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 ...

Monday, March 30, 2009

One document down, one more to go for the permit!

The certified onsite wastewater specialist came today and it looks like our septic passed muster! Although we will not use it, it satisfies the requirements of a three bedroom home that would have a traditional waste water system. I still shake my head at the requirement of a traditional septic system for an earthship, but I guess it's only with many earthships being built (and other alternative buildings) that changes will eventually be made to building codes.

I find stories of septic tanks and septic systems quite fascinating, if a little gross. Gail's brother-in-law is a septic tank pumper and he regaled us last week with many stories of the improvised tanks people used to install (way back before rules). In one instant he went to pump the tank only to find it was an abandoned, buried vehicle! And another was a box made from old railway ties. He also filled us in on all the items/fluids that exit a house for the waste system that wreck havoc with the tank and field...nuff said about that.

Now Chris is working on the sealed, technical document, hopefully our last piece of the pie before being issued the permit.

More coifs...

Managed to convince both Chris and Stephen to let me try cutting their hair with #2 clippers and the really sharp scissors. Neither would allow me before and after shots, but their hair turned out great! So, another $15 each saved. I have now saved $66 in hair cutting since buying my supplies for $107. It has come to my attention (given the jumping up and whipping off of shirts to shake them out) that we need something better than a towel to prevent hair from drifting down between clothing and skin...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Meeting With Building Authority

Its been about three weeks since we submitted the plans and Sandra phoned mid-week to get an update of where we are at in the approval process. When we submitted the plans we were told that it was taking about three weeks to get a set of plans approved ...

Sandra talked over the phone with the building inspector assigned to review our file. What came out of this discussion is that construction techniques used in an earthship fall outside of the prescribed methods outlined in Part nine of the 2006 British Columbia Building Code (BCBC), and as such the alternative solution that we are proposing has to be shown to functionally meet the minimum prescriptive requirements outlined in Part 9. Section 2.3 of the Code provides a guideline of the requirements for documenting an acceptable alternative solution. Don't worry if your head is spinning ... it took me a while to wade through all of this.

Our business has been building log houses for over thirty years (first with Sandra's dad designing the buildings and most recently me). Log structures also fall outside of Part 9 of the Building Code. Basically an engineer is required to stamp (certify structural compliance) the design as the Building Code does not cover log construction, and the Building Authority does not have the expertise to evaluate it.

In discussions we have had with other people building earthships in various jurisdictions their permitting experience generally involved getting an engineer to stamp the plans as I have just described for log buildings. So when we submitted our plans to the Building Authority I stamped the plans as was our practice for log structures.

After Sandra's telephone conversation with the building inspector we took a look at the Code sections that the Building Authority was referring to. In 2006 a new iteration of the Building Code was released. A significant change in this release of the Code was the introduction of objectives and functional statements in lieu of the prescriptive practices outlined in Part 9 of the Building Code. The intention of this change is to allow for alternative building solutions that are not addressed by Part 9 of the Building Code. However, any proposed alternative building system has to be shown to meet the minimum prescriptive requirements outlined in the Code.

Feeling that we now understood what was being asked we requested a meeting with the inspector to go over what was required. We are able to set up a meeting quite quickly and on Friday morning we sat down with the inspector and the building department head.

The meeting went quite well. They confirmed that due to the unique nature of the building project we would need to submit a technical brief on the alternative building method being used as required in the new Building Code. We gave a brief overview of the earthship design principles and went over some of the material we were using to design our house (Earthship Volumes I-III and the Engineer's Report from New Mexico). These materials (particularly the Engineer's Report) went a long way towards addressing their concerns about the building system. What they requested at the end of the meeting was an overview and synopsis of earthship design principles that differ from Part 9 of the Building Code. They seemed quite satisfied that 'earthship' construction techniques were valid, well documented and backed up by actual completed buildings.

We hope to have the requested document in the Building Authority's possession by the end of this week so that we can proceed with our building project.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Omnivore's Dilemma

Put in a call regarding the status of the building permit but haven't heard back.

In the meantime, the Omnivore's Dilemma has been recommended to me on several occasions, most recently as a result of our chicken adventures. Anybody read it? Your thoughts?

Monday, March 23, 2009

More tires...

