Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dirt Cheap Buildings

If you are like me, those parts of the gospel that emphasize our need to be concerned for the poor are sometimes haunting. Sure, I give generously when a dire local or international need arises and I sponsor elderly and growing children through World Vision and Angels of the Poor. But my insistent prayer now for several years is to be able to do something beyond just sending a check. Something hands on. And while we can't all be Mother Teresa, there really should be something we can do in the providence of our daily lives to engage in making a difference for those less blessed by material wealth.

My wife Kety has recently begun making cheese from our abundant goat milk. The Chevres and Mozzarellas are quickly made (and eaten) so she wants to venture into the harder types that requiring aging in a root cellar. After doing some initial research, I came across an old/new concept of building structures from available local dirt using 'earth bags'. Earth bags are essentially used or discarded feed bags filled with dirt and stacked to build incredibly strong and energy efficient buildings. Similar to the rammed earth houses that have served people from time immemorial and somewhat reminiscent of the familiar igloo shape of our neighbors to the far North.

With the help of my son Bernard, we are tackling a 10 foot diameter structure that we hope will maintain a constant temperature of around 55 degrees - perfect for aging cheese. If it works - we will then attempt an actual living quarters, perhaps a hermitage or a small guest house. If we become proficient at this, our goal is to introduce the concept to others with the intention of helping people of limited means to build their own simple dwellings. Sort of a super green Habitat for Humanity.

Keep us in your prayers, and we will keep you posted on our progress!


Laura-Lisa said...

Hi I was very interested in your grain bag building. Such a wonderful idea. Can you tell me how you are resealing the grain bags once filled with dirt. Are they plastic feed bags? And are you just using fill dirt or a specific kind of dirt (ie sand clay soil)....

MevaDog said...


Sorry it took so long to respond...I thought I would be notified of comments, so I wasn't aware.

To answer your question, I use polypropylene plastic 50 lb. rice bags which I purchased from a supplier in Louisiana. They were misprinted bags, and pretty cheap. To seal, we double folded the ends and then used a heavy duty stapler to close them up. Some people suggest sewing them shut with thin metal wire, but the staples seemed to work fine and are a lot quicker than cutting and threading wire!

Thanks for the interest!