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T Phillips

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since Jan 22, 2014
Hubby and I bought 35 gorgeous, dried up, overgrazed acres near the Royal Gorge. Still trying to get the house in the Springs sold. Looking to grow the basics - fruit, nuts, green manure, veggies and enjoy our later years.
Colorado Springs, CO zone 5A / Canon City, CO zone 5B
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Recent posts by T Phillips

Your tower absolutely rocks. Putting this on the list of Important Things To Do. Thanks for sharing.
8 months ago
Hi Kelly! We are excited for your new book. You have such a great way of explaining things and are so generous with your knowledge and experience. Your willingness to answer our questions made our build easier. Thank you.
1 year ago
I've been a quilter for years, and went through my all-cotton stash for fabrics I didn't think I'd use in quilts, but that I was enough in love with to buy in the first place. (I do want to like what I'm looking at.) The ones I chose for napkins happened to be cheap batiks, so the pattern is the same front and back. That's important to me because I don't want to spend a lot of time folding to keep the backside hidden. (OCD much?) I sewed a double folded 1/4" hem on the edges of pre-washed and machine dried fabrics (shrinkage control), but they kept shrinking, and now I have dopey looking napkins. For the next batch I will run a narrow zigzag stitch around the perimeter instead since that has some give to it. It will leave a fuzzy edge, but I'm OK with that.

My requirements are:

Looks the same front and back
12"-15" square
Natural fibers only  (cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo), no polyester
A print that it busy enough to show no stains
Available at my local fabric store

I'd buy off the bolt, wash/hot dry the entire piece 3 times minimum, then cut into finished size, finish with zigzag stitch. If you ask for  1 and 1/8th yards, you should be able to get 9  12"napkins out of it. If the fabric costs $8/yd., that's about $1 per napkin. Or you can use every smidgen of the fabric and have more slightly different sized rectangular napkins.

You can see in the photos how bad the edges look now that they have been wash a jillion times. The 12" is a great lap size for any but a large person. The 20" is too large for me, but covers 2 bread pans as the dough rises.
1 year ago
We have had zero problems with mice since the final covering was applied. We are enormously pleased with the thermal performance of the building and it's ability to weather our local micro-burst winds. (The insurance company gave us enough money to pay for a well after the horse shed in that spot blew down. We knew that for that location we wanted a structure with an integrated roof.)

The scoria we ordered was 3/4" and it was like shoveling Fruity Pebbles after the gravel for the first two rows. The 15" x 25" bags weighed about 25-30 lbs. each with 6  #10 can scoops of scoria inside and stapled shut. They finished at about 12" wide. (Some bags were larger and some smaller.) I was a 57 yo couch potato who became the primary builder. My lower back hurt for 2 weeks, then was fine. I lost 10 lbs. in two months despite eating like a horse, working 4-6 hours/day. Most satisfying work I've ever done.

1 year ago
Here are links to two posts about our 14' (inner diameter) scoria bag tank house. http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/thermal-performance-data-earthbag-dome/#more-11686     https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006725657912&sk=photos&collection_token=100006725657912%3A2305272732%3A69&set=a.1569408199960020.1073741827.100006725657912&type=1&l=9dd7088781

The bags are great for walls as long as you build plumb (in your case). They are not as solid as earthbags and can feel a bit wiggly as the height increases.

This is a video by a guy who made a rectangular casita and used strapping to compress the walls.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJS8Kozufl4  We used baling twine ala Kelly Hart, and it really helped. The only down side of the twine is that there is no way to tighten it up later on, and as you add rows of bags, the lower ones compress a bit. The strapping might solve that issue if you keep the tightening points out where you can get to them.

Because we did not get an exterior coating on before winter, we tarped the building, and mice chewed all over the place to find shelter. We used several rolls of Gorilla tape the following spring to keep the fill from falling out. And we still had lots of UV degradation because we took no intermediate steps to protect the bags during the course of autumn bagging (8 weeks in Colorado).

