Homesteading in Thailand

front-porch-recycled-wood-house

Owen Geiger is well known for his work in earthbag construction. He lives in Thailand and is building a sustainable homestead on a half acre of inexpensive low lying land that was once a rice field.

During the rainy season the rice fields flood so to stay high and dry they brought-in about 200 trucks of cheap fill dirt to raise the property above the neighboring rice fields. The dirt came from a spot about a quarter mile away so even with so many trucks he reports the cost was low.

The disadvantage of using cheap fill dirt to raise the property is that it has almost no value for gardening. To remedy that and keep everything low cost, they are making their own fertilizer and compost from fermenting food scraps, composting, and worm castings. Over time they should be able to breathe life into that sand & clay fill dirt.

The house they are building is made from mostly recycled wood from an 50-year-old house they tore down. Some of the wood in the old house had been recycled from an even older home, so some of the hardwood beams are about 100 years old.

The house was mostly designed by Owen’s girlfriend. They decided to divide up the various projects between them to speed things along. Owen took the garden, pump house, and barn – she took the kitchen garden and house. While the house looks fairly large it’s mostly porch. When complete it will be easier to see just how small it is.

The pump house is an earthbag structure – actually a prototype for an emergency relief shelter and cost just a few hundred dollars to build. Earthbag structures can be built quickly and inexpensively from local materials and are strong enough to resist earthquakes and high winds.  These attributes make earthbag construction better than tents and prefab shelters for emergency relief.

Even if you have no plans to become an expat in Thailand, Owen’s work here shows how cheap land can be transformed into a homestead for very little money and a lot of hard work. This model could be adapted for many parts of America and beyond. It wouldn’t be easy and might be the biggest do-it-yourself project imaginable – but as you can see, it can be done.

They’ve started a new Natural Homesteading YouTube Channel to document the project. You’ll find a new tours of the property that show the initial stages and progress to date. You can find more updates and ask questions at the Natural Building Blog.

Below: A view of the pump house.

Natural Homestead Pump House

Below: Surrounding rice fields.

Natural Homestead  Rice Land

How to Build a Fortress on the Cheap

Aaron is an amateur owner-builder putting together an earthbag home on his land in Texas. In the video below he gives us a tour of the home in it’s current unfinished state. The house is small (not tiny) and appears to have a couple of small bedrooms, one bath, and a combination kitchen & living room. The house also includes a small root cellar accessed just outside the home.

Aaron is one of a growing number of people hedging their bets in case the powers-that-be fail in their attempts to stabilize the economy. He’s put his money and time into his land and preparations in case our civilization buckles under the strain of an oil collapse or other traumatic events.

Rock on Aaron! Looking forward to seeing more of your homestead!

Update: After a long internal debate Aaron and his wife chose to sell the land and leave America.

The Homestead at Denison University

This is slightly off-topic but very relevant to designing a complete sustainable homestead, which a house is just one component of the whole system. The other components needed to sustain life vary depending on where you choose to live, but the study of self-sufficient homesteading can provide the complete picture of what a sustainable life requires.

The videos below show a continuing project called The Homestead at Denison University, that got its start back in 1977. These students live, work, and learn at this on-campus sustainable homestead. Here’s how they describe the origins of the project:

In 1977, a group of students and Dr. Bob Alrutz, a biology professor at Denison, began an experiment. Their mission was to create an agriculturally based self-reliant democratic community. The land would serve as the experiment station; and they would test environmentally sound materials, agricultural and living practices. Faculty and students worked together doing research and building. They had a seminar with a variety of teachers including Dr. Alrutz and Dr. Paul Bennett. They built three cabins to house twelve students, with the expectation that those cabins would come down and new ones would be built about every three to five years. The Homestead thrived.

It’s inspiring to see a university taking sustainability so seriously and supporting a project like this for more than 30 years. Learn more about The Homestead at Denison University