I don’t know exactly what the impetus was. It could be his trip to Rwanda as a college senior to build a water catchment system for a boys school.
Or it could have been his trip to Nepal after the April 2015 earthquake.
Or it could have been latent in him since birth. I have no idea. Whatever the impetus, our son, Scott, doesn’t walk the traditional paths.
Scott had earned his BS in Civil Engineering from Santa Clara University and was working in San Francisco for a construction firm–and his soul was dying. He detested the fact that he was putting up buildings just so the clients could get richer. He lamented that he was making a great deal of money and yet had no purpose in life, other than to spend his money on meaningless pursuits. And he ached that he had no one to share his life with.
His first step to living off-grid was the purchase of a 2001 camper van, which he named Tiny, in homage to his grandmother and to his new way of life, tiny living. Parking over night in hotel parking lots, he was able to recoup the cost of the van in two months of not paying San Francisco’s high rent. Plus, on weekends, he could get out of the City and away to his beloved ocean to camp in his own home. He lived that way for a year.
By then, he had had enough. He asked our permission, or blessing, to move on, to terminate his job in SF and to find an alternative way of life. Knowing that he was miserable–and that he was an adult who had to make his own way–we said, “Go for it.”
He did. He helped to build music concert venues in the States and in Costa Rica, completed the Earthship program in New Mexico, and encountered love.
Today, after fifteen months working music festivals as a builder and handyman and taking on odd jobs, Scott and his fiancée, Indy, are living on their eight acres in Taos, New Mexico, building an off-grid home from scratch, using only what they can obtain locally or from the ground they dwell on. It’s Scott’s experiment, putting into practice all that he has learned about traditional construction, blended with alternative construction. The cabin is built literally from the ground up, and will feature three Earthship walls, a glass front wall, and an aluminum roof.
Here, you see the foundation of the small cabin they are building using discarded rubber tires and packed earth.
Between the tires, they fill in the gaps with trash (they are trying to live zero-footprint) and then put cement over the gaps (the trash is just filler, so they use less cement).
On top of the tires, Scott is using earth bags for the walls, bags filled with dirt dug out of the middle of the cabin, placed on top of the tires and on top of each other, and held in place by layers of barbed wire that keeps the bags from shifting.
The earth bags are then covered with an adobe mix, and tarps to keep them from degrading in the sunlight before they are plastered.
We visited their land in September and helped to fill, place, and pound earth bags for their cabin, the first of the dwellings they plan to build on site. The land they bought was a land granted originally offered in the early 1900s under President Calvin Coolidge. Until today, it was basically unusable for habitation, being 7,200 feet above water level, with no electric power, scrub land useless for grazing of any ranch animals.
But Scott has already built two water catchment systems, and has erected a solar panel system to provide the basic electricity they need for tools, lights, and electronics.
Still planned is a wind power system to add to their energy bank. In two short months, they have made the place habitable, if one is willing to experience tiny living and forgo basic sanitation needs.
Scott has sold Tiny (who had gotten bogged down for three days on their dirt road after a monsoon rain) and bought a 1974 Komfort hunting trailer, a 2007 F150 truck, and a 1997 Subaru wagon. Over the trailer, he erected a roof, which serves as a sun shade and a water catchment system, and which extends their “living” area by a good ten feet.
He has also built a tool/equipment shed, and erected an outdoor privy, currently draped for privacy by decorative flags.
We are amazed by what Scott has accomplished so quickly. And by what he and Indy are willing to endure in order to achieve their dream of living off-grid. When all is finished, they should have an Earthship/earthbag main home, with an earthbag cabin, and their shed. These would look bizarre anyplace else, I imagine, but there on the mesa south of the Rio Grande and Taos, they fit right in. It is the land of the alternative, the off-grid, and the imagination.
(Next installment, the cabin takes shape.)