All posts by Chele

Tribal belly dancer, henna alchemist and artisan, color enthusiast, compulsive journal writer, knitting addict, bohemian character and eccentric mother. Add Earthship warrior to that list! Woot!

Back to the Drawing Board

I have a peculiar attraction to the endless possibilities of a blank piece of graph paper and a freshly sharpened pencil.

Once I enter the Flow of translating an imagined living-space into a floor plan drawing, I will go hours without thoughts of food or drink, acknowledgments of sound or voice with little regard for my body’s need of liquid disposal and sleep. I end up farther downstream that I would have liked and I find myself struggling upstream return to my intended destination. I am still thankful for this experience, because without it I would have gone nowhere or rather got nothing done.

I’m about to go there, again.  But first, I must unload from my mind the happenings of the last few weeks.

We are going back to the drawing board. At first this may sound like a set back. However, it is for good reasons and I couldn’t be more pleased.  Let me tell you why.

In the beginning of February, we met with a few engineering specialists at Taitum Engineering in Ithaca. Every person we met was super enthusiastic about being involved with an Earthship project. We were greeted by Javier Rosa, the gentleman we spoke to on the phone to set up the meeting. As we chatted about our ideas and shared our drawings, several others stopped by after they heard the Earthship people were there. We met Dom (HVAC), Lou (HVAC-passive house), and Gordon (Solar) with a promise to sit down with Fred (Plumbing) at a later point. Taitum Engineering | Technology as if the Earth Mattered

We talked about what we need for our building permit, since that was our reason for contacting them.  The Codes officer of Danby township determined that he would require stamped (by an architect or engineer) plans for the Earthship, primarily because of our use of alternative materials.  This was contrary to what we read in their building permit policy that stated a home under 1,500 square foot did not require the plans be stamped by an engineer. We struggled to stay under this limit to offset the cost of the site prep stage since we must also put out money for a new driveway, a well, septic and electric hookup. However, that is no longer an option.

We were informed that the bedroom sizes on our official floor plan from Earthship Biotecture out of Taos, NM would not met NYS codes (must be a minimum of 144 square foot). Several other changes were mentioned to adapt it to the wet, cold climate of the Finger Lakes. Since Taitem needs to change the drawings that Earthship Biotecture created (and it is against EB’s policy to give us the CAD file for the drawing), we must have the whole thing redrawn. This nullifies the drawing we paid ($1,500) for through Earthship Biotecture. Expensive lesson learned. Moving on.

Shortly after that meeting, we also learned that our tax return would yield less than 1/4 our expected refund.

That led us to a crossroads. We soon realized we could go back to the drawing board at this point, if we wanted to, and that is exactly what we did.

Before contacting EB, we briefly batted around the idea of starting with a tiny house to live in whilst we built the Earthship.  We were told we could only do that if the two structures were connected to maintain a single dwelling, not being allowed to have more than one living structure per land parcel.  We didn’t think connecting them would be possible, so we opted for a barn structure for temporary housing until we could build the Earthship.  However, we need to be allowed to occupy that space for longer than the 6-week codes limit on temporary housing since renting is out of the question due to lack of affordable housing.  None of the rentals I’ve seen so far will allow pets anyway, so it is mute point to continue searching.

Now we are back to the tiny home concept with the addition of an Earthship that wraps around it in the back and extends the length of the home to the East.

The E.S. Euphoria has become a tiny house earthship hybrid.

This approach will work much better for several reasons:

It allows us time to sell our current home in Barbours. We can live in our 1978 Fleetwood Southwind motor home until the tiny home is built.

We can move to Ithaca before the Earthship is built – we can find employment, meet more Ithacan and spread the word about what we are doing around the community.

We can get settled into a new area at a much more tolerable pace so that we may enjoy and share this process with our families, friends, fellows and community. 

We can establish a work history to better qualify for a construction loan when it comes time to build the earthship addition and refinance our balloon loan with the land’s seller.  

All that being said, I am back at it with pencil and paper as well as dabbling in Google’s 3D-modeling software SketchUp.

I’m having a blast and can’t wait to share it with all of you!


The Bush-whacking Incident

People are wondering what is happening with the Earthship.  I will get to that in the next post.  Let me share with you what I have been up to since last I typed.

In anticipation of getting full swing into the process of building this Earthship, I decided to leave my place of employment. The last day at that steady-paying job was the same day as the inauguration, January 20. (What a surreal and bitter sweet day it turned out to be).

Then, it was time to let the Earthship planning commence!

0121171236a-1The following day, we took a trip to “the property” in New York. It was a lovely warmish wintry day. I was dead set on laying out the driveway so that I could envision it in real space. Unfortunately, overgrown brush was obscuring my vision of a driveway path. So, I got to it with a manual weed whacker clearing brush like a maniac.  Then, I sat in a car for 2.5 hours. All very bad ideas, if you know me well enough.  My back muscles retaliated the next evening by seizing up as I tried to get up from the couch to head to bed. It was all I could do to lower myself to the floor and lay there yelping like a wild animal until the spasms quieted.

