Thursday, November 29, 2007

Recipes for the Collapse Step Two: Secure Sustainable Housing

By freeacre

Times are tough, and getting tougher. The housing boom has turned into a pimp job. One of the pimps, Henry M. Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, became the Secretary of the Treasury. Others will head up agencies like HUD, the CIA, go into consulting or become lobbyists. Many will continue their lucrative careers on Wall Street, despite the havoc they have created.

Is “pimp” is too harsh or vulgar a term? A pimp, after all, figures out a way to make you go out and work and then makes you give your hard-earned money to him. He does this by a combination of impressive clothing, ostentatious personal possessions, guile, seduction, bribery, intimidation, connections to power, and a ruthless devotion to his own personal profit. In return you get his “protection” that may, unfortunately, include the back of his hand. Re-visit the term once you find out that your 401K and/or your pension have been wiped out, and you find out that you have been … what’s the word? Pimped.

By now we all know what these miscreants have done in their no-holds-barred fantaz-o-rama scheme to create trillions of dollars worth of illusionary financial “vehicles” on the backs of the people with the least money to spend. Once enticed to sign their lives away on mortgages that would explode in two or three years and become impossible to re-pay, the gullible and the just plain slow-thinking were assured that they could re-finance (for a fee, of course) their home over and over again. Perfect! The financiers could then parlay the collective interest on all the loans, into hundreds of times the original value of the debt, make money on each new and incomprehensible transaction, and bestow upon themselves billions of dollars in bonuses on top of the exorbitant salaries and commissions they already collect - with no oversight from the government. Hell, the financiers RUN the government. What a country!

Free money for you, too, Jack and Mary! Places like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Target, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, et al, were thrilled to help you spend that re-fi money to re-model and re-furbish that dandy piece of investment property. You could put it all on your credit card from City Bank and Capital One. And, while you are at it, why not buy another one? “Flip that House!” the diamond-dripping real estate wizards advised. Yeah! Housing can only go up, so you can’t lose! Think big. Forget about that puny two bedroom Cape Cod that you grew up in. Now, it’s all about planned communities of 3,000 or 5,000 square foot McMansions with granite countertops, computer/ entertainment centers, hot tubs, fully equipped exercise rooms, and windows the size formerly reserved for cathedrals. So what if it costs a ton of money to heat or cool and the commute is an hour each way to work, and there isn’t a place to buy food or toilet paper for ten miles in any direction. It’s got a Starbucks and a Juicy Juice and three Mexican restaurants and an Outback practically around the corner. Not enough room to plant a garden on your lot, but what are you, a freaking farmer?

Meanwhile, that mortgage of yours was sold, bundled, and re-sold, and has morphed into a global financial Frankenstein monster that has turned on its perverse creator and is about to kill him in a tormented frenzy. (Well, one can wish. . .) Most probably, the overlords have already off-shored their money, secured a nice ranchero in Patagonia and some time share property in Dubai. Good riddance. See you in World Court.

The rest of us suckers, once the economy completely tanks, are looking at being thrown out of our homes, reduced employment, truly crippling inflation, mounting energy costs and scarcity on every level. To survive, we are going to need a roof over our heads. Not an investment vehicle, but a home. It’s going to need to be secure, sustainable, and affordable. To those of us facing foreclosure and owing more than the house is now worth, it may be better to embrace the foreclosure than to engage in drawn-out battle to keep the house. Save up as many payments as you can to be applied towards renting something affordable or purchasing a travel trailer or some other alternative. Let the investment class eat the loan and suffer the loss. They are the ones who manufactured this debacle and all you’ve paid on it was interest anyway. Once the housing bubble is history, the next home you buy will be more realistic.

In these changing times, our esteemed elder, Montana Freeman, has been known to ask, “What’s a motherfu**er to do?”

The greater culture herds us like cattle into differing stations to be milked, used as draft animals, medicated, fattened up, or slaughtered. Escaping the factory farm requires a serious flexibility of mind and behavior. It is going to require a cultivation of a sense of power and purpose. It is going to require motivation and inspiration beyond the bling of materialism and one’s status in the matrix. It is going to involve new and better ways to enjoy ourselves, raise our kids, and do our work.

There are going to be a million different answers for a million different situations. Depending on whether people are young or old, working or not, single, partnered, with children or without, urban or rural, the responses to an economic collapse are going to have to be tailored to your needs. Now is the time to amass money and survival supplies. That way, once the economy seriously tanks, you will have some money (or gold) to purchase larger ticket items that will be selling for fire sale prices.

As a general rule, though, single people will probably find it easier to keep a roof over their heads if they form communes, or at least team up to share rental expenses. This would also provide an opportunity to create new ways to live, help each other become free of debt, gain a better understanding of what is going on in the world, build trust, make friends, have fun, while developing a financial cushion.

Young and old may make new alliances. Old people might have a paid for place, but need some help when the money becomes practically worthless and the gas prices are prohibitive. They might be able to rent a room or two for a single parent and a child to live in who will agree to help out with gardening, chores, going to the store, etc. The homeowner could help with childcare. Find each other through classified ads, message boards at community colleges, senior centers, or churches.

My son is single and in his late twenties. He is thinking of purchasing a yurt. It could be placed on our property or it could be moved to another property once he has land of his own. One might want to purchase a travel trailer that could serve the same purpose. It could be placed on a property in exchange for services to the land owner – snow shoveling, landscaping, or a little rent. Land use policies will be difficult to enforce once thousands of citizens start bending the rules at once. Bunkhouses and mother-in-law units could ease the housing crunch. Port-a-potty rental companies could be a lucrative post-collapse business venture because there is a limit to the carrying capacity of rural septic systems.

