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Earthship woes

Denise Lehtinen


Joined: Sep 10, 2011
Posts: 100
Location: Tampa, Florida zone 9A
    
    1
Unfortunately, despite being built largely out of recycled materials, Earthships are very expensive to build.

We have one that is started (we have the outer tire walls done), but are out of money to complete it.

It was really frustrating to see how slowly it was progressing while we were still trying on it.

It is also hard to imagine being happy in a home that is so far away from town ... although the nearly 10 acres and year around growing that is possible here in Florida leaves lots of possibility for Permaculture on quite a large scale.

It was hard listening to Paul's rambling podcast where he talked about needing land -- a large amount of it -- and having a hard time finding anything suitable in Missoula. It was hard not to have a flight of fancy where the wish for land and the wish for something nice to come out of the Earthship project to come together and solve both issues all at once. Finish the Earthship somehow and give Paul a showcase for his ideas in Central Florida.

It certainly is a pipe dream, and working out the legal mumbo jumbo that would go along with that is over my head. It is too much to ask, but not too much to wish to be true.

But it does touch at a spot that I've tried to forget about as the project remains on hold and my husband tries to find a buyer of it.

Sorry for the rambling post. It needs as much courage as I have to admit to these thoughts in this manner. I don't know if I will have the courage to look at the responses -- that is often tough for me to do.

It is a tough situation just now that could use funds and project manager and courage to keep on trying now that things are really tough and the dream of a real live earth-friendly home on a permacultured land seems to have been only a mirage.

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I want you to know I wish you all the best in this difficult situation. I know how hard it can be to post about problems hoping for answers.


Idle dreamer

Cris Bessette
volunteer

Joined: May 20, 2011
Posts: 684
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 8A
    
  29
It is a tough situation just now that could use funds and project manager and courage to keep on trying now that things are really tough and the dream of a real live earth-friendly home on a permacultured land seems to have been only a mirage.


Maybe I am wrong, and I have no desire to offend in any way, but reading between the lines it seems that you "bit off more than you could chew" so to speak. You started too big and it overwhelmed your resources.

The philosophy of permaculture, it would seem to me, is minimizing inputs and maximizing existing resources/ouputs- you started too big and the inputs of money, labor,etc. never could reach a state of equilibrium with outputs.

I guess what I am saying is that you seem to be giving up on the whole concept of permaculture, but in reality permaculture was never the problem at all.

You just need to start over at a smaller scale that you can sustain, and then with time, work your way to where you want to be.
Start by applying permaculture philosophy to your economic situation and resources, permaculture and sustainability cannot be switched on, it has to grow.




Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Cris Bessette wrote:
You just need to start over at a smaller scale that you can sustain, and then with time, work your way to where you want to be.




Can you give some practical suggestions about how to start over with a partially completed Earthship?
Cris Bessette
volunteer

Joined: May 20, 2011
Posts: 684
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 8A
    
  29
Tyler Ludens wrote:
Cris Bessette wrote:
You just need to start over at a smaller scale that you can sustain, and then with time, work your way to where you want to be.




Can you give some practical suggestions about how to start over with a partially completed Earthship?


When I said "start over" I meant, from the point where inputs and outputs can be stabilized. So, if they cannot afford to continue the construction at this point, then get an old camping trailer and move in, and then work their way up to the point of continuing construction. If even this is too much, it may mean selling out altogether and getting a property that matches their resources.

For example, I would love to have ten acres and an earthship- but I know my two acres and a vintage 1960's "regular house" is all I can handle right now with my resources. If I cannot bring my current situation to sustainability, then I sure won't be able to handle even more.
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
My brother built an earth ship and so did someone else I knew. Both abandoned them. I've heard of others like this. I'm not fond of some the design elements I've seen in those, namely the tire stacking to begin with.

We did something totally differently that was a lot less expensive, we're extremely happy with and fits our style. We built a small cottage (this was before I had heard of the 'tiny house' movement) of masonry with a very high thermal mass. Lots of recycled materials but built to last for centuries. It won't be for everyone. Some would find it too small at 252 sq-ft, but it works great for the five of us. Most of the time we're outdoors. Indoors is quiet space and time.

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/cottage

What is important is that people have the option to experiment and try things - this is why I'm anti-zoning and such. That result of experimentation in innovation. Hopefully you learned many things and maybe will get to try again with the benefit of that experience.
Jennyerin Steele-Staats


Joined: Aug 01, 2012
Posts: 3
Just wondering what ever became of the earthship build. If you are still on here let us know! We started construction of a "modified" earthship this spring and would love to know if you overcame your issues with it.
Yone' Ward


Joined: Feb 14, 2012
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
I saw those big muscular 20-somethings in videos pounding away on tires full of dirt and realized I was never young and stupid enough to do that much work. That's why we cut a sidewall out of the tire and soaked the dirt and simply stepped on the dirt to compact it. When dried, it turn into a near concrete. Still, like you, after over a year, we have yet to finish an Earthship project. Can you switch to straw bales?


Just call me Uncle Rice.
17 years in a straw bale house.
George Hayduke


Joined: May 21, 2012
Posts: 24
Well, OP, that sucks. I hope it works out for you.

I live in Florida and am in the process of building a residence out of shipping containers. So far I am very happy with the costs and results. I framed out the interior of the containers using conventional wooden framing (press fitted and glued in place to avoid penetrating the steel skin), installed electrical wiring in the walls, insulated with Icynene foam, and finished the interior walls with drywall. Currently the first module (8'x8'x20') has been occupied for five months and averages less than 4 kW hours per day in electricity usage including the use of a high-efficiency mini heat pump, lights, a computer, etc. That means four photovoltaic panels are sufficient to meet the electrical needs of this module.

Next year we swing two more modules into position and add a second floor.

