Category Archives: Earthships

Parent category for all earthship related posts.

Earthship Island, Day 13

Good day and welcome to day 13 of our stay on Earthship Island. It’s not exacly like Fantasy Island, but it’s what was available.

Yesterday we decided to tackle the fixing of the screen on one of the vents over the door.

As you can see from the picture, it has suffered some damage, Probably due to the earthquake that also cracked the wall.

Here is a close-up of the screen. You can also see how much the rebar has rusted due to the salt and humidity.

Why they didn’t paint it like the outside ones, I cannot say. Though, it may be something as simple as they ran out of paint.

We decided on a simple patch, which isn’t the greatest, but it would make things better than it was. We used bailing wire to sew the patch on, which was tricky because if you pull too hard it damages the screen. We wanted to try using string, but we would need some sort of needle to thread it through the screen, which we didn’t have.

We managed to get it installed, and it’s better than it was, but far from perfect.

In other news… playing with hermit crabs.

This has become an almost daily event for us now.

We find them on the beach all over the place and you just can’t resist picking them up.

Mama Kenawa brought in a fresh batch of coconuts the other day, so we all got a coconut with a straw. It was quite tasty.

It actually rained here yesterday while we were having dinner, and it came down pretty hard. Not sure how well you can see that in the picture.

Here you can see all of the boats up on shore. These are the boats all of the locals use for fishing.

Looking to the east of us, you can see the rain in the hills on the island next to us.

Approaching from the south is more rain for us. This is good as it adds more water to the cisterns.

When it rains hard, it comes right through our back door, as it’s mostly just screen to let the breezes through. Fortunately, the floor is concrete and brick so it doesn’t affect it too much.

I have to say that the water just in front of our Earthship is fascinating. All of the other ocean water I have encountered has had some degree of surf. We have had some surf, but on many occasions, it’s almost completely flat. I find it a bit bizarre that I can skip stones on the ocean water.

I’ll add that to my growing list of new experiences.

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Earthship Island, Day 5

Here we are at day five already. I thought I would start out this post by introducing some of the locals. Here is a picture of “Mama Kenawa”, along with Katrina (our fellow Earthshipper) and Kat. Mama Kenawa’s is where we go to eat everyday, twice a day. She and her family live on the island and sell snacks and drinks to the tourists.

The cost of the food is really cheap and it means we don’t have to worry about buying groceries and preparing meals ourselves. This is good because there aren’t any kitchen facilities in the Earthships. Breakfast and dinner, for three people, all together runs about $20CAN. We have rice at every meal, and a lot of local fish too.

Next we have Suji. He is our main guy to go to if we need help with getting things for the Earthship. He is the one who contacted Earthship Biotecture and got them to come build the Earhthships.

Without posting everyday, the pictures are piling up. We may need to do a few post trip posts to get everything covered.

We’ve been getting up around sunrise most days, which is just about 6am local time. We recently decided to do the hike up the hill that seems to attract so many tourists.

Most of Kenawa island is covered by this sparse grass.

There are quite a few paths around the island, but there is one main one that heads straight from the dock to the hill at the north-west point. Here you can see Kat heading for the hill.

This was just as the sun was rising, so after we had trekked up the hill partway, I turned around and snapped a picture of the rising sun.

A little further up we found another resident. This little girl was very affectionate and is the third cat we have encountered. The other two live over at Mama Kenawa’s.

Turning to the south a bit you can see the harbour at Poto Tano where our ferry arrived when we got here. I took this picture to capture the cloudy comb-over coming over the mountains behind the harbour.

Once you reach the top of the hill, and the island for that matter, if you look down you can see a lot of black lava rock. If you get even closer you can watch all of the crabs galavanting across those rocks. We didn’t get close enough for a picture of that though.

Took another picture of the rising sun on our way back.

On the opposite side of the island from where the Earhtships are, over the hill, there are some mangrove trees.

