Thursday, July 18, 2013

Earthbag Bus Repairs

A cool thing happened the other night.  I was on my way to meet the phenomenal Deonne Kahler at Taos Mesa Brewing to see a band, and the thought crossed my mind that I would run into my neighbors from the mesa there, Brenda and John, even though I hadn't seen them there or anywhere since last summer.  Lo and behold, I was right, and they filled me in about the earthbag dome they're building on Brenda and her husband Charlie's property, down the hill from Serendipity.  I also met a new neighbor, Diane, and it turns out she's from Montreal, which is where I was born.  The whole encounter really made me itch to get out to my land, but I had a problem to figure out first, one that I'd been procrastinating dealing with all summer.

At the beginning of June, I went out to my land and discovered that the last functioning skylight in the Sky Bus (the other two were gone and boarded up when I bought it), had blown off the roof and cracked.  If you're not familiar with the Taos mesa wind, that should put it in perspective.  The skylight was closed, and the wind was enough to open it, separate it from its hinge, and blow it right off the roof.


So I needed to decide how I was going to fix that before spending any real time out there, especially since the monsoon season has hit.  I finally sat down and gave it some thought yesterday morning, because I was going to go out there in the afternoon.  I had decided I was just going to Gorilla Glue a piece of tarp over the opening as a temporary solution, and was packing up to head out, when I had the sudden brilliant realization that I could use an earthbag instead.  Since my son was going with me, he could hand me buckets of dirt to fill the bag in place on the roof, and then just lay it down over the opening and tamp it to seal any cracks. 

So that's what we did and it worked great. 

I did lay a plastic bag liner over the opening first for added coverage.

It worked so great, in fact, that we decided to go ahead and do it with the other two missing skylights as well.  Since they were boarded up only on the inside, they still leak when it rains a lot.

Halfway through filling the second bag. 
The ugliest of the three.  Notice my lame attempt from last summer to seal it by inserting pieces of a sleeping bag mat.
Next time I go out there, I'll paint over the bags to keep the sun from eating them, and I think they should hold up at least until next summer.

Another thing I accomplished yesterday was to bring a bunch of the bags home with me.  They've all just been sitting there in a huge pile under a tarp, so I want to eventually get all of them out of there.  One of the benefits of having them at my house is also that I can get them all inverted before I actually start to build.

We stopped to visit Brenda's building site on the way out.  They're doing a 20-foot diameter dome just like ours, but they're using mesh tubing and they've got this very interesting DIY barbed wire they've created.  And John has come up with a brilliant bag-filling device with wheels.  I can't help but feel a little jealous that they've accomplished in a month more than it took me two summers to do (they're now about three courses above ground level), but on the bright side, it's inspiring to see and motivates me to start turning those bags inside out!


  1. So glad you're working on the bus and the house, even if it's just a little bit at the moment. Progress! I love following along, so thanks for the update.

    1. Thanks for being an awesome cheerleader :)

  2. Really glad to see that you are back at it.