We picked up a full load of tires today. We went to our standbys in Kamloops and although most of them didn't have a whole bunch of tires, we re-introduced ourselves after our tire hiatus. We left Kamloops with 13 tires but stopped in Barriere at our local tire shop and filled out the rest of the trailer.

We plan to go through the rest of Barriere's pile in the next few days and then talk to the folks in Clearwater about sorting through their pile before the recyclers come. It appears that the smaller centres don't have the recyclers come as often, so the tires build up. Good for us!

Because of the snow we can't put the tires where we normally do, so we've dumped them haphazardly on the edge of the driveway. In a week or so we will move them to the sorting area.

See tire counter at the end of the blog for our updated count!

First medical crisis for the chicks!

O.K. we are still waiting for word on the permit for the earthship.

However, we had our first health crisis in the poultry brooder.

I was returning from my nightly bicycle ride (southbound on Hwy 5 up the north side of the Darfield hill) and upon coming through the front door Chris says "good, you're back, Stephen get your camera, we may have a problem with one of the chicks".

Chris did admit he didn't know enough about chicks to know if it was a problem.

With slight trepidation we marched through the mud (yes! our snow is finally melting!) and into the shop. I cast about the brooder to see if some creature looked amiss...yikes! With Chris and Stephen leaning over my shoulder I pointed and said, "I think we have a problem".

Stephen, by this point was quite upset and got an eyeful of the bird. "WHAT'STHEMATTERWITHIT?" he asked, voice elevated, oh, maybe 30-40 decibels above normal.

"I am not sure, " I said. I reach in and grab the little girl (it was one of our layers) and picked it up. "Take a picture Stephen".

With photo recorded I cast about for a container. "I need a container," I said.

"What for?" asked Chris.

"We are isolating this baby, " I said. If we had avian flu or hoof and mouth disease, or tapeworm, or whatever it is that birds get, I was going into quarantine mode.

"Where are you taking it?" asked Chris, who had plans on posting the picture on the internet and getting a 21st century diagnosis.

"I'm taking it to Robin."

Robin Schilling is our neighbour just slightly south of us. His family owns the Schilling ranch, which used to be a dairy when I was growing up but is now a beef ranch.

Robin can pull a calf, shoot coyotes, make hay, move sprinklers, and grow corn. He and his family also keep poultry. He's a professional engineer like Chris so if anybody could diagnose my little chickie it would be Robin.

Stephen, Helen and I pile into the car with the chick and drive over. The Schillings (Robin's wife Jody, and sons Tyler, Tyson and Tanner (8, 6 and 4)) are all suited up to tag calves. I caught them just in time.

"We need a vet!"

Stephen thrusts our shavings-lined ice cream bucket at Robin, who eyes the chick rather professionally, I thought.

"Do any more look like this?" he asks me. Nope.

He surveys the chick for a few more seconds. "I think you have an extreme case of pastey butt."


"What?" I ask.

Apparently this particular chick has been pooping and there's so much of it she can't poop. Robin explains that we need to moisten the chick's behind until we get rid of it.

Wait a minute. I'm still confused.

"So, like, what, moisten its butt a couple of times a day?" I get a blank stare. I hurriedly continue. "That big...missile sticking out her rear end is because her poop hole is blocked and it can't get rid of poop so her butt is distended?"

No, Robin explains, she's been trying to poop and the poop's drying on her butt and it apparently has been building up for some time. Really, we didn't notice. How unobservant can we be????

"So you're telling me this chick has been carrying her weight in dry poop around for a little while?" Robin nods. "How do I fix it again?" I ask.

Robin looks at me for a minute and says, "Hang on a minute." And he disappears to his basement with the chick.

A few minutes later Tyson comes up the stairs to tell me "she's a little o.k."

After a few more minutes of chatting with Jody about the black forest birthday cake the girls and I are making for Chris tonight (I had to borrow a few cups of milk from her for that, too) Robin comes up with the chick who is looking right as rain.

He cautions me that now that she's lost her weight in manure, she will probably be able to jump out of the ice cream bucket. (She does get loose on the way home.)

Feeling a big chagrined, we drive home. In the 20 minutes we are gone Chris has diagnosed the chick's problem by googling "constipated chick" although he does tell me there's some really weird results when you google those particular words...

Saved from avian flu and the thought of putting a cute fluffy chick out of its misery, I think what complete amateurs we are! And that we are going to be in real trouble at butchering time in May!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Getting to know your food supply chain

I had some misgivings about becoming small scale poultry farmers. My mom kept chickens when we were kids and I recall butchering 80-100 birds in one go.

