EARTH SHELTERED

Welcome to the Earth Sheltered Site! This may be a personal site for everyone, but my main goal is to inform and give people some information on earth sheltering that they may be missing!

If you want to correct me in some information I included here, feel free to do so. I make this a freedom blog for everyone. After all, many heads are better than one. I am also the first to admit that I do not know everything, and what little I do know is simply based on my experience and my reading about the subject. But what is true is that I love the earth sheltering.

WHO AM I?

I am Michelle, the author of this blog. Basically, this blog started because I am obsessed with earth sheltering and I am constantly googling it, looking for current projects and current information. I want a place to store it all for my use later (selfish, right?), and with the good things it brought me, I want to share it with everyone in case they want to consider it too (haha! Got you there!).

Why do I want to build an earth sheltered home? Being surrounded by earth makes heating and cooling much easier. My plan includes finished concrete floors and at least 2 concrete walls (north and west). The concrete creates thermal mass which allows the temperature inside the home to stay more stable and not swing as fast. I plan to even extend this concept to garages in case people want to use it as an additional living space. We had new ones installed by our local Las Vegas garage door service that are insulated and weather-stripped, homes could be protected from too much heat and cold – thus a more regulated temperature. Such garage doors are common already in Tempe, Tucson, and Chandler, Arizona.

WHAT HAVE I ACCOMPLISHED SO FAR?

This last summer, we went without central air (the first time since I was a child) and we survived. We did use a small unit in our bedroom for the nights so we could sleep well, but overall, it was only really hot a few weeks of the summer. I spent a lot of time in the basement with no problem. Especially that the location of our home is on top of a hill with zero shade (though we get a good cross breeze) we did pretty well. We don’t have great overhangs on our south side but with the use of some thermal drapes, the heat pretty much stayed at bay. With the proper planning next time, the summer should be no problem!

But what about the winter? The earth’s temperature stays in the 50s year-round. Plus with the 2 or 3 sides of the house, there is less contact for wind to penetrate the house. Throw in some hydronic radiant floor heating, I hope to stay cozy without using much energy. Plus, with a really well-insulated home, and a small floor plan, I hope we can produce some of our own heat off of appliances and bodies. I don’t know if we are the wood chopping type, so as of now, I have zero plans for a wood stove, but that would be another option. Oh, and let’s not forget about passive solar! This time my home will be oriented correctly and have most of its windows (if not all) on the south side of the home.

I’m not looking to go off the grid. I am not looking to be completely self-sustainable. (Although I greatly admire those that do both!) But there is no reason to not take energy savings into consideration on my next build. I also want a home that is built to last for generations, not just past the structural warranty! Mechanically, I want it as simple as possible.

Little Change, Big Difference

The development of technology over time have contributed to us living in a more convenient lifestyle. Nowadays, almost everything is instant, from the household products we buy to the clothes we wear, even down to the food we eat. Gone were those days when we have to make wine of our own just to have it on our dining table. Now, with just trip to the supermarket or even the convenience store would give us everything we need in our everyday lives. Easier? Yes. But at what cost.

The price we have to pay for this is the degradation of our environment. Whether we fully grasp the impact of the modernization to the environment or not, it doesn’t matter. The result is the same: Trees being cut down to produce furniture and other household products; Mountains are being leveled just for another metal or diamonds to be placed on our jewelry; Air is getting more polluted every day to make way for these factories who give us the ‘instant’ convenience in our lives. What more, we are not aware of it until the worse has come. We are not even conscious that we have been a victim of the ‘newly improved food’ that impacts our health negatively.

Earth Sheltered is dedicated to combating the negative effects of modernization in our own little way – starting from our homes. We may not be aware of it but with little conscious actions on our part, we can totally make a difference.

For instance, we can start by segregating and recycling. By separating those biodegradable and non-biodegradable trash you have, you can determine what among them can be used again. This not only saves you the money from buying products you can get from recycling but also lessen the amount of trash we dispose of in the landfill. You can even earn money from them if you sell as bulk to some companies. You can keep them in your garage in the meantime. Just ensure that your garage door springs are well intact to prevent the wind from scattering them.

You can also start doing away with plastic materials. These are among the advocacies many are trying to push these days. For one, plastic products are the number one cause of environmental degradation. You should think about this the next time you buy that mineral water from the convenience store. Instead of using plastic in grocery shopping, try paper bags or eco-friendly bags. Instead of plastic straws for your drink, why not invest in personal straws that are not disposable? When you go to your favorite coffee shops, bring your own traveling mugs and tumblers than getting their take-out cups.

For home use, you can forget about products that are high sources of Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC). Among these are aerosols and hair sprays. Appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators have high amounts of CFC as well, especially the old ones. If you buy a more eco-friendly one, the better. Planting trees can help too. While you are at it, you can also think about investing in a more natural source of power such as solar panels.

If everyone will have the initiative to start going Green, the world would be a better place. So let us all start today.

Watermelon Pickles. APRIL 19

On my to-do list: Make watermelon pickles! I didn’t grow any watermelon in my garden this year. But I was reminded about the pickles just yesterday so I went to my sisters to hunt down the recipe. Thankfully, my sister Melissa had it pretty handy. I thought I would post it here for posterity and I will add some pictures when I get an opportunity to give it a whirl.
This is my grandma, Mary Hermenitt’s, recipe…

Watermelon Pickles

2 lbs of watermelon rind (7 Cups cut)
2 Cups Vinegar
2 Cups Water
4 Cups Sugar
1 stick Cinnamon
1 tsp. Whole Cloves
1 tsp. Whole Allspice
1 Lemon, sliced thin
Plus salt for brine as described below

Pare rind and remove all pink (I think this means to take off any pink and any of the dark green on the outside)
Sour rind overnight in brine made by dissolving 1/4 cup salt in each quart of water.
Drain and wash in fresh water and drain again.
Cook rind in fresh water until tender.
Combine remaining ingredients and boil together 5 minutes. Add rind a few pieces at a time and cook until rind is transparent.
Pack rind in hot sterilized glass jars, cover with boiling syrup and seal.
Have you made watermelon pickles before? Do you have any other odd pickle recipes? Post them in the comments!

GARDEN. SEPTEMBER 2
The 2013 summer vegetable garden season is wrapping up. Mine was…. not a huge success. I learned a lot though.
We began the project by producing a 3 foot by 16 foot boxes. We used 1x6x8s and attached them together with these metal plates that were left in our barn when we moved in. In retrospect, I should have used 2x6s as these are pretty flexible and needed extra support, which means more money anyway.
Boxes were lined with cardboard and then some kitchen scraps and composting leaves from the wood-line.
I was going for the lasagna gardening method so I layered cardboard at the bottom of the boxes to act as a weed block. I then put a few inches of food scraps and old leaves out of the wood-line. Then I filled the boxes with garden soil from the local landscape supplier. It was their premium mix. Oh, and we placed some soaker hose in the dirt. I thought maybe it would make them last longer as I have been told they aren’t worth using. What I found was that any line that was outside the box became brittle and I abandoned that water method, but not quick enough. Hence, a slow garden.
It was well into June, maybe even almost the end of June when it was obvious that my garden wasn’t keeping up with my peers’. I added compost and it helped. I changed watering methods and it helped a lot! So, I think I just under watered.