Over the next couple of years, many residential and commercial properties will be foreclosed and vacated. Left unattended, they are looted and vandalized. People could team up and make a deal with the banks or whoever holds the deed to the homes that they will provide security and keep the place tidy in exchange for being able to live there until the places are sold. Once that place is sold, they can move on to another place that needs a house sitter.

It may be best to leave the country altogether, especially if one is of the age to be sucked into the service of the military/industrial complex. Who knows what it will look like in another five years? There could be Halliburton or Blackwater dormitories full of corporate goon squads composed of young people, previously hungry and unemployed, working for food, a bed and computer games. It may be better for you to book to Costa Rica, Canada, Chili, Argentina, Belize, or just about anywhere. Get a passport now.

I housed a homeless man for several months in my backyard in Tahoe one year. I didn’t have any spare rooms, but he used my tent. In the spring, he looked after my mom, who was getting senile. He just kept an eye on her so she didn’t get lost or set herself on fire or anything. It worked for both of us. Lots of companion arrangements could be made for the able-bodied to take care of the elderly or disabled in return for a place to live and some food on the table. Meaningful relationships can be established that enrich both parties as well.

Depending on how hard and fast the crash is, larger spaces like malls and Wal-marts might become habitable for larger associations of people. Imagine that a hundred people took over a Wal-mart building to live in. During the day, they might forage for tires, metals, plumbing supplies from abandoned buildings or other things to repair, barter or trade. They would help each other out with childcare and cook communally. They could drum and dance and tell stories and teach each other things at night. You might want to get going on a drum or a musical instrument just for fun. My son has learned to play the didgeridoo – way cool!

Right living is going to have to be tied into Right Livelihood eventually. But, it’s all going to require flexibility to experiment with new ways of doing things. It’s going to require that you shun the corporate messages to be fearful and hate-filled and suspicious of the person next to you. The Suits want you to see the guy on the street as your enemy and not your potential ally. It’s easier to funnel us into the feedlot one by one. If we stick together, we don’t fit so well into the tube. I have a feeling that when the fist of the Ruling Class has its grip relaxed by their newly established insolvency, there will be a great collective breath that the populace will then be allowed to take. It will begin to make all things new. Not that there isn’t going to be a lot of suffering, but at least it will be real. We have been living in a false world fabricated out of marketing injunctions and crass disregard of the well-being of our planet and all its living things. We have been made to feel helpless against the tide of greed and despair. We have been trying to mask our pain with products that never seem to do the trick. So we are advised to buy some more.

But, when it comes down to having a roof over our heads or not, suddenly the illusions and distractions will be blown away. The televisions will be turned off, finally. The prescriptions for Prozak will no longer be filled. Reality will jam us in the face, and some nimbleness of mind will be required. Pain and loss will be involved.

But, inspiration and joy, energy and exultation also spring from real life. Real pride rises from accomplishing difficult things. In five years, roof-top and patio gardens growing salads and vegetables for the residents of townhouses might become the norm. Tenants might get organized and buy the buildings they are living in. Home-based or building-based businesses might be established. Co-ops and collectives of every sort might be formed as they catch the wave of localization. Even those goofy yuppies might jump off their treadmills and actually jog to a farmer’s market!

Political parties, as usual, will be of no help. They seem to think we are supposed to support them, not the other way around. But, churches and civic associations might turn their considerable resources to organizing their memberships to develop places to live and grow food, just as a few radical churches are helping people get free from debt. (See “In Debt We Trust” documentary.) There is, after all, no shortage of homes – just the will to allow us to live within them.

The world will grow tired of these moribund old men (and dumbass younger ones) who have served us this disaster. Dollar signs are not a good substitute for our lives and our natural heritage. It is time for them to take that long walk towards the ice pack and leave us the hell alone. We need to clean up this mess and learn to take care of each other again. For so very long, the Earth was our home. Let’s get it back.



rockpicker said...


Much residual energy emanating from this one, freeacre. Many great ideas. You must be vibrating. I am.

Anonymous said...

Right on freeacre! "Flip that house"...too funny. You could write a screenplay of the future with the housing porn pimps getting their just due. What an inspiration you are! You should be the damn housing director!...many beautiful ideas. You got me stirred up. mrsp

Anonymous said...

If you are looking online for property to buy property abroad and if you find the property that you actually like it is a known fact that you should go to the country where you are planing property investment, because you don't want to end up in investing property abroad that turns out to be a real downer and in real bad condition, or even worse you could end up investing property abroad that ends up not even being there! So be sure to go there in person before you pay for the property, or if you are not able to go to the country where you are investing the property you could always have a family member or a friend that you trust with all the money to go and look at the property before you buy it, you could even ask him to take pictures of it or make a video of it for you so that you will be able to see for your own eyes.

Anonymous said...

freeacre, while reading your post I found myself beginning to make a to-do list of high priority items. Your words jogged something in me, this feeling of immanence. Your post was clear and to the point. Thanks.


freeacre said...

Hey, Buzzard, welcome to the campfire. It feels validating to me that you are taking the message to heart. Tangible plans and taking real steps is much less attractive to people than playing "Ain't It Awful," and just griping about everything. I'm sure many more people have ideas and experiences that could be added to the mix. Feel free to contribute anytime.

freeacre said...

Good advise! I would never buy property unseen. In fact, it would be better to rent in an area and see how the neighbors are and check out things like the water district and county politics before you make a big commitment. I remember once in Tahoe we used to laugh at this house that was right next to and under a huge rock cliff. In the winter, it would literally be buried by snow sliding off the rocks. It got sold almost every year to people we figured were from out of town.
By the way, raj, I hate to be so ignorant,but how do you do that link thing?

freeacre said...

