Academy, Day 16

Another day, more Earthship stuff. First thing this morning we learned about the Water Organization Module, or WOM. I even have a picture of one.


This contains all of the filters, and pumps, and pressure switches and so on so you can get water to all of your fixtures. There is also a pressure tank involved in this, but it’s not included in that picture.

After WOM class, we watched two short films. One was a British production that was completely animated showing some Earthship basics. The other was a really bad movie that was made by some film students at one of the Earthships in Taos.

Back on the work site I learned the valuable lesson of being well equipped and how much some machines can save you time and back pain. We were put on the task of digging out the grey water planters that go up against the front, sloped glass. I don’t know if I have mentioned this, but the soil here is mostly clay, with no water in it, so it’s just one step above rock hard. We were short on jack hammers too, so this was a slow going, intensive workout.

Here is a picture of Mat, one of the guys living in the Castle with me during the Academy. I caught him mid laugh πŸ™‚ He was helping out with the digging.


In case you wanted to see what the buttresses look like after you take off the forms, here is the picture. The bolts along the edge will be used to attach door frames and such to the edge of the buttress.


It was hot and dusty today too. We were all pretty much covered head to toe with dust just from the wind picking it up off the dirt we were shoveling. Here is a picture of where we ended up on the dig.


Not bad progress, but a back hoe could have done it in an hour or so. We spent three and a half hours working on it with one jack hammer and two pick axes. I’ll remember this experience when I get to building my own πŸ™‚


Academy, Day 15

I’m sorry I didn’t post anything over the weekend. I got caught up in working on our assignment and various other necessary activities, like doing laundry and buying food for the week.

On Saturday, we had a class on how to calculate your electrical needs and how to size your solar/wind system accordingly. The second class was on wind power, but unfortunately, wasn’t very helpful. I guess you can’t win(d) them all πŸ˜›

Today, our first class was all about the different Earthship types. We went through the early models such as Pit Houses, U module and Hut styles. There is a second class we will have on this that will cover the Packaged and Global models.

Our second class was on all of the components that make up what is called the Power Organization Model. This is all of the controllers and breaker boxes and what not that take the power from your solar array (or wind turbine), sorts it out, stores it in the batteries and serves it up to your standard breaker panel. I’m not an electrician, but the components seemed fairly straightforward. I’m sure the more details you want, the more complicated it gets.

This afternoon, we did the big concrete pour. I’m going to say right now, my estimate was pretty dang close at 16.8 yards. They ordered two trucks for a total of 16 yards and they were short, so we hand mixed the last bit.

You may have heard me mention the name Phil in some of my other posts. He’s one of the long-time Earthshippers and one of our teachers/supervisors. If you watch some of the Earthship videos on youtube, you’ll probably see him as well. This first shot is of Phil prepping the boom from the back of the concrete truck.


You can’t see his shirt, but it says, “Eat Locals” with a picture of a zombie chasing a farmer on a tractor. I thought that was pretty funny πŸ™‚ We all waited with great anticipation and eventually the concrete started to flow down the boom. We were all very excited.


We poured the footings first. Here is a picture of Phil doing finishing work on the footing. I got to do a bit of that too.


However, it wasn’t long before I was recruited to join the bucket brigade to fill in the bond beam up top. The footings were easy, as we could pour those right from the truck, but the bond beam is higher than the truck, so we had to haul it up the back of the building. I’ll tell ya, we had everyone on that bucket brigade and we moved a lot of concrete in a relatively short period of time. I managed during a short break to snap my very first selfie, covered with concrete.


Here is a shot of the crew working to fill up the buttresses. Because it’s so deep, you take a piece of rebar and continuously shove it down into the poured buttress to get it to settle and work out any air bubbles. That’s what they’re doing here.


Then, once it’s all poured, you do some measuring, and place anchor bolts in the concrete so you have something to attach the nailer plate with that will go on top of the bond beam. Here is a shot of the final bond beam pour.


That’s the end of our story for today, I wonder what will happen tomorrow πŸ˜€

Academy, Day 12

Ahhhh, Friday. Full work day. We don’t do class on Fridays, we just do work. This morning, Phil, one of the guys in charge says, “we need someone to pound that last precarious tire at the end of the pony wall.” I immediately yelled, “I’ll do it!”. I think he was a bit surprised by that cause it took him a moment to respond. “Who said that?”

