Saturday, July 20, 2013

July 2013 Open days

Well, we have just seen our second set of visitors off and would like to thank everyone who came to take part in our first open days.  It was great to meet you all and we hope you enjoyed the mornings as much as we did! 
We are planning more open days for the future so if you couldn't make it this July, please let me know and I will send you details of the next dates when they come closer.
If you were one of our visitors this time around, we would really appreciate your feedback, so drop us a line or leave a comment here and let us know what you thought.
Hugs all round
Lisa and Oscar
Week 1
Week 2

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Dear everyone,
We have had a lot of visitors to the earthship over the years; some people have come to help us build, others to find inspiration and some simply to get an idea of what a finished earthship looks and feels  like.
We finished building three years ago and the earthship is now not just an interesting building, it is our home. Having people you have never met wandering through your home is an odd experience - imagine it in your own place - and due to work committments and a need for some privacy, we decided a while back to turn down prospective visitors.
However, we are thinking of having a few open days at some point in the early European summer and I am writing this message to ask people who would be interested in seeing the house and hearing a little about how we built it to express that interest by replying to this post in a comment with your names and emails so that I can start organising dates and stuff.
Thank you all for your interest,
Best regards

UPDATE 27-05-13

Hi everyone, 13th and the 20th are now full and closed.  We will see how they go before offering further dates - thank you all for your interest and see you soon!
Lisa and Oscar

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Exactly how do you furnish the curvy part of a U? After much searching we are lucky enough to have found a sofa with a rounded back and so after almost 9 years of faithful service, our little futon has retired to Carla's study and been replaced by this lovely big thing.

I was also determined to get rid of the wine box/particle board bookshelves you can see in the photo behind the sofa - they have been practical as a temporary solution but I wanted something more sturdy for the long run. So I spent a couple of weeks this summer hacking away at bits of timber to make a bookshelf which (more or less) followed the line of the wall. I have since come to the conclusion that I am in no way whatsoever, ever ever ever, going to be able to call myself a carpenter, but it will have to do. No zooming in on the joinery!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oscar rocks the wall.

Our trip to France inspired Oscar no end.  When we got back he immediately tore all of the horrible lavender-choking Morning Glory - which was only ever pretty for a month or so each year, suffering from drought induced wither or frostbite the rest of the time - off the tyres here...

...and built this excellent rock wall using rocks that are still hanging around from the excavation of the hut 9 years ago.

Jolly good, what?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Early summer 2011

It's heating up here now, and thankfully the awnings seem to be doing their job. Outside temperatures are getting up into the high 30s some days while inside we have had a max of 25ºC - warm, but nowhere near as hot as outside and quite tolerable. This photo shows the planter with the awnings down outside. The plants don't seem to mind the shade too much.
The changes we made to the grey water system (sending the kitchen and washing machine water straight out into the septic instead of into the planter) have worked brilliantly. The whole thing smells better - in fact, doesn't smell at all - the water is cleaner looking in the toilet, and there is no overflow whatsoever and no revolting grease trap to clean. We are immensely pleased with it. So, if you do decide to make a grey water planter, remember to divert the kitchen water straight out to the septic to avoid all that grossness.

We have also (finally!) put doors on all of our cupboards. It was the last proper building sort of job that had to be done, so I guess that means we have really and truly finished the house (in as far as it can ever be finished). Wow.

Outside our windows my flowers have all come up beautifully and are happily nodding away in the breeze with the bees busy about them. Happy summer (or winter if you are in the southern hemisphere) everybody!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Tweaking the ship.

It's been a while since I posted, but that's mainly because we haven't been doing very much work on the house at all. Just living in it happily over the winter. Of course, that doesn't mean there weren't things to be done and the good weather has brought out the builders in us and led to a flurry of tweaking.
The two main focal points have been the planter and the front face. Too much water in one and too much sun on the other. Solutions?
Planter: A three way valve off the internet to send the kitchen and washing machine water directly out to our outlaw septic (you should DEFINITELY do this if you haven't already, cleaning a revolting grease trap gets very old, very quickly) and a good old dig about to take a lot of the over-zealously applied dirt and replace it with room-giving gravel.
Windows: These lovely awnings which were installed on Wednesday and which have already kept the temperature at 22ºC today when it got up over 30ºC outside. Yay. We have also put summer shades over our enormous skylights to stop the heat coming through, the light is perfect for siestas over the coming summer.
Yay for us!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

the earthship style hut.

Over the years quite a few people have asked us for advice about the hut module that we built and lived in for five years. I will attempt to provide some answers for the most common queries:

First of all, it is a great idea to tackle a smaller project before committing to a huge house. We, as non-builders, gained invaluable experience, confidence and knowledge with this little project. It also gave us a place to live on-site as we worked on the big house for five years. This was good.

Our hut is five metres in diameter. We dug it in to the ground as far as we could but I would most certainly not do that again on our block. You really need to have rock-free, well drained soil to dig in. Apart from the back breaking work of sledge hammering boulders, we have always had a bit of damp on our below-ground level wall surfaces, which would be a royal pain in the bum if the walls were plastered, painted and susceptible to bubbling, but as they are mud, is merely a bit of ugliness that we learnt to cope with but would have avoided if hindsight were foresight.

