Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Papercrete Operation

Big Bag O' Shredded Paper

More Paper!

Add Water and Zip it up!

Once it's all chewed up, it's ready for the next step...

Our Friend, Mr. Portland C. Ment

Don't Inhale.

Paper Drained of Water

Mix it up!

Molds are Ready

Pack in the Mix

Let 'em Set up Overnight

Remove From the Molds and You've Got Brix!

This process works for whatever size or shape of object you want, but right now we're concentrating on getting a bunch of bricks made.  I've also made a few small domes and fake rocks as well so far.  I've been experimenting with mixtures / recipes and different types of armatures for sculpture and building as well.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's even prettier in the Winter.

                                                                        Elk Mountain.

                                                                        Snow Drifts


The Dune Sea

Saturday, November 27, 2010

WY... where the deer and the antelope and the buffalo.......

... and the cows and the wild horses and the coyotes and the eagles and the rabbits play....

It was COLD! but the wildlife didn't seem to notice.  (Hence, why it's called wildlife, except that the deer was traipsing around downtown Rawlins.)

Hwy 80 on the way to Rawlins.  Icy and cold.

It's been 6 weeks since our last trip up to the land (and only our 4th trip overall) and the pyramid isn't happy.  It looked crooked from here, but when we got closer:

It was pretty bowed out where the door should be.  That's why most buildings have doors...  It'll be coming down and replaced by the first dome and some version of a Hexayurt.

Inspecting the work on the landbridge from last building trip.... it'll be coming out as well.  In favor of:


 Hand shredded paper, hand-mixed with portland cement to make papercrete.  Lightweight, but still every bit as strong as real concrete, but much cheaper and eco-friendly if you give a crap about such things.  Plus, we can make a bunch of these over the winter and haul them up with us periodically and just dump 'em up there.  We'll pave the landbridge when we get a week up there next Spring.  By then we'll have more than enough.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

WY 1 Pyramid 0

 Cairn just over the property line in BLM territory overlooking our property.

 The view from said cairn on the promentory

 You can almost see the pyramid.

 Oh wait, there it is.  (Zoom on our camera is pretty good.)

 Wife:  Queen of all she surveys.

 Other side of the cairn, looking towards what I call the Dune Sea.

I call these the Shark Tooth Mountains.  Don't bother to correct me.  

 Pyramid isn't holding up so well after only one month.  Not really surprised, we had to leave in a hurry and didn't have time to properly finish and seal it.  Some good proof of concept successes and it still looks cool.  It was never meant to be a permanent structure; it'll just be coming down sooner than we had hoped.  In the mean time it's a good place to store stuff out of the elements until we can get up there again.

The very beginning of the land-bridge that will allow us to get our little Honda Civic onto the driveway so we don't have to carry stuff quite so far in from the road.  It's good exercise, but it eats up valuable time we could be spending actually working.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Doin' stuff "the hard way" (Rant)

People often make suggestions about what we "should" do in the course of our homesteading adventure, such as you should try solar, or you should try such and such or you ought to... and while we do appreciate advice, most of the time people are trying to solve problems that either don't exist yet, we've already done extensive reasearch on, or repeat suggestions they've given a number of times before.

Don't get us wrong, we LOVE new ideas and we'll give all kinds of crazy notions a go, but a couple of caveats are in order:

1.  We WANT to do some stuff THE HARD WAY.  Even if some of it won't always work.  That's why it's called an Adventure. 

2.  We're cheaper than we are lazy.  For example, we need to build a large berm that will shield us from the road and we need to clear a lot of brush for building, making paths and trails and for gardening.  We've had A Lot of people tell us to rent a grader, a Bobcat, a cement mixer, roto-tiller and various other mechanical devices to make said work easier and faster.  The fact that we don't have much time up on the property makes us want to get stuff done quickly, but that doesn't outweigh the fact that it's expensive and a pain in the neck to get stuff out there.

3.  Time = $ ?  Think about it: If we spend a week digging a road by hand, we've spent a week outside, getting exercise and accomplishing something that is for us.  We don't make any money doing it, but we won't spend any either.  On the other hand, if we work for a week for someone else, to pay money to yet another person to do work for us, we lose time, money and personal satisfaction from doing for ourselves out in the sun.  More loss than gain if you ask us.  I'd rather work for myself for free, than work myself to death for a couple of shekels in order to make someone else even richer.

4.  It's good exercise!  Farmer strength is the best thing for getting fit and good old fashioned tough.  My grandmother was mowing her own lawn at 84, and she never went to the gym.  She also smoked a pack a day and outlived two husbands.  Grandma Ekman was farmer tough.  I hope some day I'm half as tough as she was.

