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, January 28, 2013

Another Weekly Update

     Thanks for following along with us!  Last weekend we had many visitors; two people from Montreal wanting to check out our 'ship, my sister and her boyfriend, our friends Dirk and Bronwyn and their two daughters, Anne (the woman we bought the land from and lived with while we built the earthship) and her sister Linda, and a few people that just showed up and said "what is this?!"
      This week we put in some more finishing touches, like doorknobs on each door, trim in our master bathroom, bifold doors in the laundry area, and some more wood-stain.  We worked a lot in the family bathroom, and are ready to paint it and soon tile the shower/tub!  

Check out the pictures below for some updates:

diamonds between bedroom and family bathroom

family bathroom vanity 

preparing to install the toilet and tub

toilet installed
sink installed

family bathroom view from the tub/shower

beautiful sink and my backsplash 
the vanity I made (a little dusty in this picture from drywall)

beautiful sunrise out our eastern doorway

Chad cat-proofed the planter cell in the kitchen!

colorful back hallway

finished bathroom with lights and trim

Chad decorated the shower with more plants

Darwin asleep on our mountain of receipts from this build
Ellie lounging in the sunshine
Koda passed out on our bed in the sunshine

greenhouse hallway shot

plants in guest bedroom

Calla lily shot

cool-looking plant Chad put in a guest bedroom

English Ivy shot

artistic look up the guest bedroom can wall (to be covered in the spring)

banana tree leaf uncurling

hydrangea plants in the kitchen planter cell

I finished the WOM (water organizing module) cabinet doors!

and the laundry folding station doors

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Winter Technical Update

Hello all...Chad here... I wanted to give a little update on some of the performance aspects since people have been requesting it....and I'm waiting for spackle to dry anyway.

Our ship is located 1,050 ft about sea level.  Taos, NM is about 7,000ft and their winters get a lot colder than ours, sometime 30-40 below 0F.  Not bad for the desert!  The low this winter so far has been about 6 degrees F. here and we've only had about 1 foot of snow at once on our roof...it's not uncommon to have 2-3 feet at once on the ground here.   We have to brush snow off of the solar panels but if the sun comes out it melts right off, which is nice because it saves us a trip up on the roof.

  Although we still have not completely sealed the inner living space off from the greenhouse it has not gotten below 55 F inside (which is impossible to do I believe).   We have a temporary small wood stove inside to heat the kitchen/living room space up to 70F.  This is our only heat source, which I have been told is "bad-ass." The greenhouse ceiling has not been insulated yet but it has not dropped below 40-45 F out there.  The citrus trees don't seem to mind the low temps.  We're looking forward to seeing the performance next winter after we insulate everything and build the wood-fired oven that will circulate hot water under the back hallway granite floor...and cook pizzas in the process.

Our big challenge is condensation in the greenhouse, which will hopefully get better once we insulate the ceiling.  Water constantly runs down the windows - the colder outside, the worse it is.  It's really bad when Courtney uses the dryer because the vent has an elbow in the greenhouse and vents out the roof, and when that humid air exits and condenses, it falls back down and leaks into the greenhouse.  Luckily we don't have that ceiling in yet or there would be extensive water damage.  The bigger culprit is the hundreds of gallons of greywater that's running through the planter cell out there.  My friend suggested putting down plastic over the soil.  Not a bad idea.  We run a dehumidifier but only when we have surplus charge or I plug it right into the generator...

...Which leads me to the next thing - power.  We had Renovous Energy in Ithaca come install an outlet so we can plug our generator directly into the charge controller/battery bank.  This has helped as our 12-235W panels aren't cutting it for us at night.  Its just too cloudy in the winter here in Ithaca, NY.  We go 5-6 days sometimes with no sun, but we do generate some power on cloudy days.  We do laundry, dishes, and vacuum when it is sunny...which is fine, but its hard for us to do much at night, relying on what the battery bank has stored up during the day.  I feel bad for the chickens out in the coup.  I want to turn the heat lamp on all of the time but I have to be selective.  I'd really like to put up a vertical-axis wind turbine because they look cool but I've heard they aren't built well and efficiently yet and aren't worth it. A wind supplement seems like the best answer, but the generator will have to do for now Nov-Feb.

