Monday, March 11, 2013

Earthship Homes Making Strides -- Someone Built Our Home!

I posted this over at Pure Energy Blog.

by Sterling D. Allan
Pure Energy Systems News

2012_earthship_600Today, while browsing my Facebook page, I came across an image of an Earthship home that struck me as looking like what I envisioned the house I designed back in 2009 would look like.

Even the trees in front resemble the natural land surrounding our lot that is part of the Safe Haven Villages intentional community project that is hopefully in process of emerging from chaos mode.

"Wow, someone did it!" I thought.

I clicked through to see the enlargement, then started clicking through the other images in that Earthship folder. There are a ton of them, and they're all amazing. I was astonished at the beauty and level of maturity the Earthship project has achieved.

I know how hard it is to build structures like this, having built two sheds out of rammed earth, not to completion yet. I shook my head in amazement at how presumptuous we had been to think we could build an entire home using this method that is so utterly labor intensive. We pretty much had abandoned the idea.

Seeing the success of so many structures on that Facebook folder rekindled some of the lost enthusiasm I used to have for this project.

To prove to you that I really did envision a house like this, here is a second draft of a floor plan that I drew in November 2009, inspired by a plan by Michael Reynolds of We posted this at You can click on the history tab to see earlier versions of the page to see that we did post these things back in 2009. Image:091109_second-draft_Allan-home-400.jpg

Note the curvature of the house, and the solarium along the front, with the outcropping on the side. I even envisioned a door in the middle, just like the one in the photo above. I'd say there is an 85% resemblance between that photo and what I had envisioned at one point.

# # #

See also:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Hello" Girdie; our cat driving a car in Sprint 4G commercial

As a Father's Day break, here is some fluff stuff. Our cat is featured driving in a Sprint 4G commercial; has some tension with some local birds. Watch my parents' dog almost say "Hello" on camera while dragging its hind legs along; and a picnic table refurbishment clip for our intentional community project.

My parents' dog, Girdie, can say "Hello" quite distinctly. We sort of caught it in this video yesterday. She usually does it when you first pull up and get out of the car.

Here are some other videos I posted today: - Our cat, Oreo, driving in 4G

Hey, that's our cat! Or at least it looks like it. See next video for evidence. - Our cat, Oreo with Hailee and

See, it is our cat that is driving in that 4G commercial. - Cat and Bird Tension
Our cat, Oreo, is making life interesting for a couple of birds who have built a nest in a junction box, just out of reach of the cat's jump, but not out of reach of a properly timed pounce when not paying attention. So far, the birds are still alive. Will I be as lucky/patient as those National Geographic film crews? I doubt it. But at least you see the context for the tension. What spurred me to pull out the camera was Oreo stretched up high on the wall under the bird hole opening, then crawling up on the fence nearby, with the birds flying back and forth distressed. - Allan kids with their Asian umbrellas
Emilee, Aubrie, Christian, Hailee Allan on May 29, 2011; Mt. Pleasant, Utah; out
behind our place. - Safe Haven Villages Picnic Table Refurbishing Project
No biggie; just us working on refurbishing some old picnic tables our landlord gave us; to be used in our Safe Haven Villages intentional community project. Video shot by Christian Allan, 11, on June 11, 2011.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cheri's Debut as Master Energy Worker

Tuesday night, my wife, Cheri went from being an unknown when it comes to energy work to discovering that she is a master, a real natural and powerful energy worker.

Last Friday morning, May 27, while down on our Safe Haven Villages intentional community project, Cheri's mom, Susan Carter fell and broke her left ankle and severely sprained the right ankle. The doctor said she would most likely need a pin to hold the hairline fracture in place while it healed, being confined for now to a wheel chair.

The next night, Michelle Roberts and several others from the greenhouse/community project stopped by and did some energy work on her. She was amazed at how strongly she felt the work Michelle was doing. She could feel the bone moving. It was very painful.

The next day, I wrote a Report about the injury and the healing work that was done.

Tuesday, May 31, when another doctor looked at the new X-ray, he kept looking back and forth between the two X-rays, remarking that the bone had moved 3 millimeters. It seemed to puzzle him, and he ascribed it to probably being the different angle of the X-ray. Susan and Cheri were not puzzled because of the amazing energy work that had been done by Michelle and others.

Tuesday night Cheri drove Susan to Michelle's to have more work done.

What ended up happening, though, was that Michelle coached Cheri, and Cheri did the energy work. Last Saturday Cheri had mentioned that she thought she might have the gift, but she had never learned how to use it and didn't know what to do. Acting on her intuition, Michelle then directed Cheri in how to proceed.

