Part of my winterizing this year included putting out four pallets of 8 by 8 by 16 inch concrete blocks as dry stack skirting for the trailerstead. Not enough to complete the circuit but enough to replace the worst of the rotted areas.
I started the fourth pallet today. Will I put the last 90 blocks out before the cold freezes them together? I think so. I started singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall.
For two winters I have repaired that old skirting and twice the cold winter winds have pulled them back down. Then the entire west side opens and the floor radiates the -20°F cold into my trailerstead. Brrrrr
I have considered all my options for permanent housing up here in the cold Santa Fe County mountains and decided last winter that I would build in the 36 foot half circle that was already dug out of the mountain to make a flat spot for this trailerstead.
It builds on what exists and does not require me to move out of the trailerstead during construction. The prior owners initially wanted to build farther uphill, even bulldozed a road and started ripping out a location. They hit bedrock and halted.
Rather than dynamiting more damage up the hill and creating an unsafe and steep descent for myself as well as carving away more of the wildlife corridor, I choose to build on my existing flat area that is about 20 feet above the road.
To avoid selling the mobile prior to construction, I have a good flat space that is about 36 by 36 feet. I designed it a dozen different ways but feel much too claustrophobic to accept those designs unless I built a garage on the bottom and house on top. That put stairs which I do not want because as I age… you can get that one.
Every day I receive the latest updates from Tiny House and Small House Swoon. That’s more like it! Except that my wildlife is all burrowed in and cozy without burning endless fossil fuels. I love Hobbit Houses but need to comply with Santa Fe County code and claustrophobia.
I have decided that 12 by 32 ID and buried will cover five sides and leave the front (west) open. I have windows across the front but have designed in wooden shutters for the highest winds. It has the basics including a full 12 by 12 kitchen and 12 by 12 living area, one on each end and a 5 by 8 bathroom and entry in the middle, including bookcases making the entry a small library. I put a stacking washer and dryer hookup in the kitchen but only plan on a washer as I haven’t used a dryer in 20 years or so. A Murphy bed transforms the living room into a bedroom at night with a cozy electric fireplace to enjoy on freezing evenings.
I already have a 10 by 12 outbuilding set up as a shop and will run shelving against the back for storage. It is partially buried and has 12 feet of windows across the front with a good overhang against summer sun. It stays pretty moderate inside even though it has no insulation or inner walls. I will tart it up after I have a home and have already started collecting, from my property, one inch thick rock to face it with.
The last thing to decide is whether I want to build a 32 foot greenhouse across the front and make it more like an earth ship or just keep the valley view. I love earth ships but it might make me claustrophic. I suppose I could add it later. I do plan to add a garage with additional storage at a right angle. It helps create a protected courtyard without destroying the view.
The cabin alone will need about 7 pallets of concrete block and I don’t have room for 7 pallets plus construction space plus trailerstead. This is a bump out on five vertical acres!
I decided to “store” my blocks under the trailerstead as dry stack skirting on the concrete poured footing. So far so good.
My blocks are made in Tijeras, New Mexico, less than fifty miles from my trailerstead. I also have access to adobe block but it rains too much in the mountains for Adobe (darn). I don’t have room for tires like for earthships nor the strength nor expertise to get one past code. Hay bales can leak under several feet of snow and would need a three foot concrete footer anyway. And so on. I have decided to use the same dry stack technique used for large cisterns, and coat with the fiber they use that is waterproof inside and outside. It is also laterally stronger than regular block construction.
So I bought 4 pallets of block and have been dry stacking it on and off all summer. I enclosed my east patio and built a raised bed. Now I am working on the west skirt and it has a 4 foot drop followed by a 15 foot drop and I can only take one block at a time by hand.
In case you haven’t added it up, I had four pallets delivered. That means I am 3/4 of the way to having put out about five tons or 10,080 pounds of concrete this summer. I didn’t know if I could but say every day that I can move one 28 pound block. So it went one block at a time. I don’t move many at a time for fear of injury.
My model was a lady in her 70s and 80s that built a 900 square foot home from cob over several years. Mostly by herself. Her only regret? It was too big and she would have been fine with less space. Leaving room for a later expansion or outbuilding if desired. I will have room for expansion once the trailerstead is gone and I already have an outbuilding. Halfway home… except for the 20 tons of block.
We’ll see if this 61 year old gal can build an upscale burrow on five acres of Food Forest.