I have a clear picture of my brother David (who would have been a young teenager) laying the chicken's head between two nails on a stump and whacking it off. Occasionally one would get loose and make a last, but obviously futile, attempt at escape. This was futile because its body was already separated from its head.

My job was to pluck and gut the chickens. This was a pretty stinky job. To ease the job of removing feathers, you dunk the decapitated bird in boiling water to soften the feathers. Gutting was the goriest of all and I seem to recall that like many things you think you won't be able to stand, I got used to this, too. It was a great lesson in anatomy; I believe I can still locate and identify a gizzard.

The downside of having experience raising and preparing your own meat is that after processing 100 chickens in a go, my brothers and I would not eat chicken for six months.

So when we talked about getting chicks I was all for getting layers. Currently we buy farm eggs from our neighbours just down the road. We love them. Nothing beats a farm fresh egg. So when we were looking for yet something else to teach the kids self reliance and responsibility, we thought of eggs.

When we talked about meat birds (the price of chicken just went up again) I was fairly adamant that I was not going to have any part of butchering. But like most of my I-put-my-foot-down statements, I usually have a good think about it and revise my conditions.

After all, everyone who eats meat should know where it comes from. It's pretty easy to only think about your meat from the time you look at it wrapped on a little styrofoam dish and encased in plastic wrap with a neat little sticker on it. When we buy our food like this we very rarely think about what we would do for our meat if we couldn't buy it from a store. Who these days would be prepared to raise their food, care for it, kill it and then prepare it for the freezer, or the table? Shouldn't I get back to basics and re-learn what it takes to feed myself?

I've concluded that I need to get back in touch with my food supply and even more importantly, the kids do. So I've decided to pass the mantle and the kids can learn how to butcher chickens. :)

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Our chicks came today ( march 19th 2009) and no I don't mean dudes' girlfriends, I mean little baby "girl" chickens.

We were only supposed to get 25 layers and 25 meat birds, (yum!!) but we were lucky enough to get a few extra "to experiment with," as my dad said.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, I'm writing for me, my brother and sister, I'm Katie, 10 years old, my brother Stephen is 9 years old and my sister Helen just turned 8.

My mom thought it would be a good idea if we wrote about our new chicks and how we're keeping them alive.

Helen says: I think the chicks are really cute. I named two of them #1: fluffy (she is a layer.) and # 2 is fluffier it is hard to take care of a chick.

Stephen says: yummy meat birds yes indeed yummy yummy here birdy .Ok down to business. I named 2 babies and yeah that's my share. Here birdy.

I say: Oh ha ha Stephen reeeaaal mature. Anyway the chicks are really cute and I named 4! Fast, Furious, Funny and Noisy. (Stephen helped with Noisy.)

So more about the chicks:

1) The meat birds are Cornish Giants and they are yellow fluffs right now but will turn white.
2) The layers are Red Rock crosses and are black and fluffy.

Mr. Peterson from Country Feeds says we can literally watch the meat birds grow. They will be ready to eat in 10 weeks. Our layers might start laying this fall.

Here are some ways we take care of the chicks:

1) It is really important to make sure that the middle of the pen is around 90F if it is not they will be too cold and they will pile on top of each other and suffocate. If they are too hot they will go on the outside of the pen and pile on top of each other and suffocate (kind of dumb, isn't it?)

2) It is also important to make sure their water is clean.

3) You should probably start them on starter feed. After 3 weeks the meat birds can start on normal grain. After 6 weeks the layers may start on some special grain!!!

4) After they're big enough we will move them into our chicken coop.

5) Mr. Peterson said to dip the beaks into water so they would learn to drink.

6) You should probably get your chicks vaccinated so that they do not get diseases.

7) Soon we will have to separate them because they will be eating two different types of feed and the meat birds will be so big they might kill the layers.

8) Our layers will only lay brown eggs. You can get layers that produce white eggs. The way you can tell is that if your chickens lay white or brown is if their ear lobes are red that means they will lay brown eggs! But if they have white ear lobes they will only will lay white eggs (my mom did not now this interesting fact!)

9) Supplies we needed: heat lamp, cardboard enclosure, shavings (we had lots of those!), chick feeder and waterers, vitamins for the water, and starter grain.