There are 700,000 unused shipping containers in the US. The possibilities are endless.
dan simon


Joined: Feb 13, 2012
Posts: 22
After reading this post i cannot help but comment. I am building a house. I am building a straw bale house which is not my first choice as i wanted an earthship. However the land i own does not have a suitable southern slope for an earthship and the tools and the money i have are insufficient for making a southern slope. As well as that issue The project has run over time and i will need to go back to work soon to save more dollars to finish it.
These are not rants rather they are expectations. Going into this I knew a few things.
1 it would be hard
2 it would be time consuming
3 it would try my patients and that of my wife and friends.
4 the plan would have to change at some point due to unforeseen challenges.
All of these thing happened and will happen until I finish.
The thing about this fad of permaculture is that people often expect the same results and lifestyle that conventional building and living provide. What i mean is that when someone says they want solar for their home they expect it to replace the grid at the same time as meeting the current lifestyle. This is not possible without a significant budget or some foolish government subsidy.
permaculture is antithetical to the culural norms of overused, over sized and over complicated. As well farming is hard work. raising chickens and goats and a garden to replace walmart is a full time job. permaculture is not for the faint of heart rather for those who desire something completely different. It is either or. And it is fully what you do or not at all. It is a part of your home economy, how and where you shop, who you spend time with, how you think about any given idea.
What i mean by all of this is always start small. Always. If you want a 2000 square foot earthship it hope your independently wealthy as it is going to take a lot of money to build. Exponentially more than say a 700 square foot house. This is just the law of home building. No matter what it is you build.
Don't give up on your hope for a better life just restart better.
A suggestion if you've gotten in too deep is back off for a time reconsider your options and restart small. In the end i have seen many if not all who have built a small house find that they are completely satisfied with a small house.
My current budget for my 720 square foot starw bale kingdom is 6000 dollars, yes only 6k and this much because i will be using nifty things call microlams and dimensional lumber. I will use verylittle concrete only what i mix by hand. no backhoe or other heavy machinery. No hired labor just picks and shovels and my back and a friend or 2. no grid ties. no nonsense. And I started small.
I hope things work out for you. just relax and start over with a better plan and a more informed perspective.
amber marcum


Joined: Feb 22, 2013
Posts: 17
Location: ne arizona
After living in our earthship for 13 years, I still love it. We built it ourselves. It almost cost my husband rotator cuff surgery from all the tire pounding.But I heard there is a machince that you can buy for $2500 that they will buy back at half price when you are finished with it, that will help with the pounding of the tires. I dont know if it is on their website yet.....www.biotechturetraining.com, but I heard a podcast about it on www.thesurvivalpodcast.com episode 1065. It took us 6 years to build. We lived in ratty trailers with the motivation of more space as long as we moved forward. We did scrounge most of the glass for the windows. The only thing that i wish we had done differently was to face it south. The huge power lines were in the view, so we shifted it more southwest. But in Arizona in the summer time......it gets hot. But nothing that a wet shirt and a fan, or doing something outside wont fix. The other thing is I suppose we could modify it to the double front hall way thing that Reynolds does now.

Some of the new building combinations sound interesting.....how about a part earthship, sunken greenhouse. Hum....I think that will be on another part of this forum.
alex Keenan


Joined: Nov 08, 2012
Posts: 228
    
    6
I may be out of line here and if so I mean not offense.
However, I have seen projects such as this where all the work has to be done by hand.
If labor is abundant and cheap than this works well. However, when this is not the case then costs can kill you. I have seen just how much difference small soil compactors and small loader like a bobcat can make on a project such as this. One can lay and compact a lot of soil with the use of a little of the right equipment. My grandfather build a two room log cabin after WWII in Alaska on his homestead. He had to clear the site and cut all the logs using hand tools. In the 80’s we could build that same sized cabin in a couple of weekends using a chainsaw. A big part of project management is using the right tools for the right work 

I wish you luck, hopefully you are back on track now.
Chael Givan


Joined: Jan 31, 2013
Posts: 11
    
    1
If I were you, OP, I would abandon the earthship for now and build a conventional shell so that you have something to live in. Finish the shell or continue on the earthship after you are stable and settled. A very creative way to build a mass wall cabin out of engineered lumber would be one low cost way to build. This is what I refer to: http://tinyhouseblog.com/log-construction/how-to-build-a-small-log-cabin/ . The technique is relatively economical, 'tight', straightforward to build and far more structurally sound than a stick frame build plus I believe you will have less problem getting this approved by the building inspector.

steve pailet


Joined: Dec 01, 2012
Posts: 35
I keep looking at the model of the earthship. I look at the problems with codes and the extra work to get them to pass inspection.. It is daunting. I then looked at building the exterior walls with cement block doing dry stack. My time is worth something.. and my body says... OH really pounding the dirt for months.

I was kind of shocked at the cost of block.. $3000 for the rebar block and surface bonding cement. Add another 1ooo for grouting the insides .. I looked at this and decided that having a slight arch shape to this back wall made a lot of sense.. as it puts pressure uniformly and less chance of the block being pushed off of the bond beam. Did not think this was hard to deal with.

As to interior finish I would like to use post and beam to hold up the roof. Infilling the walls with stack wood and also doing the same against the exterior walls.. I look at stack wall as not being very good for exterior use hard to keep the bugs from wanting to eat the wood. Kind of the same sort of problems one can have if you dont keep it dry with straw bale ... That said think the stack wall has a very earthy look and is fun.

Things that people forget about is that the glazing on the front of the building is expensive.. That is glass.. EXPENSIVE. I plan to use recycled windows.. that are double hung.. but what i want to do that is a bit different is above those windows use double strength single panes in the upper portion .. of the frames. What makes them a bit different is that I want to make them solar PV panels that are just clear urethane coated. so you can actually see thru the solar cells. The insides will be at the top of the green house space.. but will still let thru a lot of light while not being exposed to the elements outside.

Other things that I believe will make the build easier.. buy as much for the interiors as you can afford when you see bargains.. Steve P
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15273
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
In the 80's I was in love with the earthship. My book was tattered from having pawed through it dozens of times. At christmas i bought everybody copies of the book.

My favorite part was something about "What if a spring pops up inside my house?" and the magnificent response was something like "You now have a natural water feature in your home!"

