Sneaking back here for an update…

We’ve both been ignoring the blog for a while.  Every free moment for the last few weeks has been dedicated to wall packout.  We are currently on the fourth of five rooms and hope to be done this layer in a few days (we are on our third layer of packout). We do have to complete a fourth layer before we can start plastering.  This is because our tire placement was a bit irregular so some areas need that extra build-out to ensure a smooth wall.

We’re also re-vamping the website.  Don’t worry, we’ll still provide updates and decisions about all the steps of the earthship building on our new site. That won’t change. But the look will change slightly and the content will broaden.

We felt that while we have a loyal following for the earthship progress, our lives are more than the house itself.  We are also passionate about alternative fuel, alternative power, frugality, travel, living deliberately, and living debt-free.

Although we’ve blogged occasionally about these topics, both Chris and I would like to explore them further and we want to connect with others who are passionate about these areas.

We’ll continue to offer our experience, advice and thoughts on all these topics completely free, as we always have. It has always been our intent to increase the base knowledge of all the things that interest us, and as we’ve been blessed by the knowledge of others, we will continue to share as well.

We do sell an e-book on this site called “How to Build a Rocket Mass Heater”, and a set of associated plans in PDF format.  We’ve been terrible at marketing it; you kind of have to mean to find it to get to the store and purchase it.  Other than a youtube video and occasional mentions of the book, we haven’t made it front and centre.

Part of this is time…too much going on!  Part of it is that we are not natural salespeople. Despite having a successful log home business we mainly made it that way by serving up a quality product and being grateful that satisfied customers kept recommending us.

Despite our lack of sales know-how, sales of the e-book and plans have been decent. Decent means that a year after launching it we are selling about three books or plan sets a week.  Most of the feedback has been primarily praise for taking the project step by step and prividing practical detail not found elsewhere.

Our 60-page e-book encompasses all the things we discovered by researching rocket mass heaters and provides links to all the other sites and folks who’ve built one (that we know of). We also document our process and explain step by step how we built ours and why. We point out our errors, too, so that you won’t make them!  We hadn’t seen this done in any one resource before and that motivated us to get a book together.

We will probably offer more e-books or other products for sale in the future.  We totally underestimate how much knowledge we have stored in our brains from having simply done things that very few others have embarked upon.

But always, along the way, we will be sharing our experiences raising a family debt-free, home-schooled, green-as-we-can-be-and-getting-greener with the same honesty and humour we always have.  You can continue to count on Chris’ thoughtful, and sometimes self-depracating appraisals of technical information and building arguments and I hope to begin writing again about more controversial topics like dumpster diving and unschooling.

We will always try to answer all your questions here on the blog or by email.  Please continue to ask us whatever you’d really like to know!  We appreciate feedback and we will continue to host free visits and tours of the earthship while it’s being built. We love to show it off and I’ve gotten over how my hair looks after 8 hours of working in the clay and cement! (If you are interested in seeing the earthship, please email us in the contact us section).

We are looking forward to our new format in the coming weeks. It should be fun as we try to fit it in with our house building schedule!

For the next few weeks for pics and vids of what we are up to right now, please visit our FB page,  http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/pages/The-Darfield-Earthship/144283802260961

Sandra

 

Veggie Delite

 

Yup, this is the name of the Subway sandwich our vegetarian daughter favours…but it seemed appropriate to how we are all feeling today.  We are so pleased to have finally made the leap into our waste veggie oil vehicle, a 1994 Mitsubishi Delica 4WD Van.

The kids have been pestering Chris about our once every three years trip to Ontario to see his family and this was slated to be the year for the winter adventure (and it is an adventure driving across part of Canada with three kids in the winter!)  Chris has been less than thrilled with pouring fuel into our CRV to make this trip. (Forget airplane travel; if it’s on this continent than that is out of the question because of the carbon footprint!). 

Chris REALLY wanted a diesel vehicle last spring to convert.  Simply for the pleasure of doing it, and saving money, and bypassing the use of fossil fuels.  Last spring we took a stab at it, but buying the vehicle was dependant on selling the CRV and we didn’t have much luck with that. 

