Balls Deep

Alright, so it’s been a while since I’ve last worked on the root cellar, if you want to call it that.  I’ll be sharing pictures that make it look more like a death trap, or an enclosed underground swimming pool.   It’s not that way now.

I’ve got little time to type this so I’ll make it quick.  We put the roof over the root cellar, and it’s looking pretty good.  I called an audible and went with a living roof.  It will be supported by two layers of earthbag supports, some 2x10x16’s, some 2x4x16’s and 8 sheets of OSB.  The inside is only 8×8, but the hole is around 12×12 and the space added up to 16ft of needed “roofage.”  We could have EASILY spent $400 on this roof with the original plans, but with some creative thinking, we have it structurally sound for $250ish.  I’ll be doing a light living roof using sawdust, hay, leaves, and w/e else I can muster up.

I’m going to show some pictures to really help explain what we did, which is essentially, lay down plastic, put a couple rows of earthbags down, laid the 2x10s down, and the square roof w/2x4x16’s going across every 16″ just like inside a stick built home.  Obviously the 2×10’s are the lateral cross beams bearing the middle weight, while the whole of the roof will bear on the earthbags you’ll see pictured.

After all is said and done, we’ll lay an “umbrella” …ella…ella ey ey across and bury it 6″ or more to keep it super-uber dry.  Then I may put carpet for extra protection, and more water proofing will go on the inside that I’ll discuss later.

Apparently I have the tendency to go “balls deep” into projects.  My friend Morgan (who I couldn’t have built the roof without) was saying that there are other ways I could’ve gone about building a root cellar, why did I have to choose the all-out, balls deep method?  I thought it was kind of funny, but also true.  Regardless, this root cellar should be flippin’ awesome when all is said and done.

I’m obligated to say that my lovely wife also helped in rain proofing the osb for the moment.  Thanks, babe!

Here are the pictures I took:

You can see my boot to see the size of these bags. We laid the 1 footers, not the 1 1/2 footers. They're 20 something inches long, and 3 or 4 inches tall.

Here you can see how flooded it got. It almost all out now.

You can see the bags supporting the weight of the roof.

Top of the roof.

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Jumping JehosaphRAT

So, I had mentioned getting a beer kit back in July and hoping to brew it this winter.  I’m sure you remember.  Nod your head.  Well, I finally got to brew!

   It’s an Irish Stout from Midwest Brewing.  I love stouts, porters, and IPA’s.  So obviously I was excited to get this going down.  I got a kit for $60 for my birthday in July.  It had most everything, except a Carboy.  If you don’t brew, you don’t know what that is.  In a moment you won’t forget it (a CARboy is not a more culturally relevant or up-to-date COWboy).  Also not included was a 5 gallon stainless steel pot.

 So my father-in-law was kind enough to let me borrow said Carboy.  I was super excited to go pick it up.  He told me that it’s been in storage for a long time (outside storage shed), so it will need some serious cleaning.  So the other morning after dropping my son off at day-care, I went to go grab it at their house from their front porch.  It looked pretty dirty, dust was to be expected, but the roach poo all over it, though not surprised, I wasn’t excited about that find for cleaning purposes.  You see, Carboy’s NEED to be COMPLETELY UTTERLY SPOTLESS in order to not get the beer funky.  Sterility is KEY for making good beer.  If you were to leave it to open air, it would get ruined. 

    As I put the two carboys he so graciously lended me into the back of our CR-V, I decided to look at the bottom of the Carboy to see what all the black stuff was in there, it didn’t look pretty at all.  Funk and junk and something that looked like a wad of hair or something.  It was sick looking.

      So as I peered deep into the Carboy from the opening at the top, I noticed something peculiar.  What is that black thing down there?  It looks kind of like….A DEAD FREAKING MOUSE.

“…..WHAT?!” I said to myself.  “No freakin’ way!”  And then I laughed for a while, and enjoyed some banter with my in-laws over text messages about how ridiculously gross that was to have in the Carboy that I would like to brew beer in.