It’s just starting to show in this next picture, but up near the area where the waves are breaking is a huge wall of dead coral. When the tide goes out, it becomes a barrier between the ocean and the trees.

After heading back down, we were sitting on the shore and we kept seeing the large schools of fish all jumping out of the water at the same time. The fish were all really tiny though so it was a very fascinating thing to see. Interestingly enough, I did manage to snap a picture, but I don’t think you can really tell that the white speckles in the middle are fish.

We had our breakfast and then decided to have some fun in the water. We headed down to the dock and took some pictures of the ocean life there.

More fish, more coral, we saw a few jellyfish but we don’t know what kind they were, spiny sea urchins and everything in bewtween.

I asked Suji if there are any sharks and he said none near the island. There are some further out, but they are all small, like the size of a cat or small dog.

None of these pictures were taken underwater, but Katrina did bring a camera that can do that so we will have some underwater shots to show at some point. We do go snorkling pretty much every day.

All of that was yesterday, or earlier. Today, Katrina and I finished building a bed frame for Earthship2.

It’s certainly not my best work, but seeing as we used a rusted hand saw to cut half the pieces and had to use rusty nails to put it together, I think we did okay. We did eventually get the generator working so we could use the skill saw. We really need a cordless drill though. We don’t even have a good screwdriver. We found one Phillips and one standard slot screwdriver.

The wood we have available is really hard too, so you would need to predrill any holes before putting a screw in. We bent several large nails trying to pound them into the wood.

Alas, that is all for today. It’s time to go for a swim.

Earthship Island, Day 3

So it looks like what’s going to happen with the blogging is Kat and I are going to alternate days. It’s really the only sensible way we can have enough time to make a post. If we both tried to post on the same day, we would spend all day on it and we do want to have time to work on other things.

That being said, today’s post is going to be Earthship technical.

So we showed you what the front of the tropical Earthship looked like last time, now we’re going to look at it in more detail. This first picture is from the side.

The first thing to note is the planters in this Earthship are outside. They are what you are looking at just beyond the bamboo railing. This also means they are part of the berm.

If we zoom in bit you can see this:

This is the outside end of a vent tube. Air it does provide, but the berm does not cool it like it would if the pipe were metal instead of plastic. Also, I don’t think the depth of the planter is quite enough to cool the pipe enough anyway, but to check that we would need some sort of remote, underground temperature sensor. One must also keep in mind that, in situations like this (i.e. building in a country like Indonesia), we’re pretty much building with whatever is available. There are several things in this place that could make a big improvement if only a different material had been used, but you use what you have.

If we head up onto the roof and look back at the planters, you can see the collection trench for the rain water. They used dead coral for the silt filter. There is a tonne of it lying around on the beaches here.

That trench channels the water along to the shown pipe with the screen over it. As the depth of the water increases in the trench, it will eventually drain through this pipe and into the red cistern.

This is a pretty decent setup, but there is one thing that would make it even better. If they had attached the screen to a sleeve that could easily be removed then (a) it would be easier to fix when it is damaged and (b) in the event of a tsunami you could quickly remove the sleeve and replace it with a cap. This would save your cistern from filling with sea water, which in the aftermath, it would be very desireable to have some fresh water, especially on a small island that has no natural source of water.

Unfortunately, the water channeling on the second Earthship here isn’t setup the same as this one. On Earthship2, it is channeled right into the cap of the cistern, which has been removed and a screen installed over top of it. The problem with this is that they embedded the edge of the screen in mortar, which you would think would make it quite secure, but as we discovered, both screens have suffered damage on Earthship2, one of them almost completely detached. With the screens embedded in mortar, this will not be an easy thing to fix. Had they done it the same way as Earthship1, the fix would have been simple.

On to the solar system.

There are four panels for Earthship1 and the system seems to be working just fine. We have DC based LED lights inside, as well as DC water pumps for the toilet and shower. There is a tiny 500W inverter with a single socket on it that we have been using to charge our phones and tablet. No issues to report there.

