Building your own low-cost natural house out of earthbags, locally harvested wood and clay, etc. for cash means you won’t be strapped for 20-30 years paying a mortgage. So, you’ll have thousands of extra hours to spend as you wish. Now that’s a nice thought, isn’t it?
Hmm. Save money. Less stress. Simpler living. More freedom. Stronger families and communities. Live sustainably. Easier to clean and maintain… Makes sense to me.
5 thoughts on “What Will You Do With Your Extra Free Time?”
Owen, Thank you for the soil tips. I discovered today that we have a soil “expert” at the university where I work and I think I can get her feedback on an actual sample. And geologists abound on the floor above me. Your idea for the pond is great. Fortunately, we have time to get these things worked out. Enjoying your website very much. Thank you!!
Owen, Thank you for your reply. We definitely have hard-packed dirt. I did a soil test recently – put some dirt and water in a jelly jar and let it sit. There is one big layer at the bottom of the jar and one, maybe two super thin layers of something separated out the top. Those top layers are barely visible. The test soil was taken from the site where we want the house. But down the way a little, still on our property, we have nice fine grain sand that’s pretty easy to dig. I wonder if we could mix the two together? I will do another test with soil from the two locations.
We haul water out now, but plan to get a structure built soon to catch some water and start with a 300 gallon holding tank. We hope to get this done before the rainy season in August. Then we can have water to help soften the dirt. I really want to build our house without a backhoe or bobcat if possible, because if we can do it all by hand, then we can show others how to do it all by hand. This will be a slow project because we can only get out there on weekends that we can get away from work.
If you ever find yourself with some free time and you want to come to our area (we live near Alpine, Texas and our property is on the Northeast side of Big Bend Ranch State Park, close to the park boundary), please let us know. We’d love to host you and anyone you’d like to bring, and there are many people out here who would benefit from your vast knowledge.
P.S. I love that Dan Phillips video, too. Thanks for reminding me that I had previously posted it on my blog. He’s amazing.
Ginger, Sounds like you have mostly sand. Sand and gravel sink to the bottom, and silt and clay rise to the top (assuming you did the ‘jar test’ correctly).
Jar tests and other simple soil tests are explained here: http://www.earthbagstructures.com/details/soiltest/soiltest.htm
You need to find a source of clay to add to your sandy soil or find better soil with adequate clay content (25% clay is a good percentage). You could dig deeper and see if you hit better soil. You could also do multiple soil tests from different areas in your vicinity. This might take more time and effort than usual because you’re in a desert.
Plan ahead because you need a lot of soil, which obviously will create a large hole. This is a good opportunity to build a water catchment pond (ideally above your house for future gravity-feed water supply).
If you still have trouble finding clay or clayey soil, chat with local soil engineers or geologists for suggestions on where to look. Also, they probably have detailed soil maps of your area.
Thanks for the invite. I would love to come and see what you’re all up to, but I live outside the country now and seldom travel far.
I can’t wait to start our earthbag house. We have 20 remote acres in an unincorporated place with no building codes or restrictions in the Chihuahuan Desert in Texas. We have a multi-year plan to setup water catchment, alternative energy, the earthbag house, a greenhouse, a couple of guesthouses, and lots of shade. For now, we work at our jobs and visit the property as often as we can, doing a little work and planning at a time. At the moment, I’m a little overwhelmed with how to harvest the hard-packed dirt as our place is almost too remote to get equipment out there. Thank you for all the information that you post. It’s helpful and encouraging.
Hi Ginger. I read your blog and saw where you’re going to build. Wow, that’s quite a place. It’s perfect for earthbag building because that’s what you have plenty of — earth. But I gather from your comment that’s it’s hard packed soil? If so, then it could take double the amount of labor. Ouch. Feel free to send more details about your soil conditions and maybe we can brainstorm some solutions. For example, maybe some areas are softer than others. Maybe you can dig into the side of a hill where it’s less compacted. Also, rainwater collected with tarps, etc. can be used to presoak the ground before digging.
Oh, and that was a great video about Dan Phillips building houses out of recycled materials. Thanks for sharing. Here’s the link in case anyone’s interested: http://idratherbe-ginger.blogspot.com/search/label/alternative%20housing