     But the fun doesn’t stop there.  I went back home and first thing I did was put the carboy’s outside with the intention to clean them COMPLETELY.  I mean these things had to get douched.  I’m talking more douchery than a frat party.  They’re not cheap, so I didn’t want to waste it, but I may have to get a different one.  Anyway, the water spigots were frozen still.  So I decided to wait till the day warmed up. 

  My friend Dustin came over and we started brewing.  He brought a pot, we went to the brew store to get supplies; thermometer, a giant bottle of sterlizer, a book (the Complete Joy of Home Brewing), and w/e else.  Very cool store to see…. We mashed up the grains, brought the water to 155F, dropped the grains in like a tea-bag, pulled them out, put in the liquid yeast malt, dropped the hops in, and brought to boil for an hour. 

   During that hour, I decided to see if I could wash the Carboys since the spigots had time to heat up.  So I start cleaning it, it’s gross.  So I fill it up w/water and leave the hose running.  I come back after a couple minutes and dump it.  It takes a while.  The rat came out…Mmmm tasty.
    Well, I knew I’d have to do this several times.  So I do it again, then again.  About the 3rd cleaning I see something else in there.  I’m thinking ok, that must be the wad of hair that was down there.  It finally decided to come out.  Well, I look at it as it falls out, and it’s AN ENTIRE BABY POSSUM.  

Not really.  But it was ANOTHER DEAD MOUSE.  I was in disbelief.  Poor meeses.  They probably went in smelling beer, but nothing was in it and then fell into a hole they could never climb out of.  Drowning in beer would’ve been a much happier death.

Needless to say (of course) we now have a name for my micro-micro brewery called Double Rat Brewing.  Pretty awesome, I know. 

I should have taken a picture, but we all know what a dead mouse looks like.  Something like this:

The other Carboy was totally fine, btw.  No dead animals yet.  Both are soaking in a bleach solution for the week. But in 5 weeks, we should have a great, mousless stout. 

After we put in the final hops, we cooled the wort down quickly using ice, and stirred it up.  Hopefully the ice is good and bacteria free.  Then we put it in the primary, air-locked it, and put it in a dark closet.  Now we wait till next week.

At the end of the day, Dustin and I went to a restaurant for wings and Bell’s Double Cream Stout, which was awesome.  Great day.

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Root Cellar December Update

I hope this video is worth the wait.  I know it’s been a while.  It’s been super busy, and I didn’t have much to report on.  Here is the latest.

It cost me $200 to have this 7 ft down 11 ft wide and long.  I gave them an extra $20 for lunch.  There is no way I would’ve been able to do this myself with a shovel.  The ground got pretty hard after about 5 ft.  It gives me faith in these bags, b/c that ground was similar to rock, but it could crumble if you really tried.

Anyway, enjoy the video it explains a lot.



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Take a bite of this Occu-pie.

For those following the earthbag build on the root cellar, there will be a workshop on the 11-12th and the 18-19th of December.  I’ve got the hole dug, and will post pictures later.  But I wanted to share my opinion on the fiscal situation and the Occupy movement. 

If you watch the main-stream news at all, see what people post on the internet, or get news from alternative media, you should know by now the fiscal irresponsibility going on.  You should also have heard about all the different sides of the different arguments going on.

Who should our money go to? What should happen to our food? What are we doing for energy?  Is gas going to run out? Who should be our next president? What corporations are stealing from us? What parts of government are wasteful? On and on….

The funny part about it, to me, is that the solution is so simple, yet the left and right argue back and forth, back and forth.

The left (or progressives) thinks that corporations are evil.  The right (conservatives) think that government is evil.  Granted, that’s an over generalization, but the truth is that both, in some ways are true, and both are false.