Earthship2, however, is currently without power. This is because its batteries are dead. We’re not sure if that is going to get fixed either as none of us are going to shell out the big bucks for new batteries. We contacted Earthship Biotecture, but haven’t received a reply yet.

I bet you’re wondering what that big black strip in the middle of the roof is there for? Well, let me show you a better view.

So the idea here is that this long, black metal duct will heat up in the sun and draw hot air into it. The vent tubes should then provide fresh air that is pulled into the main living area that is cooler. You can see one of the curved roof vents at the far end where the hot air is to be expelled.

The problem is there is nary a whisper of air coming from the vent tubes so inside isn’t really all that cooler than outside, especially at night. Things only really cool down if there is a nice stiff breeze blowing through the screen door.

At the opposite end of Earthship1, you’ll find this big black barrel.

This is supposed to provide solar heated water, but it has some flaws. The first one, is it’s made of plastic, so if the sun is shining on only part of it, the rest of the barrel doesn’t conduct that heat because plastic is an insulator. Secondly, not much of the barrel is actually exposed to the sun, so you’re really only heating a small amount of water at the top.

We noticed this when we took a shower today and we had full sun out. The water was almost down right cold. Again, this is probably one of those situations where they used whatever they had available, not necessarily what was most ideal.

I thought I would give you another look at the planters from above. It doesn’t look like they planted any food vegetation in these, just a bunch of grass and other things that were growing close by. We did find an aloe plant growing on the side of Earthship1 though, which for us Canuks who sun burn easy is a great thing to have.

Moving inside, if you look up at the ceiling you’ll find four of these screen vents to let the hot air out.

I you look above the front door, there are two big screen vents. As you can see, the screen is quite damaged. Replacing it will be quite the challenge as once again, it has been embedded in mortar.

This is our shower. It works quite well, though the water isn’t warm. It is gravity fed from the barrel on the roof. There is a pump that turns on to refill the barrel when it finds the water level has dropped.

This is the splash guard wall for the shower. I think all of us here are pretty unanimous on liking the look of the plastic bottles with the ends that look like stars or snow flakes.

This is our toilet. It too is working quite well. It is filled from a greywater well from under the planters. Everytime you flush, a pump comes on to refill the tank.

Lastly, we have the sink. We can wash our hands here, but you don’t want to drink the water as there isn’t a full filtration system setup in this Earthship. We brought a water filter with us so we can fill it from the tap and get drinking water without having to buy water all the time.

That takes care of most of it. There is some minor damage to the walls and floors, which apparently is due to earthquakes. It has made some of the doors difficult to open as a result as they rub on the floor now.

Earthship1 is in pretty good shape, but E2 isn’t. It doesn’t have the same facilities, the power isn’t working, so the pumps for the plumbing aren’t working either. There is no bed or bed frame and no lights, even if there was power. We are supposed to be working on making a bed frame another furniture for E2 but without power or proper tools, this is proving to be challenging.

I should also mention the humidity factor again, as it destroys a lot of things left lying around, especially anything made with iron based metal. Screens are rusted, tools are rusted, Kat found a can of nails that had all fused completely into one mass. It also doesn’t help that there is probably a lot of salt in the air from the ocean being so close by.

Overall, we’ve settled in and getting by, but Katrina’s living quarters are a little less than desireable and we need to improve on that.

Earthship Island, Day 1

I just have to start by saying this post has been sheer agony to make. It took over an hour to copy, edit and upload 12 pictures. You’re lucky I have a lot of patience or this post would never have happened.

So with that outof the way, let us begin.

We arrived in Bali two days ago. There were some really freaky clouds over the islands as we were approaching the airport and I managed to catch a picture of them.

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We deplaned and headed for this massive sea of people waiting to get through customs. Overall I think our wait was about 40min.