Our drinking water, which lands on our roof and funnels into underground storage tanks, is about as unconventional as you can get.  Between acid rain and bird sharts, I was curious about what we were drinking, so I decided to get a $150 water analysis from a local lab - Community Science Institute.  We went all out - metals and everything, even though our metal roof (Metal Sales - ProPanel II) is supposedly certified lead free.  As you can see, we're well below all allowed levels (so take that County Health Department! Actually, take that all-places-in-the-world-where-it-is-illegal-to-harvest-rainwater!!  Let the people drink the rain!)  I can't wait to brew beer with it!  HOLD ON...you just noticed that we have a colony of coliform, didn't you?  Well, the truth is, 99% of real-estate transactions wouldn't happen here if the homeowners didn't dump a bottle of bleach down their well casing.  One of my last residences had 23 colonies/100ml without bleach, and with the rainwater collected on our earthship, we only had 1.  If we bleached our water supply it'd kill our plants.  So, as it turns out, it's safe to drink filtered rainwater (see previous posts of our filter system).  If you're one of the sorry bastards in PA and the other Frack-loving states with drinking water wells, you're welcome to try our rainwater...it tastes better than toluene.

Lets see, what else...  I can never thank the Dryden Code Enforcement Office enough.  We got lucky with them and I think they'd admit the fact that earthships are built better and stronger than most of the other mass-produced crap out there.  They really liked Mike and the Earthship crew too!  

Our initial insurance underwriters, NYCM ended up dropping our coverage after seeing pictures of our place.  Apparently it's "too progressive" for them.  You know, the types of houses where pipes will never freeze and the risk of fire is near zero...way too risky.  Our new insurance company, Security Mutual doesn't mind - as long as we don't get a trampoline.  They were $100 a year cheaper than NYCM anyway!

More in the spring....

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Not only have (my cousin and good friends) Jon and Neyda put in many hours of physical Earthship labor but Jon has logged many hours of construction footage as well. Here is the first glimpse of his work.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Weekly Update: A Special Visitor, More bathroom work, Laundry room

This past week we've been working on more finishing touches in the Earthship.  We moved a bed and other furnishings into the guest bedroom, put on doors, painted our master bathroom, and I built our family bathroom vanity and a laundry room space.  On Thursday, Brian from the Earthship Biotecture crew (our carpenter during the build) stopped by with his girlfriend Swift and dog and stayed the night.  So great to see you Brian!!
   This weekend we installed our bathroom faucets, I worked on the bifold doors to the laundry room, Chad added some top door locks to keep one side of our french doors stationary.  We began to drywall the family bathroom, and would have continued with that if it hadn't been 55 degrees today... which lead to an impromptu cement mixing!  I was excited because we needed to finish the top of our master bathroom bottle wall and the top of the Yager wall in the kitchen so we can paint.  I also packed out more of the pantry.  Toward the end, however, I was reminded about how I'm glad we're taking a break from cement!

Good morning!  6:30am Chad, Brian, Courtney

Love the weekends with our new stove with a skillet built in!
Doors made when the crew was here finally installed in the POM (power organizing module) closets.

My laundry-room project, before...




Bifold doors to cover the WOM (water organizing module) and the laundry baskets coming soon

Guest bedroom (the sunshine room).  Walls will be plastered in the spring.

Greenhouse view in the sunshine room.  Calla lily growing in the bedroom planter cell.
Our new avocado tree planted!  Thank you to my brother Connor, my sister Caitlin, and my mom!

Daytime view of the greenhouse.

Master bathroom painted!

$5 mirror on craigslist with a home-made frame

backsplash in the family bathroom

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Master Bathroom!

I'm so sorry it took me so long to finally update the blog!  Things are slower and slower with the school year progressing, and the days being so short.  But I do have some great projects to share!  

I put these cute little leaf cabinet pulls on our kitchen cabinets:

I built our master bathroom vanity out of wood leftover from the house build, and I'm so happy with how it turned out.

I also experimented with making a Ball Jar sconce:

We drywalled the master bathroom and while Chad spackled, I put a bunch of free tile samples together for a backsplash:

And this is how it turned out... love it!!!

Then I installed our new vessel sinks:

And finally, the faucets:

Our cat, Darwin, has to check out any and every new addition:

Here's what our living/dining room currently looks like with the sunshine pouring in:

And the living room at night when we project movies and cuddle up on the reclining couches:

Recently I've worked on the family bathroom vanity:

I'm excited how the grain shows with this board and stain!

Our entryway is currently my wood-working shop!

And here's the vessel sink for the family bathroom... so cool!

Here are some pictures of how the plants in our greenhouse are doing:

orange tree blossoming

banana tree has baby trees growing off the bottom

top view of the banana tree

some potato and tomato plants

lime tree with new growth

lemon tree blossoming

Here's "the sunshine room's" tile floor, grouted:
(P.S. Yes, it's tile made to look like wood boards, and yes, I did wipe the grout off with clean sponges several times yet it's still leaving a little cloudiness!)

       Another job that took a long time but doesn't show a huge difference in the house is that Chad built the transom window frames that act as moveable windows between the interior of the house and the greenhouse.  In the summer, we will open these windows so that when the greenhouse vents are opened to let the rising hot air escape, it will then pull in cool air from outside and underground through the cooling tubes sticking into the interior part of the house through the tire wall.

Here is where these windows will go: