July 2017 • Update #7 • Earthbags, Door Frames, Soil, & Camper Repairs

These past few months we have been blessed by more family and visitors who travelled all the way to Missouri to help us breath life into our home. With their help we’ve been able to make tremendous progress.

The concrete thresholds are to set the door frames on a level surface. Unfortunately, we positioned them incorrectly and had to extend them out.

earthbag-cement-alignment

cement-threshold-extensions

Afterwards we continued laying more single bags.

single-bags

It’s a slow process with each bag weighing around 80 lbs. We shoveled dirt, clay, sand, and limestone into buckets then mixed them in a cement mixer. We’d then transport the cob to the structure where bags were filled and tamped into place.

Luckily, we had some help in April when my sister Carolyn and our dad came to visit!

carolyn-filling-earthbags

Last fall we purchased a used 5th wheel camper to fix up and eventually move into. It’s been an endless pit of unexpected damages and expensive repairs.

camper-ceiling-damage

Carolyn and Dad helped us get that into better shape as well. Here’s the last several months of camper progress:

camper-teardown-tv-stand

camper-floor-repar

camper-repair-roof

carolyn-and-dad-paint-camper

It’s still nowhere near ready but at least we’ve been able to utilize it for camping!

Once spring came we began expanding our landscaping efforts. Our soil is heavy rock and clay with very little humus so we’ve been focusing on building up soil mass, increasing microbial life, and combatting the ticks that plague the ozark forests.

nitrogen-fixing-legumes

Legumes have a special ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere through their leaves and deposit it into the soil through nodules in the root hairs. We planted several pounds of beans from a local seed shop all over the land.

kidney-beans

In order to build soil mass underground we also planted radishes. We will not harvest the vegetable, but instead let them rot underground where they can compost and feed the microbial life. The radishes also help with loosing up that clay soil, allowing more aeration and hydration.

radish-soil-building

To build soil above ground we’ve been growing comfrey and collecting organic waste. The waste is either dropped directly in grow beds or used in compost piles.

chop-and-drop-greens

comfrey

Our neighbors have been kind enough to donate us some of the scraps from their hay fields.

neal-grabbing-hay

Utilizing tick predators has been an ongoing strategy. A frog and lizard habitat was installed to proliferate their growth. Here you can see the pool at the bottom of a hugelkultur herb spiral which is currently growing onions, potatoes, beans, radishes, and indigenous pioneer species.

hugelkultur-herb-spiral-predator-habitat

herb-spiral

frog-habitat

A tough lesson we learned was the need for high-quality sand bags. Although the ones we purchased were sold with “UV Protection” it clearly wasn’t enough. Our first bags degenerated after a couple months and became overgrown with grasses and weeds.

busted-earthbag-leaks

overgrown-earthbags

The bags have since been sprayed with herbicide and are kept under tarps and out of sunlight. We also switched to higher quality bags from a more reputable supplier.

tarps

Laying individual bags was necessary for me to be able to work on the house by myself. However, the speed was just too slow. Our most recent pivot involves 2 major changes:

1.) Switching back to long rolls of tubing. This time we’re not using the unwieldy 25″ bags and instead are sticking with 18″. They’re way easier to handle and have proved to be much more effective.

elisha-rolls-earthbags

2.) Redesigning the home’s roof to be compartmentalized per room. We’re excited with the new plans since they now include a large patio rooftop but also will allow us to complete the home in phases. All of our efforts are now focused on just 1 circle.

The next step was to secure the door frames into place. My brother Tyler has been a big help these past couple months with laying earthbags and assembling the frames.

earthbag-door-railroad-ties

earthbag-door-frames

With the door frames up we were able to start on row 2, this time focusing exclusively on one circle. Reinforcements came when my cousin Dan and my dad returned to help lay some earthbags. We camped for a week on the land and put the new bags to the test!

earthbags-2-rows

tamping-earthbags-inner

elisha-and-dan

earthbags-3-rows

mixing-cob-for-earthbag-construction

laying-barbed-wire-earthbags

earthbags-4-rows

We attached the doorframes to the earthbags using cleats made from 2 by 4s and scrap wood. Wall-hanging lumber was also put in just in case we need to nail anything in the future.

earthbag-doorframe-cleats

earthbag-wall-hanging-wood

After a tough week of intense work, we made it about 25% up the first circle!

earthbag-total-6-walls

 

6-rows-earthbag-house

neal-dad-dan

Thank you: Dan, Dad, Tyler, and Carolyn for all your hard work and generosity, Eric for coming by to visit and taking some great drone shots, Laura and Bobby for laying earthbags and frequent brainstorming sessions, and to everyone else for your support and encouragement – it means the world to us!

eric

aeriel-photo-lake-of-the-ozarks

lake-of-the-ozarks-permaculture

We hope you’ve enjoyed this latest update!! Please check back soon for more or subscribe to our newsletter to receive email notifications.

Cheers,
Neal

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *