Building An Earthship In Darfield, B.C.

We are a family of five living in Darfield, BC.
Our house is six hundred square feet in total and we are feeling cramped.

We have decided to build an earthship!

So starts the adventure ...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Earthship: What's in a name?

It's really too bad that Mike Reynolds named his creation an "Earthship". Not that it isn't a great name. After reading his books, it certainly does describe the dwelling. It's just that for the uninitiated, it sounds like something from outer space. In fact, when Chris first said, "Let's build an Earthship", visions of round, ET-type transportation vessels stuck in the dirt, came to mind.

The thought of throwing out, "Hey friends, we're finally going to build our house. It's going to be an Earthship," was slightly alien to me (pun intended). I tried it a few times in front of the mirror. Translation: Hey humans, I've just landed my UFO from Mars, how would you like to come and pound some tires in my Earthship???

Mildly apprehensive about how to introduce "Earthships" to family and friends, I began to think of other ways to describe them. "Hey, Katie," I said to our 10-year-old daughter at dinner one night, "how would you like to live in a house made of garbage?" Chris made throat-cutting gestures behind her, wildly waving me off with his free hand.

"Uh, are these those houses from that DVD you and Dad watched?", she asked, a doubtful look on her face. We had allowed our night-owl daughter to stay up to watch it with us, cringing on several occasions as she listened to a profane Mike Reynolds take shots at the Taos building authority...

Katie didn't say much after that. Apparently the "garbage" label wasn't a winner either. Several weeks went by and as we began to talk more openly with our three children about the concept of Earthships and our desire to build one, Katie remained somewhat silent. One night she came to us and said, "I don't want an Earthship, I don't want to have to tell my friends I live in a house made out of garbage!!!!" She was quite upset and it took us several months to undo the damage...

I continued to try to find a name to describe the house. Adobe Desert Dwelling with Glass Front, Solar Power and Grey Water House. I dismissed these as too wordy. At Peace with the Earth House. This one brought images of Chris sitting on the floor of the house, meditating. Green House. Too obvious and already taken. Scrap Tire House with Pop Cans. Hmmm. Shades of the Katie episode. Solar Ship, Hydrosun Ship, FloraSun Home....

Eventually I ran out of time, never coming up with something adequate enough by the time we started leaking our plans to family and friends. So, how would this "Earthship" concept be received by those who know us to be sane?

"What the heck is an "Earthship"? Will you be able to blast off or teleport people?" asked my friend Diane, producer of Information Morning for CBC Halifax. A true journalist, she checked out and pronounced the houses as "really cool".

"You're going to live in it?" asked a family member, who I could see was trying to process the idea of a relative (actually, five of them) living in the midst of a bunch of smelly tires and sticky pop cans. "And it's called an "Earthship?"

My father's eyebrows shot straight up and he didn't say much, but being an engineer, he had lots of questions for us the next time we discussed it. Not surprisingly, he knew a little bit about everything to do with a sustainable house...

He did remind me of a house in the Kootenays made out of glass embalming bottles, which we toured as kids. I did remember it, but decided not to tell Katie about it.

Chris' mom, Nancy, surprised us, correctly identifying Earthships with American actor, Dennis Weaver.

Except for Nancy, nobody within our circle of family and friends had heard of "Earthships". Although not surprising to us, there were many who were well enough read to have heard of sustainable housing, solar power, grey water recovery, and composting toilets, to be able to ask us very good questions about the houses.

We left our friends Lee-Ann and Henry for last. Their philosophy of life closely resembles ours and we figured that if anybody had heard of Mike Reynolds' "Earthships", it would be them. Also, Lee-Ann and Henry would never laugh behind our backs; they'd come right out and laugh to our faces!

So I gave it my best shot.

"Earthships... you know Lee-Ann," I prompted, "they're sustainable houses, solar powered, with grey water recovery, solar heated. This guy Mike Reynolds has been building them in the U.S. for the last 30 years.", I held my breath...

"Oh, I think I've heard of them," she said.

"There's one on the access road to Silver Star near Vernon," I ventured, knowing that she and Henry lived at Silver Star for many years .

"Oh yeah," she said, her voice rising half an octave, "we really wanted to buy that house when it was for sale. It was COOL, we really liked it." She continued to enthuse for a few minutes while I felt relief flooding through me. It was like finding the only other English-speaking tourist in Cairo.

Then she said, "What are they called again?"

Earthships. They are called Earthships. And we are building one.


riopoco said...

earthship ; stoneboat ; rock n rubber lifeboat. the possibilities are endless. Looking forward to the next installment. Somewhat disappointed that the procurment of said tires does not involve stealth and pre-dawn missions, we had already purchased our balaclavas.

jewel said...
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