I thought I had a more comprehensive post here, but I guess I was dreaming. PM me if I can answer any more questions for you. We really love our building, especially the thermal evenness provided by the scoria and the concrete. I would build again with scoria in a heartbeat.
1 year ago
We used watered down white interior paint, 50/50. It adhered pretty well and greatly slowed the UV degradation. We also tarped it and provided a terrific home for mice. This was in a rural area with a large rodent population. We'd never cover a building again.
1 year ago
Hi Jeremy-

We have been where you are. We explored every possible system, and every variant. Nothing was perfect, and most are either labor or money intensive. Our first building was a tank house for the water flow and equipment of an artesian well. It was a 16' inner diameter scoria bag catenary dome, with 3" of shotcrete inside and out. It has no windows and one door with a small window. The walls are about 18" thick, and it is significantly earth bermed on the back side. With only the additional heat of 4 light bulbs, it has sailed through Colorado winters without freezing. We are very pleased with the performance, but would not want to live in even a complex of them. Too closed in feeling.

We are in the permitting phase of a guest house made from a post and beam system with Hogan brackets. http://www.ezhogan.com/ We chose this system because it allows us to do a lot of the work ourselves, and we are leery of many aspects of someone else building our house. We will wrap the building in Faswall blocks. http://faswall.com This is a high mass ICF system. It costs way more than I wanted to spend, but with the addition of some roxul insulation and lime plaster to the outside, we will have a reasonably well performing building with vapor permeable walls. http://www.roxul.com Not super fantastic like I wanted, but reasonable.

We have limitations. We are around 60 years old, and have been waiting 10 years to find the right piece of land and figure out what we want to build. We live in a high wind and cold winter/hot summer area. Time's awastin'. If we had more time, I would probably lobby for a double wall earthbag system - earthbags ( or poured earth walls or cob) insulated by perlite bags. We talked extensively about modifying the Hogan frame to help hold the bags in place. I think we could have worked it out in a fashion similar to this eco-beam system. http://earthbagbuilding.com/articles/eco-beam.htm

I wish you luck on your project. If you really want to compare the mass benefits of different wall systems, some basic wall weight calculations will be helpful. You are definitely on the right track. Mass with appropriate insulation for your climate is where it's at. Our main house project with be Faswall blocks also, and though I don't like all the concrete it will take, we are building a 500 year house that will house our descendants for several generations if they can get their heads out of their phones long enough to learn how to grow food.
1 year ago
Marcus, thanks for the education. We are planning on getting chickens after the house is finished, and I had no plans to keep any males. I HATE the noise, but I see that it may be worth it to put up with it. Thanks for opening my eyes. Your flock is lucky to have you.
2 years ago
Cath, that render sounds fantastic. I think it would be perfect for our building, also. Please keep us posted!
2 years ago
As to using pumice or perlite in a cementitious mixture, everything I have read would seem to indicate that as soon as you fill those air spaces in the rock with the cement slurry, you lose the insulating quality of the material. I was really bummed to keep reading this over and over on the net. I do think that your climate makes a difference, and that in some places you can get away with it better than others. We built a 16' ID catenary dome tank house for water filtration equipment from scoria bags, and then had it coated with 3" of shotcrete inside and out. Even in our severe climate, it takes only a light bulb to keep it above freezing. There are no windows for solar gain, and two 6" vents that are open year round to reduce humidity levels. I do not think we could have gotten this kind of performance if we had used pumice-crete (the first choice). Just my 2 cents-

We are in the planning stages for a house. We are almost set on a modified post and beam frame with one inner row of earthbags and one outer row of scoria or perlite. The bags would be contained within the framework. The walls would be plastered with a vapor permeable earthen plaster. This seems to be the best use of both mass and insulation. It will certainly take longer, but we have adjusted our expectations to fit a good outcome, even if it takes more time. I don't know how much time your project is worth.
2 years ago