Tag Archives: packout

Martin Earthship Pack-out

It’s been well over a month since my last post and I’m sure there are people wondering what is going on with us. Fortunately, I have some Earthship related news this time.

Last Saturday (July 15th) we trucked down to Mallorytown (near Brockville, ON) and helped out at the Martin Earthship. It’s a full three hour drive for us to get there, so we were up early and out on the road to make it there for 10am.

We had been down there last year, helping to pound tires. This time, we were doing pack-out. For those not familiar with pack-out, this is what we call the procedure by which we fill in the spaces between the tires after they have been pounded with dirt. I talked about this extensively during our trip down to Salida, Colorado, so I won’t go into too much detail.

We had a really decent day for this, as it was partially cloudy, but no rain. Jay and Erin (the owners) also have these portable tent-like shades that we moved around the site to keep the sun off us as we worked.

Here is the first picture of us all looking very busy.

They only have three full courses of tires completed, with a fourth partially done, so it didn’t take us long to move down the length of the wall.

Here you can see the basic idea of what we’re doing. The idea is you throw in a blob of concrete (after wetting the surface of the tires first – very important or your concrete won’t stick) and then put an aluminum can in the space.

Cover the first can with more concrete and then put two more cans in. Add more concrete and by the time you have that all covered, you should be coming out pretty close the the outer edge of the tires. The purpose of the cans is to save on concrete, so they’re really just spacers in this case.

Here you can see Kat hard at work testing out the hammock.

By the end of the day, we had done the pack-out from one end of the house to the other. Here you can see me. It kinda looks like I’m looking for an offering with my hands out like that, but really I’m carting a handful of concrete over to the wall.

Overall, it was a great day, we accomplished things, met some new people, shared our ideas and generally had a great time. Jay and Erin are always great hosts.

Something to note on Earthship pack-out: if you wait until you have the roof on before you start doing pack-out, you can use adobe or cob instead of concrete. This may or may not be cheaper, depending on how easily you can get your hands on clay. You don’t want to do adobe/cob before the roof goes on though, otherwise, if it rains, it’s all going to fall out. Related to that, any tire wall that is exposed to the outside (like wing walls, for example) must have concrete for pack-out for that same reason.

If you’re wondering where we are at with our own Earthship, we still require an engineering stamp for our plans. We have found a local engineer who is himself building an Earthship so that is a big bonus. Unfortunately, he isn’t fully certified yet as he will be sitting his last exam in August, so we’re in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment.


Forever onwards

So, Dave, now that you’re home did you relax this weekend?

Actually, no. We went over to Philippe Charmet’s Earthship build on Saturday and helped out there. It felt quite a bit different when there isn’t a crew of 60+ people all working around you. Much more laid back.

We had been over to Phil’s place last year when he was just starting. It’s much further along now, as far as the walls are concerned.


You can see Phil over Kat’s shoulder there on the left.

Phil has some guys he hired, plus a few of us volunteers who showed up. We were working on doing packout between the tires. Here is a picture of Mark and Carol hard at work. They are members of the Earthship Ottawa meetup group. They regularly post meetups for builds and other fun activities so if you’re interested in this stuff, and close to the area, you might want to look it up.


As you can see, they’re up to seven courses completed of tires. His design is a bit different than what we’re used to, but hey, gotta try new things right?

Here is a picture of Kat saying to herself, “Didn’t we just do this last week?”


I also have been wanting to finish hooking up the composting toilet which I worked on today. I needed to connect the overflow pipe and the vent stack. Both of those are in place now and we’re just waiting for the glue to dry on the joints and the spray foam insulation to harden. I put the starter stuff in the composting bin and with any luck we’ll be in business tomorrow.

Which is good because Phil is coming over tomorrow to help us cut trees. There may be another tree cutting party a bit later, but I haven’t confirmed that one yet. We also still need to finish off the roof, put up the solar array, rip off the interior paneling in the trailer so we can insulate it, insulate and skirt the underneath of the trailer and then make sure we have a tonne of firewood ready for the winter.

Needless to say, we have our work cut out for us.

