Monday, October 17, 2011

A Year in the Basin or Changing the Face of Arakis...

It's been an exciting year. 

We bought the property last August, spent our first three days camping out and building a pyramid in the desert in September, threw some stuff in the ditch this time last year, and drove up in the snow last November.

This Spring, we built a dome in the rain, dug up the driveway and threw a lot of dirt on the berm (and in our hair, clothes and all over the place.)

We got tired, dirty and frustrated, our stuff got trashed by cows, and we got a culvert put in so we could put our car on the property and not park on the road.  We got botanical cells put in for plants, started a bathroom, met a few neighbors and got a lot of strange looks while we were at it.

We learned a lot, planned a lot, came up with new ideas and new plans, made some discoveries and got distracted by shiny things.

We tore down the pyramid (it was falling down anyway), got sunburned, cursed the cows and marveled at the sunset.

Our biggest successes were getting the dome up and the driveway cleared.  We also had the brilliant idea of combining earthbag technology with papercrete for building.  FTW.

Highs: Shish kabobs over the firepit, sleeping in the Kamping Kabin #2 (and the hot showers) at the Rawlins KOA. (Shout out here to Jim and Marilyn)  Also in Rawlins: Rose's Lariat, Anongs Thai, Discount Grocery, Nothing to Wine About, A&B Surplus (for all your camoflage needs!), City Market, McDonalds and Pizza Hut.  Also Mulberrys!

Lows:  Dirt, cows, redneck teenagers, cows, bugs, mice in the dome, cows, wind, coyotes, long drives and limited time to actually devote to any one project.  There's so much to do, that it's hard to stay on task.  Gas mileage : P 

Mehs: Cactus Jack's / The Peppermill.  Nothing to write home about.  Same with China House.  We were just hungry.

Stuff to we still need to do:  Get the berm higher for more privacy.  Get the property surveyed.  Put up a fence around the Domestead.  Get the culvert up to road level.  Finish digging out the Domestead and the firepit.  Move the dome.  Build a Hexapod to sleep in.  Build an outdoor shower.  Get some walls up on the bathroom.  Start the homedome.  Get some plants, build a garage etc... and the list goes on...

Can't wait until next Spring when we can go back up and see how everything (meaning the Dome) holds up over the winter and to get started on all the stuff that needs to get got or done.

We're still excited and are chomping at the bit to get back to it.


Monday, July 18, 2011

How you do make a geodesic dome?

Well, I've been asked about the math on how I'm doing the domes...  There's a lot of math stuff out there, some simple, some NOT AT ALL simple regarding this.  I'm not really a math guy, and I only got though one semester of Geometry and never did any Trigonometry or other math higher than that.  So if I can figure this out, you probably can too, provided you know how to use a ruler, a calculator, and a protractor or compass.

I'm a "quick fix" / concept guy, so I'll see if I can do a quick and dirty on this.

Basic geometry:

Triangle - Three sides
Pentagon - Five sides (all same length)
Hexagon - Six sides (all same length)

Equilateral Triangle - all three sides are the same length and all three angles are 60 degrees each. (totaling 180 degrees)

Basic Dome stuff:

1V or frequency 1 dome is made of  15 equilateral triangles:

2V or frequency 2 dome is made of 30 triangles that form tented pentagons and 10 equilateral triangles:

3V or frequency 3 dome is roughly 1/2 of a "soccerball" pattern, with 30 triangles forming tented pentagons (black on a soccerball) and either 45 triangles or 75 triangles that form tented hexagons (white on a soccerball):

The reason for the different numbers for the 3V dome is because a soccerball shape does not cut evenly in half along the triangular sides, so you divide slightly more "3/8" or slightly less "5/8" than half a sphere.

Some basic math for a 3V dome:
E (edges) = pick a number.                   Say 3 feet
P (pentagon) = E times .08696      or    3 x .08696 =   2.6088   This makes the sides of the triangle shorter
H (hexagon) = E times 1.0224      or     3 x 1.0224 =   3.0672   This makes the sides of the triangle longer

The base of your dome will have 15 sides. And in this case will be approximately 7.5 feet tall and around 14 feet across.