I didn't have land, so it was all fantasy for me. Eventually my love shifted to strawbale and cob and eventually that faded too.

I remember hearing Jack Spirko say that if you ever think you want to build an earthship, pound dirt in one tire. By the time you are a third done with that, you will change your mind. I think there is a lot of truth to that.

I have seen some stunningly beautiful pictures of earthships. And I have seen, first hand, a lot of "under construction" earthships. Including "under construction for the last five years" earthships that didn't even look half done.

And now I worry about off-gassing from the tires.

It seems that there are thousands of people that are massively passionate about earthships - just as I was in the 80's. And they are certain that not only is an earthship for them, but an earthship is for EVERYBODY (meaning: everybody is required to love the earthship; nobody is allowed to have an opinion other than "earthship is best").

Three different people sent me to this article. Ouch. That was intense.

My current passion is for the wofati. And after reading this article, i hope that four years from now we can expose the wofati to this guy and I hope the wofati will impress this guy.

Here are the things that stung me as I read this article, and I hope that we can do to the satisfaction of this author in the wofati:

1) the designer does not live in his design

2) the claim is that they are warm in the winter - and apparently that is not true when you have just one cloudy day. I think that with a passive solar design, that is a well known issue although if somebody is claiming that it stays warm on a cloudy day, then it is fair to convey that many don't.

3) the claim is that they are cool in the summer. Apparently not so.

4) claims of eating from the greenhouse section which has been watered with greywater. Yeah, I have lots of problems with that.

5) Dennis Weaver built a mega-jumbo earthship, was videoed about how great it is, and then moved out because the offgassing from the tires was making him sick.

6) apparently the cost is far more than a conventional home.

I very much hope that the wofati ends up doing what we claim. Especially 30 years down the road.



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steve pailet


Joined: Dec 01, 2012
Posts: 35
I looked at the earthships. What appeals to me is more the design than the use of salvaged materials (tires). I look and as I continue to read I see flaws that are just part of how they are designed for passive heating and cooling.

A few things that I looked at though are pretty straight forward. So I chose to use dry stack block. It will pass building codes anywhere and frankly it is Super inexpensive. People worry about embedded energy but the reality is that over a short term if one has high mass house the energy use needed to heat and cool the home drop dramatically,quickly making up for the up front energy to produce the cement.

I was laughing that the homes are basically a berm style construction with metal roofs on the newer ones (they dont leak)

As to the use of grey water, that really is not a concern. Sink and shower are not really dirty. When I look at the municiple water supply there I am much more concerned due to what is actually in the water. Drugs that have been flushed into the water, and even worse Fluoride which as it turns out is found in massive amounts in peoples brains who suffer Alzheimers. Reality does it matter much if the water has been cleaned by running the grey water thru a soil / plant bed for use to flush a toilet? NO.. it likely is cleaner than the water that we get from the municipal water supply. Check out how they actually clean the water. Chemical Flocculation to drop some of the worse pollutants, run it thru settling beds (isnt that what the plant bed does?) then toss in a bunch of chemicals to kill bacteria and viruses.. One can do the same thing using UV and filtration if you wanted to reuse this water to drink. Just have to be very careful about what is in your cleaning products. Same as one would so as not to kill off the bacteria in a septic tank.

As far a food production.. if one does try to grow in ground I think that you would be hard pressed to supply ones needs.. but with the advent of Aquaponics, one might find that they actually have a lot more food than they can use. This along with much of what we look at here to produce food off the land allow us to actually put away massive amounts more and a wider variety than can be found in the typical grocery stores fresh produce area.

Bethanny Parker


Joined: Sep 19, 2013
Posts: 20
Location: Grant, MI
    
    1
paul wheaton wrote:

I very much hope that the wofati ends up doing what we claim. Especially 30 years down the road.



What you are doing is experimental. Maybe it will work out (I very much hope so); maybe it won't. As long as you don't get so attached to your design that you refuse to change it if it's not working, it will all work out in the end. If, five years down the road, you realize it doesn't stay warm enough in winter or whatever, you need to be willing to look at it objectively and say, "This isn't working. How can we make it better?" Eventually, when you have the kinks worked out, I'm sure you'll end up with something really great. I don't think you're the sort of guy who would be satisfied with a design that is not quite right.
Josh Ritchey


Joined: Jul 05, 2012
Posts: 66
    
    2
I've got to say I'm in love with the idea of earth friendly housing, but as I start my own Paul/Jack inspired land search the problems become quite apparent. A lot of vacant land is simply way too expensive, some is actually cheaper per acre with a house. More to my point, aren't there more house in the U.S. that people? Are we being responsible stewards by constructing more, even if they are earth friendly? I suppose an earth friendly house couldn't have a negative impact, but all the "stuff" we put in it may. We could debate for hours on the positive and negatives of constructing more homes, I'm curious what everybody else thinks. Is it too difficult and costly to make a conventional house reasonably energy efficient, if not equal?

I am a little upset to finally arrive at the complete rationalization that my dream of living in an earthship is busted.
I guess better now than once I've started.

As far as an answer to the above question, could a timber frame roof be put over what ever is there now and used as an animal shelter of something while a more cost effective structure be utilized for living. Maybe a Yurt or the previously mentioned travel trailer.

I hope all works out, you guys are truly and inspiration for me.
steve pailet


Joined: Dec 01, 2012
Posts: 35
Remember no matter what kind of building you erect the first goal is to keep water away. Whether its something underground or above ground. Water wicks away heat.. and it is the universal solvent.
Deb Rebel


Joined: Dec 23, 2013
Posts: 47
I was in love with the earthships too; from way back when. I didn't have a book to wear out, but. Eventually I ended up in a Front Range urban sprawl (city) full of tourism; and made friends with someone that had actually built one. There is a coop enclave where a large number of them had been built and to live there you had to build your own or buy a completed one. This little lady and her (now ex) had spent five years busting theirs pounding tires and finishing about 1500 square feet. And sold it right after they finished it.

