Wednesday, August 27, 2008


It has been a while since I posted a message… have not had time for blogs.

Why busy? Here's what I've been up to.

Visit to The Castle Compound;

The Castle is built mainly with beer cans with only 5 layers (courses) of tyres on the bottom. It is three floors with a spiral staircase in the middle. It is one of the most amazing spaces I've been in. Originally it was a vertical axis wind turbine but now that has been decomissioned (although it worked well in its time). The Castle used to be the Earthship Biotecture office.

There is also another, smaller, Turbine building next to the Castle.

They were build way back in the 80s I think and were the precursors to Earthships. I was lucky enough to stay the night at The Castle after some overindulgence at the Sushi bar.

I went on a road trip with one of the interns, Wes who is from California. We rented a car and went to Chaco Canyon where we saw some ancient structures built about 1000 years ago. The Great Kiva has been ingeniously constructed to enable the occupants to track the seasons, summer/winter solstice, and, even the lunar calendar is accounted for. Amazing that they could do this all those years ago.

Next stop was Pagosa Springs where we paid $20 to relax in the hot springs which are heated with geothermal energy. Very nice. Lots of different pools with varying temperatures to suit your thermostat. Also a river going past with colder water for those who like a cold plunge (Wes liked this but too cold for me). Here is a picture of the river near our campsite. People were fly fishing in this river. We saw them catch a few trout.

Finally we went to some huge Sand Dunes at the base of a mountain range in southern Colorado. We hiked for 45 mins to the nearest peak, had a look around and then ran down the dunes in about 20 mins. Fun! Then back to Taos via the scenic route. 2 nights of camping was great and Wes was a good driver. I'm too chicken to drive (on the wrong side of the road). Here is a pic of me and Wes halfway up the sand dune.

I have finished my stay at REACH (up on the side of a mountain). This is one of the planters (which treats grey water) at REACH.

and am now staying in a half completed earthship at the Greater World community (pic below). Fridge and stove are now working but have to go next door for toilet, shower, washing dishes, email. The house is owned by Phil and Sarah who have been kind enough to let me crash there. Phil is one of the foreman.

I'm pretty much convinced now that Earthships are a brilliant invention and I'm planning to do all that I can to encourage others to give it a go. Will need some adaptation for Australian conditions however but I have been asking the crew about how to overcome the various challenges that we face in Australia such as increased rainfall (e.g. how to water proof tyre walls). Will also be asking Mike (the guru) about such things at the concluding seminar this weekend. Anyone got any questions for Mike?

From right, Mike, Phil, Jeff, Seth and Heather getting into beer o'clock at The Corner Cottage, an almost complete Earthship that is up for sale. Often Mike comes to the job site in the morning to discuss any issues and then he is back to the office to do design drawings, or off to some far flung part of the planet to discuss opportunities to build earthships. I'm amazed at the way the crew gets flown all over the world to build these things.

Seth and Phil (right)

Ted, another one of the original Greater World pioneers.

It has been great fun working with the crew and I've definitely learned a lot about building with tyres (and building in general). They are some pretty "colourfull" characters with a different perspective on life.

Next, I'm off to The Farm in Tennessee. Then home - at last. Missing the family.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday week 2

Arrived today to find that the steel reinforcing for the bond beam (on top of the tyre wall) had been completed. I finished off with some porcupine nailing, into the tyres, which helps the concrete "stick" to the tyres.

Then some pick and spade action to level the floor a bit. After that, Phil taught me how to build some formwork for pouring one of the concrete buttresses that will help support the main tyre wall (north wall).

Did some concrete mixing too.

Rebar for bond beam on top of tyre wall

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Random Events

This is all getting out of order.

Not just the human race but this blog.

Last Saturday I went hiking. I had been warned not to go hiking in the afternoon because the weather can turn windy/rainy. So after an early lunch I set off for a hike. Forgot to close my skylight. Hiked for an hour up the mountain. Really nice views. Got to see some of the other REACH earthships from a distance. At REACH all the earthships are cut into the side of a mountain and it is quite high density in some areas where earthships are practically stacked on top of each other.

