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 ...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Our visit to the Potter Earthship near Gilmour, Ontario

The initial 30 seconds of our visit to the Potters was not auspicious; Pat Potter was a little taken aback—and I detected a little irritated—that I had maneuvered up the second half of her driveway after she cautioned us earlier in the day about a possible icy base on the road.

I think she had some basis for worry; apparently she once had an accident on the icy part that resulted in some pricey dental repairs.

Nevertheless, having driven for more 25 years on B.C. mountain roads, some of them very steep and icy, I had no worries about navigating the last few hundred feet of the Potters' drive in our Honda CRV – equipped with brand new winter tires to boot!

Pat and Chuck were very welcoming and we entered their home with bright sunshine streaming through the slanted greenhouse windows. The show belonged to Chris for the ensuing two hours as he literally grilled Chuck and Pat about the technical aspects of building an Earthship.

After two hours I asked Chris, “Are you finished yet? I’d like to take the tour, now!”

The Potters’ Earthship is not finished. By their own admission, the last five years have been filled with their environmental activism. Having worked non-stop in our small business for the better part of 10 years, I can relate to how “home finishing” often takes a back seat to other aspects of life. Nonetheless, Pat’s office, at one end of the building, was finished beautifully, sporting a lovely sculpted yellow sun on the back wall. The greenhouse/planter in this room comprised lovely trailing plants. For the first time I could imagine how our house might look.

I also very much liked how Chuck and Pat sculpted in photo alcoves in the walls to display photos or treasured knickknacks. I brought my camera, intending to ask permission to take a few pictures for our blog, but Pat mentioned that they began prohibiting photo taking after they discovered a reproduction of a photo of Chuck that appeared in Ripleys!

The air temperature in the house was quite comfortable at the beginning of our visit with the sun streaming in. It was -20 C outside. As the sun set, I did notice that I began to feel colder, but I noticed that Pat was rarely feeding the woodstove. I felt that whatever auxiliary heating system we installed, we could keep our home at a comfortable heat during winter.

Almost as interesting to me during our visit was Pat and Chuck’s story of environmental activism. In an age of apathy and mediocrity, Pat and Chuck certainly stand out without apology in their passion for the environment. Their Earthship is only one aspect of what they feel they need to be doing for the earth.

Three hours and $60 later (after 7,000 visitors, Pat and Chuck now charge for their time), we left assuring Pat we would call from the cell phone when we successfully navigated the driveway on the way out.

Our visit certainly reassured us that we are capable of taking on an Earthship building project, and made us quite excited about how we will personalize our design to make it our own.

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