I had done it.  To myself.  Wow, was I sorry.

Two days of having a “lead pelvis” that I couldn’t exert any muscular effort to lift without threat of debilitating pain. Day three, the spasms quieted. I assumed a rather sharply tilted hunch. On day 7, a week from the whacking frenzy, my posture returned. Yesterday, after a visit to my savior of a chiropractor, I finally do not feel like my hip is jutting out of socket. Today, I am back to being in my true body after living for 10 days in a crippled version.

Whew, this was my longest recovery yet. I guess what they say about aging is true, darn!

Now that I’ve had that harsh reality check, I’m more grateful for my “normal” mobile self even with the flaws.  I’m just happy to be able to take care of myself again, something I clearly must make a priority during this whole home building process. I’m official on paperwork duty. I am planning to add strength training to my routine now that I have a membership to the Y.  That should help me prep my body for the physical aspects of home building (light-duty).

I promise to get an Earthship update out soon.  Everyone is wondering what is next.


A thousand paper cuts | Permits

What a day! I got so much done on moving forward with the build.  Super productive!

I managed to make contact with the town, county and state government all in one day.

I got the septic permit from Tompkins County.  I got an engineer from the NY Department of Transportation to visit our address and review the location of our driveway. I got a large portion of the building permit paperwork submitted (there’s a lot) and started a dialogue with the town of Danby codes official.

Also, I got the revised final floor plan from Earthship Biotecture.


Shout out to those of you collecting recyclables, thank you again! Please let me know if you need me to come by to pick them up.  You’re the best!

New York landowners!

We had our land closing this morning in Ithaca, NY!

We now own 10 acres of wooded land on West Danby Road in Newfield, New York.


It’s a very angular plot bordered on the east by railroad tracks.

We will be hearing the train pass by a couple times a week.  We heard it for the first time in September when we camped at Robert Treman State Park, about 3 miles away from our land.

Hearing it makes me feel young again.  I used to hear the train pass by and blow it’s whistle when I lived in town (from the age of 8 through 16).  I spent many summer days walking along train tracks.  That was the route my friends and I took to get to the creek.

I’m excited to experience those sounds from our new land!  Soon.  It will happen.

Stay tuned for more updates as we start clearing and laying out the building lot.

The ES Euphoria is born!

It’s here! Our floor plan arrived in the mail Friday!

Here’s our 3-bedroom Simple Survival Earthship. (The drawing shows (2) bedrooms and an office, but it is really meant to be (3) bedrooms).


The ES Euphoria floor plan from Earthship Biotecture.

(This must look very strange compared to a traditional home’s floor plan).

Let me briefly walk you through the layout. At bottom is a mock patio setup showing where the exterior doors enter the greenhouse that spans the entire front of the house.  The green shapes inside the greenhouse are biocells, layers of dirt and other materials inside a liner that not only filters gray water, but provides nutrients for the plants rooted in it’s fertile, irrigated soil. Behind the greenhouse is another full length wall of windows and glass doors leading into the main living spaces. Wrapping the spaces on three sides are the tire walls, compacted dirt, rigid foam insulation and more dirt to create a berm. At top you see the (3) cisterns that will hold collected rain water and several long pipes going out under the ground to act as cooling tubes. These are all buried under the berm created by piling dirt all around the back and sides.

If you are interested in knowing more about the dynamics of these “living” homes, please check out the Earthship Biotecture website.

If you have questions, you can also contact me at

We are getting the land, finally!

Hello everyone!

I am happy to announce that we are finally moving along again with the move to Ithaca and the building of our Earthship. pexels-photo-175045

Here’s a little recap so far in case you missed it!

In August, our offer on 10 acres of mostly wooded land located outside Ithaca was accepted.

We’ve been working for about 5 months on setting a closing date.  We were waiting on gas lease paperwork to release the gas leases (3) that were on the land from many years ago. They had already expired and NY has a moratorium on gas drilling, so no drilling would have happened. However, these docs are necessary to clear the title before the closing can happen.  We’ve waited a very long time…

Now, it’s time. We are in the process of setting a closing date, one that might actually still be in this calendar year.





Cardboard boxes | Box Forts?

Who doesn’t like building a cardboard box fort?! Any respectable fort builder knows that boxes are coveted fort-building materials. Earthships puts them to good use in a less creative, but purposeful way.

In an Earthship, cardboard boxes are used for sealing the gaps along the bottom of tires before being pounded full of dirt. As the tires in the wall are staggered, gaps form below. If the tires are not sealed with cardboard, the dirt will fall out of the bottom gap as the tire is pounded. cardboard-boxes-gold-coast

An average sized moving box will provide two (2) tires worth of packing. Therefore, we will need about 600 or more boxes worth of cardboard!

On this year’s Boxing Day, please consider breaking down and saving boxes to donate to our Earthship.