By the way, Archdruid has some very pertinent things to say in his current essay, Lifeboat, at:

Anonymous said...

Trim this down if its to long fa.this post is where i have been most of my life and so its length.(:

Nice write FA,this is really a vital quest and one that i think should be seriously considered on as many angles as possible.first,thank you ras,its easy to love most of the time.
As this ones experience being raised much of the time as gypsy child with father following the temporary work trail i can attest to the fact that comfort is relative to the individual,and that is why we seek shelter, right? a place to relax in and be secure enough to refresh ones energy batteries for the next days procurement of vitals.Regardless of what that might be.
Ok heres a particle list of structures that this one has built,rented,bought,shared,
squatted in,
volkswagon vans
station wagons
under tarps
tee pees,(the absolute best hands down,it was a sixteen foot sioux and was cut and sewn together by one of the beautiful women that happen to ride the same trail as this one for a time,.as an all round shelter it is unsurpassed in my book for durability (if properly cared for,same as anything else for that matter) warmth,quick to assemble and can be toted on a car or behind a horse and dragged,and legend has it that it was inspired by a strange visitor from the sky,(one of several i might add). the plans for the one we built,( i cut and cleaned the poles,mostly)came from the book THE TEEPEE BOOK,which can be acquired from Amazon,easy to build,(took three days to sew in my sisters front yard)
This beautiful creation stood up to the the winter storms raging off the coast of Oregon as we squatted about only a quarter of mile off of the beach.
at night it looked like a Japanese lantern and attracted all kinds of inquisitive this is number one.
lets see what else?
an abandoned homestead in colorado.
a little house that i built on the back of a 1955 chevy pickup truck and lived in for three years with a small son,it looked like something out of an elfs manual,stained glass windows,and skylights so that we could watch the stars at night,was heated by a small propane catalytic stove and also cooked on when turned over on its side.

One morning in somewhere califonia, standing on the porch, my companion stood in astonishment as i on the top of a small sedan with jigsaw proceeded to lop off the entire top of the car, replace it with wood frame construction, covered with chicken wire, and fiberglass,and finally painted a lovely shade of green,loaded up the kids and boogied on down the road with room for five of us to sleep,
this just a small list but enough to give the general idea of what can be done,
o yeah, you can get little five sided medal pieces that one can attach to various lengths of two by fours and build a dome easily in one day.
bus business, o yeah this is all around all weather,solid to the bone structure on wheels,shitty gas milage,but then again its a permanent home if needed and can be configured inside anyway imagination can come up with. i have had three and still have one of which i lived in for five years and would not part with for love or money.
have had many offers but no way. it has been through many transformations as need arose and has been temporary quarters for family members and friends over the years and at this moment is undergoing the mother of all treatments to make it sustainable and leaving as little footprint as possible on mama earth.
beings of the age that this one has reached it is in this climate a last ditch approach to staying alive when the shit comes down, it is a tank weighing eight tons and runs like a top.
am learning also to make alcohol to run it on if necessary, was thinking steam but Stoney showed me the light about that deal so will go alcohol and as it can be used in other ways also will be good barter material.(happy hour comes to mind).
lets see, have acquired generator,huge greenhouse,very sweet Hasqavarna rototiller,and chainsaw,a multitude of building tools,and food preservation techniques,
building a smoker on the cheap by gutting out an old refrigerater,boring holes in the top,installing racks and with a small hotplate sitting in the bottom turned down low and apple or cherry wood pieces or whatever mounded on top of it the smoke coming off will turn jerky or what you may into delicious preserved substance.
you know this is extremely exciting stuff,some of the offspring are becoming interested and as events to large to go unregarded occur more will join in even as THE WORLD OF WARCRAFT (i hope)disappears from the seen.any kid in the known universe knows of this i think.
This is rather long i know but there seems to be space right now on the warm up bench so i'll let it happen.
You know, more important then all this preparation is a state of mine that has faith in the great spirit,because it will not let you down,.when faced with seemingly unsurmountable situations as this one has been blessed with and i know some folks here have too,. something good always happens even though at the time it just makes one want to give up, and that is exactly what i do, just give up,and allow the spirit room to play in your mind and give you just the right thing to do even though it may sound like lunacy at the time, have trust, absolute trust and the more of it the better,the universe loves you,and so do deserve happiness,it is your heritage when all things are said and done.
peace to all

freeacre said...

Montana, your memory banks should be declared a National Treasure! That's just what I am talking about - creative responses prevailing over a shortage of money. Stories like yours can inspire others to take a chance and make the moves which might, one day, save or greatly enhance their lives.
Kids naturally want to join in with projects that are real - like building a dwelling, smoking fish, picking vegetables, etc. They become a real blessing and develop a sense of worth while becoming viable in the world that they will inherit. All that running back and forth chasing a soccer ball, or skateboarding for years on streets and sidewalks could be used to accomplish a lot more meaningful activities.

murph said...


I really like your descriptions of the non commercial way to get what you need. Love it man. You do inspire you know.

...p said...

something good always happens even though at the time it just makes one want to give up....

something akin to jumping off the cliff. can sure as hell be scary though even for if one's inclined to riding on the tail of a bengal tiger, livin on the edge of the plate! but control ain't everything its cracked up to be either!!

freeacre said...