She said: Two healthy strong adults if they truly busted theirs all day, could pound three tires in 8 hours. That you had to put over 3 wheelbarrows of dirt into that tire and pound pound pound it in (15" car tire) with sledge hammers and it worked best if two were working on the same one, hitting alternating blows. Cost overruns, yes. Even though they scrounged most of the wood, lights, wiring, fixtures; it wasn't $5 a square foot. If you are in a mild climate, heating may not be an issue but solar gain could be something you couldn't handle on a hot sunny day. They had 'oog' issues with the dirt (weeping and crumbling) She said they lived in it about a week and decided to sell it. And had no problems getting it sold then, there were a lot of people that wanted one but were daunted by building. Last but not least, the slave wages they got 'paid' by selling it; she wished she'd been selling burgers to the tourists instead with the time.

One more, they had trying casting papercrete and said nice concept, one (beep) of a mess, a real (beep) to clean out of the mixer, and it turns into smelling MOLDY. Nothing they tried would block that. When they put it on the market they'd doused that stuff with bleach and KILZ and it sold quick before the smell came back.

Sigh. Here's to hoping with the Wofati. Paul, thank you about RMH, I installed one in my house in December (and ripped out the dangerous ancient poorly cared for corner fireplace installed thingy) and I love it. I gagged at the cost of the firebrick, and worth every penny. (yes I had to buy my brick, no place to scavenge any). They so beat a fireplace, wood stove, franklin stove.... I want to build another, outside sheltered, for heating a pizza oven....
Steven Wieler


Joined: Jan 09, 2012
Posts: 4
Here is some discussion about that article on Manitoba Earthship's facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/manitobaearthship/725203770851560/?comment_id=725448457493758¬if_t=like
Deb Rebel


Joined: Dec 23, 2013
Posts: 47
dang, I don't have a FB account, so I can't see it.
Len Ovens


Joined: Aug 26, 2010
Posts: 1286
Location: Vancouver Island
    
  15
Josh Ritchey wrote:I've got to say I'm in love with the idea of earth friendly housing, but as I start my own Paul/Jack inspired land search the problems become quite apparent. A lot of vacant land is simply way too expensive, some is actually cheaper per acre with a house. More to my point, aren't there more house in the U.S. that people? Are we being responsible stewards by constructing more, even if they are earth friendly? I suppose an earth friendly house couldn't have a negative impact, but all the "stuff" we put in it may. We could debate for hours on the positive and negatives of constructing more homes, I'm curious what everybody else thinks. Is it too difficult and costly to make a conventional house reasonably energy efficient, if not equal?


That is the reality I am looking at. I found a nice piece of land with a shed meant to sit beside a large RV (washroom and laundry and open space)... but the reality is that when a bank is involved (and I don't have a choice) I need a very large down payment unless there is what the bank feels is a reasonable dwelling. I can get into some land with a house on it (or a newer mobile home), but not raw land even if it is cheaper. If I want out of the city, I get something with a house. I can build a cottage and live it after that... and maybe rent out the house But doable trumps everything.


I am a little upset to finally arrive at the complete rationalization that my dream of living in an earthship is busted.
I guess better now than once I've started.

As far as an answer to the above question, could a timber frame roof be put over what ever is there now and used as an animal shelter of something while a more cost effective structure be utilized for living. Maybe a Yurt or the previously mentioned travel trailer.

I hope all works out, you guys are truly and inspiration for me.


I have personally never been fond of the earthship. Cost and work required are too high. I have never believed that I wanted to live that close to all those tires either as I have mounted and unmounted enough tires to have had enough of the smell. The pretty pictures and movies seem to be for the purpose of selling the earthship... why are they moving out? Getting the right balance of insulation and mass in the right location is not as easy as it seems, but worth attempting I think. But I think one first needs to build a small shed (within no permit size) and find out what works or not in the area they have land. Certainly anyone who wants save on heating and cooling will be accepting more temperature swing no matter what the building style (we have decided that we can live in something other than 21C in our standard stick built house). Can mass even things out enough? I would like to try, but it would not be an earthship... and probably not what people would think of as "green" (or brown if that is your way). Low cost is what will make it happen and for me 4 or more air exchanges per hour... I will not live in a sealed house.... One of the causes of dementia is lack of oxygen to the brain. (lack of singing and dancing is another BTW) I have visited some big green houses... and I can say for sure that I would never want to live in one.

From my experience of living in a stick house, I am thinking that building to stay cool is more important than worrying about heating In This Area. Some of the ways I am thinking of making electrical power will make excess heat. Big south facing windows are something I would like to stay away from. I walk house to house about 12 to 15 miles a day and see around 400 dwellings each day. I see a lot of south windows that have blinds day in and day out.... even those that have wonderful views (looking across the Comox harbour at the mountains on the other side can't be a burden for so many people that they want to block it out).

Wofati? I live in an eathquake zone and I am not sure I want that much weight over my head, but I like a lot of the design ideas.
Deb Rebel


Joined: Dec 23, 2013
Posts: 47
Len...

Try asking the seller about 'owner carry' financing. Aka the two of you work out a deal, have a few hundred bucks (at outside) of legal papers drawn up, signed, and filed, and you pay the owner off in 2-5 years directly. I have done this more than once and usually tossed a 10% on it for 'flat interest' for carrying the financing, in this market that is usually a pretty good return, even on 5 years of payments. The owner gives you the deed and files a lien on the property which they release within (60 days usually) one you have paid off.

Rent an RV or get one cheap, it just has to run enough to get there and be able to be hooked up. You aren't really going to live in it, but you have thus put a habitable space back onto the land; you might even be able to borrow one from a friend to 'store' there most of the time. Since that's what the land is set up for, maybe the bank will accept that and loan.

If you have fantastic plastic (credit card) some of those may be able to give you an advance or arrangements to help you gather that down if your bank won't help you 100%.

Insulate up a shed into a 'microdwelling' that you can later use as a storage shed or something, and see if that will qualify for your bank. There are some pretty nice 8x10 or 10x12 sheds you can get and add enough insulation and finish to put in a bunk, kitchenette and toilet... I think some places even rent those small homes.