The session went for about an hour and a half, and Susan remarked that Cheri was as strong an energy worker as Michelle -- a master. She said she felt her bones go back to their normal position. The deep throbbing that she had before was gone.

She was sure, several times that Cheri was physically pushing on her, but when she opened her eyes, she could see that Cheri was not physically touching her, but was pushing energies.

Michelle commented that the injury came because Susan was carrying too much of the weight of the community project on her shoulders, and she needs to learn to let others step into various roles. Three of the healers, independently, have also stated that there was a dark force also involved in tripping her, bringing about the injury; which needs to be cleared.

Michelle advised Cheri that she needs to watch her attitude when it comes to the Safe Haven Villages project because it is projected and picked up by others very powerfully. She could make or break the project, it's that strong.

Wednesday morning, as Cheri told me about the experience the night before, she had an amazing glow or presence about her, like she had finally arrived back at a long dormant state. At least in this lifetime, she hasn't exercised that gift until last night. I commented to her that she looked different, like a mantle had come on her, which fit her very well.

My sister, Karie, who is also an energy worker or healer, was going to be coming out this way later Wednesday, so I suggested that she stop by and do some more work on Susan together with Cheri. Karie commented something to the effect that she has not seen someone be able to go so deep so fast (something about a meditative space that is able to harness the energies in abundance), not to mention Cheri is technically just a novice in this lifetime -- obviously getting back to some gifts she had developed prior to this lifetime.

Renee and Torg won't be surprised to hear this about Cheri, as they have remarked to her before that she has these kinds of gifts and should learn to use them.

I should also mention that several other energy workers have also been working on Susan, which she appreciates very much. There is a Matrix healing group that meets on Tuesday and Wednesday nights that Susan has been attending (prior to this injury), that worked on her remotely. Wednesday night, after Karie left, Susan was having these periodic strong sensations that would startle her. She wondered out loud why that would be. Then we remembered that the Matrix group was probably doing stuff right about then.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Subdivision approved; well & road in; greenhouse construction questions

It's been more than half a year since I updated this blog. Quite a bit has happened.

On November 23, the Sanpete County Commissioners approved our Safe Haven Villages at White Hill minor subdivision plan for the first four lots; and on December 1, we submitted the signed documents to the County Recorder.

And on November 12, the well drilling operation was completed, with 15 gallons a minute flow at a depth of 150 feet (happened to be the drilling contract minimum). Now we need to install a pump, run the piping up to the subdivision and install a holding tank.

Also during that time, Tom Crisp finished our road into the minor subdivision. We also had him rough in the road to the back end of the property.

These things gave us the green light to submit our house plans for approval; but we've been holding off for several reasons. First, we don't have the funds yet to begin construction (awaiting one of the free energy technologies we're involved with to come in). Second, after spending last Summer building two sheds using the cob and rammed earth bag construction, and seeing how labor intensive and slow it is, we are very reluctant to build our home using those methods.

One of the compromises we're considering is to pattern our home after my parent's solar home. is one of the first links that pulls up in Google for a search for solar home, and has been since I built the page more than a decade ago. It's an amazing design. Last winter, as an experiment, they never built a fire in the fire place. The home has no furnace. They said it got a little cold at times, requiring a sweater and extra clothing, but was tolerable.

Today I learned that the home we're renting (we transferred the value of our previous home to buy the land for the project), will need to be vacated in the event of societal meltdown, to make way for the landlord's family; so the urgency to get a survivable home built for our family is boosted. Our personal survival, therefore, could be seen as being contingent on at least one of these free energy technologies we're involved with coming through; which will be good news for a lot more than just us, as it creates jobs, hope, and survivability for the rest of the planet as well -- power to the people.

Greenhouse Conundrum

Meanwhile, the big, ongoing project has been to begin building the greenhouses, under the direction of Grow Utah First (GUF), which has a lease agreement for 20 acres. They've got about 400 feet of greenhouse framing nearly done and are getting ready to start installing some of the plastic covering.

While I am in agreement with many of the concepts GUF is pursuing, I am in disagreement with some of the actual methods being used to implement the concepts. GUF has not produced any kind of a blueprint to show the finished design. The closest thing to any kind of a plan has been a few cross sectional sketches.

We've been helping them a step at a time without having the end result clearly known.

The roof angle is only a 12-pitch; and the spans between rafters are between 6 and 12 feet. GUF thinks that running taught twine at around 8-12 inches apart will be enough to hold up the plastic during a snowstorm, and that the inside heat will melt the snow fast enough to prevent build-up of weight to the point of breaching the plastic.

