Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Game Over

The adventure came to an abrupt end a few days ago. We've been heading west, back toward California. I waited a few days to post because I wasn't sure what to say. Anyways, that's it. Project postponed indefinitely.

- CheeZ

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Pale Blue Dot


"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

"The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

"Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

"The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

"It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

- Carl Sagan, May 11, 1996.

From the Wikipedia entry.

Waning Moon Over Tennessee

Redline and I just walked back from the laundry facility and I saw this:

The moon looks the same as it does everywhere else. But we're here, in Newport, Tennessee. A place I've never seen or even heard of before.

Tomorrow, we head out to another place I've never been, to start a project that will leave us in the woods for six months, battling the elements and the unknown, in a race to build an earthship before the North Carolina weather shuts us down for the winter.

To aid us, we have boatloads of theory, and a stubborn belief that this is totally possible. And tools. I guess we don't have tools yet, but we'll have them tomorrow. Oh wait. We do have a machete, so that's good.

I'll admit it. I've got some butterflies. Anyways, that ran through my head when I was looking at the moon.

- CheeZ

Last Leg. Almost.

Redline and I set out from Louisville bright and early at just a little past noon. We hit a couple stores to pick up some minor cooking utensils and a machete. Yes, a machete. Redline already had one, and decided it would be more efficient if we each had one to work with.

We'll pick up the last of the tools we need tomorrow morning. We're going to spend the night in Newport, Tennessee, and drive the last few miles to the site in the morning.

Tomorrow, we'll also need to hit the post office in Marshall, NC, to get a P.O. Box. If any of you would like the address for some reason, shoot me an email and I'll give it to you.

The last pick up for tomorrow is the straw bales, which we'll use to build the initial shelter. Seems I remember a story about a straw house. Hope we don't run into any wolves.

Other than that, we'll spend most of the day clearing brush and trees to establish a camp site.

Look at that thing. Too bad I never learned to speak Hovitos.

- CheeZ


Redline and I pulled into Louisville, Kentucky, on Sunday night. My friend, Freddy, invited us to stop in and stay with him. We were quite happy to accept. Freddy and I have known each other for quite a few years and I think the world of the guy. He moved out to Kentucky from California for the second time about a year ago and says he likes it quite a bit. Now that I've seen the place for myself, I can see why. It's a lovely city with lots of personality, and there's a warmth and kindness to the people that's instantly endearing.

We spent Sunday night through Tuesday morning in Louisville. Freddy and his housemates, Dan and Scott, shared their home with us and allowed us to rest up, eat well (Freddy showed off his skills on the barbecue), and get ourselves psyched up for the last leg of the trip.

Their friend John ate supper with us and shared a lot of good info about North Carolina. When we'd finished eating, Redline and I were introduced to a game called, "Family Business." Lots of fun.

Guys, if you're reading this, thank you for your kindness and hospitality. It meant a lot and we appreciate it.

- CheeZ

Kansas City

Oh yeah. We stopped in Kansas City. Just south of, technically. In my effort to stay hydrated, I drank some water from the sink in the motel room. Big mistake. I spent the next 20 hours thinking I was going to die. No, not really. Let's just say I was filled with regret for drinking the water. And there was plenty of room for the regret, because I suddenly found myself filled with nothing else.

Kansas City, I'm not a fan of your water. IF I ever drive through again, I might let you make it up to me. Maybe.


- CheeZ

Earthship Headquarters

EDIT: Click on any picture to see a larger version.

EDIT2: Added the missing links to New Mexico budget documents.

I've spent some time thinking on how best to present my thoughts on Earthship Headquarters. In this case, it was a lot of addition by subtraction. I've got a lot of thoughts and feelings about this, but somehow, it didn't feel appropriate to include them here. I've got them all written down, though, for inclusion somewhere else if an appropriate place presents itself. I trust you all won't mind too much that it took a while to sort this out. Thank you for your patience.