Just got back from a trip to Costco to pick up another 80 lbs. of dog food, 50 lbs.of bread flour, gallons of olive oil,more t.p., etc. But, in addition to all that, we went to a gourmet grocery in Bend that features goat meat. Wanted to try some goat so see if we'd want to buy a half a goat or not eventually. Damn! That stuff is $14 and $16 per pound!! It better be good! Even more outrageous was a package of frozen free range rabbit at $26 per pound!!! WHAT?? You can buy a baby rabbit at the feed store for about $6, I think. Get two and make a whole bunch of $100 rabbits. Now, there's a home business that could work (if ya could stand to butcher the cute little things...).

rockpicker said...

Article on LATOC says the cost of food in U.K. has gone up 21% in the last twelve months.

Here, in southwestern Montana, regular gas is $3.29/ga. and diesel is $3.90/ga. Milk is almost $5.00.

We had a grocery store in a neighboring town 9 miles distant go belly-up this summer. A result of poor management, I suspect. Now, our local IGA is all there is within a 40-minute trek. As the cost of mobility increases, merchants in small-town America will enjoy less competition from the larger markets. For a time, increased fuel costs will continue to be offset by savings the big city chains can offer "industrial-scale" buyers. But if you're only looking for a few items, it hardly makes sense to drive two hours to save a few cents on each item. Let's pray for sustained social integrity and morally-responsible self-governance on the part of our local food distributors as we ease towards the abyss. But don't count on it.

As the dollar loses value daily, I expect the merchants who make their livings providing non-essential goods to slowly, quietly close-up shop and disappear, while those clever, and lucky, purveyors of essential goods and services will be confronted with both new opportunities and heretofor unconsidered social responsibilites.

Maybe we'll find out what that flag in the store-front window really stands for.

More in keeping with the post topic, I had an opportunity to see up close a truckload of large, rectangular hay bales stacked two-high in rows the other day. Mighty impressive R-value was the first thought to come to mind. A domicile built of those things could be heated with a candle, I think. These particular bales were about 3' square and 8'long. The rancher figured they weighed about 1200 lbs.

I once received cursory plans for a building called a TriSol, designed by a guy named Leander Poissan, from New Hampshire, I believe.

His idea was to build a triangular shaped earth-sheltered structure in which the two bermed masonry walls came together at right angles at the rear of the structure and the third wall, or hypotenuse, was mostly glass and facing squarely south.

Both masonry walls were themselves triangles, high in the back, where they intersected, and sloping down towards the front. The roof had a central ridge that sloped from the point where the masonry walls joined, down to the south wall. This created a roof made of two equal-sized triangles.

The front wall was mostly glazed.

If I've done an adequate job here, you should be seeing in your mind a structure inherrently able to produce some very cool internal aerodynamics.

Let's say the two masonry walls are each 40' long. That makes the south wall approximately 56' long, as I recall. (A squared & B squared = C squared)

Imagine all the solar heat that place is going to have on a sunny day in January! What to do with all the excess heat? How to move it?

Good design to the rescue. Remember, the roof sections slope upwards to the back of the building, and since hot air rises, all the warm, expanding air at the glazing rises to the ceiling and eventually makes its way to the highest point of the structure, which is in the very back. There, the warm air encounters relatively cool masonry surfaces, which are dense and good at absorbing Btu's. As the warm air gives up its heat to the walls, it becomes cooler and denser, falls to the floor and is eventually drawn back out towards the front wall to replace the rising current of solar-heated air leaving the atrium.

Hey, indoor weather!

Soup-up this basic model by throwing in a false wall near the apex of the masonry walls, to create an air shaft, and cold air return ducts to a sunken greenhouse space and, violla!, you've got yourself a first-rate, passively heated and aerated domicile for thriving in the coming bad times.

...p said...

RP... great idea on the underground house which of course can be modified to size. this is long but you and mike oehler and the state of things have inspired me. indoor weather is right! the greenhouse and venting is what would really make this a winner. dynamics that really influence weather pattern movements are air temp (solar fueled), pressure, and humidity. we think wind does too but those dynamics actually create the winds and jet streams. they can be incorporated into the design. greenhouses can be great for this. you can get 9 months of growing time even in your neck of the woods and hold live plants stable for the other 3.

here's one design... say your standing in the yard facing north and the glassed wall of your triangle. from one end of glass wall (for discussion lets say from the right corner), pull 14' to the left. this becomes the southern end of the gh. turn north 90 and go 14' back to where it will hit your poured wall. the back 11' of that wall would be a poured wall, modify the left leg of your main poured wall to turn 45 degrees to the right where it meets that left gh wall. that point forms the north wall of gh. it raises there to above the elevation of the roof berm of the hse. run it 14' to the right, turn 90 south, go 11' while sloping down. turn 90east and slope to grade. you've got a 14 x 14 gh inside the structure with a roof higher than the house that will have glazing panels.

we're going to add a cold sink in those first 3 feet from glass wall to gh side ret walls you're wondering about. this is where the colder air will settle. also a great place for a compost bin which provides heat as well. add a vent system to promote movement and positive/negative pressure variations throughout both structures. first, the sink... visualize that glass wall. just inside it and running parallel with it is a 3' wide X 14' long pit. bottom of hole is 5' below bottom of glass wall. its south wall doubles as the foundation wall the glass wall is sitting on. the pit has a false floor in it roughly 3' below house floor/glass wall bottom with a slated floor and a pull up access door. the 5' deep north wall of pit is post and beam w/posts extending up to beam supporting roof and making a pitch transition location. top of glass wall in gh area steps down about 3' below the house portion. the gh roof above the pit pitches @ an angle loosly perpendicular to the sun angle somewhere between fall equinox and winter solstace. thats better than 12/12 at your lat. roof pitch changes over north pit wall post and beam to much lower over remaining 11' of gh which is your growing bed area. this catches the high summer sun. the plant bed is near floor level in house and extends from the pit to 4' short of north wall. you'll see what we're gonna do with that area in a minute. the 3' ends are conventional frame. you access the pit area from hse by a set of steps just outside the left wall which has a door in the 3' framed area. it takes 6 risers max to get there.