Chris’ consulting work has allowed us to buy the veggie mobile outright and to take a bit of time to sell the CRV.  He and I put our parental heads together and agreed that we would make the trip if we could find and buy a diesel vehicle, convert it and run it as far as we can on WVO (waste vegetable oil).  We kept it to ourselves for a few days, but last Wednesday when Stephen said (whined), “I really wanna buy a van and go to Ontario”, Chris picked up the phone, got Barry, from Mustang Connections in Armstrong, and said, “We’d like to come down to buy a van.” 

Stephen Power!

The last few weeks have  proven Helen to be our salesperson (she managed to find buyers for three of our ewes) so she and I are fixing up the Honda and aggressively selling it to offset the cost of the Delica van. 

Our plan is to make this a family project.  Because the van is an older Japanese import-Canada does not allow vehicles from Japan that are newer than 15 years old–there are some things we need to do to customize it.  The first is to convert it to run on WVO.  The Japanese don’t appear to use their vehicles altogether much. Ours has only 64,000 km on it!  Chris has been exchanging emails with Ed Beggs of Plantdrive.ca, the fellow we rode to Kimberley with last winter in his WVO Jetta.  Chris plans to document the conversion on this blog.  I’ll let him deal with the technical aspects of this project.

The second is to upgrade the stereo system.  In 1994 stereos were still made to accept cassette tapes!  On our long trips, we are very big on audio books and music from our ipods.

We also need to find a roof rack.  The Delica seats 7, but then has very little cargo area.  Thankfully all five back seats fold up and away in some form or another, so when we just have the three kids, we can create a little cargo area. 

The two back seats have some ripped upholstery that we need to fix–but otherwise the interior and exterior is in pretty fine shape.

At the same time we have some cool plans for documenting the process.  Helen and I are going to keep track of how much the whole project costs, right from the orginal purchase price ($11,500).  We will be keeping track of our trip costs, too.  We’ll be comparing (over time) how much the Delica costs to run vs. the Honda and we will do a comparison for this trip on its own, to see what the difference in cost (and footprint) is. 

We’re also going to try to find suppliers of WVO along the way.  We can’t possibly carry enough to take us all the way across to Ontario, but with some planning, we may be able to find like-minded folks who are already filtering their own oil, who might sell some to us to keep us going.  We know somebody locally who sells his for $0.15 per litre, just to recover the costs of collecting and filtering.   We’re also going to prevail upon friends, family and, yes, strangers, who are game to gather some used oil and let it settle for about three weeks before we plan to swing by their stretch of the Trans Canada Highway!  There are all sorts of issues with this…but we are going to try to see if we can’t involve others in our transportation venture.  If you are interested, please let us know so that we can meet you and talk about how to proceed.

The kids and I are also going to try to find a sponsor.  Hey, why not?  If you know of, or own, a company involved in alternative fuels or green technology in general (or even green products), let’s talk. We’d love to put your logo on the Veggie Mobile, the blog, and talk about your generous donation of $$ or materials while we talk about your product.

We’ve all committed to contributing to blog posts to keep our interested readers up to speed on how things progress, and our very unique perspectives on Project Delica.

We are all pretty excited, for very different reasons.  Stephen is most excited about having space to spread out in for this trip.  It will be our third cross-Canada trip; the first was in 2003 and took us to Ontario, Vermont and New Brunswick. In 2008 we went to Ontario and back.  Each of them had us packed like sardines, loaded with movies, music, books, puzzles and one-way good cheer.

The girls are excited to see their cousins, but especially their Aunt Nancy, who makes them laugh and buys them things that I wouldn’t.  Chris is really keen on the technical aspects of the conversion and is looking forward to seeing his family for the first time in three years.  I’m excited because I always love to prove that we can do something with some effort. I suspect this trip will take some effort! 

Probably the biggest adjustment and effort we will have to make is getting used to the right hand drive. It is quite amusing that whenever Chris turns on the signal, he sets the windshield wipers on high speed!  We have to learn to drive next to the white line, and to check our left hand mirror on the passenger’s side before we pass.  The best advice I ever received about a right hand drive?  If you’re going through the drive-thru, take a buddy!!!

More to come.