Colorado Earthship Build: Day 13 (Packout and very hot)

We woke up to a perfectly clear blue sky this morning. It wasn’t all that cool last night either, not like some other nights we’ve had here. This lead to the prediction that it was going to be bloody hot today and we were right.

We got up at the regular time, but we took our time having breakfast (I made french toast with some awesome sourdough we got from the bakery) and getting ready. Saturday is supposed to be a relaxed build day anyway. We left more or less at the regular time, but instead of going straight to the build site, we headed into town to wander through the farmer’s market. It’s only open from 8am until 12:30 on Saturdays so unless we take the time to go, we wouldn’t be going at all.

It wasn’t huge, but it was really nicely setup in a park in Salida. We bought some veggies and some fresh raspberries that were really sweet. We also snagged some eggs and fresh baked whole wheat bread which we dug into at lunch.

After that we headed back to the build site. Only about half the people where there. Some of the Earthship Biotecture crew members had gone home to Taos, NM so there was pretty much a skeleton crew. Kat and I were not feeling very into it today, so we just did some more packout in a shaded section. I took this picture of the view from where we were working out over the valley. You can see Kat in the corner on the left side, slapping mortar onto the wall.


By lunch it was getting stupidly hot. With no clouds to speak of, the sun was just beating down on us. We decided that we had had enough of that so Kat and I headed back to our campsite. Yeah, we skipped some work in the afternoon, but they quit early on Saturdays anyway and being out in that sun was not for us.

So, instead, we refreshed ourselves in the river that runs by our campsite. That would be the Arkansas river.


We didn’t actually swim in it as it has quite the current, but we did stick our feet in to cool off. Here is a picture of Kat wearing her sexy water shoes.


There was a nice little path from where our tents are located down to a calm spot on the side of the river where we were able to dip our feet in. Here is a picture of up stream.


And the corresponding shot of down stream.


There is also an old railroad track going behind the campsite that is no longer used. I did a bit of bush wacking and got myself up there. That was a pretty awesome spot to take the next picture. A full 360 degree panoramic showing the entire view. If you have multiple monitors, you should be able get a better view of it.


We didn’t stay too long at the river, as we hadn’t dowsed ourselves with sunscreen. So we just spent the afternoon relaxing (baking) in the tent. It was hot in the tent, it was hot outside of the tent, it was just plain hot. I checked the weather report and it said the high for today was 81F (27C), but with the full sun on you, it always feels hotter, especially with humidity. Our truck said it was 31C at 18:40, so you can imagine.

Anyway, we walked out to a small diner that is really close to the campsite. On our way there, you have to cross the river, so I took this picture of the sun shining on the water.


The diner was no hell. I ordered a bacon mushroom cheeseburger and I can’t say I’ve ever had a burger with so much stuff on it that was so tasteless. We probably won’t go back there.

We are planning to go back into town tomorrow and check out a few more of the stores in the downtown section.

Colorado Earthship Build: Day 12 (Packout and various things)

Sung to the tune Le Freak by Chic

Have you heard about the new house craze?
Listen to us, I’m sure you’ll be amazed
Tire fun to be had by everyone
It’s up to you, It surely can be done
Young and old are doing it, I’m told
Just one try, and you too will be sold
It’s called pack out! They’re doing it night and day
Allow us, we’ll show you the way

Aaahh Pack out!
Pack out, don’t pout
Pack out!

Yes, this morning I was doing more packout, only this time it was on the west side wing wall around the cistern. I also had helpers who had never done packout so I was playing mentor too. I did a lot more fetching of mortar, with extra people to help. The morning went by pretty quick.

I’m sure you’re tired of looking at pictures of tire walls so I didn’t take any of those.

However, the dude with the excavator came by both ends to bury the cisterns, so there was a bit of frantic work to put the insulation around them before they got buried. Here is a picture of the excavator at work burying the eastern cistern. You can also see the white foam insulation boards that were put around it.


I also carried up and put into place both cooling tube boxes for the west side. Those things are not light, as I mentioned before, as they are made from Trex.