With many things in life, we love to dramatize, over speculate, and be melodramatic.  However, some of us realize that there are both good and evil in everyone.  There is good and bad to everything.  The more powerful something is, the more opportunity it has for good or evil.  For instance, a rabbit only has a certain amount of inteligence, it only has so much power for positive or negative enforcement.  A human has much more opporunity for +/- enforcement than a rabbit.  The same is true for a person in power with a corporation or in government, and one not in either corp/gov’t.  There is a huge amount of opportunity for +/- enforcement both in gov’t and corporations, but let me emphasize it’s power for both.  Not one or another.

Libertarians and small gov’t conservatives especially will say that gov’t is an entirely negative thing.  Progessives, through the occupy movement are saying corporations are entirely negative.  This is over simplified on both accounts.  You can not simply say that one is entirely negative.  They are both positive in some aspects, and negative in others.  Some much more one way than another. 

For instance, Monsanto I feel is an over-stepping corporation who has a VERY negative influence on our culture.  The USDA (gov’t) is aiding to their cause.  However, Monsanto is in a way sustaining lots of people with food they’re not growing themselves. The USDA does protect us, sometimes.  I feel the negative influence on both of those entities is much bigger than what they actually do for good, but you know what I’m getting at.

Now there are many more corporations and government entities we could look at, but the point is this; The issue here, is power.  There is too much opportunity for weak humans to handle.  The problem with the world, is that it’s filled with people.  People are flawed.  If we had some amazing people in power of these entities, whether corporate or government, there may be some great things to come of it.  But when you have a problem this big, there’s an amazingly simple solution.

  • If you have such a problem with the way that your food is grown, like I do, then grow your own, buy organic, or buy from farmer’s markets.
  • If you have a problem with the way your power is created and the damaging effects on the environment, get some solar panels, wind turbines, and/or lower your power use.
  • If you have an issue with the way your clothing is made in sweatshops, buy American.
  • If you have a concern with how much we’re buying, and borrowing from China, buy American, every time.
  • If you don’t like big banks, put your money in a credit union.
  • If you don’t like all the preservatives in your food, store your own.
  • If you’re hating how our tax money is spent, barter as much as you can with locals, even easier, buy online from small companies.
  • If you don’t like the way housing developments are built, build your own home, naturally.
  • If you’re worried about peak oil, get your car running on bio-diesel, natural gas, or wood gassification (like many trucks were during WWII).

The solutions are right in front of our face, and there’s so much good out there on the internet for these sorts of things.  I suggest you find your own way of solving the problems you see.  Our next president is not the answer to all of our problems, we are.  Taking down companies like Monsanto, or big banks will not be as easy as protesting against them.  Just grow your own food, use credit unions.  “Vote with your wallet.” 

We have so much power over our own lives, and our own decisions.  Make good, personal choices.  Have a real affect.  Don’t try to change the world, when you really just need to change yourself.

I am not the gleaming example of what the world should look like, but I’m trying to get there, and I hope that you will too.  That way we can actually bring on the revolution that our country so desperately needs.

Posted in Dumps, Ideas, permaculture, Specific Thoughts | 2 Comments




I knew I jinxed myself.  I looked out the window the other day and saw that water was collecting on top of my temporary roof.  I thought to myself, “Oh, my roof really held up well!  Water collected on top, but didn’t cave in!”  But upon further inspection after the rains on Wednesday, I realized that it wasn’t keeping on the roof….It was overflowing ON to the temporary roof.

Someone please, virtually slap me.  If you break your computer in doing so, don’t blame me though.

I’ve decided to have you visualize the depth of the hole dug by the number of dead bodies that would fit in there.  Charming, I know.  This here, is about 5 well-placed dead bodies worth.  😛

So I feel pretty dumb, but hey it’s a learning experience.  I believe the roof actually kept the water out some from above.  But I hadn’t re-directed the water coming from uphill, and seeping in from around as well.  So I have to make some adjustments to the plan.

The original plan was to dig when I had the opportunities, and just use the temporary roof, maybe get new tarps for that.  I would use the poly liners to keep the water out from the sides when I was done, not while I’m digging.