put a door in the opposite 3' east end as well. this gives access to outside with the east running ret wall serving as the north wall of the area. use it as emergency egress and to bring stuff in and out of gh without tromping thru hse. put a full light glazing in it and you have morning sun. can even put a glazed roof over this access area and a drain in the bottom of it.

add another door in your left main poured wall right behind where the gh intersects and you have access to a no-brainer space for a root celler. that space doubles as a safe hse from bad weather. blend the door in and you have a secret hiding place from the bad guys. triples as a pantry. you could even put a washer/dryer in there. put a breakout door in that ret wall going off the east side of gh. no one would ever know its there 'till you break out of it

now for ventilation. that same combo wall has operable vents in it thru to the gh and near the north end. up high... near the ceiling ht of the house and another below about half way down. you'd definitly want to put a vent in the ceiling of house where its poured walls come together since that's it's highest point. do it right and its also a solar light to help brighten that back area. gh also has vents in roof just inside the north wall. little pay back for those to be glass. both gh and
hse have slider windows set low in south glass wall to option venting in at those points.

the flow is always going to be to the highest vents. you can regulate humidity with water containers in both hse and gh. these can serve as heat sinks as well. all kinds of passive solar and weather patterns going on in this combo and other tid bits to improve efficiency and get light exposure to back of hse.

check out the left side elevation of gh in the photo on left side of this page...

thats near what i'm talking about except my south wall has some verticle glass (or slightly pitched northward) in it before the roof starts to pitch. this will give full light to southern most area of the growing bed even at winter solstace at canadian border as long as you have an un-obstructed horizon to the south.

now look at the elevation of the gh on right side of page. see FA's rabbits in the pit? thats their house! they have access to an outdoor run via 8" french pipe from the pit, up @ angle thru the ground, to the pen. left open its a full time vent and you don't want vent all the time so it has a baffle to close it off when needed. the pit is a gravity fed cold sink. colder air from the house and the gh settle in the pit.

notice the ducks in the cages along the north wall of gh? and the barrels? painted black and full of water, those are heat sinks and provide a platform for starter beds. gravity feed em from outside runoff and use to water plants by gravity feed as well. those bunnies, ducks and the 2 leggeds in the house provide additional co2 to the plants, another symbiotic bonus the plants will thrive on. pay em back for the favor by feeding em culled plant matter.

combining your dimensions and mine yields 686 sq ft hse and 196 sq ft gh with around 110' of growing bed. plenty big enough on both counts for a couple or small family even. gh is combo of poured walls and post-and-beam. roof and waterproofing are challenges but no need to reinvent the wheel. plenty of pdg info from others who pioneered the undergrounds and the materials and tech available today solve a multitude of probs inherent to the design.

sounds romantic but not nearly as some of that stuff MF's been into! and functional? you betcha! more functional than 95% of the std greenhouses.

also sounds expensive but can be done on the cheap. building supply houses are usually over-run with window sash, full light door replacement panels, special order stuff they end up eating, cull lumber piles, damaged insulation panels, etc, etc. its amazing what you can find. mine has a 10 year accumulation of the stuff that takes up 2 whole buildings at the back of their place. much of it double glazed and tempered. the secret is to find compatable stuff then design/build around it.

i'm seriously considering a stand alone underground gh. just as soon as i wrap up this in-law thingie in our basememt i'm working on. i just paid $250 for $800 worth of windows and doors for it with little or no stuff to fix on em.

freeacre said...

Alright, you guys, I need pictures. It all sounds great, but I'm having a hard time visualizing it, as I am spatially impaired.
Today, I made homemade bagels, since it is the beginning of Hanukkah. It was fun and quite easy and tasty! Bagels are a bread that you can make when you have no oil.And they are fun because you punch a hole in them and twirl them around your finger, then boil them in water a minute or two before you bake them. Can put an assortment of toppings on them and eat them a bunch of ways. Yum!
Maybe tomorrow I'll make some potato pancakes with sour cream and homemade applesauce. You know, just about every ethnic dish you can think of was originated by peasants of every country - all dealing with shortages and lack of things and they came up with wonderful comfort foods despite it all.
Rockpicker, gasoline prices yesterday here were about a dime cheaper, I think. Food sounds about the same. I was wondering, if you built a home with walls of hay bales, would you have to worry about spontaneous combustion as the hay deteriorated? Hate to have the whole thing go up in flames...

rockpicker said...


Good point. You would want to make sure the hay or straw was "put-up" dry. Used to burn down lots of barns in upstate NY by putting up wet hay.


I have a friend in Missoula who has developed a system of storing a whole year's supply of solar energy. He calls it Passive Annual Heat Storage.

It involves earth-sheltered construction, with backfill placed directly against the concrete walls and a waterproofed insulating umbrella over the structure.

To help charge the soil with excess solar heat during the summer months, he takes air out the top of the building and pipes it around through the soil, under the insulation, and drops it to daylight.

From the greenhouse floor, (lowest point) he runs another pipe out to daylight.

Take a deep breath. Exhale.

When the sun shines and the house heats up, the unwanted heat rises to the top of the structure, finds the exit pipe and is forced out of the building, giving up its heat to the soil, becoming dense and falling, due to its own weight, down the pipe to daylight.

This causes cool air to be drawn up the lower pipe and delivered to the greenhouse, replacing the hot air that's left through the upper vent.