Here is a picture of one that is open so you can see the screen across the pipe. That’s so when you have it open, no critters will climb in. They will eventually be screwed into the cooling tubes and the corners filled in.


Things are going to jump around a bit from here on. I had quite a few different duties after lunch, but none of them involved pounding tires or doing packout.

They have been going pretty hard to put up the vertical green house wall. Here you can see they are working on the support beam across the top on the west side. They have also put up the wood guides on the east side to do the same thing. The gap in the middle is where the framing for the atrium will eventually be going in.


This is the same picture, more or less, but stepped back a ways so you can see the end of the beam. The beam is made of a 2×8 plate, on top of which sits a sandwich of five 2x12s. Another 2×8 plate is put on top of that. This thing is not going anywhere.


Right after lunch, the big crane arrived to move the logs (vigas) into place. It setup first on the west side.


It looks a bit precarious from this picture, but it was well secured.


The way the process worked was the backhoe was outfitted with some forks and it would bring up two or three of the logs at a time.


Helpers would sling the ties around the logs and the crane would pick them up and swing them over to the building. I was wandering around at one point looking for Kat as I couldn’t find her anywhere. Apparently she was one of the log loading helpers. Go Kat go!


Here is a shot from the other end. You can see the logs being placed over the garage. On top of the bond beam you can see two nailing plates. I was helping to install those just after lunch so I got to run up and down that wall. First they had me cutting off the excess threads from the anchor bolts sticking up out of the nailing plate after the nuts on them were tightened. Then I switched and I was the tightener for a bit.

Then we ran out of nuts, so there was a frantic search for more. Don’t you hate it when you don’t have enough nuts to finish the job? Well, anyway, we found enough and all of the plates were bolted down.


Moving around to the opposite corner, I took this picture showing the progress of the logs. For now, they were just putting them up on the roof. They didn’t spend any time making sure they were positioned properly. That will be the finicky part later, maybe tomorrow.


This next picture is a more direct view of the east side bedrooms on the first/bottom floor and the finished beam across the top. You can also see the logs being put into place further in the back on the left.

Something interesting to note, you see how they have those massive posts in some places, and in others they just built a sandwich of 2×8 plates? I asked about that; why use posts in some places and the stack in others. It turns out that the posts are there because they will be exposed when finished and they wanted something nicer to look at. Otherwise, if they were just going to be covered, they probably would have chosen a cheaper option.


More logs, this time being delivered from the east side. You can also see on the right side how they also put the logs over the first floor section on the west side of the building as well. There are a lot of logs in this building.


This is a detailed shot of the form and rebar work for what will be the concrete arch over the west side entrance to the garage. Also, on the right, is the rebar and remesh grid where the outside dome will be created over the entrance. Pretty snazzy, eh?


More logs coming in on the east side. You can also see from this spot that they have poured the concrete for the arch on this side. They also poured all of the buttresses along the back wall of the garage.


I have to tell you, that is a huge amount of concrete to be mixing just with regular cement mixers. The guys working the mixers are real troopers, not to mention all of the others who have to cart it away in wheel barrows and then get it into the spaces it is intended for.

The dumb thing is, the company that had the concrete pumping truck that broke said they had another truck, but it was all booked. We’re like, well that’s your loss, cause this building has no small amount of concrete. Unfortunately, that means more work for us.

I don’t know how many pallets of bags of cement we have gone through so far on this build, but it has to be something like a dozen or more. I believe there are 35 bags per pallet, each weighing 42kg (94lbs). According to spec, “One 94 lb. bag of Portland Cement makes 4.5 cubic feet of concrete.” That’s about 19.75L for us metric folk. If you do the math, that turns out to be roughly 70 cubic yards (53.5 cubic meters). The fun part about that is, we aren’t even finished with the concrete/mortar work yet.

Anyway, I ended up running around all over the place doing little things here and there. I spent a while using the miter saw to cut blocks for the logs. You put a block of wood on each side of each log so it will stay in place, once you have it positioned properly. You need it to stay put as a rebar pin is going to be pounded through it into the nailing plate.

But I’m getting ahead of things. I’m sure we’ll see that part soon enough.