Welcome to the Freeville Earthship, located outside of Ithaca, NY! Please feel free to explore our site for thousands of pictures and in-depth posts about our process building an earthship.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Autumn Update

Wow, its been awhile!  The big update:  we were featured in an episode of a great PBS show called Growing a Greener World:  Episode 416: Sustainable Homes  I'm actually using these episodes in my high school science elective this year as they fit into the curriculum perfectly!

My cousin, Jon, did an awesome video update in early September.  Unfortunately I cannot embed the clip here so go to the source:  http://vimeo.com/77143056 

We've spent much of late summer/autumn finishing some concrete/masonry work outside.  We poured a walkway and entryway at the West entrance (our main entry from the driveway) and finished the brown-stained cement finish coat on the East end.
The greenhouse is still productive...peppers, citrus blossoms, and sauce tomatoes.  Our banana tree is finally starting to bloom too!

We've been using the wood-fired oven for a lot of our cooking so far.  It takes awhile to heat up but it eventually doubles as a great heat source as well.  We've had a couple nights in the 20s and as long as it is sunny during the day, we don't have to start a fire.  On cloudy, cold days we usually start one but it easily brings the place up to the lower 70s.  The greenhouse has been a lot warmer so far as it wasn't fully insulated last winter.

We hosted a tour of Groton Middle School students via an after school teen program with the Groton Public Library.  Its a shame there is no funding for field trips anymore.  Luckily this grant-funded program was able to provide enrichment for about 15 students....and....Pizza!

Winter Projects:  Finish the other bathroom (shower), build the second hallway closet, tile mosaic in the West entryway greenhouse area, and plaster the back hallway.

Spring Projects:  finish East and West patios, final masonry coat on West end, and finish garden

Stay tuned for a Kickstarter Campaign for our spring/summer project!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Freeville Earthship Internship

September 2nd-6th we will have two Earthship Biotecture crew members here to work on plastering the final two bedrooms, back hallway, and hopefully the entryway and back patio walls.  People who are interested in working alongside them are welcome to email me at courtneyjdevoe@gmail.com.  On-site camping is available for those who would like to stay the night!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Growing a Greener World

Last week we had Joe Lamp'l, host and executive producer of Growing a Greener World® and his cameraman/director Carl Pennington from Georgia over for the day to tape a segment for their show.  We had a lot of fun with them and can't wait to watch our episode on October 19th!  They have a really great show about sustainability and gardening, and are on their 4th season.  All of their episodes are worth checking out, and are posted online here:

Joe and Carl preparing to tape the introduction to the episode
Carl setting up the living room for our interview
the promotional picture of us and our earthship

Thursday, August 15, 2013

July Updates

As you can see the Airbnb advertisement located on the upper right corner on our blog, we started renting our master bed and bath as an earthship bed and breakfast.  Throughout July and now into August we've enjoyed hosting about a dozen different parties (individuals and couples).  It's been neat to share our space with interested people, answer their questions, and tell stories about what we've been through to get to this point.  Sign up to stay with us by clicking on the Airbnb image!  

Here are some pictures from around the house, including our ever-growing greenhouse plants:
finished the bottle wall over the living room entryway

chicken coop and fruit orchard (should produce fruit next summer)

cucumbers in the back branch-trellis planter

watermelon growing on the wall of the back patio

bell peppers

we grew a red pepper right in the greenhouse (it was green for at least 3 weeks!)
San Marzano tomatoes

heirloom tomatoes

herb garden

I'm painting the entryway a terracotta orange


Ellie and Darwin enjoying the evening sun

Chad pollinating the tomato flowers with a small paintbrush

huge basil harvest! (turned into pesto) 
pumpkin growing outside
garlic harvest from our outdoor garden

Another big project we've been working on is our back patio.  I had a vision of a mosaic-ed wall, wrap around bench, unique bottle fence background, and a fire pit.  It isn't done yet, but it's coming along!
tire wall to form bench, can wall fire pit

posts added to support the bottle fence 
20 pieces of rebar set vertically will form the posts on the bottle fence
whole bottles with labels removed and holes drilled through the bottom will slide onto the rebar forming a bottle fence

my Kokopelli mosaic so far (one blue one left to go!)

And finally, Chad's been chipping away at his brick oven.  He adds rocks on the outside almost every day, and started lighting some curing fires.  And then, we finally started cooking some food and some pizzas!  It is soooo good!

Chad added copper tubing to the dome which will heat water to be pumped through the floor of the back hallway.
rock work

Light a fire,

watch the smoke get sucked up the chimney.

Once the bricks get to 900 degrees you push the coals to the back of the oven and wipe down the surface with a wet rag.
Then slide your pizza in with a peel!


Thursday, July 4, 2013

June updates!

Back wall closets:

with doors


strawberry mint smoothie... mmmm!

strawberry-walnut salad with lettuce from the garden

Project ladybugs: 
Chad ordered around 750 ladybugs to release on our orange tree because we've been battling with cottony cushion scale, an insect that often feeds on citrus trees.  It's a gross little white fluffy insect seen below.  Chad read that ladybugs were natural predators, but it turns out it's vedalia ladybeetle, a specific type of ladybug, that will really eat them up.  Unfortunately, those aren't sold commercially.

Greenhouse update:
our bedroom view





huge tomato "tree"!

lots of heirloom tomatoes growing... they are so good!
Our herb garden: see stick labels for identification

orange tree

oranges growing!

our outdoor garden

Around the House

I bought this little guy that tells us our current battery voltage.  We have a digital reader in the "power organizing module" (POM) located in a greenhouse closet, but this one is mounted right next to our refrigerator so that we can check it before running major appliances.  It varies from 23-29 volts, depending on how/if the sun shines on the panels.  In reality, the batteries are fully charged at 25.4 volts and it's bad to use them if they are below 24.0 volts.
Therefore, we run the bigger appliances (vacuum, dishwasher, washer, dryer, and dehumidifier) only during the day, if it's really sunny (and not all at once).  We do have a generator for backup, and we usually use power tools directly off of the generator's energy.

curtain doorway to our bedroom

our bathroom, with shower curtains and blinds for privacy

our/Koda's bed with curtains in window

Wood-Fired Brick Pizza Oven!
Chad couldn't help himself and started this "fall 2013" project at full speed.  He's doing it himself and saving us $thousands.


 Chad embedded ceramic insulation board and insulating firebrick into the 6" thick slab of vermiculite concrete. The brick floor and dome will be built right on top of this.


first chain of bricks put in, along with the landing and opening

2nd and 3rd chain, needing firebrick wedges to start to round it out

arch doorway framed and set


arched opening and 4th chain
Chad created a little jig to help hold up the 5th chain before it dries
this is starting to become a very fun place for cats to check out... before there's any fire, that is

6th chain
Prepping for the 7th chain of bricks... going with the exercise ball method (with lots of wood shims). Each full brick is cut into 1/3s now and the 15degree wedges aren't used anymore. The inside height of the dome is looking like it'll be around 16". We've used close to 200 medium-density firebricks and four 50# bags of Heatstop 50 refractory mortar so far for the whole project (34" diameter wood-fired oven).

7th chain in!

there's a valve in the ball which we'll release to deflate and remove in the end

Chad's pic from the top... all I could say is "it's crowning!"