At night, the process reverses.

Data indicate his design tested in Missoula, Montana stores enough solar heat in the backfill to carry the building, without supplemental heating, until late Jan. or early Feb., most winters.

ps FA- I love onion bagels

rockpicker said...


You seen this?

RAS said...

Guys, how would that house fair in the summer, when it's all ready hot and heat isn't necessary? Also, what about radon?

rockpicker said...


Earth shelters, in general, tend to stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than conventional, above-grade wood-framed construction.

The design mentioned immediately above will have lost most of its stored heat by spring, and it will take until Sept. to fully charge the backfill to, say, a stable 70 degrees, eight feet out from the building.

Adequate venting must be considered, though, and you are right to raise the issue. Also, glazing is a critical part of the design. You can have too much. But there are books on the subject and much data for guidance.

stoney13 said...

FINALLY I get on the comment board!

What a thick meaty ration of shit this thing has been giving me all week! I haven't been able to get on any Blogspot Comment boards (including mine!) except for Tom Degan's


Yep! I got that one a while back, and it's some seriously scary shit! Not surprising, though! They hold the note on this country, thanks to Bush!

What people don't realise is that most of the digital equipment that military has use Chinese chips! All that is required is a little "suicide" command built in to the input, or interface portion, and BOOM all the shit goes dead!

I LOVE the idea of the undergroud house! Add a steel-reinforced roof, with a well insulated cupbola extending above ground with windows around it for light, and you've got nice cozy digs that needs VERY little energy to keep it that way!

Montana Freeman,

Dial 1-800-345-4545, and get a Jegs catalog. It has all the stuff you need to convert your bus to alcohol. They've go a website, to, but it's hard to use, and takes days just to get a question answered.

I know catalogs are a waste of trees, but I don't see any way around it!

stoney13 said...


Love the post! We're still paying off the mortgage, but we've about got it paid! Moving now just wouldn't work!

Damn it'll be good to get out from under that note! We didn't fall for the "Refinance" hustle! I've seen tricks like that before!

...p said...

RAS.... since it has a high % of exterior surface underground, including the roof, it performs like a champ in any season in most areas as you can do things to create environment and then "hold" that much longer. ie, in summer, use the cooler nights to create like indoor environment and maintain that through the day. so the vents are open at night. daytime they close and so do the shades on the glass wall. vicie versie for winter. it would be advantagous to have that wall 2 - 3' in the ground before the glass starts.

like georgia, ala-damn-bama does have some summer nights that are stiffling... high temp and humidity. and it can get damn cold in winter. coldest i've seen it here in 27 years is 4 degrees. adding a geo-thermal system and some mechanical boost would be helpful. mechanical to de-humidify and geo for air conditioning. the house heats better in winter than cools in summer. but underground temps are fairly constant and hover around 50 - 60 degrees even on the hottest days. a good amount of excavation is usually involved in the construction. so going a little further to put in a small geo-thermal system is usually a shorter stretch at that time. that involves large piping in-ground through which air flows. again, its a venting system. air inflow outside at the surface, then down into the piping system where its conditioned to the underground temp as it moves through the system. close up everything except the inflow vent from the system entering the house and the egress vent in the ceiling at the apex of rp's poured walls. hot air rises and that dynamic "fuels" the system. it can be helped along with small fan at the egress vent if needed. if a fan is incorporated, another option is to design a way to connect the egress vent to the outside inflow as the air in the system (and the house is part of that) in a way that it can be diverted when needed. the system air is going to be cooler than the outside air. so its already got a big head start over outside air. all you have to do is keep it moving. as for the gh, thats when that lower vent comes in handy. open it and open the vent in the gh roof. if its really building up in there then open the door from the house a bit.

you got me on the radon question. i haven't researched that. but i imagine it has been and data is available and if i were building this i'd sure do some homework.

RP... is there anything on-line about the missoula project?

STONEY... GREAT idea with the cupula. thats one place where low e glazing or blinds on the windows would be good. i'd go for the e glass if i can find it salvage as the extra light would be sacrificed by the shades. and, since this is now the highest point in the house I'd have a vent in it with mechanical control. but i'd keep the other one at the poured wall apex and connect it to the geo system as well.

FA.... did you see the pix on oehler's site? take a piece of paper and draw a rt triangle with the 90 degree angle at the top of the page. its legs are rp's 40' long poured walls. its hypotenuse, which is at the bottom of your page, is 56' long and a southern exposure, glass wall. find the center of the south wall. draw a line from that point to top of page and perpendicular to the south wall. it will come together with the apex at the top of page. you now have two rt trigngles abutting each other with their rt angles at the bottom of page. what was rp's hypotenuse has become 28' legs and his legs have become the hypotenuse of those 2 triangles. the center line you drew are the other legs and are 28. long as well. now forget the triangle on the left side. we're going to modify the traingle of the rt side. find the center point of it's bottom 28' leg. its at 14' right? thats where the gh starts. starting there draw perp line toward top of page. it will be 14' long too cuz its going to intersect with rp's 40' line coming from denter top of page to bottom rt. you've now formed another the rt triangle in the right half of the triangle we're working with. its hypotenuse is 20', 1/2 of rp's original 40 leg. which means the other half of his leg is 20 long also. now draw a line from the top of the 14' line you just drew perp and to the rt side of your paper. make it 14' long and turn 90 degrees toward bottom of paper. go 14' and you've connected to the bottom rt corner of your original, main triangle. you just made a 14 x 14 square and it will have a line connecting the bottom rt corner to the top left. erase that diagonal line. that square is the gh. now erase the first center line you drew in to divide into 2 triangles. that's the rest of the house. you now have a drawing showing the house and the gh perimeters. those lines coming from top of page at rt angles to themselves are sloping down as they move toward bottom corners of your page. this provides slope to the roof and a high point inside the house twhere the hottest air is going to collect. this is where the vent i'm talking about goes. does all that make better sense?

now look at oehler's pix... the one on the right side of his page with the double pitched roof. you're looking at what would be the west elev of the gh... the side that is common with the house and we know to be 14' on our drawing. thats a poured wall or similar except in the cold sink area. oeler's sink is 4' wide. i cut it to 3. which means the other 11' is the poured wall portion and common with the house.

and btw, the post? great job. much appreciated by this one and many others i'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to an interesting website some of you might want to save and check in on periodically.

