The Weekly Watch

Workin' on a Buildin'

I've almost finished replacing our well house. It was the only structure I didn't build myself on our place. It was thirty something years ago, and we had just (almost) finished the house when the school year started and we were off to start teaching in a new system. A friend helped by building our well house. It lasted these 30 years (or so) as did the air tank, pump and so on, but it was a just in time replacement. I think this new well house system will see us out, supplying good quality water for at least another 30 years. The project brought to mind the type of structures we could construct for a sustainable future, and aroused pleasant memories of building projects past, present, and future.

(4.5 min)

The bones of our house were put up in a weekend when we invited all our friends to camp and help us with a "house raising". Framed and with a subfloor by the end of the weekend, we had a dance in the open space. It may be that structures hold the spirits of those that created them, because our home seems filled with the good spirits of that initial raising. I hope to digitize the images from that event and share them in a more meaningful way sometime soon. The present calls with continuing projects. After completing the well house this week, there's still the new garden fence to construct this summer. Homesteading is a constant series of chores...you need to enjoy building and tending to tasks...really I think it is the accomplishment which drives you to do more. At this point I feel it is an accomplished to still be building and working with my hands.

So this week I wanted the share with you some of the structures and buildings which speak to me, and hope you will chime in with structures, buildings, and systems that you find hopeful and that you see as the path forward. As I designed our house I was influenced by F. L. Wright's usonian homes as well as David Wright's "Passive Primer". So let's dive into sustainable buildings...

First on my list is Earthships. This link will lead you to many examples...
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=earthship+homes

...here's a nice 9 min story of an earthship...

In this video, we meet Connie and Craig from Wind Chasers. They're a retired couple who built themselves a 100% off-grid, passive solar earthship using plans they bought from Mike Reynolds (the man featured in the Garbage Warrior documentary (2 min trailer) - check it out if you haven't already!). The couple built the earth ship because they wanted to live an environmentally sustainable lifestyle, but they also wanted to live a financially sustainable lifestyle that would allow them to retire comfortably. Building this home using recycled tires and portland cement cost them a fraction of what a conventional house would have cost, and they got the 1200 recycled tires they needed for free! In addition to the low construction cost, they don't pay any bills to maintain the home. They use solar power instead of being hooked up to hydro. They collect their rain water instead of being hooked up to municipal water. They store energy from the sun in the thermal mass of their home instead of having a furnace. They use a composting toilet instead of paying to install and maintain a septic system. And they treat their own greywater (from the kitchen & shower) on site. There is a fireplace in the home, but the couple says they only use it a few times per year for atmosphere, and they don't depend on it as a heat source. The couple even grow a lot of their own food in their indoor planter, like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas, carrots - you name it! The planter also stores energy from the sun to help maintain a stable temperature in the home. The first earth ships were built in New Mexico by Mike Reynolds, and while many people think they're amazing, they don't believe that earthships can be built in harsher environments (like in Canada for example). This earth ship is built near Lake Erie, in Ontario, Canada. It did take a few years for the home to absorb all of the thermal energy it needed to maintain a stable year-round temperature, but now that it's had time to cure and mature, it's working great. Mat and I were completely blown away when we walked into the house and realized how incredibly well the house was performing without any of the traditional inputs we're used to seeing in a conventional home. We enjoyed the feeling of being outdoors that the house provides with the natural light, curved walls, and luscious greenery. The recycled bottle walls are spectacular, too. If you're interested in learning more about Connie and Craig's earthship, you can visit their Wind Chasers website here: http://www.windchasers.ca

Building underground has many advantages...protection from weather, radiation, thermal mass storage, and much more. There are more primitive approaches. I can't help but like this old timer....still building and innovating.

(23 min)

Mike Oehler lived for over 30 years in an underground home that he built for $50 (and expanded for $500) on his land in Northern Idaho near the Canadian border. Now in his seventies his arthritis keeps him from hiking up to his home, but he continues to “write and proselytize” In 1968 like thousands of other San Franciscans hoping to go “back to the land”, Oehler bought property and began to build a homestead. After spending a winter freezing in a small cabin, he designed a home that would use the earth as insulation. With his first attempt he fell into the easy errors of what he calls a “first thought house”: a hole cut into a hillside with south-facing windows. Gradually he began to innovate with subterranean design, creating better ways for letting light in: among them “the Hollywood Wing”, “the Royer foyer”, gables and most-importantly the “uphill patio” (which also provides space for an earth-sheltered greenhouse). He also created an inexpensive, low-tech approach to basic design with what he calls PSP or Post/shoring/polyethlene. Mike Oehler's "$50 & Up Underground House Book": http://www.undergroundhousing.com/

Here's another approach...