Inside the hut we built a semi-circular mezzanine out of old timber which became our bedroom. Of course this is fine when children are either non-existent or young enough to not mind sleeping next to you. An interesting fact: the attractiveness of a larger house with separate bedrooms grows in direct proportion to your offspring. The floor level had a small sofa, a dining table with four chairs, some wine-box bookshelves and a kitchenette with a fridge and work surface. Fine, but...

Ours is a simple one room hut. In number three of the Earthship coffee table books, there is a plan for a hut with a greenhouse out front for the kitchen/bathroom area. If I could rewind and re-record, I would definitely build this addition onto the hut. It would have been a lot more work at the time, but I think it would have been worth it to have an indoor loo and a kitchen we could actually cook in. You see, one of the downsides to hot air rising and having a mezzanine bedroom is that everything you cook inside the single-space hut wafts up into the beds. Think curry pillow cases and fishy blankets. If we ever wanted to do anything other than boil water or make aromatic coffee, we had to scoot outside and cook on the BBQ. Oh yes, it's lovely in nice weather. So is strolling fifteen metres through the garden to your bathroom.

The floor is another thing I would like to mention. I don't know about American slate and slabs of paving stones, but over here, they are incredibly varied in size and thickness. We used lovely big black slate slabs and it looked gorgeous but NOTHING was ever level and it was maddening. In fact, once we tiled the big house, we ripped up the slate in the little house and replaced it with left-over ceramic tiles. So nice. So clean.

Our hut was one of the ones that used a double rebar birdcage for the roof. I don't think they do that anymore, but I might be wrong. This is where we tied our rebar to the Ls that we had planted in the bond beam. It became impossible to stuff insulation between two bars tied to one post (yes, I know...duh) so there is a big strip of non-insulated roof. I think it would have been better to sink a double row of Ls with enough space for the insulation between them. We should also have used a lot more horizontal rebar to avoid the saggy-baggy-elephant look and make a prettier shaped dome. Speaking of rebar - and this was advice from Tom and Amy well worth paying attention to - you have to cover the metal with either paint or cement before plastering over it. The plaster eats at the iron and you can end up with big rust stains all over the place. We only have a tiny one thanks to the Dukes (and our own slightly-less-than-perfect cover-up job).

Still on the roof, we also included small vents into the air chamber between the two domes to allow ventilation and avoid condensation. They should probably have been a bit bigger, but they seem to do the job pretty well.

Repeat after me:
All the same size...all the same size...all the same size...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Brighton Inspired.

It's Monday after an amazing weekend up in Brighton, UK. Earth Builds, Brighton Permaculture Trust and the Low Carbon Trust organized a conference celebrating 10 years of Earthships in Europe and asked me to go along and speak about our experience.
I enjoyed it enourmously and was so happy to finally meet other earthshippers and actually see my first earthship (other than my own of course) out at Stanmer Park.

But...did anyone take any photos?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winter good, Winter bad.

Actually I think I'll go for the bad first. Weather induced bad. Just before Christmas we had our annual freeze and the temperature dropped to minus 4 overnight (I know it's not that cold, but remember, this is sunny, warm Valencia in Spain). All the animals' water buckets froze solid and there was a hard frost which did away with the more delicate outdoor plants. Our hot water system is on the roof, it is one of those solar heaters with a tank and a panel, and at about 2pm on the day of the freeze it started gushing water out of all the wrong places. The inner tubes had burst - apparently the installers didn't remember the anti-freeze - and there ended our hot water for three weeks. The company were very good, they replaced everything under guarantee but unfortunately it hasn't been sunny since and we still don't have hot water. Our back up system is the old bathroom which means quick dashes through the garden and a return to the days of no electricity. Oh well.
But wait! There's more. Last Thursday we were absolutely battered by the wildest winds I have ever experienced. This is what the street leading to our house looked like. We were lucky in that none of the trees on our block fell over. One lost a big branch and that's it. Oscar's parents' place was one of the worst. This is one of the five big trees that they lost.

I guess the bright side is that we now have firewood for the next 30 years, which leads me conveniently into the Winter good bit...
Nice huh? We love it. The earthship is not cold at all. In fact this winter the temperature in the coolest part of the house has not dropped below 16.5ºC. But, who doesn't love a fire? And the oven on top has been put to very good use already. Makes everything cozy despite the no hot water and crazy winds. The other good thing is the photovoltaic system. We have had enough electricity to see us through almost three weeks of grey. Four days autonomy has stretched into many more with careful use and the odd glimpse of sun. Very pleased with the whole system.

Monday, October 12, 2009

mercedes, new chickens and a broody american..

We had an avocado tree that had grown from a seed and was about as tall as me. Note the past tense. The culprit is in the background there, innocently munching on grass like she was supposed to in the first place. I was fortunate enough to have picked most of the best leaves off the basil to be frozen in readiness for the coming months before Mercedes decimated it too. Lucky she is such a sweetie, otherwise I might be tempted to listen to my father-in-law's espousing the virtue of goat at (or perhaps more correctly, on) the table.

We have a new clutch of chickens to keep the old boilers company. They haven't started laying yet but when they do we will have an absolute glut of eggs. If the broody american doesn't steal them. She has been sitting on her eggs for two weeks now and we found that she was stealing the other chook's eggs to add to her clutch. Oscar's dad came over the other night with a special light and we checked all of the eggs to see if there were actually any chickens inside them. Of the 12 she was sitting on, only two have chicks. No disappointment for me - who want's a hundred chickens anyway?