You don't have to use triangles, but it rounds out your dome the higher frequency you have.  You can have a 3V "flat sided" dome, using only flat hexagons and pentagons or a flat 2V if you use flat pentagons and equilateral triangles.  It can be up to you.  There are MANY possiblilites; just do what I did and Google images for geodesic domes and click pics and follow the links!  You can also mine Youtube as I did for more information.

I could write an entire book on just the stuff I know, which barely scratches the surface of this.  It's as simple or as complicated as you're willing to go with it.  I say start small, make lots of models, measure carefully, have fun, don't quit and have an open mind.

If you want an easy project to get the feel of how to make a 1V model, get some heavy paper, some tape, a ruler, a compass and/or protractor and some scissors.

Make 15 equalatteral triangles and tape 10 together in a row.  Connect the two ends to make a ring.  Connect the other 5 to make a tented pentagon (tentagon?).  Place the "tentagon" on top of your ring and tape the edges. 

Congratulations!  You've got a mini-dome!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

F#@*$%! COWS!

We've figured out why we eat cows:  BECAUSE THEY DESERVE IT!

Seriously.   They're big, stupid and destructive.

All property improvement has been halted until we can get a fence around the "Domestead", and we've got to find a way to keep our idiot bovine food... ahem, - I mean friends - from climbing the edge of our culvert and pulling the damn thing apart. 

This is what it used to look like:

It doesn't look so good now.... We had a heck of a time getting the Subaru off the land without getting bogged down.  There's a good chance that by the time we get back up there with cow-go-the-heck-away stuff, we won't be able to get ON the land either!  Grrr.

They also did what we didn't expect: climbing directly on top of and over and along the berm, tearing down a bunch of dirt and undoing many hours worth of work from just 5 days ago. 

They did a job on the dome too.  Trampling the earthbags... 

and pulling off the lathe holding it together:

By the time we get back up there, even more damage will probably be done, so we've decided to stop digging until we can get some pickets, barbed wire and electric fencing up.  Grrr.  We knew they could go wherever they wanted, but we had no idea they'd trample over everything, even if it wasn't exactly cow-friendly.  Stupid cows.

Monday, July 4, 2011

5 days... and we've had enough...

We had planned on spending 6 full days on the property getting stuff done, but after only 5, we're tapped out.  We're trying not to spend much money until the wife finds a new job, so we're doing it on the "Cheaper."  We are already pretty frugal, but we've pared down a bunch more and we aren't eating out, staying at the KOA or buying any building materials that aren't absolutely essential.

So we've been sleeping on the property, in the new Subaru -that we paid cash for ( it's more comfy than anticipated) and eating stuff brought with us.  Kinda like camping out, only with 12 hour days of digging and other assorted infrastructure projects. 

It's been around 100 degrees by 10am when the wind isn't blowing and the bugs are at their worst at this time as well.  I never thought I'd wish for the crazy ass Wyoming wind early in the morning.  Around 2-3pm the clouds gather in the distance and we get wind, sporadic rain and usually lightning.

Like the sign says:

 Prickly Pear Flower - we dug up a cactus in April and put in it on our balcony (which gets constant sunshine and can reach temps of 100+) and it was flowering when we got home!)  Come fall, hopefully we'll be able to harvest us some prickly pears.

 Clouds, shortly before a rainstorm hit.

Adirondack Chair and table built by husband using recycled pallet wood and oops paint.

 We dug up a bunch more scrub and sagebrush and we used the dirt to fill in the berm some more.  We're also digging down and leveling out the ground so we've got more room to work with.  (Also, more room to turn the cars around without doing a million-point turn.)

Love the desert

View of the berm from the dome.  That's a lot of diggin' 

We also started the circle for the homedome that we'll be digging out later.   The purple circle is the future toilet room and the orange pallet is the future shower room.

Front side of the berm with dirt fill  (The berm is 4 to 6 feet high in places!)

More front fill on the berm 

Both botanical cells are now installed and ready for top soil and plants 

Pentayurt test with extra plywood.  Success. 