I should mention that unlike other countries, customs for Indonesia only takes one person at a time. No couples or full families. Obviously if you are traveling with children, they can approach the counter with you, but all adults are done separately.

That being said, the custom’s agent I had only said one word to me during the entire encounter: “Next!” He called next, I gave him my documents, he looked at them, stamped my passport and I was on my way. Kat’s experience was the same.

We then gathered our luggage, which thankfully all arrived with us, exited the international terminal and immediately went back in through the domestic terminal. It was about this time that we realized we were wearing the wrong clothing.

To say that it is hot here just doesn’t do it service, It’s about +30C (85F), which by itself isn’t that bad until you add the 80-90% humidity. All you want to do is wear as little as possible because everything just sticks to you.

Anyway, we eventually got our last flight, which was delayed a fair amount. I was afraid I was going to pass out and miss it as my head kept nodding off.

By the time we landed it was getting close to 22:00 local time and we were really tired. As a result I was not prepared for the onslaught of hyenas that look like taxi drivers that almost literally pounce on you as soon as you come in sight.

At one point we were completely surrounded by them and all I could think of was that scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian when Brian is surrounded by the peasants and yells at them to F-off. Fortunately I managed not to do that.

We eventually found someone to take us to a hotel close by where we could spend the evening. We crashed for the night and got some much needed bed rest.

The next morning proved interesting as both my credit card and debit card were declined when I tried to pay for our room. Fortunately, Kat’s debit card was still accepted.

We still had to figure out getting a local SIM chip for my phone so we could make phone calls and have internet access. That also proved challenging as apparently I had to re-unlock my phone before we could do that.

Needless to we got that done and got hooked up, otherwise I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you now.

After that, we needed some cash. Kat used her card again and we were then able to find someone to take us to the ferry.

It was about a two hour drive, and the cab driver totally ripped us off, but we made it to the boat and hopped on. The boat ride was about an hour and a half.

Finally we made it to Poto Tano, where Suji, our local contact guy was waiting to take us to the island. That was just on a small boat, it may have been able to seat eight, but not with a bunch of luggage.

After all that, we arrived here.

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This is the place that Kat and I are staying at until the end of the month. Right beside it there is another Earthship.

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The second one is where Katrina, a fellow Earthshipper, is supposed to be staying, however it has a few issues. More on that shortly.

Here is a picture of the big hill on the island. We haven’t been up it yet, but when we get there I’m sure we’ll tell you about it.

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This is the view from our front door at high tide.

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Here it is again t low tide. All of that brown rocky looking stuff is coral.

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Here is a picture of Kat sitting on our bed and Katrina heading out the door.

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Now let’s get into some of the issues. First of all, as far as Earthships go, this design is not really temperature stable. All of the temperatures we have taken so far have only differed by one degree, if that, between inside and outside. The humidity inside can often be worse and that is the main reason for the heat issue: no way to deal with the humidity.

The humidity is doing other things besides just making it uncomfortable. It’s making the adobe plaster peal off the wall.

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There are several spots like that one above. You can also see spots like the one below where the wall was covered by things and has been saturated by moisture.

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That won’t be staying on there much on longer.

Remember I mentioned issues with Katrina’s Earthship? Well the first thing is it isn’t complete. It was just acting as storage. The solar system isn’t working there as the batteries are dead. This also means the water pumps aren’t working either.

We did move out all of the building material, swept it out and made a spot for Katrina to sleep, but she still needs to come over to our place to use the washroom.

As we were clearing out her Earthship, we discovered some interesting residents. It’s one thing if your house has bugs or mice, but who do you call when your house has crabs?

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It’s been an interesting first day and I haven’t covered it all, but I’m running out of battery so I need to close this up.

Interesting thing about this island, it can be raining all around it, but it will still be nice here. Have a rainbow.

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There have been quite a few trials, and still more to come, but so far nothing we haven’t been able to handle. I’ll leave you with this sunset.

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