This Earthship is located at
8,000 feet in the Zuni mountains of New Mexico.
A small ad for some really good friends.
Our good friends at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Candy Kitchen New Mexico run a wolf and wolf-dog sanctuary. These people are dedicated to the loving care of wolfs and wolf-dogs that are entirely too domesticated to live in the wild on their own. Wild animals such as these are too dangerous to live in society. At Wild Spirit these animals live in safe, large enclosures where they receive balanced meals and medical care until they pass on naturally. It takes thousands of pounds of raw meat to keep these residents happy and healthy. Most of the staff are volunteers. They need our financial help.
You may visit their website at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary Web site Your donations and patronage will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
---- END OF ADS ------
Start at the begining Construction Story
At the time we started construction of our Earthship (July 1997) this style of building was called an "Expanded Nest Earthship". Now, this style of building is called a "VeeGee" or VG because of the vertical glass. Many Earthships are constructed with sloped glass instead of vertical glass, these buildings are typically called Generic Earthships or simply, Earthships. We prefer to call our home, Nido de Libertad, Spanish for Nest of Liberty.
A ship is a vessel that should carry its occupants on an extended voyage providing all the necessities for life and comfort. An Earthship is a specially constructed house that is in harmony with the forces of nature and the Earth. An Earthship is more than just a solar powered house it is a synchronized system of many parts of ancient and modern technology. An Earthship should provide for the comfort of the residents and not require feeding of massive amounts of energy to maintain comfort and necessities while on the journey of life.
Our Earthship is earth sheltered and uses the sun to maintain a comfortable temperature in the dwelling. Without any mechanical heat source or cooling mechanisms our house automatically maintains an internal temperature between 62 and 75 degrees year round. It also uses the sun to power the systems of the house. (Read NO Utility Bills.)
We will recycle gray water from the sinks and showers and use that water to grow food inside the dwelling. Recycled water will be used to flush the toilet. We need to make frugal use of our water supply because we depend upon our Earthship to capture our water supply from the sky. Water is stored in a 3000-gallon cistern and filtered when needed. Soft clean water is truly a blessing and a pleasure to bath in as well as to consume.
Our Earthship and most other Earthships are constructed of old worn out car tires and beer cans. The beer sustains the construction crew while building and the containers are then recycled for building materials. The liquid is also recycled on the local flora by the crew as they take necessary breaks. Building a dwelling from these materials is indeed recycling at it's best.
Our Earthship has no foundation, because a foundation is not required. The tires are wide enough to withstand the down force weight of the building without a foundation. The building materials for the exterior walls are free. To obtain these materials all you have to do is ask any tire store owner. When the owner realizes that you are serious and after he finishes hugging you, he will help you load every tire that you are willing to haul away. Then he will freely tell you about other locations where you can obtain more hugs and free tires.
Typically, a level place is scrapped out of the side of a hill or mountain and the tires are laid on their sides then filled with earth from the excavation. The earth in the tires is then pounded with sledge-hammers until it is packed very hard. About three wheel borrow loads of earth are required to fill a tire until it simply will not hold any more earth and is ROCK hard. This technique is called rammed earth. Rammed earth structures built by Hannibal's army in the Alps are still occupied and Monticello, President Jefferson's mansion is still standing. Rammed earth is a proven building technology. Rammed earth provides mass to a building, which tends to retain and release heat VERY SLOWLY. This heat retention ability is very desirable inside a dwelling and it is the primary feature that makes Earthships work so well.
So the building materials for the walls are free (dirt and tires) but the labor to pack those tires is massive. We hired four experienced Earthship builders from SSA and six local stud muffins (stud muffin = 18 to 20 something ex-high school jock types). I found that when you divide stud muffins up into two man teams and start a contest with the only girl on the crew keeping score, these kids would ram tires until they drop! Youth is wonderful. We rammed 514 tires in 4.5 days for our house.
When the ramming was finished so was the exterior finish of the walls because they were buried in dirt. One does not have to paint dirt. The photos above document the first day of pounding and the exterior walls on the last day. Notice that the voids between the tires are filled with adobe mud and EMPTY beer cans.
