If you are new”ish” to the prepping or off-grid lifestyle, you may not be familiar with a type of house called an ‘earth ship.’ No joking! The first time I heard this particular home style, I couldn’t help but want to laugh and ask “space ship?” We’ve been researching all sorts of home styles including tiny homes, log cabins, traditional stick built homes, mobile homes, houses with a basement, ones without a basement and the list seemingly could go on forever. We’ve had to think about what exactly we want in our forever home and how will it fit our needs now vs when we are retired. Do we want to connect to the power grid or have solar energy? How about water? Do we have city water, drill a well, set up a water catchment system off our various roofs (think house plus multiple barns and workshop) or collect from our small stream and pond? What about composting toilets? Are composting toilets practical for our style of living or do we need a septic tank and leech field? If we go with a composting toilet, what do we do with our grey water? What IS grey water exactly?
It seemed that the more we researched, the more questions we had and the more our plans kept evolving and changing. The more we learned, the more we started dreaming. Mackay has an extensive background in construction and owns his own residential and commercial inspection company. My other job is a realtor and so we’ve both seen our fair share of homes and had at least a basic idea of what we liked and didn’t like. Thankfully, we have very similar styles that are compatible with our end goal! But what exactly IS an earth-ship? An earth-ship is in a nutshell, sustainable architecture, has passive solar energy, made of natural and recycled materials and often includes earth-packed tires for the foundation and structural support. They often have some sort of water-catchment system and ability to re-use the water in multiple ways. Layout of the surrounding land formation is important in design because cooling tubes are often used to help bring cooler air that’s passed through the earth into the building structure that has well placed sky-lights to allow the hot air to escape through. Heating is often done with wood-burning stoves and well-placed front exterior windows allowing for a type of green house effect. Energy efficient appliances are a must that run off either solar or propane. These types of homes can allow you to go completely off-grid!
Still skeptical? I was too at first and then we started watching youtube videos on construction and listening to testimonies of people who live in them and the more we learned, the more we fell in love with the idea of building our spaceship adjusted to our lifestyle and location needs. Yes, we are still in the beginning stages of planning and dreaming but the idea of not relying on the government for our electricity and water is appealing. Being able to be debt-free with minimal bills is appealing. Having a smaller energy foot print is appealing. Growing our own livestock for meat and milk is appealing. Having fresh fruits and vegetables year round is appealing with canned goods to supplement in the winter made from our own garden, is appealing! The possibilities are exciting and actually practical. Think of it, all the comforts of home yet living with a sustainable lifestyle while enjoying the fruits of your land, literally. Cannot wait to see what we discover next in the planning of our forever home!
However, building our forever home is not actually our next step in getting ready to move to our new property. We are wanting to pay off our land before starting construction on our earth-ship but we still need some place to call home in the meantime. We almost bought a mobile home to place on the property as a temporary solution until we could start building our earth-ship but we couldn’t seem to get everything to line up the way we needed it to. (Initially we were going to find a mobile home and renovate it.) After more research and prayer, we decided to build something that would add long-term value to our property that would be functional and aesthetically pleasing at the same. A Log Cabin! We should be able to cash-flow a small 600ft2 log cabin with a 300ft2 loft. I personally am very excited about being able to seriously downsize, live off-grid and not get into any more debt to have this home! (Eventually our log cabin will become a guest house for anyone visiting.) It’ll have two bedrooms on the main floor and one in the loft, one full bathroom complete with composting toilet and large soak tub, kitchen, living room with a wood-burning stove, solar for electricity and a large covered and screened deck. And yes, there will be air conditioning! A must-have for living in the deep south but we’ll also have well placed windows with screens and skylights to allow for airflow up in the loft area. Heat will be solely provided by the wood-burning stove which means we will be toasty warm all winter! As of right now, Hannah (our daughter) will have the loft bedroom and Joshua (our son) will have the main floor bedroom to share with his coming-soon brother Gatling. (Arrival expected in December.) The back yard will be fenced in with a playground and the front porch will have plenty of space for outdoor living (think rocking chairs and hammocks/swing). Our cabin will be within eyeshot of the pond and overlooking approximately 100 acres of woodland and pasture. Just think of that view! As of right now, the goal is to be able to start the foundation work sometime in either late September or early October. There is still much to be done, calculations to be made and more research needed but plans are coming together and progress is being made!
Living on a ranch and off-grid living is a process. There is no right or wrong way and there are plenty of options to be able to do this affordably and comfortably but it does require deciding on priorities as a family. Unless you have an unlimited budget, there are trade-offs to be considered like downsizing the main refrigerator because it needs to be either solar or propane powered and finding room for a highly efficient deep freezer that runs on it’s own power as well. What’s the point of having cattle, pigs, chickens, goats, and wild game if there isn’t a place to store it? We want a small dishwasher but know we can’t run it at the same time as say the oven or even a hair dryer. We will have to be highly aware of the energy consumption we use on cloudy days and simultaneously at any given point. Appliances will need to not have LED lighting that’s constantly running. With a rain catchment system, during the rainy season we will have more liberties at our water consumption than during the dryer periods. We’ll have to be aware of all aspects of natural resource consumption but we aren’t viewing this as a negative or something to worry about. Candlelight evenings may become more common than just wishful thinking. Watching tv will a planned event and not just background noise. Books will have priority on shelves over toys. Kids will be (and currently are) encouraged to go play in the mud with the dogs. It’s this inner desire to live a simpler, cleaner and more natural life as a family that is driving us make real, tangible changes. And we are loving all parts of this process!
I'm a wife, mom of 3 wonderful children, homeschool teacher and loving ranching. After Mackay and I married, we've been steadily pursing our goals of having a self sufficient life and teaching others along the way.