Rebecca Weitzel and Jeff Waschkowski live in a buried home in Omaha, Nebraska and while winters temperatures can hit negative 30 degrees (record lows), inside the home is affected by the temperature of the earth, not the air, and rarely drops below 55°F (13°C). Built as a labor of love by Lloyd Texley, the former head of science for the Omaha Public School District, the underground home took him 10 years to build. He buried 3 rebar-enforced concrete domes under up to 15 feet of dirt. The home's only opening is a glass wall facing south. Waschkowski explains that because the indoor temperature reflects the heat of the surrounding earth, it mostly fluctuates between 64 and 74°F. The couple explain the home is also very quiet and soundproofed from the noise of their busy street. With all the cement, the home was fairly expensive and Waschkowski argues that berm houses (earth-sheltered homes) are about half the cost with most of the same benefits.

Another way to use the Earth's thermal properties is with Earthtubes. Typical homes can be refitted in this way...
https://www.thenaturalhome.com/earthtube/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Prd3Pf1h4hQ (4 short clips)

A few weeks ago I featured this retired Nebraskan. He heats his greenhouse with Earthtubes to grow oranges...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD_3_gsgsnk (18 min)

I am a soil scientist by training so digging in earth seems natural to me, but there are other approaches. What about living on water like this couple in BC? Catherine and Wayne have build a floating off grid paradisaical homestead where they live full time in Canada, growing their own food, creating art on their man made island.
http://www.browningpass.com/freedom-cove-tour-tofino/

(12 min)

...Or what about living on a boat? You would be ready for sea level rise anyway...Tony and Margo are retired and have lived aboard their Catalina 36 sailboat for over 20 years. (11 min)

There are a variety of boat building techniques. This epoxied foam core is an interesting DIY method...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwABZT2pIn8 (8 min)

It is similar to a technique used for building campers...want a life on the road?
Here's a tear drop camper build...lots of work in this project!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTsp62-BeIE (7 min)

individual growth.jpg

I have a home I built and continue to enjoy, but there are other projects that I hope to construct at some point. I still want to build a photovoltaic (PV) system. It really isn't that difficult. Here's a simple system install.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uobUwjCLfok (12 min)
I plan to build another pole barn to store my tractor equipment and utility trailer and use the roof (or southern side) for collectors and to house batteries. I mainly want to use the system to recharge an electric car and to provide power during outages.

I keep hoping that salt water batteries become available again in the near term.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EhnmWo2CZ8 (8.5 min)

There's lots of work building a dream, but there are rewards. We all start out in different places and grow at different rates. We are called to different skills and talents. But I would argue we all build...relationships, friendships, homes, and much more. Some sew and "build" clothes (a talent I admire). Some build recipes and dishes. Others build music to crescendos....and on and on. I realized a few years back that every new structure I build requires maintenance. The larger your footprint, the more there is to do. The object is not to build more, but to build wisely, sustainably, with an eye to the future. We need to dream of all people building a sustainable meaningful life...and walk that path as well as we are able.

peace culture.jpg

I wish we were trying to build a better world. In fact if the US would simply stop being the world bully the planet would be more peaceful. This week alone, we demand Julian's extradition in order to prosecute a publisher for revealing our war crimes. We (or our evil allies) probably droned a couple of tankers as a false flag to create a war with Iran, after blowing up three Syrian tankers a week or so ago (with little to no press). We announced this week we would send more troops to Poland and sell them more weapons (and freedom gas), a move to piss off Russia.

Among all the bad news was a leaked tape (32 min) of the SoS Pompous the Koch Creature revealing the horrid nature and goals our our government... He revealed:
The damn Venezuelans won't support our coup
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mJVWYhUbNc (5 min)
https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-06-06/leaked-pompeo-recording-reveal...
The ME peace plan is a farce
https://tribune.com.pk/story/1985915/3-leaked-tape-pompeo-questions-kush...
The US will interfere in UK politics to ensure Corbyn will not become PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcOG16exGTY (6 min)
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/09/mike-pompeo-leaked-reco...

better world.jpg

Yes friends, if the US would just stop sowing seeds of discord and violence we would be on our way to building a better world. I continue to see efforts to improve our world...
https://rebellion.earth/2019/06/12/newsletter-23-radiohead-joins-the-reb...

(11 min)

So do you have buildings that speak to you? Or are you involved in a building project? Have you created your dream structure? Perhaps you have a news story to share? If so, I hope you will comment below. Have a great Sunday and a good week folks!

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Comments

Lookout's picture

No, not in the new well house, but Brazil. The obvious has been revealed...Lula was set up so that he wouldn't become president. Bannon was down there at the time of the election, so there's no telling what degree of influence was exerted by the US spooks. (15 min)

more here:
https://theintercept.com/2019/06/09/brazil-archive-operation-car-wash/

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12 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout @Lookout
just doesn't comport with reality. But they are wired to believe that their fucked up thinking is normal, facts be damned. So they lie and cheat their asses off. That includes right wing "Democrats" as well.

