used the crumbs to make some praline whipped cream. You can see this in the small glass dish in the back ground of the second picture.

After I put all the layers together I covered it all with real chocolate ganache (using cream) and sprinkled more of the praline crumbs all over it. As a garnish I put two of the candied pecans on the top.

Overall, it turned out well and it tasted really awesome, but it had some structural issues when trying to eat it mainly because the whipped cream layers don’t have any structural integrity. I have being doing some thinking and have a good idea on how to fix this which is good because Kat said, “I would DEFINITELY eat this again!”

This past weekend of Jan 19/20 Kat had her turn and I left for a while to visit some friends on Saturday and came home to this:

… and this…

… and even one of these!

So, yeah, I got to try multiple things. The first is a simple sugared donut hole. The second is a full Bavarian cream filled donut and the third (which was the main event) is a pumpkin cheesecake filled donut with caramel and praline whipped cream on top.

Yeah, they were all really tasty and Kat and I are always talking about donuts but rarely actually eat them so this was quite a treat.

Similar to my own dessert, Kat had some issues with the donuts. She had to make two batches of dough because for some reason it didn’t want to rise. Eventually she go it to work, but I don’t think it was quite as puffy as she would have liked.

The next question that always comes up is, “Who won?” I think that is still up in the air. We both really enjoyed the desserts, which is really what matters most. Maybe we’ll just have to do another one to figure out the winner.