new project – Earthbag building

Sustainable housing.

Those of you that know me or follow me on twitter know that I’m a pretty handy type of person.  I like to get my hands dirty. I’m also pretty granola and like to be earth friendly.

While we live in the city in San Antonio, Matt and I love to get away to our ranch, which is about 40 mins outside SA in a place called Stockdale. It’s got red dirt, lots of acacias and it looks like it could be the Australian outback or somewhere in Africa. It’s beautiful.

Right now, we have a trailer out there. We had sold our motorhome last year, but we had a 24ft car hauler that we’ve put up shelving and a toilet, as well as a futon bunk bed. We recently had electricity hooked up and there’s  also a well on the ranch. We fill up a mobile water trailer and hook that up to the trailer and have an outdoor shower and kitchen sink as well.

We both love it down there so much, we’ve been thinking of something more permanent. Matt started looking into nicer RV’s. We even looked at a couple of FEMA trailers. (ugh)


I however, would much prefer something that creates less impact and is much more permanent. That’s when I started looking into sustainable housing. So far, my two favourite types of home are the Eco-Domes designed by Nader Khalili and Earthships designed by Michael Reynolds.  


I have also been researching other sites, some with great info like EarthBag Building. 

I much prefer the earthbags over the tire pounding, and an earthship could be built using sandbags or used fruit bags or burlap. I like the roundness of the dome, and now I’m just wondering how to take certain aspects of the earthip, like the water harvesting and reclycling and incorporate it into the eco-dome. For a weekender, we probably don’t want growbeds like the earthship. They wouldn’t get enough water, but I’m thinking if I start out with an eco-dome with water catchment that then uses the grey water for outdoor gardens, that’ll make a good place till we decide if we ever want to move to the ranch full time. At that point, the dome would become a guest house and we’d build a full on earthship. I like the idea of being completely off the grid and self-sufficient.

Everyone says it’s important to practice on smaller projects first, so I have just ordered 1000 sandbags. My first project is going to be an outdoor kitchen next to our trailer. We already have a metal cover down there that Matt’s parents pulled down from the old camp site. So this week we’ll go down there and set that up. Then, I’ll use the empty sandbags and the local earth to build 2 walls, facing north and west. I’m going to try to incorporate some of the beauty of the earthships by using old bottles for windows and decoration. Last week we went to the Habitat for Humanity store by our house. I picked up 2 great looking bars. One for the ranch, one for the house. Turns out they’re from movie sets from a local telenovela they filmed here. I got the counters for $149 each! So add in $250 for sandbags, and since we already have the roof, all I need now is a sink, a 50 gallon drum and some guttering for rainwater harvesting and I’ve got an outdoor kitchen for less than $500.

Meanwhile, as I write this, the guy just turned up to give me a quote for new insulation in the attic in our house. The old insulation, which we found out after after the lightning and subsequent fire, was highly flammable stuff which was also really gross and disgusting after 15 years of animals living in it. (There was squirrel poop and hummingbird eggs!) I have since removed 90% of it, and we are getting new green stuff up there. He’s measuring now and is going to give us prices for recylced cellulose as well as Bio-Foam, a soy based spray in expanding foam insulation.

I’m super excited about building the outdoor kitchen at the ranch. I’ll take lots of pictures and put them up here. If that goes well, I’m then going to make a dome shaped bathroom. Then we’ll have a nice dunny and shower while we’re out there. If we ever build an earthship, the dome bathroom will be nice for visitors who come out camping.

Yesterday I finished putting up the texture on the upstairs wall at our house that we lost after the fire. We had been looking at the studs and new insulation for a year! Tomorrow I’ll paint it, then I’m going to make a nice trim with decorative tile. It’s so nice to have a week off work and get some real stuff done!


One Reply to “new project – Earthbag building”

  1. Sarah,
    It was great to learn there are others here in SA that are thinking this way. I’ve got 5 acres in Atascosa County that I eventually want to build naturally. I have so much to learn first. Would love to hear from you if interested in trying to gather others into a group with the same interest so we can learn from each other — earthbag building, rainwater harvesting, graywater irrigation, solar/wind energy, etc.

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