Find out if a friend or coworker could give you a loan for the down, use legal contract, and offer 10% on a 2-5 year payoff, the shorter the better; and have the bank do autodeduct to pay them. The shorter the repayment time the better; you might have a friend that can afford to do that.

If the person has just started into the mess or something has gone sideways maybe you can offer to assume the mortgage on the property and let them walk way. You have to suck all costs though, legal, taxes, etc; it may be less than trying to finance or refinance. You still need a Quit Claim or Deed of Sale that indicates that you will assume the debt in return for control of the property. That may take an attorney.

Go to the courthouse first and make sure things are clean, clear and no liens. If there is a lien it has to be taken care of first or lifted.
In many cases, you also can save legal fees by being the legs for the attorney; go to courthouse yourself to look stuff up; and file finished paperwork, etc. You can afford to stand there for 15 min; the attorney will charge you $200... you stand there yourself.

Look for property that is worth it by itself with a 'marshmallow palace' on it; the bank will probably loan on it; and after you start paying... deal with removing the residence and build another. I have done this. Land was worth X, house was worth less than 10% of that; land was undervalued as it was... bank financed and I started improving it, and that meant a 'remodel' of the existing structure. I left one corner structural timber stand and built onto that. MASSIVE remodel. It flew with the bank.... it also saved property taxes as it was a 'remodel' instead of 'new construction'.

*marshmallow palace=it needs to have you invite your friends and someone with a fire truck; toss a match and hand out the coathangers and marshmallows...

Good luck.
Philip Nafziger


Joined: Feb 18, 2014
Posts: 14
Location: Columbia, Ky
In my opinion, there is no "one size fits all" house. Not stick frame, not log cabin, not cord wood, not PSP, not rammed earth, not Adobe, not straw bale, not earthship, and not wofati. All these have their pros and cons and they should all be examined to see what will work best in your area. I am also totally in favor combining bits and pieces of each of these methods to form hybrids for hybrid situations.

I personally would love to build underground but in south central KY we have limestone 2 feet below the surface ruling out building underground for obvious reasons. That's why I'm going with tire foundation and bale walls.

There is no silver bullet in housing. Maybe several of them but not just one.
Len Ovens


Joined: Aug 26, 2010
Posts: 1286
Location: Vancouver Island
    
  15
Deb Rebel wrote:Len...

Try asking the seller about 'owner carry' financing. Aka the two of you work out a deal, have a few hundred bucks (at outside) of legal papers drawn up, signed, and filed, and you pay the owner off in 2-5 years directly. I have done this more than once and usually tossed a 10% on it for 'flat interest' for carrying the financing, in this market that is usually a pretty good return, even on 5 years of payments. The owner gives you the deed and files a lien on the property which they release within (60 days usually) one you have paid off.

Rent an RV or get one cheap, it just has to run enough to get there and be able to be hooked up. You aren't really going to live in it, but you have thus put a habitable space back onto the land; you might even be able to borrow one from a friend to 'store' there most of the time. Since that's what the land is set up for, maybe the bank will accept that and loan.


RV and living space are two different things to the bank. I can legally live that way, but the bank considers that raw land... means (right now) 50% down and the home we have right now does not have that much value in it. We have gone through a bunch of lean years as my wife went to school and are now recovering. The bank wants a permitted house and one that a house inspection shows as being more than a teardown. Other wise it is "raw land".


Look for property that is worth it by itself with a 'marshmallow palace' on it; the bank will probably loan on it; and after you start paying... deal with removing the residence and build another. I have done this. Land was worth X, house was worth less than 10% of that; land was undervalued as it was... bank financed and I started improving it, and that meant a 'remodel' of the existing structure. I left one corner structural timber stand and built onto that. MASSIVE remodel. It flew with the bank.... it also saved property taxes as it was a 'remodel' instead of 'new construction'.

*marshmallow palace=it needs to have you invite your friends and someone with a fire truck; toss a match and hand out the coathangers and marshmallows...

Good luck.


This is my best bet, so long as it is not leaning over or infested with ants or rotted out, it can be older and smaller. In other words there is someone living in it now and not suggesting it should be torn down. I can get 10% down (with mortgage insurance) or 25% without (which I will probably be able to do in a year or two when the bank is willing to look at my wife's income as having meaning). The fact is that land here is not cheap (Vancouver Island) and we can't just move anywhere... I have health problems on the prairies where I come from though I might be able to inherit there. Also our work is here and two sons have school here too. It is (as I am finding out) a very complex move. Our reasons for more land are less perma culture than I would like and I would expect less help from my wife because she will be working more than me. So a food forest, yes. live stock? maybe chickens. A garden? not anything big as it will be a learning experience for sure. Off grid? ish maybe. Supplemented grid for the most part. Off grid for some things like food preserving and other priorities, meaning that we should be able to live without grid if we have to and that we cut our bills a bit in the mean time. wood heat for sure... maybe moving towards solar. brick oven, yes. Wood cooking? I hope so, but I am sure there will be times of propane or electric.

A place for experimenting though. A place with more outside room for the kids and us too.
Deb Rebel


Joined: Dec 23, 2013
Posts: 47
Len Ovens wrote:
Deb Rebel wrote:Len...

Try asking the seller about 'owner carry' financing. Aka the two of you work out a deal, have a few hundred bucks (at outside) of legal papers drawn up, signed, and filed, and you pay the owner off in 2-5 years directly. I have done this more than once and usually tossed a 10% on it for 'flat interest' for carrying the financing, in this market that is usually a pretty good return, even on 5 years of payments. The owner gives you the deed and files a lien on the property which they release within (60 days usually) one you have paid off.



RV and living space are two different things to the bank. I can legally live that way, but the bank considers that raw land... means (right now) 50% down and the home we have right now does not have that much value in it. We have gone through a bunch of lean years as my wife went to school and are now recovering. The bank wants a permitted house and one that a house inspection shows as being more than a teardown. Other wise it is "raw land".

I hear you there, we both went through college for post grad...

