Sunday, March 17, 2013

Split Rail Fence

It's that time of year again. Time to clean up the dead fall of winter. Here's a forty foot elm that I was able to cut into three 12 foot lengths.
Once cut into lengths I split them into halves and some larger halves into quarters.
These are the kind of rails Abe Lincoln spent his youth splitting. 
This kind of fence was very common at one time. It's easy to assemble, easy to move and easy to re-purpose if you run low on firewood or rough lumber. Ours won't keep anything in or out, just give hunters a heads-up when crossing our property lines.
The rails are stacked one on top of another in a zig-zag pattern to help with stability. Typically the rails are between 10 and 12 feet long, the ends are overlapped to make the distance between 'points" roughly eight feet. The distance between the zigs or zags is an old measurement called a rod (roughly 16 feet). Old farms used to measure out acreage using rods and these fences helped people estimate the size of their fields.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


This month I am very pleased to be able to share Earthships. Chris Reynolds was kind enough to send me the following information and give me permission to pass it along here at the House of Fallen Timbers. The photographs are from Wikimedia Commons.

Earthship Zwolle
Regardless of whether you're thinking of building a new structure or retrofitting an existing one, the Earthship concept can be designed and adapted to accommodate all climates and situations. The goal of our company is to help you to make your home or building project more energy efficient. We believe in housing that works for people, rather than the other way around. It's our hope that life in an energy efficient home will encourage a more balanced lifestyle that involves less financial stress due to high utility bills. Although the classic Earthship is one that is built primarily out of recycled materials, such as automobile tires, aluminum cans, glass bottles, scrap metal from discarded appliances, etc., the function of an Earthship is not determined by the use of those specific items. Thermal mass, for example can be achieved through concrete, stone, rammed earth, etc. We just find that the simplicity and value of free scrap tires to be a great way to produce what is basically a rammed earth wall without the cost of forms.
G2 Global model Earthship Taos N.M. Brighton EarthshipExterior Jacobsen House Earthship 2009
You can still have an thermally efficient building as long as you incorporate thermal mass into the walls and floors of the building. Using what is easily available to you is a good idea, and depending on your local climate, you might adjust the amount of solar gain, building orientation, etc. We do implement a water catch systems in most Earthships, but again, if you have easy or existing access to fresh water, and you don't have to get creative with 10 inches of precipitation per year like we do here in the high mountain desert of New Mexico, you don't necessarily have to incorporate this feature into your Earthship. If you have abundant wind, you can augment photovoltaic (solar panels) generated electricity with windmills. The point is, the Earthship is made up of many systems and features that can be incorporated into your design based on your individual needs and tastes.
Some people are intimidated by the idea of pounding dirt into tires. Like everything, a little practice goes a long way. It's more technique than brute strength. The tire walls for an average 2 bedroom home will usually not take longer than 2 weeks to complete with a moderate crew of 6 people. We published Earthship, Volumes I, II and III with the intention of helping people build their own sustainable homes. Many people have done this, and we receive photographs and stories from do-it-yourselfers all over the world.
If you are ready to begin planning your project, the first step would be to contact us regarding the design. What size home, how many rooms, bedrooms, baths, etc. If you have land and funding and can get permission to build in your desired area, you are ready to go forward. With a $1,500 down payment on drawings, we can begin. We have many designs to choose from. The more affordable, Packaged Earthship has a plan book available through the web-site @ as well as a Packaged Earthship Detail Book that takes you through the entire building process of this design.
Approximate square foot cost for a Global Model Earthship, which is our most current design that incorporates the newer double greenhouse feature, is $215/per SF. This price includes all labor, all materials, and all systems. This price is comparable to mid-range conventional housing, but the future utility bills are much less than conventional homes. Please note that this is a turnkey price, that is, a home that is ready to move into and fully functional. If you are looking for ways to build more economically, personally contributing to the labor that goes into building your home can lessen square foot costs. Also, our company does fairly expensive finishes, stone and tile floors, tile baths, all handmade doors and cabinetry, and many custom details. You can choose to do simple concrete slab floors, for example, or purchase manufactured doors and cabinetry, to bring costs down.
Convection banner 1
If you wish to hire outside help to build for you, we have a skilled crew that goes to any location in the world and builds Earthships. We also enlist the use of Earthship volunteers in these builds. Generally, the size of the crew, with volunteers is between 40 and 50 people. This large work force, and the pre-fabrication and shipping of components allow us to complete a home in 4-6 weeks depending on the size of the building. These buildings can be totally off-grid, having photovoltaic electric systems, catch water systems, and a thermal mass structure that requires no (or very little) back up heat or cooling.
M-22 grey detail w tub10-5
We have very economical standardized building plans available for several time tested models. These plans can be customized @ $200/hr. At present, the price for the plans for the 1, 2, and 3 bedroom Global models are $6000, $7000 and $8000 respectively. Building plans for the Package Earthship and other more economical models are available as well for comparable prices. In comparison, standard drawing fees for architectural drawings generally run from 8-15% of the total cost of the home.
Vaulted Earthship entrance
The Earthship has been developed over the last 45 years, and is a very sophisticated and finely tuned sustainable building. Our crew builds these homes year after year, and they have evolved according to feedback from clients, and our own observations. We have built them all over the world, in all types of climates and conditions.
Unfinished Earthship
We are currently in the planning stages for upcoming projects in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and New York City, among others.

For more information, you might be interested in any of the following:

EBook available from "Earthship, I want one" - $4.99
Michael Reynolds books, videos, etc. - Available online @
Earthship Academy - Hands on and educational instruction in building your own Earthship
Intern program, Taos, NM - One month working with Earthship crew Volunteer program 1 week-6 weeks working on current builds in US and internationally
Spring, summer & fall seminars - 3 day course that includes classroom instruction and hands on experience

Please visit our website for information on any of these programs, or to purchase any of our books and videos. We also offer nightly rentals in newer Earthships in our Greater World Subdivision in Taos, New Mexico. To book a night in an Earthship, or to inquire about the seminars, intern program, etc., you can email us @

Mr. Reynolds is available for in person or phone/skype consultation @$250/hr or $125/per 1/2 hour session to answer any technical questions. When you are ready to go forward with designing your Earthship, or if you would like to get on the build calendar to have Earthship Biotecture build for you, I would recommend this as a first step in defining your project.