Saturday, September 10, 2011

Diggin' It

On August 18th, I finally started digging the trench that will become the foundation for my house.  For those of you not familiar with rubble trench foundations, you can go here to read all about it.  Basically what I'm doing is digging a trench around the circumference of the domes that is 18 inches wide by 18 inches deep.  Then I'll fill it with about 6 inches of rubble consisting of rocks from around my property and then another 6 inches of scoria on top.  (Scoria is also what I'll use to fill the bags later.)  In the building plans it says that the first two courses of earthbags will then be double-bagged and will constitute the foundation of the house, with the top of the second course 6 inches above the pad, which will be finish floor level. 

However, Owen Geiger emailed me the other day suggesting that I raise the building site by adding two extra courses of earthbags, then later laying scoria up to finish floor height, which would then be about a foot higher. (He also posted about this process here.)This will help keep snow and rain from entering the house, and the insulating properties of the scoria will mean a toastier floor.

So I think that's what I will do.  However, that's a ways down the road.  At this point, I'm hoping to simply finish digging and fill the trench before the ground freezes.  

And speaking of freezing, the weather has shifted dramatically here in the past couple of weeks.  It's like summer just up and ended, BOOM.  It's been raining a lot, and it's gotten alarmingly cold.  I haven't been able to shower at the bus let alone dig my trench.  The plan now is that we'll be moving into town for the winter at the end of this month.  

I'm actually looking forward to it.  If it was just me with no kids, and the bus was enveloped, and I had an indoor bathing system set up, I think I could live in the bus for the winter, but none of those things are the case.  Also, I've begun to miss certain things.  When I first moved out there, I was afraid I'd really miss a bathtub; what I wasn't expecting is how much I miss having an oven.  I love to bake almost as much as I love to bathe, especially in the fall and winter.  Pumpkin pies, Christmas cookies, my eggnog cheesecake (which once snagged me a marriage proposal), all that good stuff.

I just hope the weather clears up enough for me to get some serious digging in before I move out.  I can still go out there and dig after I move, of course, but it's just not as easy as getting up at the crack of dawn and walking out to the building site.

I have to say I've really been enjoying digging.  There's something so primal about it, so satisfying.  I love seeing the bold outline of the circles begin to take shape.  It's actually hard to explain what's so fulfilling about it to me.  I keep trying to think of metaphors and the only thing that continually pops into my head is using a cookie cutter.  Making shapes out of a blob of dough.  This is kind of like that except at a much, ahem, deeper level.  I love the feeling of slicing down through the dirt with my shovel.

Also, there's something about going down into the earth that strengthens the sense of connection with it.  As soon as I had a few feet done, I had the irresistible urge to get down in the hole.  And it's a whole different perspective from there, quiet and solid.  


  1. Hi there, we should get together some time. We are a family of four who traveled here from Fl in our rv a year ago. We are moving out to Carson on a piece of land in about a month and living in our rv. We'll only be using propane for heat because we don't have the capability of a woodstove in our class C like a converted bus. Honestly, I think that would keep you a lot toastier than we will be....but I do have the advantage of an indoor shower and oven/stove so I understand that.

    I sooo hear you on bathtubs. I miss them terribly. We have been renting a small house this past year but it is a stand up shower. I've always joked that no matter how modest of a cabin we build I WILL have a bathtub. One day.

    Anyway, feel free to email I have a 9 yo son and a 4 yo daughter and we aren't real far from you.

  2. I was wondering if you was going to weather out the winter in the bus. With children it is more then a little difficult. Buses are worse then rvs, no insulation. At 7000 ft winter comes early, but hopefully you will have a bit of an Indian Summer. Nice days and cool nights. I believe the monsoon season is not quite over, so maybe that explains the rain.

    Your soil (from the picture)looks soft and easy to dig, that is a real plus. No sandstone. I am glad Owen has advised raising the foundation (floor). I had thought of doing exactly what he is suggesting early on. Much easier in my opinion then raising the entire pad. Less expensive too. You might want to consider going even a bit higher because of the snow. You could then berm up the dirt around the outside and slope it away from the building for better drainage.

    Physical labor is invigorating. It frees the mind. Simplicity is a relief from the complication of our modern lives. There is something rewarding in sore muscles.

    Good start, hope the weather cooperates for you!

  3. Little House - Wow! So glad you found me. I have a daughter that's about to turn 4 next month; we should definitely get together some time. I tend to be at Wired during the day (it's sort of my "office.") Maybe you could meet me there some time? Also, glad to know someone else is with me on the bathtub issue :)

    Brad - Yes, the monsoon season kicked in rather late this year, and when it did, it REALLY did.

    The soil is very soft and sandy for the first few inches, then turns to clay, but it's not too bad. Berming and sloping for drainage is definitely part of the plan.

    You're so right about physical labor freeing the mind - very well put.

  4. Ummm...if you ever wondered...about whether or not you have a silent cheerleader that is in complete awe...well, ya do. Tha'd be me.

  5. Thanks, Tess. The rainbows out there are frequent and incredible. The sky in general, really.

  6. Winter in a bus with children and no oven or tub would be really tough. Glad you'll be in town. I've just installed a bath here after being without one for fifteen years, can't keep out of it, I'm probably the cleanest I've ever been.

    I love digging too: the sound of the spade cutting through the soil, the smell of the soil, the feeling that you are really using your body. And there really is something about repetitive physical action that allows the mind to settle.

    I had no idea it snowed there!