This is sooo beautiful. Well done if this is your work. John P.
Hello John, these two structures were built by Michi-san, a permaculturist and builder living in Nagano. He's a carpenter by trade, but not afraid to experiment with about anything.
Awesome! I have been following your blog for about a year now and I was excited to see the Shantikuthi earthbag spiral house make an appearance here. My wife and I attended a year-long, once-a-month Permaculture course at Shantikuthi last year. We worked with the owners, teachers, students and Michi-kun to design and build the house, literally from the ground up. Here is a post of my own documenting the initial building process: http://dreamseedfarms.blogspot.jp/2011/06/earthbag-spiral-house-in-nagano.htmlI think there are some videos on YouTube too. I'll look for them and post them in another comment if I can find them.Anyway, it's great work you are doing, showcasing so many natural building and farming projects in Japan and around the world. Maybe we can sling some mud together in the future!Kind regards,Rick on Ajishima
Hi again,Kenji-san uploaded nearly a dozen video slideshows of the building process along the way, but this one is the best at showing the tree lot spiral out of the earth and grow into a living structure, complete with veggie patches and miniature rice fields on the roof:http://youtu.be/F1qaOpIgz6EIf anyone has any questions about the earthbag house we built, just let me know. I would be more than happy to share what I learned from Michi-kun and the rest of the Permaculture folks in Nagano...All the best,Rick on Ajishima
Hello Rick,Thanks for the message. Great blog entry describing the construction process. I have a question for you:What were the ingredients and proportions of the earth bag mix?Last fall I received a small book describing the building process. I wondered who that Gaijin was. How did you find your way to Ajishima? And how can I contact you?Kyle
That's a great question. Kenji-san and Michi-kun decided to just use the dirt scraped off the site in the leveling process in order to fill the bags. This might be more info than you asked for, but I can detail the whole procedure...To start, they built a plywood frame that could hold four bags upright at a time for filling. The bags were a hemp burlap, possibly imported from the US. The bags were bulldog-clipped onto the filling frame and a screen of chicken wire was placed over the bags. We scooped up shovels full of whatever dirt was heaped up around us and dumped it over the chicken wire. This filtered out large stones and most organic matter, although a lot of both still got through to the bags.We then removed the frame and set to closing up the bags. Michi-kun had the great idea to use long screws and screw guns to seal up the bags. This went a lot faster than sewing shut them with wire or other methods I have seen for earth bags. The dirt on site seemed to have a lot of silt, a bit of clay and not much sand at all. After compacting in place on the walls, the bags seemed to harden up and retain that hardness at least until we plastered. It would have been perhaps a little better to do a quick jar test to see what was in the dirt, and add a bit of clay or sand as needed, but that is one of the beauties of earth bags, just plopping in whatever you have on site!The stone, gravel and sand for the foundation/french drain were bought in, as they were not present on site, as was dry concrete that was used to fill the first two courses of bags as a kind of stem wall. The bags over all the arched windows were also filled with dry concrete and left to cure with only atmospheric moisture.Sorry to ramble on. It was such a cool experience to work on. I made a lot of really great friends in the process, some of whom are even coming to a Permaculture reunion on Ajishima next month. My wife and I even asked Michi-kun to help us with our own natural building projects when we finally have the opportunity to get them started...Sorry again for the mega comment!
In my excitement over filling earth bags, I forgot to answer your other questions...I used to be an ALT up in Iwate. I met my wife at that time and we had this common dream to set up a Bed and Breakfast. We moved to the US together and settled on Colorado as a place to put down roots. However, we couldn't really seem to find a place to fit in, so after some soul searching we thought about escaping to some island somewhere. My wife used to come to Ajishima for all her summer holidays, and after we met, we visited together. We even worked one summer for our friends who run their own pension here. We fell in love with the island then, and decided later that we wanted to return. We moved back to Japan at the end of February last year and checked out Ajishima at the beginning of March. A week later the disaster struck, but thankfully we were with friends inland in Iwate. My wife is a nurse, and she was scheduled to start a working at a small clinic on the island, but we could not actually get to the island until May, as the ferry docks had been destroyed.Anyway, long story short: we are here now and in the process of starting up a permaculture farm and B&B. It is slow going as we have our eyes on a couple tracts of land, but haven't yet been able to finalize any deals.We have ample supplies of sand on the island, and meters-deep deposits of clay, especially in our gardens! And the last time on the mainland, we drove by a farm with huge stack of strawbales, an uncommon site in these parts. So we have all the basics, just no place to start building yet! All in due time I suppose.It would be great to stay in contact, and to possibly collaborate on some projects in the future.All for now...Rick on Ajishima
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