So after 5 days of being dirty, buggy, sweaty and physically exhausted, we called it good for now and decided to come home a day early.  We got the berm up to level (and forgot to take pics) so we're out of "easy" stuff to work on until we can start building more.  There's always plenty of digging to do, but our bodies will only co-operate for so long before we have to rest. 

The worst part is that even though we know how much we've done, there's little visual impact and there's still so much to do that it's easy to get discouraged. 

(look it up)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cow repellant, redneck teenagers and the wife's quest for fire

Wow.  Our Wa was jacked up this weekend.  We had too many unwelcome and destructive visitors to our little oasis-in-progress and they set our progress back a good couple of days.  Grrrr...

First of were the critters: 
Rabbits.  Not at all afraid and running around all over the place.  Kinda cute, and not really a problem. 

Cute ground squirrels.  Also no problem. 

Cows.  Stupid cows.  Wyoming is a "Fence Out" state.  This means that until we can build a fence, the cows can come and go as they wish.  Most of our stuff is pretty damage proof, but the cows bend pickets and knock stuff over and trample the hell out of whatever is left out.  Stupid Cows. 

Mosquitos.  Nuff said.

Also, on Saturday night, just as we were settling in to sleep in the Subaru, we saw and heard a truck barreling down the road.  No big deal until they saw our driveway and decided to stop and drive across / over / through the culvert and completely gouge the hell out of the land-bridge.  Plus, it made us jump out all freaked out that they were coming out to where we were.  We don't have any firearms yet and our no tresspassing sign wasn't out on the entrance yet.  It is now.  They turned back when they realized they were going onto the property with pickets and a bit of fencing blocking the way, but not before tearing shit up with their big old truck.

One good thing about the desert, is that you can see and hear over great distances, and Husband watched and listened as they went up the road about 2 miles before stopping and pulling off into the brush and heading up into the hills.  They stopped up there and were shooting guns until about 11PM until they moved on deeper into the wasteland.

It was un-nerving and was a reality check as to how isolated we are out there with no electricity, no cellphone service and no way of defending ourselves from idiot rednecks looking for trouble.  That will change soon. 

We also tried out our solar cooker, but it didn't work very well due to the high winds of Wyoming.  It lowers the temp too much to be effective.  Plan B was to start a fire in the rocket stove to heat up dinner.  FALE.  Usually those work pretty well but not this time.  Plan C was to try a bigger version of a Hobo stove.  Fail again.  Plan D was to break out the smoker and the lamp oil and light the world on fire.  GREAT SUCCESS!  Big old conflagration.  Before long dinner was boiling away nicely.  Dinner: Rice cooked with V8, artichokes and shrimp.  Not sure if it was of how hungry we were, but it sure was yummy!

The perfect way to scare away cows who want to wreck your stuff.

From here you can see the berm progress, all the vegitation that we dug up, the dome roof for the bathroom and both botanical cells installed and ready for plants!

The pipe from the septic for the Blackwater botanical cell and bottom fill before the next layer of soil for planting.

Redneck tire tracks wrecking the sides of the culvert.  We could barely get the car across they tore up the sides so bad.  Jerks.

We moved one of the cages out and put up the No Tresspassing sign.  The next one will say "If You Can Read This, You Are In Range."
(Go The Heck Away, but with a different word.)

Next week we're out there for 6 days.  First item on the agenda: fix the culvert and install posts for a fence.

Monday, June 13, 2011

When you find yourself in a hole - give the wife a pickaxe!

12'x4'x4' of hole.  That's a whole lotta hole! 
About 1' down you hit a chalky-clay layer that's pretty tough diggin' for about 6" to 1' and then it gets easier again.  Unfortunately the area right by the pipe -the most important part- was actually 2'-3' deep of the really tough stuff, making it take a lot longer on that one section.
Level:  Ghetto Style
First Botanical Cell installed.  Second one will go in on the next visit.  It will be filled with "rubble" covered by sand and dirt, and lastly with soil for the plants.  Our apple tree sprouts seem to be growing nicely at work and hopefully by the time we're done with the cells they'll be strong enough to transplant.  If not, we'll wait until next spring.  In the mean time we can get more cells going for other plants.
The north side of the east berm / privacy wall.  Pallettes on end, with dirt on both sides to brace them up.  We'll eventually have them completely buried and up to full height.  Right now it's just to break up the landscape and as a visual reference  for the berm and a partial screen from the road.

