Earthbag Cellar: Getting Started

This year’s project is the most ambitious construction undertaken at Bhudeva: an earthbag cellar. Its design process was intriguing and inspired by some of the ideas I discovered in Christopher Alexander’s work … a gradual, adaptive approach, where each step informs the next (instead of having a theoretical master plan) … organically, during the spring months, a specific shape unfolded informed by a specific place behind the house.

Hopefully this will result in a hobit-like space where all you see is a door going into a hill and inside two rooms – one for dry storage and one for more humid storage). It will be completely buried, including a living roof … so that the hill will be restored (though somewhat reshaped) … and the whole space will become a pleasant place to be in and around.

Once we had a design that felt substantial enough we began preparations. This included clearing the site (overgrown with wild prune) which we had to extend twice (beyond what is show in these pictures) to allow a manageable work site (the cut wood pile is much bigger now). Until we had a clearing.

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Then we had to prepare some tools such as the tampers for the earthbags and forms for the two doors (an entrance door and a door connecting the two rooms).

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… and finally, after preparations and some other life-delays … the tractor came to excavate … a powerful and brutal process … and converted the clearing into what we now call the crater.

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In the crater we marked an outlines of the structure to be with some lime … that got washed out in the rain.

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Most of the structure has no foundations … however in the entrance area (the only part of the structure that is exposed to the elements and other life forces) we did put in some foundation to stabilize, to prevent rodents from being able to dig in underground and to insulate. We built a simple frame at ground level and used 8cm insulation on both sides as forms (that stayed in place)

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We borrowed a cement mixer (my first time using one) and filled it in.

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We brought in some gravel and spread it out (on top of some geo-textile to stabilize it) on the site to have a clean work-surface … the concrete we were proud of making quickly disappeared.

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We re-marked the outline of the structures (this time on top of the gravel) … then added a door-frame which gave it a whole new feel …

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… and after some experimentation we were able to lay a first round of earthtubes.

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We have since made more progress and more pictures to come …

We are also going to send out an invitation for people to who may be interested experiencing earthbag construction to come out and lend a hand … stay tuned.

Old House New Deck

I’m still not really up to blogging extensively … but I’ve been asked about this numerous times. So here goes … a short review in pictures of last years construction project … a new deck, attached to the old house, which serves as an intermediate space between inside and outside and as a summer kitchen … a place to be,

It started by clearing out the space from the old and rotting benches and table which sat there and served us well for the first few years. It required quite a bit of touch manual excavation littered with stubborn tree roots:
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some measuring and layout, responding to the natural shape of the place and characteristics of construction materials:

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Leveling and placement of of forms for concrete pads (most of the concrete was underground):

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Construction materials arrive:

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A structure starts to appear:

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… a framed roof:

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… roof tiles going on:

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a space starts to become a place

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… framing a floor:

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… putting in the floor itself:

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… and a place is born:

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some “utilities” are gradually added … cooking rocket stoves:

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… and a grill:

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… including an experiment cob counter-top   (made of the same soil dug out from under the deck:

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Update: a view from the plan … what was built was fairly true to what I planned:

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seven new trees

We planted four new trees, some three weeks ago, next to the barn.

The ones in the front are peach (Cardinal variety) and apricot (Marculesti 19 variety). The ones in the back side of the barn are a cherry (Red of Bistrita variety) and an apple tree (Golden Delicious variety). I bought them from Praktiker (Tg. Mures) – they are sold in Romania by Yurta Prod SRL (Sacele, Brasov – yurta.ro). Three of them were produced in Hungary and one in Romania.

When we planted them I put some bark under one or two of them. Aside of that I just dig a whole (after some space clearing), put them in, cover, make a small ditch to hold the water and mulch with straw.

 

Now the apple, cherry and apricot trees are already having small leaves. In the apricot tree there are only buds (maybe the ones which already were in place when I brought them)… not sure if already established the roots… yet seems alive.

In the warm days from last weeks I water them around every 3-4 days. These days rain is offering her gift…

Also, I was gifted three fig trees (by Ovidiu, Cristina’s husband). I planted one on the right side of the pathways which goes from the house to the road, next to the green fence we tried to establish last year. The other two are still in pots – they are going to replace some of the trees that didn’t make it – we planted 6 trees last year (outside of the yard area, on the side of the pathway that goes to the future new house place).

I am so excited… every time I visit the garden (sometimes twice a day) to say hey, I have the sense of witnessing unfolding wholeness. Every time I see new buds forming, developing, small leaves bursting into life I feel joy of life and connected.

new berries planted

In the last two weeks I planted new berries:

  • three new black currants, planted on the right side of path that goes to the summer kitchen: I took one from Praktiker and two from Mociu market; the one from Praktiker was planted earlier than the last two ones, is giving leaves (just a few for now) and I already see flowers coming! The ones from Mociu market are giving buds and leaves  already – they were already coming the second day I transplanted them – amazing! 🙂
  • two new raspberries, planted on the left side of the same pathway, next to the last raspberry that survived from the last year; I got them from Mociu market; no leaves yet – they are just two stick for now;
  • three new strawberries: gifted to us by Ovidiu, Cristina’s husband; established all right;
  • three new blackberries, also from Ovidiu – planted them on the berries row, replacing the berries that didn’t survive from the last year. These already established roots, green leaves are coming out in this moment.

I mulched all of them.

I am visiting them at least once a day – enjoying their growing.

All the other berries from last years are with buds, some with leaves and some already birthing future flowers! Some (don’t know which kind yet) are already giving new plants, spread next to them… from falling fruits from last year (or roots spreading around?… yet they seem far away from the main stems).

Strawberries that Ildi and Levente gifted us last year – some (few) of them are gone and the ones who established are spreading – giving new plants next to them – they are spreading good and coming so vigorously! Some are already in flower!

in-joying all the way! 🙂