10) Don't get too attached to the meat birds. They won't be around long!

by Katie, Stephen and Helen

Friday, March 13, 2009

Waiting on Permit Approval, reading and septic thoughts ...

We thought spring was right around the corner last week when we submitted our building plans, but the last week has been bone chillingly cold. We were down to -20 degrees Celcius on a couple of evenings and the snow is just not melting. The driveway is a skating rink and unfortunately it slopes down to the highway. It is up over zero today, and the long term forecast is for warmer weather.

The good news is that I have read some more books during this cold weather!

My copy of Water From the Sky (Michael Reynolds) arrived a couple of days ago. I truly wish I had read this book prior to laying out my plans. This book is detailed and clarifies a number of issues that were not well explained in the Earthship Volumes. The book also has color pictures which give a much better idea of what a finished home might look like. Also, it provides good examples of what has worked and what has not worked based on thirty years of building experience. Hopefully I will be smart enough to listen and understand what is being described. It has certainly given me a number of ideas as I think about my building.

I borrowed a book called Earthships: Building a Zero Carbon Future for Homes (Mischa Hewitt and Kevin Telfer). This book was written about two earthships that were built in the United Kingdom. This is a well written book that goes into some construction and technical details. It also has good colour pictures of finished buildings.

I have also now had a chance to review the Engineer's Report sold by Earthship Biotecture that gives structural support for rammed earth tire walls. The report cautions about using earth cliffs as descrbed in the Earthship Volumes. It recommends getting the advice of a geotechnical engineer if you are planning to use this construction technique. Thankfully, this is not a concern for us as we plan to fully level our building site. Otherwise the report is positive about tire walls with lateral restraint (a bond beam)!

I also stumbled across a video on the internet that talks about gray water recovery and the permitting process in California. This is a good primer on the subjet and has an excellent list of books for further reading at the end. Sandra provided a link to this video on a previous post.

Possibly my single biggest discovery of the week was a briefing document written about the regulatory environment surrounding gray water in British Columbia (it obviously also has some application to the rest of Canada). It is called REGULATORY AND LEGISLATIVE BARRIERS TO AN EARTHSHIP-LIKE WATER/SEWAGE SYSTEM IN BRITISH COLUMBIA. I have asked the author for permission to post a link to this document on the blog as I do not know how available it is, but I have not yet heard back from him.

We have spent the rest of our week seeing if we can prove that the existing septic system on site is satisfactory to support our proposed earthship. We are required to submit proof of an acceptable existing septic system or get a permit to build a new one in order to get a building permit. Because we are increasing the size of our home the septic regulations require a larger septic tank and field than what was previously acceptable. There is no allowance in the current regulations for composting toilets or gray water recovery in dictating the size of a septic installation. We think our existing system is big enough and hopefully the inspector coming next tuesday agrees with us. Otherwise, we might be looking at the installation of a new septic system that will barely get any use, and cost in the neighborhood of $15,000 dollars. Our fingers are crossed!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You Tube video about permitted Greywater System in Petaluma, California

Chris and I watched this last is about 30 minutes long but worth seeing...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Your Money or Your Life

In a previous post I referred to a financial philosophy contained in a book called "Your Money or Your Life"

If a person is at all interested in coming to terms and taking control of his or her financial "life" then this is a great book...but dispel yourself of the notion that this is a book about budgeting!

Far from it. But be prepared to really get to know your finances and your needs/wants.

Chris and I were introduced to this book in 1993 when my father gave us a copy and simply said, "You might find this interesting".

About four months later Chris read Your Money or Your Life and said to me, "You might find this interesting". It took me another six months to read it (the library must have been closed!) but after I did Chris and I committed to trying the methodology in it.

At that time in our lives we were two young professionals, in our mid 20s working tremendously well paid jobs in downtown Toronto. We knew a couple of things: we had money, we weren't big spenders on "things" (we didn't own a coffee table), we splurged on top grade camping equipment and we wanted to travel.

We really didn't know what our life's goals were, but we did know that what we were doing wasn't completely satisfying.

Your Money or Your Life, written by Joe Rodriquez (now deceased) and Vicki Robbins, advocates the notion that you trade your life energy for money. Everything we spend our money on, is traded for life energy. The book begins by asking readers to account for all the money they have earned in their life times (from tax returns) and to give a dollar value to everything considered an asset. The difference between the two can be staggering. But the book goes on to examine what we truly value in our lives and whether or not how we are earning/spending demonstrates our values.