These homes appear to be adobe homes. The tires are completely buried or encased in adobe or cement. Typically outside walls are buried to the roofline where possible. Remaining tires such as the ends of the exterior walls are encased in cement. There is no tire smell and they are as fire resistant as buried telephone books but a lot more durable.
Earthships are light filled, warm, quiet, comfortable dwellings. A key feature of all Earthships are south facing floor to ceiling windows and skylights in the back of the rooms. In the winter, the sun is low in the sky and shines to the back wall. The heat of the sun is stored in the walls and floor of the dwelling. At night that stored heat releases slowly and keeps the interior at a comfortable temperature.
Most Earthships have a planter (gray water recycling system) built directly below the windows at the front face of the structure. In the summer this acts as a buffer zone to prevent over heating due to sun penetration. Since the sun is higher in the sky in the summer, it only penetrates the building a few feet. The planter is covered in lush growing vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Anderson beds are actually giant wood boxes with drawers creating a platform for the bed. Earthships need storage space and an Anderson bed made sense for us. Anderson beds are shipped in about 16 cartons and "some assembly" is required. Two people with a good power driver could probably assemble an Anderson bed in 6 to 8 hours. Alone, it took me more than 14 hours and I had a blister on my trigger finger when I finished.
It was absolutely worth it all when I crawled between clean sheets on the memory-foam-air-mattress system sold by Anderson. It sure beats a sleeping bag on the floor. Used waterbed frames with drawers are an attractively priced alternative to the Anderson bed. I'll consider that next time. The Anderson mattress system is beyond comparison and I highly recommend it if you cherish a truly good restful nights sleep.
Our demand water heater is on the wall in the kitchen (behind the false doors I am holding up). There is not enough cabinet space in the kitchen and I sure wish I had insisted that the water heater go on the other side of this wall. The plumber mumbled about code and didn't want to move the water heater. Code be damned, I should have moved the water heater! There are mistakes in all houses, I have a few that I can erase, but it looks like I'll have to live with this one.
Power for our house is generated by 6 x 110 watt per hour solar panels. (The sixth panel is not mounted yet) This power is stored in 12 golf cart batteries in a box on the roof. Our house is wired for 12 volt DC power and 110 volt AC power. Our lights and refrigerator are 12 volt. The built in vacuum cleaner, automatic washing machine and all small kitchen appliances run on 110 volt AC. We have a propane gas cook stove. Our demand water heater does not heat water until it moves and we have hot water until it stops moving or we run out of water.
One does have to be frugal and wise with solar power but that does not mean you have to do without. We have a refrigerator, but it did NOT come from Sears. A Sears 12 cubic foot refrigerator costs about $400 and would require 22+ solar panels to run. Our Sunfrost 12 volt DC refrigerator runs on one panel, however it costs $1800.
When the lights go out at our neighbors, we always have power and we never have a power bill. Making your own power has many advantages and few disadvantages. Often solar costs more to install than calling the local power company. Our local power company quoted $22,000 to bring the lines to our site so that we would have the privilege of paying a monthly bill for their "iffy" service. As time went on and neighbors moved in that price went down, but I had made my decision. I chose to make my own power for about $12,000. Eventually (about every 7 years) I'll have to replace our batteries.
Our house is still under construction. A few final electrical touches are required, then a final inspection. Even though our walls were up in 4.5 days, the house was fully enclosed in two weeks, and a lot of the materials were free, the devil is still in the details. These houses cost as much to construct as "stick built" houses and the finish-out is where the real expenses and time are involved.
Our house is located on 20 acres in the Zuni Mountains about 110 miles west of Albuquerque New Mexico. We are at 8000 feet in elevation with a 180-degree view of the El Morro valley. This place oozes history and ancient culture influences. The El Morro National Monument is in full view from our property and our "soon to be built" deck.
The El Morro Monument is a 1,000 room Anasazi Indian ruin atop a 200' sandstone cliff. The ruin is named Atsinna. Scientists believe it was built about 1275 and thrived for about 2 generations. This cliff is known as Inscription Rock due to the petroglyphs left by the early inhabitants and by the inscriptions left by Coronado's Conquistadors in the early 1600's and many visitors since. The Coronado trail runs down the center of the valley. Zuni and Navajo reservations are nearby.