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Lookout's picture

@entrepreneur

The world sat silent as Dilma was railroaded out DURING the Olympics. He and the $hill helped create the Honduran (edit to add and Ukrainian) coup, and the Libya, Syria, and Yemen conflicts.

Laws are to be ignored...domestic, international, and scientific laws. Just lie to create a coup or conflict...the media will support it. Print more money for the 0.001%. Kill all forms of socialism...the people be damned...give me more Benjamins!

It's a hellva mess.

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8 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

QMS's picture

Wish you luck with your building plans. Am on a similar path as yours. One of the structures I saw in AZ was interesting. Designed by Paolo Solari to imitate the nearby cliff dweller approach, he helped create Arcosanti. Was a work in process when we visited, first in the 80's. Still building on the second visit mid 90's. Have a couple of their bronze cast wind bells as a reminder.

20170710lvb8274.jpg

https://arcosanti.org/portfolio/foundry/

Cheers!

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Listen to your higher mind.

Lookout's picture

@QMS

Curves are appealing aren't they? Perhaps because the eye is drawn along the curve rather than fixed on corners?

From "Black Elk Speaks" by John G. Neihardt

"You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it... Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The Sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The Moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back to where they were. The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation's hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children."

Have a good day and nice journey.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Yes, building a better world would be lovely. Brilliant, in fact. If only the plutocrats were on board.

Have a beautiful Sunday everyone.

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Lookout's picture

@HenryAWallace

...you know who to blame!

My Uncle was a contractor. As a kid I worked as the gopher...you know go for this, go for that. I was taught a valuable lesson...my job was to watch the builders and see what they would need next, and have it waiting on them when they were ready, plus clean up any scraps or trash that was generated and underfoot. So I learned in a concrete way to think ahead and be organized. Additionally I learned how to construct things. I have several pieces of furniture my great grandfather built for my grandmother.

Another benefit of building for yourself is economic. 30+ years ago we built our 1000 sq ft house for $25,000. Rewarding on many levels.

As far a a better world...all we can do is strive to be a better person.

Hope you have a good one!

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10 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout
My house is the same age, but 2240 sq ft. The cheapest new house that I could afford, $166,000.
To date I have paid $135,000 in Cook County property taxes on it. But Illinois Republicans are proud that IL has a lower income tax rate than AL. BTW, when I moved into Cook from neighboring DuPage County, my property tax fell 50%, even though that house sold for $110,000
$15,000/year is not unusual in DuPage, although many working people live there.
But working people are poor because they don't save and invest, right?

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Lookout's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness

...so property taxes are a joke (as are our schools). Over 3 decades ago we bought our 120 acre place for 40K. We've built house, barn, pond, and camp house, and our yearly land tax is $600. Would be lower if I registered as a senior or had a conservation easement.

Low taxes can be good, but MS has 2.5 times our property tax and GA 4.5 times. As a teacher I always thought that was foolish. Of course wealthy neighborhoods pass additional property taxes for their local schools. And so it goes...

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8 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout
I think we had better schools in the 50's than we have now. Do you remember "Why Johnny can't read?" Well, they have dusted off Look-Say and retitled it as "whole language". It boils down to a theory that if a kid stares at a word long enough he will know what it means. Idiocy! Of our three grandkids the one who was in special ed can read the best, because he had an older teacher who taught him phonetics. We also taught him to sound words out and the meaning of prefixes and suffixes. One teacher, in a "normal" class told us to NOT teach the kids this because it confuses them. That boy still can't read worth a damn as a grown man, even though he is highly intelligent and can learn easily by any audio-visual means. YouTube generation indeed! I taped a lot of history Channel shows and it helped them a lot in High School. Now, History Channel has garbage.

So what's so hard about teaching reading? My Mom taught me before I went to kindergarten. I was sick a lot (Measles? yep. Mumps? Yep, Rubella? yep Chicken Pox? yep) and we had a set of Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia. I started out reading it from A to Z. (Not as a preschooler, but around third grade when I got all those diseases)

BTW, I hired the special ed teacher one summer to tutor the middle boy. It helped him a lot, but he couldn't shake that early bad teaching.

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mhagle's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness

Every kid who has a hard time reading has dyslexia, (reference Dr. John Gabrieli at MIT)

A dyslexic kid can't do phonics because his/her brain does not convert symbols to sounds. Teaching them "phonetic awareness" will ultimately help them but it doesn't initially help them to read because words are stored in their brains like pictures in a different part of the brain.