Then, it gives a system of taking control of your money, of eliminating debt and of building up savings that earn interest income.

Many people picking up the book for the first time may think that to gain control over their finances they will have to do "without". Not so. The book is very much about deciding what is important to you and NOT doing without it.

Without a doubt an examination of your financial behaviours can be uncomfortable; many people cannot move past the first chapter (I threw the book down in disgust on many occasions!) One of the mantras of the book is "no shame, no blame".

Also without a doubt, couples who are trying to re-examine their world of earning and spending, need to be somewhat in harmony about goals and willing to talk about it. Money is one of the primary causes of relationship failures, apparently. I can believe this; probably more than half of our disagreements have to do with money.

A year after following Your Money or Your Life, Chris and I had maxed out our RRSPs, saved money for a two-month European vacation and had a healthy bank account. (We still didn't get a coffee table until 2004). When we returned to my hometown in 1998 we had sufficient savings to invest in getting our business started and to put 50 percent down on land next to my parents' home. We were NOT wealthy by traditional standards, but we had "enough". Your Money or Your Life discusses the concept of "enough" in great detail.

Without giving a blow-by-blow account of our financial decisions, we began some soul searching in 2007 with an eye to pursuing different activities. After 10 years in the log home business we realized that working was prohibiting us from building our own home, something we had vowed to do in 1998 when we came to BC from California. Your Money or Your Life helped us figure out how to arrange things so that we could take some time off and perhaps change what we were doing to earn an income. The downturn in the British Columbia forestry industry in late 2007 helped us reach our decisions faster. By "semi-retiring" we had the time to explore what kind of home we wanted, and much to our surprise and the surprise of all around us, we chose not to build a log home.

I would recommend the book to anyone who is interested in looking at their money differently.

Follow this link for more information:

The book was recently updated and there are web programs and support as well.

Friday, March 6, 2009

We're not "tired" yet!

Yesterday saw us add 23 more tires to our cache of building blocks. The weather is challenging these days. It is alternately warm and mushy (the snow) and cold and frozen (the snow).

My brother Tom dropped off my dad's utility trailer (our tire gathering vehicle) on his way to his cabin project in Bridge Lake. Chris hooked up the trailer and we headed off to our piano recital. Chris and I and the other adult students of our piano teacher had a "get together" so that we could play our pieces for each other. Usually we join the kid group. Our adult session was much less nerve-wracking, although it is still a mystery to me why younger kids have no fear and we adults seem to get all wound up before playing...

At any rate, after piano recital I thought to peer into the back of the trailer and there was about 6" of ice in it that had accumulated over the winter. No amount of shoveling would remove it. Never mind, I thought, there's probably only five or six tires to be had at the Barriere Landfill.

The Barriere Landfill or, "the dump" as it is better known, recently underwent some major changes. Our regional district implemented new recycling rules in the new year. We have finally caught up to the efforts of major cities. We now have a blue bag recycling program and a pay for dumping charge on anything we can't/don't recycle. In general I support this. My parents and my generation has become very much a throw away society and these measures will make us really think about what we are consuming and how we deal with it afterward.

On the other hand, there have been some mutterings that it will only increase the wonton throwing away of garbage on back roads. So far I have not heard that this has become an issue, but I will be interested to see if it does.

It wasn't too cold yesterday, but it sure was windy. About 125 tires had accumulated at the Barriere dump since our last foray there in November. A full 23 were the size we needed.

Chris was a bit choked because he wanted to get over the 200 mark (see updated tire counter at the bottom of the blog). Given some of the design changes we made during the last few months, Chris now believes we only need about 900 tires. One hundred less to find and cart around, but more importantly, 100 fewer to pound with dirt!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The hair to the throne

My mom used to be a hairdresser in the 60's...beehive era. There's even a picture of me on my fourth birthday sporting a beehive that doubles my little person height.

Until I was 15 my mom cut my hair. I rebelled about that time because I wanted the Farrah Fawcett look and didn't think she could deliver.

She continued to cut my brothers' hair and my Dad's and it hasn't been until recently that I thought it would be financially fiscal to have a hair stylist in the house. Of course, it would be great to have an electrician, mechanic, lawyer, doctor and gourmet cook, too. Luckily for us, in our extended family we have all of these (minus the doctor, but my dad's wife, Gail, is an RN and in a pinch can do an emergency tracheotomy, so there you go).