We are truly in the woods filled with alligator juniper, ponderosa pine, pinion pine and gambrel oak. In the spring every kind of wild flower you can imagine is in bloom. The air is thick with hummingbirds and horned lizards are running about. Rocket powered chipmunks that look like ricocheting bullets moving about inch above the ground are everywhere. Deer, Elk, wild turkey, bobcat and coyote are frequent visitors.
Snakes are often seen in the valley. I watch for them but have never observed a snake of any kind on the mountain. Our neighbors feed birds and the waste on the ground attracts rodents. Of course rodents attract snakes. Our neighbors have noticed a few well stuffed and lazy diamond backs hanging about the area since they started feeding birds. Now, I don't like snakes and I don't like rodents! I have found that a little bobcat urine sprayed about discourages rodents from hanging around, especially if there is no easy food source apparent. Yes, bobcat urine can be purchased in 8 oz bottles for such purposes. Since we are absent for long periods we don't feed any birds now, and after careful consideration I think we will feed only humming birds and keep spraying that urine.
Yep, we are at the end of 4.6 miles of dusty or muddy private roads. Private roads are by definition always dusty or muddy all the time. We have a telephone that works and we even have a local Internet ISP.
The best feature of our location is the finest neighbors upon this Earth surround us. Alternative architecture abounds. Our closest neighbors and dearest friends are almost finished constructing a double wall adobe with solar assist named Ranchito Chupaflor (Humming Bird Ranch). George and Caroly are incredible crafts people (PC?). They have created a work of art to live in.
Two amazing women, constructed a beautiful solar powered strawbale home in the valley. There is an off-the-grid, solar powered, Geltaftan home, (bagged sand/earth) constructed with volcanic cinders instead of sand. Dean & Sari created a beautiful home that performs as well as an Earthship but is not nearly as radical in appearance.
There is a concrete sprayed balloon dome, geodesic dome, papercrete experimentation, and other strawbales located here. Of course we have some excellent double-wides and conventional construction scattered about. All seem to take advantage of solar in some form or other. For me this place is heaven!
The Cibola National Forest is short walk north of our property (Read 300,000 acres of wild protected land to play on without having to pay taxes). Rush hour at El Morro Ranches is when the wild turkeys refuse to get out of the road. Like their domestic counter parts in Arlington honking and blinking your lights does not cause these turkeys to move any faster.
Dare to dream your dreams and then act on them. Ours came true! I could not refuse if the price had been twice as high. We are 35 miles from the nearest grocery store and I don't care!
I am especially grateful to Mike Reynolds and the Solar Survival Architecture crew that assisted us with this effort. Alexis, the young New York law student, turned alternative building crew chief was a joy to work with and a master craftsman. Alexis and his band of merry men and women traveled to our site from Taos, worked hard and created a warm wonderful dwelling. I can't recall all the names, but I fondly remember all the faces and all the efforts beyond expectation. So thank you, Alexis, Anna, Kirsten, Nick, Dave, Eric, Justin, Rojo, Dan, John and many others. Alix Woosley drew the plans and coordinated mountains of details that made it all happen. May the Gods of sustainability continue blessing all you.
Scott & Jan Derrick are nearing completion on a beautiful sloped glass Earthship near Grants New Mexico. Scott's web site at http://www.tnstaafl.net/ demonstrates an excellent example of state of the art sloped glass Earthship architecture.
If you want to learn more about alternative building, Earthships, Strawbale, Cobe, etc., then visit my good friend Dave Knapp's web page at http://www.geocities.com/renewables/index.html Dave has an incredible collection of links to many interesting sites. Read Dave's story about how he reduced his power bill by 75% while living in his stick built suburban yuppie castle. Dave will be the first to tell you that sustainability does not have be as radical as an Earthship. You can start right now, where you are!