Sadly, schools are still really messed up about teaching dyslexic kids. For three years in the late 80s I was a music teacher in Cicero District 99. Back then I didn't understand about dyslexia either - it took having my own kids to understand that. Now knowing I am dyslexic as well, I was unknowingly always accommodating dyslexic kids. Like teaching them songs by rote rather than making them sight read music.

Hope that is useful information!

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

@mhagle
That Engineers have a much higher incidence of dyslexia than the general population. Maybe that "seeing pictures" thing helps engineers.

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mhagle's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness

Actually all artists creators and inventors.

The right hemisphere of the brain is larger in dyslexics.

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5 users have voted.

Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

Lookout's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness

A mediocre education helps make the masses pliable.

We all learn using different modalities and develop different talents.

Sorry about the young one's poor reading skills, but it sounds like they compensated.

All the best!

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6 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Lookout's picture

Convert an old school bus into your home...(14 min)

I like the creativity of different folks. Always amazes...

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6 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout
I very nearly bought one that had been constructed with two discarded trolley cars flanking a stick-built centre. It was not immediately obvious.

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4 users have voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01, a Boeing 757 (AA Flight 77) flew into the Pentagon.
If you can't accept these indisputable facts, I can't fake an interest in your opinions about anything else.

Lookout's picture

@UntimelyRippd

...a commuter home. People's creativity never fails to amaze.

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5 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Granma's picture

There is a place I drive past that builds mini houses. It looks like they start with those metal storage containers used on ships. I need to visit that place and get some pictures to share.

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Lookout's picture

@Granma
https://littleriverescape.com/
...but not made of storage containers....although that is a common approach

Thanks for coming by!

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7 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

earthling1's picture

to beginning my own wellhouse.
I think I mentioned awhile back re: the 3 acre parcel I purchased and was beginning to work on.
It already has a good well, tapped into a natural artesian spring. But bringing power to it is a challenge. Would love to go off grid with an array and will probably go there eventually. But I need water and charging for my Leaf now.
PUD will give me an estimate once I clear a path to the transformer allocated to this property and I've been working on that for a few days now. After removing a couple of stumps and clearing much brush I'm within 30 ft. of it. But there is an enormous downed log in the way with a freeway of carpenter ants running on top of it. And the ant hill is 10 ft. away and 5 ft. tall. Teeming with ants.
My plan ( when I can muster the courage) is to make two cuts 10 ft. apart and RUN like hell. I'll yank the log later.
I'll worry about the trench later also. Mostly just need a path for the PUD to wheel their little gadget to measure the distance they will need to pull wiring (about 275 ft.).
If the estimate is too high, I may just go off grid now.
I'm not having alot of luck getting info on how big/how many solar panels will be needed to run a 220 volt pump and 220 volt level 2 electric car charger. Plus power for my RV and/or future cabin/cottage.
The on grid system would solve the problem immediately and give me plenty of time to research the offgrid system as backup.
Was also planning on using Earthtubes for a greenhouse and residence heating system, so the links you provided are much appreciated.
Have had the property for a year now and it doesn't look the same now. Have cleared about 20 stumps, removed 4 sucker trees (stumps with new growth coming out of them), many invasive weeds and ferns, and continuing to built and feed an enormous compost pile (about 40ft. long and 5 ft. high).
Have 50 hours on my new Kabota tractor and need to give it its first oil change. At 70 years old, it is a real back saver.
Thanks for all the links, Lookout. I will write about my progress more often.

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8 users have voted.
Lookout's picture

@earthling1

We had to run about a mile of power line to get back to our place. Seems like it was supposed to cost $8000. The crew came and installed it (I think 5-6 poles were used)...spending about a week taking it pretty easy...even had a fish fry one day. So when I went in to settle up I brought $1000 planning to set up the rest on a monthly payment with the bill. Gave 'em the money and they gave me a paid in full receipt. I always wondered if it was because we let them goof off back here in the hinterlands.

That was the old days and the good ole boy system (which still exists but has been digitized).

Well best of luck with your project. Keep us posted. I wish I could be more helpful about the solar issues. el has solar panels maybe he will chime in. Again all the best!

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8 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

magiamma's picture

Wonderful reading and watching. Thank you. Enjoyed the video about the underground dome in Ohmaha. About 70-80% of the benefit of an underground house can be gotten by building a berm house which slashes 30-50% of the expense. Sounds a lot easier and uses a lot less concrete.

Best of luck finishing your well house and have a good one...

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Stop Climate Change Silence - Start the Conversation

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Lookout's picture

@magiamma

Just got back from a moon watch on the brow of the mountain. Even had a few songs and tunes. Back home and time to check out for the evening. Hope yours was a good one.

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4 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”