This seems ludicrous to me. We get some pretty hefty snowstorms here in central Utah. The heaviest snowstorm of the lightest winter would be enough to collapse the plastic.

Those of us involved in helping with the project need to have confidence that the end result is going to be plausible.

I'm been pushing GUF to get their plans into adequate, written form, to be reviewed by people from various relevant disciplines, including engineering, building process, greenhouse solar gain, and gardening. Supposedly, they may now finally be in process of doing this.

One of my purposes in composing this entry is to see if there might be some people out there who could provide some guidance for us.

Some of the principles to bear in mind that we are seeking to implement in the greenhouses are:
• Sustainable building practices.
• Partly underground, to tie into the earth's more constant temperatures.
• Suitable to the central Utah climate and latitude.
• Year-round growing capability.
• Commercial operation, for larger scale growing.
• Impervious to local animals (deer, rabbits, rodents).
• Able to open for periodic freeze-out of bugs.
• Commercially viable.

We would like for this to be a model to demonstrate "grow local" principles.

One of the challenges we face is that our soil on the property is not at all good for growing and will need to be augmented. This is something that is true of many places around the world. People have land, but the soil isn't great.

I'm not a grower, so I know very little about things along these lines. But I do have common sense, and what GUF has been doing doesn't seem to have enough common sense to it.

In discussing this with my Dad, I've drawn up the following proposal for what I think is a better greenhouse design that implements most of the above principles (the variation being that it calls for masonry or cement to hold the walls).

Click image for enlragement

I'm open to suggestions. Feel free to chime in.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Road, Well and Green Houses Going In; Minor Subdivision Approval Under Way; 5-Acre Solar Farm Maybe

It's been nearly two months since I've updated this blog, but that's not been because nothing has been going on -- quite the opposite.

Though work on our family home is on hold (and will be for probably a few more months) due to pre-requisite requirements, we have plenty to do for the Safe Haven Villages community project on the 90 acres.

After some back and forth on where the roads would go, to prevent taking down trees, Savage Surveying completed the drawings for our minor subdivision, clustering four lots of 1 acres each, with four other acres each being located in a common open space area, for a total of five acres per lot, per the county regulations. Three of those lots are spoken for: Allan, Carter, Day.

With the plot being done and the road and property lines staked out, Tom Crisp Construction started building the road into our property this past week. They do great work. They're going to finish the minor subdivision road, then rough in the road back to the community area on the west. That will make getting in and out of the property much easier, as it has been a rough ride, having to go 5-10 mph with all the bumps and dips.

We're also planning to start on the well drilling next week. We were going to put the well up among the house lots, but after talking to a geologist, we decided to move the spot to the south-east corner where our property sits over an old, dried up creek bed. The spot we had wanted to drill at turned out to be amidst what is called the "Green River Formation", which slopes to the west (away from our lots), and is largely impermeable to water. He estimated that we could drill 1000 feet and not hit any water. But there in the corner of our property is a much better spot, where he though we would likely to hit water at 100 to 200 feet. That drainage comes from the Flagstaff Formation of the national park mountains to the east, which provide the water for much of the valley. The county road, which forms our property line on the east and south-east, was actually excavated over the old Bill Allred Creek, so that we can actually drill right on top of that old creek bed.

Getting the retired geologist, Hellmut Doelling, was at the suggestion of Ralph Brotherson, who we plan to have drill our well. He urged us to make sure we have confidence in where we are drilling. He was nervous about where we had planned on drilling, thinking we'd have to go very deep, and we might not hit anything. "It's a lot cheaper to run pipes along the ground (under frost level, of course), than it is to drill down."

Much has happened with the Grow Utah First project as well. They have their website up. You should check it out at Their mission is to model some new growing methods that can be implemented for making "growing local" more feasible.

Having gotten our conditional use permission from the county, we were able to give Grow Utah First the green light to start excavating for their walipini (partially underground to tie into the earth's constant temperature) greenhouse project. They have leased 20 acres from us to do a commercial greenhouse project, and they are hoping to have some structures up to start growing food through the winter. They've excavated a long row about 500 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 4-6 feet deep, which they will be finishing out in 100 foot greenhouse segments.

It took a while to get going as there were quite a few repairs to be made on our track hoe to get it working well for them. John Day, who is heading that project and who plans to build on one of the four lots, has been making about four trips a week down here – a 2.5-hour drive one way.