When we arrived, I tried to rein in expectations. The only thing I knew for certain was that I'd be seeing a working example of what we were setting out to build. Beyond that, I wanted to remain open to anything, taking the time and effort to see everything as it unfolded, sure that the details would drive home the reality. Imagination is a useful tool, but it's limited.

To the left is the current Earthship Headquarters. To the right is a new structure still being built:

This is the new Earthship Headquarters, still under construction. We were told that the state of New Mexico had allocated money to fund the new building. We have since found support for that online. We have it from two sources, here (page 61), and here (page 14), that New Mexico has provided $300,000 for the cause. This kind of support lends a lot of legitimacy to the project. We were also told that Earthship Biotecture has worked out plans with New Mexico to build a new state visitor's center. Momentum is building:

Our initial shelter will look something like this:

Welcome, indeed:

The little dots in the walls are glass bottles. Bottles and cans are used throughout the structure in non-load-bearing walls as well as for decorative purposes. When used in a wall, the cans and bottles are filler. They offer structure, but the main purpose is to reduce the amount of material required to build the walls:

This is the walkway leading to the front door:

Bottle bottoms are left exposed as a decorative feature, and not as a necessity. Some homes didn't seem to use this particular asthetic feature as much. I enjoyed the flip covers for the light switches and outlet:

1. This is the first of the large planters in the house:

2. A note about the skylight and its purpose:

The living room. In the movie, "Garbage Warrior," Michael Reynolds states that though his earthship has a fireplace, he and his wife use it once a year on Christmas. Point being that it's a nice touch, but not at all necessary to keeping the home warm:

There is an incredible amount of information available. We absorbed, made notes, and took a lot of pictures. All of the books for sale are available to browse. There are also some that are not for sale. We are grateful for the access, and out of respect for the effort, not all of our pictures will be posted online. Here, Redline is looking at various earthship styles:

The sink next to the entryway planter. The model is a fully functional earthship. All systems are in working order, available for use:

4. Scupper/Silt Catch:

Wooden ceiling and track lighting:

Cutaway drawing of a greywater planter:

5. The indoor cistern is fed by a water collection system on the roof. Water trickles down the waterfall and adds a pleasant touch to the indoor garden setting:

7. The Pressure Tank, "pressurizes water for conventional household use."

8. A look at the Power Organizing Module, which "organizes and distributes AC and DC power collected from solar panels."

Deep-cycle batteries used to store electricity:

The unfinished wall allows viewers to see the inside of the wall.

There's no pretense about the place. It is what it is and visitors are allowed to see everything, warts and all. This isn't a sales job. Earthship HQ shows what's possible and provides a lot of the information an aspiring builder would need to know:

The bathroom. Again, everything works:

10. Low Flush Toilet. Looks a lot like a regular toilet:

11. The Can and Cement Bathtub, "is free form, using cans laid like bricks in white cement." Nowadays, electrical and plumbing is framed in. I'd hate to see the damage that repairs would require on an older design like this one. However, this earthship has required no repairs during its 15 years:

A little bit of decoration:

The second of the large greywater planters:

Interior Wall:

The back door:


An example of a bit of flair in the wall. Also, a method no longer used in ceilings:

Sturdy cement floor:

Blinds used to regulate sunlight. If you want it warmer, open the blinds. Cooler, close them:

A look back toward the front door:

Back door, exterior:

Cans and cement to finish a tire wall:

An adjacent structure under construction:

Front view of the same adjacent structure:

Profile view of an adjacent earthship:

Bottle wall planters:

Rooftop receivers:

Wind turbine and skylights:

Front-ish view of Earthship HQ:

Earthship HQ solar panels:

A closer look at the adjacent structure:

A before and after comparison:

The new Eartship Headquarters building:

Unfinished tire/bottle wall:

Some privately-owned earthships off in the distance. These don't seem to have as much exposed bottle detail:

Fresh water delivery on the way:

A look at the roof of Earthship HQ. Water rolls down the roof and into the opening above the waterfall before entering the cistern:

Another look at the privately owned earthships. Neat how much they blend into their surroundings:

Rolling through Taos. Truth is, I was exactly as close as I appear:

- CheeZ