Archive for August, 2011

Our house plan has undergone numerous revisions over the course of the last year and a half. Weather has played a role, as have unexpected life events and altered schedules, a broken well set us back seriously, power outages have had an impact… I’m glad that we are generally laid back people, able to roll with the punches and open to change, because it’s certainly helped our ability to be positive and even see opportunity through some rather challenging times.

Our most recent challenge came with the realization that we could not possibly complete our two-story plan with the limited amount of building time that we have left in the year. Not with Shane’s very busy new career and me as the primary person on-site, with days ranging between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius. Uck. So- we decided to build a castle. I sh*t you not.

The decision was a combination of practical and aesthetics. We need to get a roof up- no two ways around it- with minimal materials (and cost) and little ‘real’ skill. It also has to hold up under extreme wind conditions. A lot of houses in this region have damaged roofs and missing shingles. It needs to hold all of our solar panels. And I don’t want to live in something that doesn’t appeal to me visually. Believe it or not, the easiest way to serve all of these goals was to settle on a castle.

The design is extremely simple- the roof is flat, south facing with a 5% slope. Each roof has it’s own drain. We’ll use the rainwater for the wrap around gardens. The beams (10 x 2s) are locked securely between bags. The roof is ¾” OSB, which will be covered with waterproofing membrane. Flat tin will be secured over top of the membrane. The roof extends into the building with a final locking ring over top. Finally, the merlons will be added for visual appeal.

When we came up with the idea, we thought for sure that we’d be the only ones thinking along these lines. I should have known that if anyone else could come up with such an outlandish earthbag design, it would be Owen Geiger. There are not one but two recent references to earthbag fortresses, the latest being a tower design very similar to the plan we have for our bathroom/bedroom (which we’ll add to our structure next year, focusing on the 3 main rooms this year).

That addition will give us 3 different heights, adding to the castle-feel of the place. We haven’t fully decided whether to go with yet another flat roof or a round peaked roof on the next building. Like many of our plans, it will no doubt depend on available time and inclination. I don’t have the personality for sticking with one idea at a time and, really, it’s amazing to me that I’ve stuck with this one for as long as I have. It’s probably at least in part due to the fact that the house has been much too big to pass as a lawn ornament for some time now.

As some of you may have noticed, there have not been many posts this summer. I’d say “I’ll try harder” but I’d be lying from the outset. Between building, plastering, food gardening, tending to the over 200 trees we planted this year, and regular life- including cooking, baking, laundry, and unexpectedly caring for 6 new kittens- it is pretty busy around here. There’s not a lot of downtime and when there is, I’m not generally inclined to sit down at a computer. I will, however, try to put up some shorter posts in the next while detailing some of the finer points of our building, as well as updates on the garden and trees. Bear with me, my schedule should slow down some time in the next few months like so many of the farmers in our area.

In the meantime, here are a few photos of our progress. I hope they inspire you, or at least make you smile at our audacity. 🙂

props on N side are higher than S, for slope

kitchen beams, locked in

note the bags are upright

¾” OSB

OSB extends "into" bagwork

exterior view of kitchen

top row & merlons will be added

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