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 ...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Am I a closet Luddite?

The arrival of cooler fall weather has forced me to focus on all of the things that 'need' doing before the snow flies ...

Yesterday I got up on the roof of the chicken coop and finally installed the last of the tin and the ridge cap. I used up the last of the roofing screws and the kids had fun lobbing screws to me that had fallen on the ground as I worked. They really had fun when in desperation of ever catching the screws they were throwing and finally being able to get off the roof I told them to throw them at me ...

I still have to winterize all of the water lines for the animals as some of them will be with us this winter, and the list goes on and on ...

The one that really caught my attention and I've since been worrying away at it is improving our heating situation. The house and the shop are both heated by electricity, and I would really like to change this. Let me explain ...

Over the winter I hope to work on energy systems for the house. I have been researching both wood gasification, and wind turbines. I think both of these options have some promise for us given our location (a windy valley), and our resources (lots of wood).

The shop is a logical place to work on these projects except it is always cold. The cost of heating the shop with electricity is high, so we only turn the heat on if we are out there and it simply never warms up adequately. It is better than working in an unheated area (feeding wood into a planer at -20 degrees celsius is a drag ... trust me), but makes it difficult to get excited about layering on the long johns, sweaters and jackets and getting down to work.

The house is always warm (tolerably so), but we spend a lot of money heating this small place. The insulation in the ceiling leaves a lot to be desired (in some places it is non-existent), and really the same is true of the walls. In the spring our ceiling tends to leak in spots ... and no it is not raining outside. Over the winter the warm air escaping through our ceiling turns to ice deposits above the ceiling. In the spring we get all this moisture back as 'leaks' ... recycling at its worst. Last spring the keyboard on Sandra's laptop fell victim to one of these leaks.

My first thoughts on this problem were that we could install an outdoor wood furnace and pipe hot water to both buildings. The hot water could then be used in radiators to warm the buildings. This appealed to me for a while but my aversion to most outdoor wood furnaces finally won out. These units are not efficient and generate a lot of smoke.

From there I replaced the outdoor wood furnace with a wood ga\sification system because these are super efficient. Now I was really getting excited! I love technology! I would kill two birds with one stone; I would heat the buildings, and I could experiment with generating electricity from the gasifier. Brilliant! The gasifier would only cost $10,000 dollars plus the installation cost ... or I could build my own and have it ready for the spring ...

Somewhere in all of this I slowed down and started identifying problems ... happily I did not get to the point of floating these ideas with Sandra. These ideas were expensive and would take a lot of time to get working. Its not like I am trying to build a house and my time and money might be better spent.

Sadly this has happened to me before. I had to have a PDA when it first came out. More than one if the truth be told; my iPAQ was replaced by a motoQ when I could have a cell phone and a PDA. All of my parts lists for the business would be computerized! I would be organized! Sandra looked skeptical at this particular justification, but refrained from saying anything. I wasted a lot of times with these brief technological dalliances ... and sadly nothing really came from them.

I find that my technological love affairs often ends this way; bitterly and with very little to show for them. The problem is that technology is sexy (I am probably losing half my audience, but the rest of you know what I am saying), and difficult to resist. Time and again I manage to come up with really complex solutions to fairly simple problems.

Maybe I will just insulate the leaks in my buildings ...


James H. said...

I think you may have described a syndrome found in many people (mostly men) typified by excessive amounts of time, energy and money expended (wasted??) on understanding and perhaps benefiting from this techno milieu we find ourselves. I call it it boondogglingitis.

If you find yourself up late at night scouring the interwebs for the latest wizbang whatsathingy or reading some one's description on how they built it and you wake up in the morning and you're still thinking about it and then you start to build it only to find out that it is much more involved than was described... and you find yourself with half a dozen different projects on the go all at critical stages of construction, that you don't understand... and you thought you would be finished months ago and you start to think about that other cool project that you could totally do and that these other ones can wait a while longer when you've done some more reading... you may have boondogglingitis.

I have a simple solution that is definitely not a boondoggle... doesn't take much time to comprehend... is readily available... is old... really old the benefits of which can be appreciated quickly and will dissuade you from taking on any project more complicated than a paper weight. BEER!

Warning: At times this medication has had the opposite effect and lead to the initiation of projects far more complicated and involved than that sufferer had initially been prepared to take on.

Ok, I admit, there may have been some self reflection...

Seriously though love the title... but didn't Luddites destroy technology???

Chris said...


Your right.

The Luddites did destroy weaving looms in England in the 1800's. They were unhappy with increased mechanization and harsh working conditions. They also clashed with the British army before they were suppressed.

The term now seems to apply to anyone opposed to technological advances.

I cannot say I am against technological innovation, but more and more I do find myself questioning the appropriateness of some of these innovations in terms of the actual benefits accrued to society.

I often think we should be more like Luddites as we look at complicated, technological solutions.

This sounds like a good conversation to have over a beer!