Given that I am semi-retired I began to think about what it might take to cut my family's hair. After all, I have had the time in the last year to perfect a few artisan breads, with only a few duds. Hair cutting should be about the same, right? Plus, money saved is money to put toward the Earthship. And Chris says he will keep all our hair to compost. Eww! Gross! (That's Katie, Helen and me).

Last Thursday while waiting at the library for all the inter library shipments to be sorted--I was waiting for the third book in the Christopher Paolini series, among others from my friend Maria Yuyitung's book club list--I happened to glance at a display and see a spiral bound hardcover book that proclaimed, "HOW TO CUT YOUR OWN HAIR". Wow, I thought, I could learn how to cut my own hair????

After perusing this book which showed how to cut men, women and children's hair, I stopped by the beauty supply shop in Kamloops and picked up a really sharp and deadly sounding pair of shears ( 5 3/4" blade) and a few clips and one of those really fine, long combs with the metal skewer-like handle that can part hair the way a hot knife goes through butter. I left $107 lighter of wallet.

Now, I have to stop here and say that I do have some previous hair cutting experience. One weekend when I was 16 and my brother Tom was 12 our parents had gone away and he let me cut his hair. It was fun. He wouldn't go to school on the following Monday, mind you, but it was fun. Monday night Mom fixed it.

However, I didn't mention this to my family and the night following my home salon purchases, Katie and Helen agreed to let me practice on them. They both had simple cuts (well, turned out one did) and they both promised to sit quietly for as long as I needed.

I started with Helen. Helen is eight. She has straight hair that borders on fine. She is trying to grow out her bangs and the rest of her hair is cut straight. While she giggled a lot and I alternately picked up and put down both the comb and the scissors (how do they do it???) I began to learn about cutting hair. Turns out it's not so easy cutting a straight line. But 40 minutes later I'd evened it up by cutting just a bit shorter until I had it right. In all I took off 1/2" and it looked pretty good. Helen promptly logged onto the computer to write a story called, "My New Hairdresser". I haven't read it yet.

Buoyed by my success I stuck Katie's head under the tap. Five minutes later we had FINALLY got all of it wet enough to start. Katie is almost eleven and has brown blond hair that is very straight and VERY thick. So thick that when you make a pony tail it is about 4" in diameter. I've always known this, but cutting this thick hair would just take longer, I thought. Yup, it sure did.

First I realized after I trimmed 1/4" off the bottom section that the next section up her head didn't even come down to my bottom cut. What??? Turns out her hair was layered a bit. I put down the scissors and consulted the book. Katie says, "what does it look like?" Well, so far it wasn't much different. But, what to do? It was already 8 pm on a school night.

Well layers looked easy enough; pull out the hair from the head and cut straight to the bottom layer. Great. I started snipping away and the zip zip sound of my $50 scissors made me feel pretty smug. Until I reached the left side of her head and realized that side was a full inch shorter then the other. Uh, oh. "What?" asked Katie.

Did I say that out loud? "Nothing, hun, I've just got to straighten this out a little". I surveyed my work. Katie asked if she could get a mirror. Nope nope nope. "Let me just finish first and then you can look," says I, stalling for time. Fortunately I forgot all about taking pictures...

O.K. plan B. Straight cut, no layers. Take it to the shortest length. So I did. And now Katie has a cute bob that probably needs a bit of thinning (got those scissors too). But now it was after 9 pm.

Katie let me blow dry her hair (which she hates, but I tell her this is the only way to see how it turned out). She loves it. Whew.

So I now saved $30 in cuts. I need to do five more kids' cuts to justify the expense of my home salon equipment. I'm already eyeing those rolling cart contraptions that has drawers to put in a multitude of combs, brushes, flat irons, hair spray and rollers...

Somehow the vision of me cutting my own hair is a bit less sharp in my mind.

I have noticed that Chris and Stephen's hair is getting a little long. So I called Gail and she found my mom's hair clippers so I am going to go for it on a #2 clipper cut, just leave it a little longer on top, please! I just have to keep Uncle Tom away from Stephen...

No more plans!!!

Okay ... I am excited!