Another thing to try, Rent to Own? You pay rent for two years, a percentage of that goes towards the down and it gives you time to raise the rest of the down; then you go into a mortgage. Only downside is if you don't finish raising the down, you lose what you've paid into the down-fund. (anything you saved yourself you keep, but anything you paid as 'rent' you lose)


Look for property that is worth it by itself with a 'marshmallow palace' on it; the bank will probably loan on it; and after you start paying... deal with removing the residence and build another. I have done this. Land was worth X, house was worth less than 10% of that; land was undervalued as it was... bank financed and I started improving it, and that meant a 'remodel' of the existing structure. I left one corner structural timber stand and built onto that. MASSIVE remodel. It flew with the bank.... it also saved property taxes as it was a 'remodel' instead of 'new construction'.

*marshmallow palace=it needs to have you invite your friends and someone with a fire truck; toss a match and hand out the coathangers and marshmallows...

Good luck.


This is my best bet, so long as it is not leaning over or infested with ants or rotted out, it can be older and smaller. In other words there is someone living in it now and not suggesting it should be torn down. I can get 10% down (with mortgage insurance) or 25% without (which I will probably be able to do in a year or two when the bank is willing to look at my wife's income as having meaning). The fact is that land here is not cheap (Vancouver Island) and we can't just move anywhere... I have health problems on the prairies where I come from though I might be able to inherit there. Also our work is here and two sons have school here too. It is (as I am finding out) a very complex move. Our reasons for more land are less perma culture than I would like and I would expect less help from my wife because she will be working more than me. So a food forest, yes. live stock? maybe chickens. A garden? not anything big as it will be a learning experience for sure. Off grid? ish maybe. Supplemented grid for the most part. Off grid for some things like food preserving and other priorities, meaning that we should be able to live without grid if we have to and that we cut our bills a bit in the mean time. wood heat for sure... maybe moving towards solar. brick oven, yes. Wood cooking? I hope so, but I am sure there will be times of propane or electric.

A place for experimenting though. A place with more outside room for the kids and us too.


I'm dealing with two urban acres and some weirdities with that; but. Look into Square Foot Gardening; vermiculture and vermicomposting; and solar cookers. I am building some next week with cardboard, drafting skills and aluminum foil, and going to play with my collection of fresnal lenses for that and water heating in general for our use. I need to get a linear to do pipe heating for hot water.... And embrace the RMH (Rocket Mass Heater). They take so little fuel, make so little ash, and share heat for so long after a few hours of firing. You can cook on top the burn chamber barrel if you need to.
Len Ovens


Joined: Aug 26, 2010
Posts: 1286
Location: Vancouver Island
    
  15
Deb Rebel wrote:
I'm dealing with two urban acres and some weirdities with that; but. Look into Square Foot Gardening; vermiculture and vermicomposting; and solar cookers.

I have tried gardening... anything that I have to plant every year gets mixed results. Part of that has been work and health combined, but a lot of it is learning too. It is not just the growing but making sure to harvest at the right time and preserve it. After retirement I should (big word should) have the time and energy to deal with it. Solar cookers are great (hay boxen too) I made a corner reflector style with insulated box and have cooked breads and rice and such in it. I am sure I could do wheat breads, but I like lean, hot, fast cooked bread from the bricks. Most of what I have done have been nut breads in the solar cooker for my son who doesn't eat starch. But, again it doesn't work so well when working... it doesn't take constant attention, but you do need to be in the area. Hayboxen are better if you can't be there and I have used a cooler and sleeping bag a number of times when we have been out of the house.


I am building some next week with cardboard, drafting skills and aluminum foil, and going to play with my collection of fresnal lenses for that and water heating in general for our use. I need to get a linear to do pipe heating for hot water.... And embrace the RMH (Rocket Mass Heater). They take so little fuel, make so little ash, and share heat for so long after a few hours of firing. You can cook on top the burn chamber barrel if you need to.


Solar water heating is on my _ToDo_ list... I keep on using the supplies to do other things with The RMH is fun, but I think I will need to redo the inside tunnel and riser because mine is sheet metal and bound to burn out if I use it much. I don't know how much cooking I could do on top of mine though as it is rounded not flat. But on the up side, the top of the burn chamber is a lot thicker than most barrels too. Some rings of weld could make a flat space big enough for a frypan if I wanted though.

Anyway, we seem to be straying somewhat from the whole earthship thing (where's the "off topic" threads?) so we should leave this line rest.
Deb Rebel


Joined: Dec 23, 2013
Posts: 47
Len, I'll start a topic. Things we think we need to start straying off grid
Erica Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Feb 10, 2009
Posts: 748
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
    
  89
The article link to the Earthship critique wouldn't let me view without registering.

Here's another article that seems to be by the same author, in The Verge, a publication that allows public viewing:
http://www.theverge.com/2012/11/29/3693164/escape-to-earthship-taos-michael-reynolds

It details his 8-week course, compares it to a previous enjoyment of Space Camp, brings up some concerns about the amount of labor he and other students did, points out issues with various early prototypes and a brief injection of chemtrails into the growing-your-own-food part of the course. He has doubts about the post-apocalyptic aspect of some of the people's reasoning for doing this. Thinks the whole enterprise is a bit more grid-dependent than its proponents would admit, but nonetheless appears to be meaningful work. Apparently the writer remains interested enough to be contemplating involvement with more projects.

If you read both, please let us know if this covers the same ground?

-Erica W


Play with nature, make nifty stuff:
www.ErnieAndErica.info
Geoff Buddle


Joined: Apr 26, 2013
Posts: 5
Oh boy, I am doing my best to calm down. I'm getting tired of seeing red!

So here are my thoughts,

1) the designer does not live in his design

Didn't know, but why? Got a great price for his and has temporary residence while he builds his final? This is a harmful allusion and only does disservice to non-critical thinkers.

2) the claim is that they are warm in the winter - and apparently that is not true when you have just one cloudy day. I think that with a passive solar design, that is a well known issue although if somebody is claiming that it stays warm on a cloudy day, then it is fair to convey that many don't.

