my madeleine

The smell of ocean brings back years of beach trip memories that can only make me smile. Sometimes it would just be the five of us, other years we had guests – aunts, uncles, cousins…whomever could arrange the trip was always welcome. Although I now perfer the seclusion and relative quiet of the Outer Banks, Myrtle Beach is still perfect for early morning walks.

I started out this morning before I usually rise – around 6:30 or so – and walked from 76th to the pier. It took about 2 hours or so although I was in no particular hurry. The weather today called for rain and the cloud cover when I left was impressive. It appeared the sun wouldn’t show its face all day. As I walked I spent most of the time staring down toward my feet – seeking shells while at the same time for personal safety (abandoned jellyfish count = 3). About halfway through the trip, I looked up to see a parting in the clouds and the sun struggling to come through. The colors were fantastic…At one point I had to stop just to watch the sun fight for its portion of the sky. The sunrise was made all the more impressive by the reflection on the water.

The lonely walk was refreshing although I did miss company – Mr. W, Neno, or my puppies. Ms. Holli loves the water. She will run head on into the waves after a ball or a stick and then come up looking shocked when the wave overtakes and she ends up under water. Cassie adores the beach. She’s impossible to control until you let her off leash and then will run full on down the sand stopping every so often to look back. I’m never sure if she’s checking to see if I’m still there, or to see whether or not she’s in trouble. When she sees a group of birds, she’ll circle away from the water and come at them from the side in true herding style.

I met two dogs along the way. One was a lab – out of control – named Tribeca. He let me pet him and as expected (it’s a Lab afterall) when I leaned down he promptly licked the side of my face and my ear. The second dog was a Jack Russell (I could tell from way down the beach) who was literally running in circles. I walked away laughing.

There’s something so calming about the sound of ocean and the feel of the sand under my feet…

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Earthships 101

So here are the details – Earthships 101 – I will warn you that I am a novice, but I have absorbed as much as I could since yesterday and here’s what I understand thus far:

  1. Eartships are built from recycled materials. The supporting walls are used tires packed with dirt and pounded down (36″ thick). Interior non load bearing walls are concrete interspersed with used aluminum cans/glass bottles.
  2. Earthships are entirely off grid. Each earthship has solar panels for electricity, a solar hot water unit, passive solar design, and a cistern for rainwater. The rainwater is filtered and used for potable water. The water from the sinks, bath, and shower are then filtered and pushed into a greywater system which is used to water the plants throughout the whole in a drip system. The water that drains from the planters is pushed into the toilets for flushing at which point the water is marked as “blackwater” and is no longer usable so it enters a traditional septic system outdoors. Off grid = no utility bills. Ever.
  3. Earthships are literally built into the earth (see photos). The thick walls as well as the portion of the building that is seemingly underground take advantage of thermal mass to ensure no heating or cooling system is necessary.
  4. Earthships are beautiful.

Since yesterday, I’ve watched a ton of videos and perused pictures of earthships. The majority are in three communities in New Mexico where the Earthship creator – Reynolds – lives.  Each is a truly unique structure. There are no words.

A couple pics of the Earthship we visited in NC are below. They are linked to pages with larger images.

Earthship Entry Earthship Planter Earthship Kitchen Earthship Bedroom Earthship Bathroom EarthShip Exterior

Touring Away

So, I can say, without hesitation that we are in love….with Earthships. We had the privilege of attending the 2007 Solar and Green Home Tour in Asheville. Of the 10 homes on the tour, we chose three that were our priority to see.

The first was incredibly hard to find. We thought we followed the directions, but ended up in Montreat (a beautiful town with a Ten Thousand Villages store…I bought a wonderfully carved wooden box that made the journey completely worthwhile). When we finally got ourselves on the right path, we discovered that the house was up a mountain – literally! Of course, the road was not paved, so I spent the better part of the trip crossing my fingers that we wouldn’t slide backward or off the side. The house was quite nice and the owner and builder were both available to show us around and answer questions. It was a modular they had “greened” in a development that now includes 200+ acres for very few homesites. The openly discussed challenges with their system and I saw (for the first time), a solar hot water setup that was attached to the side of the house. Very cool.

The second home was a bit easier to find, but straight up a mountain none the less. It is also on the Parade of Homes so we knew it would be of a slightly different caliber. Sure enough, shortly after walking in we were approached by the owner/developer who wanted to share with us the details of her community. It turns out, she and her husband bought a mountain and a river with the thought of building a green community with amenities. They built the first and highest house on the property and have sold other home sites from 1 – 3 acres. All houses will be required to have geothermal heat, solar, a passive solar design, and sustainable materials. Eventually, the community will have a solar heated pool, a labyrinth, hiking trails, and gardens. The house itself was gorgeous. Big open spaces with fantastic views. As I expected, it was slightly out of our price range – only 1.96 million or so. Still interesting to see…

The last house was by far our favorite and has to be one of the most beautiful houses I have been in. It is an Earthship. Built by a builder and his wife who moved from Oregon (I believe) to NC. Eventually they ended up in Madison County. I spent the night dreaming of plans and how living in one would change my life. An explanation of an earthship is to follow.

It’s all about the timing…

Well, the current gardening year has ended. We have a few stragglers still – two hearty pepper plants that I can’t seem to part with as they are still producing small green peppers, and a large volunteer tomato that’s determined to see if it’s able to produce (and who I am to stop it?). Other than that, the garden has been closed down for the season to be prepared for the next. I have tons of veggies in the compost bin, simply awaiting the addition of leaves to begin their process, the worms are busy creating fertilizer out of our old newspaper and fruits, and Wayne began the Great Garden Prep Project. We decided (partly out of curiosity and partly out of laziness) to try no till gardening this year.

Basically no-till requires layers of cardboard or newspaper covered in manure and/or mulch on top of each bed which breaks down slowly over winter. In an ideal world, the lack of light kills any weeds that may have been sprouting, and the newspaper/cardboard/manure/mulch mix adds much-needed nutrients to the depleted soil. We decided to expand the garden and are trying the no till method to rid of the grass in the new area. We’ll see how we do.

Our garlic arrived last week, and Wayne (kind as always) went ahead and prepped the bed (mixing in manure as we don’t have the luxury of no-till for that bed), planted the garlic, and mulched the bed well. We’re using Kettle River Giant Softneck Artichoke Garlic ordered from Seeds of Change. I picked it for ease of growth and storage potential. Last year my garlic didn’t do so well, but I may have tried to harvest a bit too early. This year I will be more cautious as with all fruits and veggies it seems to be all about the timing.

The Fedco Tree catalog was awaiting me when I arrived home today. Every year I oogle the tree varities and make big plans about the orchard we will have one day when we have land. I think I may just bite the bullet and order the cherry trees that I have been lusting over. Even if they don’t produce, they are beautiful in bloom and for $20 + shipping, they will be worth every penny.