5.  Job satisfaction.  If we do it the hard way and we are successful, it will mean that much more to us than paying a bunch of contractors to do it all for us.

6.  If we do it and it breaks, we have only ourselves to blame and we'll know what went wrong and how to fix it.  I hate being at the mercy of people who have to fix stuff I don't have the skills or experience to do.  (Plumbing, Technology, Electrical, etc.)

7.  You learn more from mistakes than from successes.  If you do it the same way every time that you know will always work, then you never grow as a person.  You also may never understand exactly WHY it works and won't be able to do it if a variable is beyond your control.

8.  It's not your adventure.  It's ours.  If you want an adventure, go get one yourself and try all your ideas.  We'd love to swap stories, share info and yes, give suggestions and provide helpful advice, but not if you stay at home on the couch and watch TV and tell us what we "should" be doing.  We think YOU should get out there and DO SOMETHING CRAZY TOO!

End of Rant.  Time to go get the shovel and the pick-axe...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Playatech and Cotton Candy

This is what Jeff and I spent last weekend doing:

He built.  I painted some of the pieces inbetween painting the bathroom door.   (You can see it on the floor behind the bench in the picture below.)

Overall, the whole thing cost about $18.
Not a bad way to furnish.

Thanks Playatech!
Thanks Husband!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day three...

We spent the rest of day three working on the roof, getting more supplies from Rawlins, Fixin' a Flat, papercreting and improving our general living conditions.

We ran out of water for the papercrete and ran out of daylight to fully finish the pyramid before dark, so it was a productive but rather unsatisfying day.  Frustration led to another long night with little sleep, and when we woke up in the middle of the night it was really cold and the entire night sky was overcast, causing both of us in our sleep deprived state to panic and imagine getting poured on with heavy rain before we could pack up everything before we had to leave to go back to Denver.

So, at 3:00am we got up and got down to feverishly putting everything in the car that was coming home and everything that was staying into the pyramid to await our return.  Note: the car was parked 1/4 mile away on the main road since the Civic isn't much for offroading in its old age.

In less than two hours we were ready to head home, but too exhausted to drive safely and not quite ready to bail on our project without some pictures.

Oh, and it never did rain.  The sun came up while we were napping in the car and it was yet again a beautiful (if a bit cold) sunrise!

We were parked out by the highway on the road that runs through our property, and since it was nice again, we drove the 6 miles back to our driveway to get in a few parting shots.

Don't worry

We're not going to leave a bunch of junk just laying around ruining the natural beauty of the landscape.  The end goal is to have a hidden oasis in the middle of the desert, camoflaged from the main road, but like a giant zen garden once you get past the berm we're building.  Inside we'll have a greenhouse, buildings to live and work in and lots of plants, flowers and trees.

Hopefully within 5-10 years, you won't even know it's there unless we invite you to come see it.  It will be a lot of work, but it will be worth it.  It's an investment in our future retirement.


One hazard of setting up a homestead in the middle of nowhere.... critters.

And, boy were there critters, though the one that concerned us the most was Wiley - the coyote next door.  Here's his burrow:

10 feet from the front door of the pyramid.

Fresh scat too big to be a fox, definitely canine, not a house-dog.  We never saw him, but we heard a bunch of coyotes making all sorts of racket in the early morning hours just before sunrise all three days.

With the fire and all the people smells it's likely that he snuck out on us at some point and it's doubtful he'll be back.


A pissing contest ensued.

We won.

Day two in the middle of nowhere

Next morning, we headed straight out to the property before the sun was even up.  We found the "driveway" -our little dirt road- with only a little difficulty and got right to work unloading all of our junk and half-ass sorting it out.

We got a path dug out amongst the sagebrush and prickly pear cactus and got started clearing a spot for the cabin - a pyramid, no boring square for us!

After a couple of hours we had done all we could do with getting set up and decided to head into town to get some of the stuff we had planned on getting in Rawlins, like concrete, blocks for the fire pit, food and sprayfoam.

We went back out and spent the rest of the day just digging out holes for the tires that became the foundation for the pyramid.  We barely got the corners on before we ran out of light and had to set up the tent inside the bottom half of the pyramid.  It ended up being rather cozy, even without full walls or a roof.

Dinner was shish kabobs over the fire and Damn were they Tasty!

We were sore, tired and dirty, but we did a sponge bath and settled in to sleep.  Well, as much as one can sleep with the wind, cold, critters, imagination, plans for the next day and general discomfort of camping.