Sorry, but the obvious relevant missing facts are; 1. the Mike Reynolds built ones or a poorlydone knock-off by someone who bent too many essential variables in their build? 2. Was the complainer too lazy to put on a sweater because it was 18.0364 deg. celcius instead of 21 deg.? If permaculture is primarily a science-based design system, what was the measurement? Opinions are made of words and words are cheap, dude. Facts are golden.

3) the claim is that they are cool in the summer. Apparently not so.

See response to 2).

4) claims of eating from the greenhouse section which has been watered with greywater. Yeah, I have lots of problems with that.

You may have a problem with that, and that is likely the same "living-thing phobia" that allows our society to grow corn the way it does. The crap they make Kunstler's "cheese-doodles" from. Knowledge will set you free of your fears so learn what your bio-remediation requirements are and don't play with it like adding bloatware to make people think they need faster computers. (Si, yo hablo computadora, MCSE NT4., muchacho.)

5) Dennis Weaver built a mega-jumbo earthship, was videoed about how great it is, and then moved out because the off-gassing from the tires was making him sick.

Really? Because the DVD talked about a prof. that tested the used tires and the off gassing was nil, and with no UV to break down plastered tires? Of course there's that TED Talk guy (Mike McGrath) who talks about (North) Americans and their leaf blowers and SPB's (Stupid People Bags). On top of that, one can't get tires easy in Ontario (proper disposal plus a fee of course has them tied up, freecycling be gone.) So fine, hyperadobe actually would work out cheaper in my opinion (note the qualification? My opinion, if I am wrong its my reputation/ass on the line.)

6) apparently the cost is far more than a conventional home.
See # 2) and add, look dude, I was at a Green Neighbours 21 meet-up a while ago and an attendee mentioned a relative was costing $2600 (CDN) to keep in long term storage (aka Retirement Home) so like cooking, if you can make Vermicelli noodle Singapore-style yourself, $4, buy at restaurant $9. If I need someone wipe up after me, $2600/month. If you need someone else to build your house, they gotta eat and its gonna cost and like food, if you didn't grow it yourself, how ya gonna know what's in it and how to fix it to boot, so much for being able to look after yourself, that's gotta violate a fundamental Permaculture principle. For shame, Paul, for shame.

And that last line, didn't Billy Mollison say something like this in his 1983 PDC, "Hope is a most desperate word. It indicates that you have no plan and therefore must rely on hope."

And finally, when I heard you complaining about Holzer not answering the question you really wanted on one of your podcasts. Dude, he was telling the answer, or as Shauberger's family motto put it, "Observe and Comprehend." It dripped of North American "the customer is always right" ideology. What he was giving you back indirectly was, "I can't give you the answer, only you can find yours." This guy'll help, https://archive.org/details/1OnSavingTime_201402 and https://archive.org/details/ofpeaceofmind_1105_librivox

Feel free to contact me after you've listened to at least the first one, but not before, eh? My time is very precious to me, got an earthship to build.
Geoff (PDC from PIEO, taken in Ottawa, Canada)

FYI, personal heros; Bill Mollison, Dave Holmgren, sepp holzer, Allan Savory, Geoff and Nadia Lawton, Vandana Shiva, Toby Hemenway and you for doing your best. If I can help you be a better you, ("To be human is to serve your fellow human") how may I serve? And as Johnny said, "We don't do these things (help Paul) because they are easy, we do them..." sorry, I forget the rest, but its on archive.org too.

May you Live Long and Prosper,
Geoff
Deb Rebel


Joined: Dec 23, 2013
Posts: 47
May things go well for you Geoff.

I agree that a lot of people don't understand 'zonal houses' and temperatures that fluctuate; and you might need auxillary heat (aka sweater or lapblanket) or to rethink about how you heat or cool your own personal space. I have spent decades reeducating my hubby about 'move to the place you are comfortable, or DEAL with the temperature in the part of the house you are in' (no hiking a thermostat to 85f!!! in winter).

When you start moving into the alternate ways of heating, cooling, housing, lighting, and living; you have to learn how to live that way. It's different. The concept of 'it's enough' versus 'as much as I want on tap anytime'. That's the one that irks me the most; people that want to move into 'green' 'offgrid' 'eco' etc, and complain or abandon stuff because it doesn't look hunky shiny new out of factory cookycutter; or they might actually have to work a bit at it.

I just built a solar cooker from cardboard, aluminum foil, etc; and it cost me an afternoon and about $5. Friend wants a 'solar cooker' that is moulded plastic for some of it and a nice yellow on the outside and they want $250 for it. I had them see how mine worked, and all they could do was whine about how "junky" and "trashy" it looked. Not the fact that it worked perfectly and made a good potlunch. I told them okay, I could double the cost and spraypaint the backside of the flaps and the outside of the insulated cookbox yellow.... they don't get it.

I don't have the physical anything needed anymore to pound dirt into tires; I did have the intimate experience of my friend that built one to ask to my heart's content; and that is what made me decide that earthship was no longer the way to go. I posted earlier on here about some of what she shared. YMMV. I am not poo'ing the whole idea, just a caution that it may be something that isn't the fit or the project you may want to do. I whole heartedly agree about the 'try ramming a tire' first before going ahead with this sort of a project. Again, may things go well for you Geoff.
Geoff Buddle


Joined: Apr 26, 2013
Posts: 5
Hi, thanks for the reply. Ya, for the permitting in our area, our friends are licenced ICF installers and doing a basic basement (with south-facing) walk-out is pre-engineered and easy to permit. Adding PAHS should be eeeaaasssyyy (if you understand what mustn't be changed physics-wise) along with a separate loop to one of Ernie and Erica's rocket stoves so you can get it to operating temp. in year 1. If your ICF (Insulated Concrete Form) is 6" cavity, cut a bunch of 4" ABS pipe a grand total of 10" long. That should give you 10 per piece of ABS and should be enough for all your upper PAHS runs. Connect black ag-pipe (4") and don't crush it as you refill your thermal mass trenches. The PAHS book is so well illustrated, bet a Martian (no English) could get it right. Of course, he/she/it would have to read the darn thing first.
People are like horses, you can lead them to the fountain (of knowledge), but they have to want to drink!

