Note on 07/20/2016: This post was written about 4 years ago, in July 2012. Our project has come a long, long way since then. Yet, this post and a number of others from 2012 through 2015 never got published because I was so busy. I’m going through now that we’ve wrapped up much of our landscaping work and updating the site with this content, and dating it appropriately for when it was written and should have been published.
Two weekends ago (June 2012) we held an Earthbag Building Workshop with Scott Howard of Earthen Hand. It turned out to be an excellent weekend of work and learning. Over the course of 2 days, 16 workshop attendees including us were able to learn earthbag building basics and complete about 20% of our overall wall project. Despite some nasty rain as we started working on Saturday, we finished roughly 50 feet of wall, 3 feet high (the finished wall will be about 120 feet long, and 6 feet high). Here’s a quick photoset of the weekend with some notes:
Assembling Our Tools
Screening the Fill Dirt down to 1″ – if we didn’t do this the larger rocks could break our tampers later on, and the bags wouldn’t have as much structural strength. If you make your own screen I highly recommend adding metal corner braces in addition to long screws – it helps a lot!
Filling Bags on Bagstand – Once the earth fill mix is completed you can get the bag onto a bagstand and begin filling. Partway through each bag we do a vertical tamp to make sure the bag is filled tightly.
Adjusting a row – You want to get all of your bags placed well the first time, but that said there are always mistakes. Fixing them is usually as easy as lifting and replacing the bag, or hitting it with the tamper to move it in another direction
After an entire row of bags is laid into place, we all tamp the bags really hard so that they (A) flatten out and (B) lock into the barbed wire below and to the other bags in that row. After we had finished tamping, Scott Howard would come through to give his “Tamp of Approval”
Once the entire row of bags is tamped, it’s time to lay down 4-prong barbed wire on top. The barbed wire acts as a mortar and prevents the bags from moving horizontally. An easy way to roll out the barbed wire is to put it on a pick-axe like in this photo.
The view from our driveway (looking North) – eventually the wall will continue all the way down the gravel trench in the photo. Because we have decided to do that section of the wall later in the summer, the next photo shows how we’ll connect the two sections.
Applying Cob to Earthbags – At the end of the weekend Scott gave a quick demonstration on how to apply cob to earthbags. We won’t be applying cob to our wall, but we’ll be applying a cement stucco in a similar fashion (we’ll just need to add a lathe like chicken wire).