After too many long hours of work we took the plunge and submitted the plans to the building authority yesterday.

I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders ... until the plans are actually submitted the urge to change and hopefully improve them is irresistible and it begins to feel like a never ending treadmill.

We spent about an hour going over the plans with the senior building inspector when we submitted the plans. He asked lots of questions, said they had seen tires used in buildings before although nothing of the scope shown in our drawings. It was a good discussion. He said that it would take about two weeks for them to review the plans, and (hopefully) at the end of that we will have a building permit.

In addition to evaluating the structure of the building over the last couple of weeks I have been mulling over the water systems in the earthship ...

Gray Water Recovery

As mentioned in previous posts the gray water recovery system has been causing me sleepless nights.

I have done a lot more research over the last couple of weeks and am still waiting for my copy of Water From the Sky (Mike Reynolds) so that I can do some more. Having said that I am now comfortable with the workings of one of these systems. My design is shown beside this paragraph. I am drawing heavily from my reading of Earthship Volume III and Create an Oasis with Graywater. The gray water planters are closed systems; the water cannot drain to native soil until it has spent a period of time in the planter's filtration bed, by which time it is suitable for non-potable uses such as irrigation.

The idea here is that the bulk of the water is consumed by the plants (transpiration and evaporation). Treated water can also ultimately be withdrawn from the system via the treated water overflow outlet and used outside. Our ultimate intention is to have the overflow outlet feed into a gravel bed beneath an area planted with fruit trees.

Rain Water Harvesting

The other activity that has been consuming a lot of my time is harvesting and storage of rain water.

Our intention is to use this harvested water for irrigation and possibly non-potable uses like the washing machine, shower and tub. Here again my design is shown beside this paragraph.

It turns out that an excellent overview of this subject has been written right here in BC. It is titled Rainwater Harvesting on the Gulf Islands: Guide for Regulating the Installation of Rainwater Havesting Systems- Potable and Non-potable Uses, and is written by Dick F. Stubs. I came across it on the internet.

Moving On

The last couple of months has been consumed with getting a set of building plans completed.

The snow has been melting the last couple of days and we are now thinking about how best to prepare so we can hit the ground digging (and pounding) when the snow disappears.

Hopefully tire collection will start again by the end of the week, and I have to start thinking about equipment maintenance. The tractor has been (and still is) buried under snow all winter.

On unrelated but exciting notes...

I just ordered seeds for the garden. (we will be gunning for bigger tomatoes and blue Russian potatoes this year).

We are getting 25 laying chickens and 25 meat birds in about a month. We are thinking that the kids can make some money selling eggs to so far, unsuspecting relatives and friends, and more compost for me.

The kids are planning on 5 sheep between the three of them this year. I am hopeful that a few of these sheep may be Friesens (a European dairy sheep).

I think I need to get outside and do some work ...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Plans have been submitted for a building permit!

The whole thing cost us $200 (application fee only, more to come!) and we still have to double check a few things. I sent the original HPO application by Greyhound ($13) to ensure we could get the paperwork back in the 2-3 weeks it may take for permit approval from our regional building authority.

The paperwork....was tremendous! I am dead certain that the amount of paperwork exceeded what we filled out when we got married, had three babies, and bought our first house...combined! There were at least 9 pages of signed documents, not including the two copies (7 pages each) of house plans.

It seemed to go very well. We met with the senior building inspector and went over the major systems to explain them a bit more. He had already seen a few tire buildings, but not something as elaborate as our home. What we are planning on doing does not seem to be out of the realm of experience for our building authority but I'm fairly certain our home will marry many of the systems only seen individually in the past...

Now we wait... in the meantime, we will try posting about some of the issues we have been ignoring for several weeks while Chris finalized the plans...

Monday, March 2, 2009

First Expense for the Earthship!

I just paid $425 to the BC Homeowner Protection Office (HPO) for an Application for Owner Builder Authorization. This will allow us to build our earthship without a licenced home builder. Essentially it means we do not have to obtain third-pary home warranty insurance (although it is recommended by the HPO). This means we can general contract our own project. I have a suspicion that our permit fees will be outrageously out of proportion to our building costs.

There is still the building permit, plumbing permit, electrical permit, solid fuel permit...

The HPO application has to be sent to Victoria and once it is approved we forward it to our regional district to accompany the building permit application which we are submitting... tomorrow!

Stay tuned.