"Happy husband, happy home."
"Happy wife, happy life."

Those old sayings, there's usually one for each point of view, but my favourite is from Hawaii-5-0, "Just the facts, man. Just the facts."
Geoff
Deb Rebel


Joined: Dec 23, 2013
Posts: 47
Yes, getting your thermal mass in proper, your insulation zones; and I can't say enough good about a RMH. I bought the $15 ebook and installed one in my house; other than yipe-ing over the cost of firebrick and buying a brand new never used unpainted uncoated stainless barrel (yes I had to be vain and go for 'the good stuff') ... it has been worth EVERY PENNY.

Here we can get power outs that last a few days, usually in the middle of an ice storm; when we looked at places and the realtor showed us this one she said 'oh good this one has a fireplace...and you'll need a couple of kerosene lamps' um... (the other one was out of what the previous owners left behind-very little-they left us a flyswatter.. oh innocent us) We had a '50 year blizzard' the second winter we were here and creosote laden and not cleaned before we bought it, we had to fire the fireplace in here, and I was out digging in a vacant house' snowbank for some ancient firewood I remember seeing; sleeping in front of the fireplace and tending the fire for two days....

RMH, The Only Way To Go. I was not sad when I ripped the fireplace out, talk about barely to early 80's code in a prefab (trailer) and not been treated nice since. My RMH is my foundation now; if the power is off and it's cold outside, I shall be warm, and I shall be able to heat water and cook food. All the rest of my self-sufficiency has somewhere to start from.

Post us a few pictures as you go, Geoff. Sounds like you got it scoped, the zoning and permit dudes and dudettes happy and everything in a row!
Geoff Buddle


Joined: Apr 26, 2013
Posts: 5
RMH, had to think about that for a second. Rocket Mass Heater, right... My mental reference is always Rocket Stove so didn't click for a second. Ok, there are these nice planters, about 2' tall, 1' square at base and 18" at the top. Nice and square for making a lid to protect the (home-made) firebrick from rain and moisture. Put the fire on and get the heat required for wok cooking.
But mainly, our code here stipulates that outdoor fireplaces be a minimum distance from the house. Besides a PAHS umbrella with a couple supplemental heating loops would make adjusting solar gain a snap, and as Ernie and Erica probably know, the authorities just love anything to do with combustion and confined spaces. One death by carbon monoxide poisoning equals a lot of profitable legislation. So if this about wanting heat, so get heat. IF, you have the space, IF your topography allows it, IF you are so adverse to cutting trees down at all and IF you can wait 2-3 years for you PAHS Heat reserve to warm, you can save $20-$40 not adding auxilliary heat dump loops and pay your regular heating costs (declining of course, as it warms) for the warm up time. Being patient enough to take a year or two to get setup so you never have to worry the rest of your life, priceless. But if you can make it work more how you like, why not? (Well look, Margret Atwood's talk, "Debt as Plot", works well with so many vices, just sub. in "Schedule" for "Debt", she's given a wonderful blueprint for self-reflection.) So how far can the fire be away from the house rather than how close? How far is the sun?
Hi, my concern is for getting a number of thoughts out quick before they get dropped, old age sucks. Now that I know what I wanna do, its gonna take me two or three times the time to do it!
Geoff
Valerie Dawnstar


Joined: Dec 07, 2009
Posts: 165
Location: North Central New York
    
    2
Hi Erica -
The article you found covers the same basic information but with a much different view. The article that Paul linked to is written by Martin Holladay and he mentions the writer of the article you found. Mr. Holladay was quite harsh in his criticism of earthships.


Furthering Permaculture next to Lake Ontario

Rocket Mass Heater workshop (Ernie & Erica Wisner) in April 2015 - https://www.facebook.com/events/298154697021978/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
I live in an "earthship type" house. No, it wasn't made by tires, I went with a less expensive route - ferrocement and CEBs. My average cost was $10/sf. We do have a greywater garden and a number of the earthship features built into the house (the house is buried into a south-facing hillside). We started small, with one room, and slowly expanded as we lived in completed portions of the house.

The house does not get hot in the summer, in fact, I've rarely seen it above 75F inside the house. We set up our eaves so that there is no direct sunlight into the house from May through August. It's regularly over 100F outside in the summer. This week, every single day has been 105F or more, yet the house is never above 75F We don't have AC, but our neighbors do. We save a lot of money on those cooling costs.

The house does not get cold in the winter, even after cloudy days. The lowest I've ever seen the house is 60F, and that was after a week of cold (0F), cloudy, and wet weather. We have a rocket mass heater that we fire up in those times, and it easily keeps the house at 70F. Typically, the lowest the house gets is 65F, even after many days of cloudy weather. The point about passive solar is to have thermal mass inside the house that heats up during the sunny days and releases the heat slowly during the cloudy days. I use considerably less fuel than any of my neighbors to heat our house.

The famous umbrella house is a passive solar design in Montana. http://www.norishouse.com/PAHS/UmbrellaHouse.html It doesn't have a problem keeping the house comfortable, even without supplemental heating.

The reusing of greywater for plants greatly reduces our water use considerably. We use composting toilets, so the only wastewater we have is greywater. We typically grow herbs (rosemary, parsley, oregano, mint, etc) and tomatoes in the greywater garden. No root crops. And it's not enough to feed us or anything, but it does give us year-round tomatoes (our current plant is a few years old). http://velacreations.com/blog/419-monster-tomato.html Rainwater is our only source of water, so making the most of every drop is extremely important.

So, while some of the article's criticisms may be applicable in some climates and conditions, it does not mean that the earthship concept (buried, thermal mass, passive solar design with indoor garden) is inherently flawed. It means that adjustments must be made to fit your local conditions and situation. Finding a situation where eathships may not perform perfectly does not mean they can't perform well in other situations.

Some alternatives to pounding tires: earthbags, ferrocement, reinforced concrete, surface bonded blocks, rapidobe, Oehler's psp, wofati, etc.


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