Another big project we've been looking at and endeavoring to move forward has been a 5-acre solar farm, which would use photovoltaic panels to generate electricity for the grid, powering round 240 homes. We would be leasing the land to GreenStep, which has been doing most of the work to arrange financing and identifying the hardware to implement in about 20 different projects they are doing around the state. One of the deadlines for the project that has been spurring us to move as fast as we can is that 5% of the project monies have to be spent by Dec. 31, which is when the Federal incentives program expires. With that condition met, we would then have five years to commission the project. Things were looking pretty good at first, but given the short time, and given that a few of the key elements have been meeting with significant challenges, we will probably have to scrap that idea. Two expensive elements that would make our project more difficult are how far we would have to go to run 3-phase power to our property; and the fact that we would have to do something to keep the dust down on the county dirt road that goes by our property.

Having finally gotten our water change approved (took 3 months due to state budget limitations requiring one person to serve as a logjam point for the entire state water change approval process), we have been able to start the submission of our plans for a minor subdivision to the county and get on their agenda for a meeting coming up Oct. 13. That approval process typically takes a couple of months, and will require that our roads and well be in place. Once that is approved, then we can start submitting our home plan to the county building office for approval.

Meanwhile, we've gotten the rammed earth tube walls on our community kitchen shed up to about 6 feet in height, and we've put an arch over the entry using cob and rammed earth. We now use a ladder to get up on the wall. Also, we're ready to start coming inward for the beehive shape roof/ceiling also made of the rammed earth tubes. We need to get this finished before winter arrives.

The dragon shed has been on hold for a month, with the beginnings of a roof on it.

John and his crew finished the test cistern, using rammed earth, Terrazyme, and 3% Portland cement. It's surprisingly strong. They used cement forms to pour the dirt into, and they used a pneumatic air compressor to pack the dirt down, and they used the trackhoe to dump their dirt into a sifter before mixing it with the Terrazyme-water mixture and cement. Still, it was a lot of hard work and took a lot of time – much more than traditional building methods.

Ruminating about Sustainable Building Practices

As we pioneer these "sustainable" building methods, we're going to be trying to find ways to simplify things. Meanwhile, even though the materials are literally "dirt cheap", the labor requirement is huge. Most people are not going to be willing to work that hard.

Looking back at my expectations going into this project, I have to laugh at myself thinking that I could build my home in a couple of months with a little help from my friends. To build my home as I planned it would probably take 20 people working full time for two months. And they would need to be willing and able to do very hard, physical labor.

The problem with dragging out construction, doing it a little at a time, like we have been, is that the bag material we've been using is not UV resistant, and shouldn't be exposed to the sun for more than about 30 days. That would mean covering everything up with tarps, which introduces added expense and time to cover/uncover every time you work. And there is maintenance involved in keeping the tarps so they are actually covering stuff and not blowing off or away from where they were first placed.

If civilization keeps going on like it has been (at least from a superficial perspective), for decades to come, then it would be very challenging to get people interested in thinking differently about how we build our homes. Unfortunately, the trends and forecasts for the future, based on how people have been living unsustainably on the planet, point to very difficult days ahead, as economic turmoil hits, and people are thrown into survival mode. When we see that the way we have been building doesn't take the earth into consideration, and when we see that the earth changes are at least in part a function of our having surpassed the earth's buffering capacity, then we will realize that doing something different isn't just a matter of preference, but may become imperative if we are to survive as welcome hosts on this planet.

One of the reasons modern building materials and methods are so cheap is that we are raping the earth without counting the true costs. The slave labor involved in providing some of the materials is unethical. The mining and logging practices involved in extracting some of the materials are highly detrimental. The fossil fuel extraction and burning creates problems of pollution as well that don't get factored into their cost. Planned obsolescence of so many products is total foolishness. Our raping of the earth to have our modern comforts is unsustainable and must change, hopefully sooner than later – and hopefully before the earth's buffering capacity is maxed.

In contrast, in addition to being cheap (free) material, building with the dirt under your feet also creates an adobe structure with the advantage of holding the temperature so that the building stays cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, cutting down on heating and air conditioning costs. One of the primary purposes for a building is to provide a climate-controlled enclosure for those dwelling in it. Using these methods facilitates that. It also puts you in touch with the earth and with humanity. That is what I like the most about it.

I look to a future where humans live in complete harmony with the planet, as wise stewards over its resources. Such a future doesn't require going back to the dark ages, but can implement many wonderful conveniences, while having the added benefit of a clear conscience. Flying personal transportation and free energy harvesting devices are definitely in our future – hopefully soon, and will help us clean up our act.