So, I got my stuff together, put a tire on top of the wall, filled it with cardboard and started to put dirt into it. Once I got it fairly full, I got myself up on the wall and proceeded to pound it full. Here is a picture of me in action.


Having a lot of experience in precarious places being a rock climber, standing on this wall pounding a tire with a sledge hammer was pretty easy. I finished it up and then I was given another really nifty job. I had to measure all of the can wall formwork, the footings and the buttress forms to get an accurate estimate for the amount of concrete we were going to order. So I wandered around with a measuring tape and verified all of the dimensions and worked out the cubic yards of concrete we would need. It was around 16.8 cubic yards. That’s a lot, because the trucks that deliver it only hold 9 cubic yards, so we’ll need two trucks.

I had a lot of fun doing that, cause it’s something I find pretty easy to do. I do math all the time as a programmer so this was a no brainer. Phil double checked my calculations and we found one mistake that I fixed easily.

Meanwhile, while I was doing all of this, others were busy working away finishing the can wall formwork. Here is a picture of what was put on top of that last tire I pounded at the end of the pony wall.


After I finished the concrete estimate, I jumped in on pounding tires for the the front face. This is only two courses and we had quite a few people working on it so we got almost the whole thing done today. I think we were short by three tires at the end of the day. I did a lot of leveling of tires that had been pounded. I think I did ten or twelve, including three that I pounded completely myself. Here is a picture of the front face tire wall.


Others were working on finishing the can wall work up top. You can see that all coming together in this picture.


And then there are the buttresses. Yeah, those wooden forms up against the tire wall. Those will be poured with concrete that connects to the bond beam at the top of the tire wall. All of the buttress forms are in place, and securely fixed in place so they don’t explode off the wall when the concrete is poured in, which would be a big bummer. Phil said he has seen it happen. I’m sure it’s not pretty.


I think I achieved a new level today. I felt pretty awesome at the end of the day. I wasn’t tired or out of energy and I felt like I had done some really useful stuff. I guess I’m getting into better shape. This is a good thing πŸ™‚

Academy, Day 11

Woke up this morning to bright sunshine, but it was still pretty chilly.


Saw a hot air balloon hovering over Taos too. It’s tiny in the picture, but it’s pretty much dead center.


Today, in class, we had a double session of aquaponics. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a combination of hydroponics and aqua-culture. Hydroponics is where you grow food plants on a bed floating on water. Aqua-culture is farm raising fish. Aquaponics does both. You use the fish water to feed the plants continuously in a mini eco system. It’s pretty neat, and we saw lots of examples and how to go about it ourselves.

After that, it was back to work at the main build site. The inspector came by this morning while we were all in class, so today, I got to mix concrete for the buttress footings that needed to be poured. Here is the basic process. Start with a bucket of water.


Then add two buckets of aggregate. In our case, we are using large gravel for aggregate.


After that you add half a bag of cement. A bag of cement is about 100 lbs (45.5 kg). Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of a bag of cement. After the cement you add two buckets of sand.


In case you’re wondering where all this goes, it’s in one of these fancy mixer machines that is constantly spinning to do the mixing for you. It looks like this:


And here is a close up.


This was my first time mixing concrete so it took a bit of doing. I had a tendency to have it too dry. Except for the one at the end, which was extra “creamy”. It all worked out in the end and the footings got poured. We put an anchor bolt in each footing as well, which you can see in this picture.


After that, I was working on digging out the trench for the tires that go under the front face. The dirt here in the desert is really tough as it has a lot of clay in it, and it’s really dry, so it’s almost like rock. We were digging it out with pick axes. Here is the number of tires that got pounded today for that.


If you wanted to see what the finished can wall formwork looks like, here it is.


That’s all we got to on site today. I’m thinking we might be doing the big pour for the bond beam tomorrow, if we can get everything ready. If not, it will be Monday for sure.

When we got back to our residence, one of the neighbours brought over fresh goose eggs and one duck egg. The duck egg is about the same size as a chicken egg, so this picture will give you some idea of how big the goose eggs are.


They fry up pretty big too. A meal unto themselves.


Time to work on homework and find some time to sleep.

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