If you want to learn more about Earthships in general then go to http://www.earthship.org/. Mr. Michael Reynolds, an incredible visionary and open minded, skilled architect, pioneered this type of construction. Michael formed a company to further study and develop this concept called Solar Survival Architecture (SSA) near Taos New Mexico.
If you need excellent solar or alternative power assistance then I highly recommend Paradise Power in Taos New Mexico. http://www.paradisepower.net/. Dan Wineman offers fair prices and very highly skilled technicians that know what they are doing. A young Paradise Power technician named Aaron recently came to our place and really performed. Aaron did more in two and half days than most electricians would do in a week. Everything Aaron did was right the first time with no waste. Call Paradise Power.
Photos of Nido de Libertade, the petroglyphs, and the humming bird are courtesy of my very good friend Kevin Donovan. Kevin is an all around good guy, excellent photographer, bicycle racer, skier, and a mountain climbing fool. Kevin lives to climb high rocky places. This photo was taken on the summit of Mera 2 (21,800') in Nepal, May 2001. Yes, that is Everest in the background. Kevin works for IntelliWare Systems and this photo is a shameless attempt to please the boss.
Visit Kevin's web site at http://www.kevindonovan.com/ for a photo tour of Nepal, other high places, and bicycle parts. Better yet, visit Kevin's online stores http://www.bikesamerica.com/ and buy something. Kevin is a hard working computer geek. Trips to high rocky places are expensive and he needs your pennies.
A nice shower of rain preceeded
our arrival and the car remained relatively dust free on our trip
up the mountain. July is the moonsoon season in New Mexico and we
were blessed with sunny mornings and light showers many
afternoons. Of course the temperature was always comfortable
inside the house but down to the low 50s at night outside. This
was the first time Pat had been to the house for an extended stay
and she was very favorably impressed.
Pat insisted that we buy a
sleeper sofa and a dinning set. She did a great job finishing the
table and chairs, the bar stools and the closet door. Now, if we
have guests we have a place for them to sleep and they can eat
without holding their plate in their lap. A massive improvement.
At night or during the day on weekends I wielded a chainsaw or
hauled construction trash to the dump. We both worked non-stop
except when we were visiting with some of our great neighbors. I
won't say it was all work, because we did manage to sight-see some
and to enjoy more than a few glasses of fine wine with our
friends. It just doesn't get much better than that.
My friend Kevin Donovan shot a few buffalo near Westcliffe Colorado in mid August 2002. The larger image of this photo makes fine wallpaper as it is a high resolution image about 1.3 meg.
Pat and I returned to our
Earthship in mid October 2002. Our intentions were to replace our
leaky old gutters with some new seamless gutters before winter and
Earthships have little storage space. Before we could finish our house we had to build a storage shed. We built this 12 x 24 metal covered shed about 2 years ago so we could empty the house of extra building materials and tools. Since we are in the woods, I covered the shed with metal for some fire protection. Furthermore, UV at our altitude in New Mexico destroys exposed wood very quickly. The shed is a water collection device also. Note the seamless gutters. I would tell anyone, build the shed FIRST.
Maintenance and improvements are constant and ongoing. We added WildBlue satellite internet access in 2005. We have found wildBlue satellite broadband service to be excellent value. We are satisfied customers of WildBlue. You can find out more about WildBlue at http://www.wildblue.com/.
Our location is cursed with copious amounts of undergrowth. This is an ongoing fire hazard. We have ample firewood sources. Brush and slash must be piled and burned, hauled away, or chipped. We chose the DR Power 18 HP chipper. Chipping brush is DIRTY, LOUD WORK. I suggest ear and eye protection and old cloths with long sleeves. If you dress like the models shown in the promotional material, your clothes won't look very good by the time you finish. Find more information on DR Power chippers at http://www.DRPower.com/ The DR Chipper is a good tool, in my humble opinion.
I don't sell anything related to Earthships, I am just a home owner. To ask questions about this site you can contact me at "algooch@" followed by icloud dot com. You know how to form a working email address, no apostrophes around my name and at sign, followed by the isp name, use a . instead of the word dot followed by com and no embeded spaces. Hopefully the spam bots won't be able to put the above information together.