The story about an inventer, M. DeGeus, (Arie?), having been found slumped over his steering wheel in long term parking at the Charlotte, N.C. airport while on his way to Europe to seek major funding for a revolutionary energy-saving battery he'd invented is popping up all over the net. Both Cryptogon and LATOC are carrying the story, first released by Tom Bearden.

Apparently, DeGeus was recently in Salt Lake City, where he met with people who saw his invention and know who it works, so maybe all is not lost.

Anyway, there's some cool stuff on that website.

Anonymous said...

Would you mind sharing your bagel recipe in here? My husband loves fresh bagels and my mum too. I would be so grateful and would love to know how to make them. I have pulled a few recipes from but never looked for bagels. I know yours would be awsome and you probably know all the right tricks to making them.
It's a stormy windy rainy day here and same is forcast for tomorrow..perfect for baking. Peace and love to all, mrsp

Anonymous said...

new bumper sticker:

Free Energy Isn't Free!

To Bob Zimmerman,

They really do have a heart attack machine!

freeacre said...

Heck, I just started making these things myself, and my recipe is from I chose this one because it's so darn easy - uses a bread machine. But, I am pleased with them.

Bread Machine Bagels

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 teas. salt
2 Tbls. white sugar
3 cups bread flour (I always substitute about a third of a cup of either flax meal or wheat germ for some of the flour, just to be healthy)
2 1/4 teas. active dry yeast

Put all that into the bread machine and set on "dough" setting. When finished, take out the risen dough and let it rest on a floured board.

Meanwhile, start a pan of water to boil. Add 3 Tbl. of sugar to the water.

Then, make 9 balls out of the dough. Push your thumb or finger through the somewhat flattened ball and twirl it around your finger to enlarge the hole. Cover the 9 bagels with a towel to let raise for about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle some cornmeal on an ungreased baking sheet. Carefully transfer bagels to boiling water (I do 3 at a time). Boil 1 minute (I do 2 minutes 'cuz of high altitude), turning half way through. Drain briefly on clean towel. Arrange boiled bagels on baking sheet. Glaze tops with egg white, and sprinkle your choice of toppings (sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion powder or garlic salt) or all at once to make an Everything Bagel.

Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until well browned.

Break out the creme cheese!

The problem is that you may have to make another batch real quick because the first ones go down so darn easy!

freeacre said...

You know, I have a feeling that all we need, in terms of energy, medicine, food and everything else, has been provided for us by the earth already - if we were able to recognize it and use it in a way that is harmonious with the rest of the world. But,those who want to keep this hierarchy and power trip and profit motive thing going will fight tooth and nail to suppress the information or kill or incarcerate or intimidate anyone in order to keep their strangle hold on the way things already are.
They have all this really scary cop equipment and death rays, and nuclear bombs, etc. to keep us all in line. But, if we hang together and turn our backs on them and live smart and take care of each other and begin to relate to every one and every critter and to everything as though is is sacred and wonderful- we just might create a lifestyle that is so attractive to people that they'll just take off the jackboots and join up on our side. It was Benjamin Franklin that said something like,"if a man spends time with the savages, he'll never want to join society again."
Maybe I'm just being stupid, but right now I have just brought another batch of bagels out of the oven, my chickens are running around the yard and laying like crazy, the dog is napping, Murph is in the toasty-warm workshop with a fire going in the woodstove, and things are just so good, that I can't help myself. I am just flat out happy.
Kissinger and Rumsfeld, Chaney, and Rockefeller are getting real damn old. Unless they are taking some elixir that keeps 'em going, they will not be on this earth much longer, thank God. Their time is so over.

rockpicker said...

This just in;

"Update: WTP v. U.S.
Supreme Court Schedule Set

In the last Update, we reported the Supreme Court of the United States assigned Docket Numbers to our Petition for Writ of Certiorari (07-680 for the Petition by attorney Mark Lane, and 07-681 for the Petition by Bob Schulz).

We also reported the Government then had the choice of filing a Response to our Petition or a waiver of its right to file a Response.

This week, the Government filed a WAIVER, surrendering its right to file a Response to the Petitions.

The Court will now either send a formal request to the Solicitor General of the United States to file a Response on behalf of the Government, or the Court will advance to a decision on whether it will hear the case (without a Response from the Government).

A decision by the Court as to whether it will hear the case could be announced as early as January 7, unless the Court requests a Response from the Government."

more at

Anonymous said...

As those who have read Mike Ruppert might have expected, this cheery report from the Daily Mail, via LATOC.

"...That is about the only good thing you can say about the Taliban; there are plenty of very bad things to say about them. But their suppression of the opium trade and the drug barons is undeniable fact.

Now we are occupying the country, that has changed. According to the United Nations, 2006 was the biggest opium harvest in history, smashing the previous record by 60 per cent. This year will be even bigger.

