Saturday, August 28, 2010

7th Posting - Larry's Earthbag House, My Inspiration

Across the hill from my cabin live Larry and Lea Van Arsdale. They are building a BIG earthbag house thirty feet in diameter and thirty feet high! They started a year ago and are still working on it, but they've been living in it since last fall. So far it's two stories high and they plan on building the third story next summer. Right now they are scrambling to "cobb" the rest of the exterior before winter. That means applying the cobb, or adobe, to the bags which make up the wall.
In the picture you can see exposed earthbags on the right. Just to the left of that is dark area that has been freshly cobbed. The larger gray area is what the cobb looks like dry, and the white area to the left has been coated with a mixture of lime and horse manure(!) to seal in the cobb.
The size of the house is deceptive. When you walk in the front door (around to the left) you walk down about 5 feet to the floor, so much of the house is underground.
The earthbags have to be covered with tarps until they are cobbed, in order to protect them from the sun. Rain won't hurt them, but in the sun the bags will disintegrate in about three months!
Larry has been my source of information for the building process and gives me all kinds of advice and hints to make things work better. They live there full time and are off the grid, using solar and generator with big battery packs. The house is wonderfully cool in summer and warm in winter. So anyone who comes out to help with my house will get a tour of Larry's!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

6th Posting - Farewell to Lynn & Jerry

Today Lynn, Jerry, and I worked on the cabin until about 2pm and then I took them to Kalispell. In the morning they will board the train in Whitefish to return to Illinois. I don't know how they can leave me to finish the cabin myself! They really should be staying a month. Anyway, it was great having them here and they were a huge help in getting the project going!
Yesterday Rachel and Val worked on framing and got an incredibly solid frame in for the front door. It was intended to be temporary, but it's so good we'll just have to leave it and use it for the actual door when the time comes. They'll be doing some more framing for another door and a few windows.
Austin helped me lay barbed wire between rows of bags and he also helped filling in dirt between the walls and the hill. Even Joshua filled a few bags.
Toward the bottom are a couple photos of our progress at the time Lynn and Jerry finished up.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

5th Posting - Cooler!

Sunday night we had half an inch of rain and we woke Monday morning to new snow on the mountains! The high was only about 70 so it made for a perfect day for hard work on the cabin.
The shadow on the wall is as close as you'll get to see of a photo of my two Amish helpers, Lynn and Jerry, but the results of their labor are more conspicuous.
We put plastic between the wall and the dirt where the cabin is set into the side of the hill, just to add a little extra protection against water intrusion. The last picture is of our progress through Tuesday evening.

Monday, August 23, 2010

4th Posting - A Day Off!

Sunday we went to early service and then headed for Yellowstone where we soaked our sore muscles in Boiling River for a couple hours. What a great way to relax! Then we walked around the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces as well for a bit, including my secret hot spring, "Fantasy Cassel Spring!"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

3rd Posting - The Beginning of the Walls

Friday and Saturday, Lynn, Jerry and I started building walls. The work is fairly simple, but labor intensive! Filling and tamping, filling and tamping... After the bags are stapled shut they are placed on the wall and when a row is complete they have to all be tamped solidly flat, which virtually locks them into the adjacent bag. When the tamping is completed, two strands of 4-point barbed wire is run the entire distance of the row to 'hook' in the next row above. Tying down that barbed wire is probably the most dangerous part of the job! Of course we had to put in temporary frames for doors and later we'll do the same for windows. The door in the back of the room is for an eventual root cellar or tunnel into the hill for natural 'air-conditioning'. Not that A/C will be necessary with this construction method! You will also notice extra bags added in strategic places along the wall and corners. These are buttresses to add extra strength to the vertical position of the walls. The buttress on the back wall will actual be a bigger formation with benches all the way around.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

2nd Posting - The site is leveled

The top photo is the view from my land across a square mile of state land and off to the Tobacco Root Mountains in the distance.
My friend Sam brought his Bobcat out and did some leveling and a little more earth-moving so we wouldn't have to do so much with the shovel, although you can see my sister Val doing some adjusting. Then the work started on the bags. Gaylene is stapling corners of the bags. We fill them with damp earth and tamp them solid with a baseball bat. After the tops are stapled shut they will be laid like bricks into the wall and then tamped hard and solid into a flat, level surface. Over a couple months time the bags will harden like bricks.
Today I drove 300 miles to Malta to pick up Lynn and Jerry, my Amish friends from Illinois. We'll see how much work we can get done on those walls over the next week!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Project Begins!

In 2006 I bought land in the middle of nowhere an hour northwest of Bozeman. Now we're building a little "overnight / weekend" cabin. The first picture is taken across the valley toward my land and the second is the approach to my yard site. On Monday, August 9, Charlie (a friend from church) excavated the site with his Bobcat! Thursday, August 19, I will drive to Malta to pick up two Amish friends at the Amtrak station. Lynn and Jerry are coming to help me build for a week! Don't expect pictures of them on the blog however!