Now, I realize what I would have to do to keep the run off out, is build the ground around the hole higher while digging the hole deeper.  This is obviously counter-productive considering I’m starting from the stairs, and digging in towards the root cellar.  I can’t build the ground around the hole higher, then move the dirt again.  Not one man by shovel over many weekends.  That would take far too much time.

So…my plan now is to worry about drainage first.  First,(1) the roof will be built, (2)then I will get a backhoe, rented, or pay someone, which will not only dig the hole, but shape the earth around it so water is guided around it, (3)have several people ready with the roof to move over into it’s temporary spot over the hole, (4)line the hole with poly sheeting, then building will commence.  (5) I will screw something else up along the way.  😀 When it is all said and done, I will use concrete plaster for the top bags, as well as create a concrete gutter driving water away.

The roof is a bit tricky.  Since the roof is meant to be put onto the bags, strapped, and bonded, this means that when the bags have not been put up yet, it must stand on it’s own temporarily until the bags are up.  This means either putting 4+ 4×4 posts on the outside of where the bags will be while being built, or on the inside.  The outside is fine, the inside could get in the way, or act as another space to anchor shelving.

See, I have to learn the hard way often.  I think it’s because I like to just jump into things too fast.  If at first you don’t succeed, don’t try sky diving.  Generally, once I learn, I don’t make the same mistake again though.

I hope all this stuff I’m saying makes sense to you.  I also hope if you plan on building a root cellar, you don’t learn this the hard way.

If you look into my earlier posts of this summer, you’ll see I helped some good friends build a sun-room near Asheville.  My wife (Nicole), and I went up to hang out with them this weekend, to see the progress, and for Nicole to see their home for the first time.  She loved it.  It was very impressive to see lots of lights clicking on for her with what it means to live sustainably, as our friends, Morgan and Mary Jane are doing so well.  I should’ve taken pictures of their sun-room…dang it.  But they’re working on the flooring in there, but a lot has been done and it looks really great.

She said that she really liked their home, while it’s right for them, it wouldn’t exactly work well with having a toddler, however she took lots of great ideas home in her head. She’s actually thinking about replacing one of our toilets with a composting toilet to save water, and use as compost for our non-edibles.  I was most surprised by the idea that she wanted to do that more so than any other thing she said.  She’s also interested now in rain-water catchment, solar water heating, solar heating, and solar power.

Anyway, no work will be done on the root cellar today, as most of it is going to readjusting the foiled plan.  Blast!  I’m worried about building this roof.  I have to draw up an entire plan on how to build it, when I’ve never done anything like it before.  Wish me luck!

Later dirterators.

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Forecast: Muddy Sinking Death

So the forecast called for rain tomorrow.  Key word; tomorrow.  I thought to myself, I’ll just put the tarp over the gaping man hole tonight.  I’m sure I’ll have time. 

Little did I know it would start pouring before I got home from work.  This is “old man is snoring” kind of raining.  I know what you’re thinking.  “Oh no!  Now he’ll go back to the hole this weekend and sink into a giant puddle of muddy death!”  Well, thank you for your concern, my mildly interested reader.  But I actually thought ahead this time, and put up a make-shift roof this morning! A twist!

I put two X-like sizeable twigs ground-level on either side, with a small tree I cut for this sideways across the 6’6″ wide hole I dug.  Then laid other branches across longways, then a tarp, plastic left over from the Ikea couch we bought recently, and cardboard boxes.  It’s pretty ghetto, but hey, like my fake cousin from New York says, “It woiks!”

I hope it keeps the rain out well.  Especially since I made a blog post about it.  Life has a funny way of being ironic.  I prepared, but mother nature always has the upper hand.  The house always wins.

Side story: I did make my first cob wall this morning. … On my shoe.  I noticed it before I left for the store this evening.  I had to smell it to make sure it wasn’t….well.  Doodie.  Not that I have a dog, but maybe a woodland creature decided to grace my lawn with it’s… doodie.  The earth dug up from this project is pretty clay-y.  (Cob is sand, clay, binder.) There was clay, dirt, grass, half an acorn, and some other unknowns.  It would not come off with a jackhammer.  I looked like the guy from The Shining walking into the grocery store dragging one foot. 