Anyway to cut a long story short I got very wet and when I eventually returned, after a wrong turn in my sprint down the mountain, all hell was starting to break loose in the house. The indoor cistern was about to overflow and I was still not even aware of the skylight problem. I spent the next 3 hours attending to the chaos. It was quite a downpour. Everything dried the next day. Even my computer which I baked in the greenhouse to make sure everything was dry.


worked on the driveway at REACH. Stayed at REACH. Talked to Zoe, Zephyr and Aquilo.
A humming bird came inside. Rich caught it with his hands and let it go outside.


back to work at the Greater World. More tyre pounding and preparing the earth cliff. 10" offset from tyre wall. Plumb.

wednesday week 2 - REACH Rehab.

today we did some odd jobs at REACH where I am staying. Me, Jess, Rich, (our hosts) Sebastian and Julie (the two other interns who have been staying at REACH) repaired the driveway and cleaned drains that lead into one of the main cisterns (rainwater collection).

The driveway is so steep and crazy that you need 4X4 to get up it. It was really lumpy but now it is smooth.

A smooth day. But hard work as usual.

Topped off with veggies on pasta.

Didn't have to drive anywhere. Nice. Tomorrow back to the job site.

Tuesday week 2

Today I got a nickname: Martini Weenie. Thanks Phil.

Pounding tyres relies on a good supply of dirt, tyres, cardboard and human energy. And fossil fuels to get it there.

The crew was split in two today. Some were preparing the "earth cliff" for plastering, and they actually got some plastering done too. The others were pounding tyres.

Had Mexican with Jess and Rich. Went for a walk in Taos city centre.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Friday 8th August 2008 - GW

GW stands for the Greater World which is the name of the community where I am working, with the crew, on an Earthship which is of a new "global" design. More about that later.

Friday was the third day (for me) of tyre pounding. I'm not used to such physical labour, not to mention the fact that I am at high altitude, approx 7200 feet, so I'm really feeling it. It makes getting to sleep easy.

Beer o'clock came early (4pm) and beers and payment (for the crew) was handed out at "The Corner Cottage" which is an almost finished, new, above ground Earthship (as opposed to the typical dug-out design). There were no drinking games today but many of the partners of the crew came out, with the kids, for a beer and a chat - which was cool.

I learned a good trick for leveling a tyre which is way off level. It is a two person operation. One person levers the tyre so that it is level - using a shovel or pick - then another person pounds directly downwards in the area that needs to more dirt underneath. The cardboard in the tyre gives a bit under the pressure causing it to bulge out further, thus making the tyre level - or somewhat more level.

Getting tyres level seems to be one of the key ingredients. These guys are fastidious about getting the tyres level. They use 4 foot levels. Another big deal is the "batter" which is the angle of the wall. The design has a long tyre wall on the east, west and pole-facing (north in the northern hemisphere). There are no internal thermal mass walls. It is important that these long straight retaining walls lean into the earth berm slightly for structural engineering reasons. In addition to the batter, internal walls made of concrete can-walls are used to buttress the retaining wall. For the "modular" designs (curved walls) this is not necessary. The batter is 1.5 inches for each course of tyres.

I also learned that you can squeeze a tyre into a small gap and then pound dirt into it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thursday 7 August 2008

Another day of pounding tyres. It is painful, but rewarding. My hands are blistered and my eyeballs are full of dust.

A tyre wall is a spectacular feat of engineering (and persistence) and future earthlings will ponder how they were made - much like the pyramids. I think Earthships will be very durable and I'm sure there will be many more landing on Earth in the years to come.

I'm learning a lot by working with these mad bastards. Totally mad, but awesome at what they do. We need an army of people who are willing to do this kind of work. Maybe that is what the army should be doing. Make Earthships Not War!