Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Shady Operation

Last summer, I loved living in the Sky Bus, but during the day it could get pretty miserable - too hot inside, no shade outside, too many flies.  I realized the need to address those problems as much as possible before moving back out there, so that I won't be tempted to flee into town during the hottest part of every day.
My original idea was to build a post-and-beam structure over the entire bus; fill in the north, east, and west walls with scoria-filled earthbags; then angle a metal roof over the whole thing for catching water in rain barrels.  Well, after discussing this plan with Aly, I realized it was a bigger project than I wanted to take on just yet, and really not even necessary.  So I scrapped the whole idea (at least until after the house is built), and decided all I really needed to do was create a bit of shade on the south side of the bus.  So I ordered a 12 x 20-foot piece of shadecloth online, and bought two four-packs of 10-inch steel tent stakes and some rope at my local (yes, I admit it) big box store. 

And voila!  I now have shade and a small patio, which Graeme and I created with the leftover Saltillo tiles we got for free last summer.  Soon I'll even have a table and chairs to go there; more about that later.

Grommets are so lovely.  The shadecloth is tied with rope to handles on top of the bus.

I took what used to be a bench/wood-storage box inside the bus, covered it with last year's shower tarp, and used it to raise and prop the shadecloth a bit, then staked it down.  Even with massive windstorms last week, it's held up great!

"Interior" view, with patio awaiting table and chairs.  We also made a little "floor" for Eliana's kitchen (back left).  The spare bus tire there next to it has bee balm from last year that unexpectedly has come back, so rather than move it, I'm just letting it be shaded and hoping for the best.

It's really amazing the difference having this shade makes.  It's even cooler inside the bus now, as the south-facing windows are shaded.  And the great thing is that in the early morning and late afternoon when the sun is not so scorching, the patio still gets light.  It's pretty darn close to perfect, I'd have to say.  And the whole project cost under $100.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dying to Dig

Well, spring has sprung, and we all know what that means - time to get back to building!  I'm still renting in town and will be until May 15th, but I've been going out to the land once a week for about the past month to get things ready.

After spending the winter hibernating, I'm more than ready to get out there and continue digging the foundation trench.  I didn't make as much housebuilding progress as I'd hoped last summer for a variety of reasons, so I've been working on ways to move things a bit faster this time.

For one thing, I will not be involved in as many writing projects this time, so I won't need to come to town every day for Internet and electricity.  Also, there have been a couple of serendipitous developments recently in the green building networking department.

First, for an article I was writing, I had to interview architect/builder Mark Goldman, who teaches some of the classes in green building technology at UNM-Taos.  During that two-hour(!) conversation we also talked about my housebuilding project.  He had me come present to one of his classes about it, and he wants to bring his students out to help me build :) 

Mark Goldman and the adobe structure his students built in their classroom/workshop.
The other development came out of a contact I made when I coordinated the UNM-Taos Fall Harvest Festival last year.  Alice Ko, who did an adobe brickmaking workshop at the festival, suggested we form a women's natural building collective (so far we're calling ourselves Ladies of the Mud).  The idea is that we can do workshops and work parties together and invite other women.  Aly (of Building an Earthbag Home in Northern New Mexico) and I went out to Alice's land a couple of weeks ago for a mud party and made adobe bricks, which I had never done before.

Another issue that slowed things down last summer was how unbearably hot and sunny it got during the day out there, so I've been working on creating some shade; I'll describe what I've done and post a photo or two next time.