Anyway, the moral of this post is to be prepared, lest you have a muddy sinkhole to trap people in and do other scary movie cliches like “It puts the lotion in the basket.”  For others who think about digging a hole this deep, I would seriously encourage you to have appropriate tarps in place before you start digging.  B/c working in a giant mud hole will not be fun.  I had enough stuff around to get by, but more real tarps would have been better.

One more thing I should note, for those who consider building a root cellar this way.  I am putting all the dirt I’m digging up that is 6″ below the surface level on the sides around the root cellar.  This makes it easiest for people to dig, chuck to the side, fill the bags then transport back into the wall space.  The first 6″ has too much root, leaves, and organic material to sort out for bags.  The roots would decompose in the bags, and cause gaps, leaving weaknesses in the wall.  Where it is on my lawn, is where big trees are, so the leaves compost in place and leave good garden material anyway, so it’s going on cardboard in place of briars and poison ivy I’m trying to kill.  I hope that all makes sense, but hands on experience makes you think of stuff like that anyway.

Now leave me alone.  Wait, I’m the one writing this.  Because now (being fall) I have a sick wife, a sick son, and an IPA to attend to.

Until next time, stay dirty.

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Worse Than Digging Your Own Grave w/a Bad Shovel

That’s right.  I came up with a new catch phrase.  Go ahead, use it.

You can use it for anything that sucks to have to do.

I came up with it after realizing how much it sucks to try to dig 8ft underground.  182 sq ft is roughly what I’m digging out(8ft down). So far after yesterday, and today I’m down about 5ft on the deep end of the stairs.  I made a few interesting finds while digging.  All with other new catch phrases* that you can start saying.

1. Once you get about 4 ft down in my yard, the clay is so sticky, that I can’t get it to launch the dirt from the shovel into the pile to use for bags.  It about throws your back out trying to shake it off the shovel.  CP*: “That ___ is more annoyingly clingy than clay on a shovel. Suggested use: A really needy/bad girlfriend/boyfriend.  (I did figure out a way to get it to unstick, just stab the pile of dirt with the shovel, and it comes right off, for those that run into that problem)

2. There were ants.  Freaking ants. Freaking ANTS burrowed about 5 ft underground.  I said Oh hell no.  These suckers needs to go!  They were carpenter ants or something, bigger than normal.  I don’t know enough about ants, nor do I care, b/c they all should die a horrible death.  Needless to say, I was very surprised to see them down that far. CP: They’re more evil than ants underground! Suggested use: When talking about the government or most mega corporations.

3. It’s extremely important to buy good tools.  I bought a more expensive shovel.  I cannot imagine trying to do what I have been doing with my other plain-jane shovel.  Mine is reinforced, with rubber grips, and a place to put your foot to drive it in. I imagine digging your own grave with a bad shovel would be the worst thing ever.  Catch phrase for this one is the title.

4. This is really slow to do alone.  I should’ve rented a backhoe.  Maybe I actually will, idk.  It’s going to take a while doing it by myself and only on weekends.  CP: Backhoe dat boy, he’s dumber’n dug dirt! Recommended use: Not sure.  It doesn’t make much sense. Sounds fun to say though.

Well, I thought of a lot more while I was digging by myself, b/c I think of weird stuff when I’m alone.  I just can’t remember the rest.  But those were the ones I remembered, the last one I just made up.  I’m tired.  This is hard work.  I did have one guy contact me to be interested in helping out. I hope more become interested.

For those interested: I will be digging for the next month maybe, and hopefully some will come along to help with digging the root cellar out first, but you can help with the actual building, likely in November.  I’m hoping we have a warm winter.  That would make for good building temps.  If it stays in the 50s and high 40s in December, that’d be alright with me.  But for now, I’m expecting the real building part to happen in later November, early December on Sundays and Mondays.

Stay dirty, my friends.



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