Day One - We channel Sanford and Son

Here's what the Ranch looked like before we started:

This is what it looked like after we unloaded:

We've been collecting cardboard, paper (shredded, wole, soaked, re-formed, re-cycled and everything in between), Masonite, plastic bottles, old tires, and all kinds of other assorted junk, tools, hardware and ideas to make our dreams of an oasis a reality! 

We bought it, now where the hell IS it??

The Friday before Labor Day, we packed up all of the crap that we're been saving, salvaging, scrounging and buying and headed up to Wyoming for the first adventure on the property.  We've been calling it Red Spring Ranch as a play on one Japanese pronuciation of our German last name.

Our house and garage are now EMPTY!!! of everything dome and pyramid and building related, except for the paper models.  (Didn't know we had that much room here : )

We braved I-25 at 3pm and fought our way out of Colorado, dodging accidents (including one really bad rollover) and countless stupid drivers.  After a couple quick stops for food and caffeine, we got into Rawlins around 7:30pm and headed right out to the land.  Dusk hit while we were enroute and the evening critter parade started.  By the time we got out to the ranch, we'd dodged 2 deer, a few mice and countless rabbits.

Then we missed our driveway.  A lot.  For an hour.  The land is very overgrown, and even though there is a dirt track, it can be difficult to find even in the daytime, even knowing it's there.  We were in the AO, we knew that, but it was a sliver moon and our headlights didn't do jack for the sides of the road.  (And the wife is just about night-blind, even with her glasses and a flashlight.)    Jeff finally went exploring off road and found it, but there was no way we could get ourselves on the property without serious issues, so back to town we went to find a place to crash and hopefully get some sleep before heading out again.

BTW, Mom, the Hampton Inn in Rawlins is really nice!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

We've turned into THOSE people!

If the ClutterBuster people couls see our house now, they'd probably call in a demolition team.

We've got firewood in the spare bedroom, a minisolar panel and a compost bin on the balcony, shredded paper bricks drying on the driveway, a bunch of wet phonebooks in the garage, salvaged carpeting piled on the stairs, a bunch of masonite trianges in the hall and an 8 foot high pyramid in the living room.

We scavanged the firewood this morning from a bunch of dead trees that had been cut down on the side of the road.  Just doing our part to keep Highlands Ranch tidy.  And get some firewood.

The solar panel is attached to a test light for dome lighting options.
The compost bin is the most successful part of this year's container garden - I haven't even gotten 1 tomato.
The paper bricks will become papercrete to build the pyramid and domes.
The phone books will be fuel for the campfire.
We cut the masonite in the parking lot at Lowe's this morning so we could get it into the tiny Civic.

The carpeting is for the pyramid floor.
AND.... the pyramid is a shelter for sleeping now and then over-winter storage.  Here's the top half: 

I haven't cut the windows yet.

We're doing all this prepwork for our upcoming long weekend in Wyoming.  We'll be getting dirty and tired from constructing a "landbridge" onto the property, digging our firepit, building a pyramid and starting to construct the berm, camping and cow-dodging.  And chillin' by the fire in the evenings after a long day of hard work.  Doesn't get much better than that.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Buying the farm....

Well, the ranch.
We did.
As of last week, we're now the proud (and slightly overwhelmed!) owners of 40 acres of ranch land in southern Wyoming.

So, we're planning on TEMPORARILY!!! suspending international travel for a few years while we get some domes and cabins and pyramids and stuff built.  The plan is to build and off-the-grid, green set of dwellings out of recycled and found materials, sort of based on the idea of EarthShip houses.  (but waaay more affordable.)

Watch this space and Facebook for updates, videos and pictures!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Turbulance Guy (TG)

Maybe he was hung over or high or maybe he was just terrified.
He was definitely messing up everyone else's WA (sense of well-being).
Actually, he was scarier than the turbulance itself. 
TG is a greasy, grungy looking rocker dude with a trucker hat and an attitude. 
His carry-ons were his amp and guitar.    

Picture this:
A plane-full of tired travelers on an evening flight from Helsinki to NYC.  Add in dinner, some mediocre in-flight entertainment and TURBULANCE a few minutes after said dinner between Greenland and Newfoundland.  After the first few bumps, the seat-belt sign came on.  After a few more pretty good bumps, the flight crew got buckled in as well.  At this point, the pilot announces that we've got about 45 minutes of pretty bad turbulance ahead of us. 
Then TG started moaning - and cussing - and screaming - and trying to get out of his seat.

WTF?!  Everyone knows that when the flight crew is belted in, you'd better be too! 

Mind you, the bumps were bad, but there weren't any altitute drops, so the husband and I were still feeling pretty secure.  (Finnair ain't got nothin' on Aeroflot!)  Not too terrifying, except we both really had to pee.