Our economic achievement in Afghanistan goes well beyond the simple production of raw opium. In fact Afghanistan no longer exports much raw opium at all. It has succeeded in what our international aid efforts urge every developing country to do. Afghanistan has gone into manufacturing and 'value-added' operations.

It now exports not opium, but heroin. Opium is converted into heroin on an industrial scale, not in kitchens but in factories. Millions of gallons of the chemicals needed for this process are shipped into Afghanistan by tanker. The tankers and bulk opium lorries on the way to the factories share the roads, improved by American aid, with Nato troops.

How can this have happened, and on this scale? The answer is simple. The four largest players in the heroin business are all senior members of the Afghan government – the government that our soldiers are fighting and dying to protect.

When we attacked Afghanistan, America bombed from the air while the CIA paid, armed and equipped the dispirited warlord drug barons – especially those grouped in the Northern Alliance – to do the ground occupation. We bombed the Taliban and their allies into submission, while the warlords moved in to claim the spoils. Then we made them ministers."

Another reason to starve the Beast.

freeacre said...

Yeah, and all that laundered money from the heroin trade is probably what is funding the Plunge Protection Team propping up the stock markets and funneling money into the central banks....

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't surprise me to find out these Afghani farmers are driving John Deeres and using Monsanto's latest agribusiness techniques to produce consistent record harvests.

Brits and Americans; despicable pimps.

New 9/11 video comparing news footage of attacks in New York here:

Sept. Clues

I like the "nose-out" part.

freeacre said...

Reminds me of a line from the movie, "Live Free or Die Hard" that we just re-watched (great film, BTW). McLane wanted to listen to the "news" and the computer hacker kid objected saying something like, "What? You still listen to the news?? Don't you know that every single thing on the news is just there to manipulate you to be fearful so that you will buy more and more things?"

Anonymous said...

freeacre, thank you for the recipe. I've been away from the computer and just saw it. I think i'll try it tomorrow. You're a sweetie pie. love the posts lately, mrsp

Anonymous said...

After An Ice Storm On The Allegheny Plateau

Beyond the sumac tangle, where a thinning father saws,
a grandmother shagbark hickory sags with loss.
Split limbs scrape like clay shards tied in wind. Wind
the sawyer knows and ice conspire some bad years
to open crowns and let a good sun in. He revs
his Stihl. Green pulp sprays from kerfs and sticks
to boots, consecrating snow like scattered ash.

You stand a distance off and dream the taut trunk limber.
Remember a girl, smart, green as whip? You loved her.
This ancient snag, lithe in youth, was left by men
long dead for shade. You like to think she chose her ground,
bolted free of gloom so deep a bright moon hurt, and ran,
breaching walls to reach this mid-field stance. You're
confused. The figure you remember kept running.

Some bad years snap the stoutest dreams like twigs.
Cures fail. Stunned villagers inter a shining son.
A wife says 'leave.' Once each life thin fathers
flesh-out plans to restack stones, slash brush
and honour the old delineations. Buck the shattered way
life doesn't go. Toss rounds to boys who still trust dreams
and cart your grief like cordwood home in snow.

Anonymous said...

LATOC is carrying an April, 2007 article by Mike Maloney called "The Dow Is Crashing". It's full of charts to help explain why those little shopping bags you bring out from the grocery store are so damned expensive. Here's an excerpt:

"According to the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, total inflation from 2000 to 2007, using the Consumer Price Index, is just about 20%. This means the Dow would have to be at 14,100 just to break even. And that's if the CPI wasn't a made-up, hocus-pocus, voodoo fabrication (which it is). Here's why.

In calculating inflation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) takes a basket of goods and services and tracks their prices throughout the years. This worked just fine when they would track the actual price of the same items year after year. The problem is they no longer use the actual price, and they no longer track the same items year to year. If the price of an item has gone up so much that it might make whichever administration that is in power look bad, they simply drop that item from the basket of goods (deletion), switch to another item (substitution), or make up their own price (hedonic adjustment). Yes, the BLS has become just another division of the governments "Ministry of Propaganda". Its job is to manipulate the numbers, so as to paint smiley faces all over the economy."

Feel better to know it wasn't your imagination?

murph said...

Myself and a bunch of people have been bitching about this lying to the public for years now. Mike Ruppert was one of first that I remember pointing it out in print. I suppose with a 6 figure income it doesn't mean much, but for the low and middle income families, it means a lot. I know it is obvious to us. If you have one in your area, go to a real yuppie gourmet grocery store and see what it would cost to eat out of it. lol. How much money would you have to make a month to stay alive if that was your only alternative.

rockpicker said...

Sorry, Murph;

Those last two comments were mine. Having trouble figuring out how to use this site, like Stoney.

Have to register each and every time in order to get my handle in blue.

Boo hoo.

freeacre said...

That was another moving and powerful poem. Thanks.
To make a comment, I have to copy those goofy letters (usually twice), then go down and click on "nickname," then write in "freeacre," then hit "publish your comment."

freeacre said...

This a late addendum to the housing issue... from Ran Prieur's site, Dec. 21, 2007:

"When I first decided to squat, I put an ad in Craigslist asking if anyone knew of abandoned houses I could live in and fix up. I was hoping for friendly neighbors, but I got an owner of a four unit building who will let me stay in one unit for fixing up the rest! It's not quite squatting, but for now it will be warmer, safer, and legal. Plus there is a huge abandoned factory nearby, and many houses.

There you go! As the American economy continues to slide, there will be more abandoned buildings and competent people with no place to live, and more need and opportunity to make that kind of connection. It could even become a "squatter's market," where you won't even have to fix anything up, just keep the place from looking any worse and scare away the copper scavengers."

...Just as I predicted.