Wife got pulled over for speeding.....

... but Husband got a ticket!

Gotta hand it to the Wyoming State Patrol, they are not kidding when they say that speed limits are strictly enforced.  The wife was passing a truck around a curve, going about 85mph, which is about 5 more than her usual cruising speed.  On the other side of the curve sat Mr. State Patrol.  We noticed him, of course, but he didn't move, so we didn't worry.  The wife finished her pass, moved back over and back down to cruising speed.  The SP SUV then scooted up next to us, moved back to our blind spot, then ducked behind us and pulled us over.

The wife had never been pulled over before - for ANYTHING.  (Guess she can't say that anymore!)

The officer was very polite, though he did use the authoritarian "cop voice", which would have been scary, if we didn't have quite a few friends in law enforcement, so we'd heard about it before.  We were very well behaved as well.  (Tip: BE POLITE)

After collecting our info and making us wait for about 15 minutes, the wife got a warning for going 10 miles over the speed limit.  (Whew!)  The husband got a citation and fine for wearing his seat belt incorrectly.  (The shoulder strap in the Civic cuts across his neck, so he wears it under his arm.)

We got a brief lecture about speeding, safe driving, single car rollovers and partial ejection and we were back on the road to home.

Gotta go pay that citation now, don't want to have a warrant out for the husband's arrest!  (If I "disappear" for a while it's due the the wife "forgetting" to send the check and me getting arrested for FTA warrant.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gettin' stuff done.

Future bathroom:


Wife Chillin'

Botanical cell to be buried: 

This will eventually be home to apple trees, bamboo or whatever else we can cultivate.

Septic pit covered.

In the course of digging, we had to do something with all that dirt, so we built up the berm:

This is partially to shield us from the wind...

but more importantly....

for privacy:

As you can see, we've got A LOT of work still to do, but at least you can see progress even from a mile away.  The goal is to not be able to see us out there at all.  Unless you know we're there : )

Eventually the berm will completely encircle the entire "Domestead", about 200' of earthbags, 5' tall surrounding all the buildings / gardens in the center of the property.

Next week: Walls.

Baby Scorpions Are Cute.... and other wildlife adventures

The wildlife was abundant and active this time out to the land.  It's the tail end of spring, so there were baby everythings gamboling about: 


wild mustang foals

baby antelope that look like a bundle of sticks and a lone juvi scorpion that the wife unearthed while digging the hole for the blackwater botanical cell.  At first we thought it was one of those funky termite-looking bug friends - then it flipped it's little tail and brought out the stinger and pinchers.  Unfortunately, since he was only about 3/4 of an inch long, the effect was not what he intended.

Also.... did you know that antelope vocalize?  There was a buck on our property for most of the weekend making the most godawful racket.  He sounded like a mashup between a raven cawing and a cat being put in a woodchipper.  Freaky at 11pm, especially when it's a counterpoint to coyotes yipping and hollering.  We think he was looking for his harem of girls, but we really weren't sure since he just kept staring at us.  (And we sure don't look like antelope girls!)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

We have a Driveway!!!

 So here's what the "driveway" looked like when we bought the property in September:
The culvert was a 6' deep trench that would require a 4WD vehicle just to get across, let alone negotiate the rough road to the build site.

Here's what it looks like today: 
That's 1/4 mile of digging out (VERY) hardy sagebrush and cacti.  With only a shovel, a pickaxe and a wheelbarrow to move the dirt.

We can now get all the way onto the property and to the dome with our little Honda Civic.
It was HARD work.  But it goes to show, that a little ambition, a bit of muscle and a bunch of determination will go a long way.  Now, get off your ass and go do some worth-while work!  (While we rest and have a beer. ; )