Ermine in Summit County … and in the house
Posted by sibylle in Colorado, earthship (Tuesday December 7, 2010 at 1:31 pm)

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Ermine running across the floor

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Ermine running along the planter wall

The Summit Daily, our local paper, recently wrote about an ermine that visited a ski shop in Frisco.

Last year, an ermine weasel ran around my house and jumped  in the planter. At the time, I wasn’t sure what it was; but this story in the Daily, by Dr. Joanne Stolen, gives more information about ermine.

Apparently Mustela erminea is a type of weasel that eats mice and rodents. I already have a cat that eats those; but so long as the ermine doesn’t attack my cat, he can help out with the mice.

According to Stolen, the ermine, or short-tailed weasel, ranges from 8 - 10 inches. the coat changes color, turning white in winter.

They eat not only mice, but also devour animals much larger than them - including rabbits, porcupines, frogs, and birds (which made me worry about the cat).

I’m not sure if my house is now the location of one of its dens, or merely a part of its territory. I guess I’ll find out if little ermine start appearing next!

Ptarmigan Mountain, Summit county, Colorado
Posted by sibylle in Colorado, earthship (Friday October 15, 2010 at 9:30 pm)

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I walked part, and ran part, of the Ptarmigan Peak trail four days this week - Monday through Thursday.

Why this passion for the Ptarmigan trail — mainly, because it starts across the street fro my cabin.

The view above is from my house, looking toward Lake Dillon and the Tenmile Range.

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From higher up, you can see Baldy and Guyot on the left, the Mosquito Range , and then the Tenmile Range (including Breckenridge) on the right.

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The trail starts in sagebrush,  but soon heads into a grove of aspens, then into coniferous forest, and ends above treeline.

It’s 6 miles to the summit, but I generally do about half and then turn around and run down. I cheat some, and run downhill more than uphill (but I can rationalize that as being good for skiing).
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Sunset over Lake Dillon

Earthships, snowy winters, and catch water
Posted by sibylle in earthship (Tuesday February 2, 2010 at 9:05 pm)
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Snow covers our windows after a storm

After my last post about living in an Earthship in Colorado above 9,000 feet in winter, several people wrote to ask about how the Earthship works. I’ll try to answer some of the questions in this and the following posts.

 

First, Michael Reynolds of Taos, New Mexico, designed the Earthship as a passive solar, super-insulated, potentially off-the-grid home to be as self-sufficient as possible. It has thick earth walls that retain heat that enters the house through the numerous south-facing windows. Like a greenhouse, for plants, Reynolds designed the Earthship with slanted windows (glazing).

 

In snow country, snow tends to pile up on the windows, preventing the sun from heating the house interior on sunny days unless I first go out in the morning and sweep or shovel the windows clear. If we have a big storm, with heavy snow, the snow accumulates on the windows up to several feet deep (or thick), a result of the high winds at this altitude that blow snow over the entire roof and down onto the windows.

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Tristan excavates the snow, with blocks that weigh 70 pounds or more

 

In a normal house, with vertical glass, and a roof overhang, the snow rarely even hits the windows, much less sticks to them. If you’ve ever lived in snow country, you would have noticed if the windows were snow-covered after each storm, preventing light from entering. Does any reader have vertical windows where the snow sticks to the glass?

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One further issue is water. The design calls for catch-water from the roof to drain into tanks in the house that provide the water supply; with a 3,000-gallon holding tank the norm. In the Rockies, with temperatures ranging from 30 below at night to below zero in many days in December and January, snow falls on the roof but does not melt. I depend on about 2,500 gallons to last as my water supply from November until March – 2,500 gallons for 5 months equals 500 gallons per month; which amounts to 16 – 17 gallons per day.

 

We have composting toilets that require no water, but that still leaves us with less than 20 gallons for showers and washing dishes per day for the household. Reynold’s concept may work well in a rainier climate, or at lower altitude, but here, while the Earthship may be somewhat self-sufficient, we use the gym for showers and the Laundromat to do laundry.

 

Having more, and larger tanks to hold more water would work in cold climates. Still, if one can get no additional water for 4 months or longer in the year, storing enough water to comfortably last for that time may be challenging.

Earthship living at 9,400 feet in winter
Posted by sibylle in Colorado, earthship (Friday January 29, 2010 at 9:55 am)

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South-facing windows covered in snow


When it snows at my house – an Earthship that I built in 1995  as little as one inch of snow will, given windy conditions, cover my front windows with snow.

 

Earthships were designed by Michael Reynolds, who initially wrote three books about how to build these passive-solar heated adobe homes: Earthship: How to Build Your Own, Vol. 1 ,

 

Earthship: Systems and Components vol. 2,

and

Earthship: Evolution Beyond Economics, Vol. 3

 

While I’ve seen many books and websites about how to build a passive solar Earthship, or similar, type home, I’ve seen few books or articles that discuss living in one. Since many people, once they hear that I own an Earthship, ask me about living in one, I’ll share my experiences.


 

 

Living in the Earthship has both advantages and disadvantages. I’m at between 9,400 and 9,500 feet in the Colorado mountains, with the expected cold and snowy winters. When it snows, it often blows, and the windows (my heat source) become coated with anywhere from a few inches to a foot or two of snow.

 

Thus, first thing in the morning, I need to sweep or shovel the windows to clear the snow. After a big storm, we’ve had several feet of heavy wind-packed snow (think 50 – 60 mph winds with 80 mph gusts) that my son has struggled to excavate and remove. I asked Solar Survival Architecture  (Michael Reynolds company in 1994, when I bought my plans) for vertical glazing, but at the time they refused to sell a design with vertical windows. Had I known how difficult it would be to shovel my windows after every snowfall, even a small one, I would have waited until vertical-glazing designs became available. I believe that they now offer vertical glazing.

 

In future posts, I’ll discuss heating with a wood stove ( and chopping the wood). In past posts, I’ve talked about repair of the stucco walls, both interior adobe  and exterior stucco.

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After a storm

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