In my imagination, our home is already complete. It’s walls are gently nestled into the earth and a grassy meadow bursts forth from the roof. The interior is a bright, airy sanctuary protected from the world by tons of hard-packed earth. Yesterday, we sat down to figure out just how many tons of earth we will need to make this dream a reality. We were in for a bit of a shock.

The first part of this task was to figure out how many linear feet of wall will be earthbags. Some of the walls will be cobwood rather than earthbag, so we will have a total of 123 linear feet of wall. Multiply that by eight and we have 984 square feet of earthbag wall. Each filled earthbag takes about 2/3 of a square foot so 984 divided by .7 equals a total of 1405 bags.

Now that we knew how many bags, we could calculate the amount of fill we would need. The bags we are using are 50 pound grain sack sized. However, our fill is much heavier than grain, so we’re going to calculate 100 pounds per filled sack. That gives us 140,500 pounds of fill, just over seven 10 ton loads!

Every bit of that fill will have to be manually lifted from the pile, taken to the bag, and dumped in. I keep thinking that this number should terrify me. But it does not. Yes, we’re talking about over 70 tons of earth to be moved, but I don’t think of it that way. I can’t move even 500 pounds of earth at once, but I can move a shovel full with ease.

This is how we HAVE to look at this project or it will quickly become overwhelming. Even 1405 bags seems insurmountable when considered in one lump. But 10 bags a day isn’t scary at all. At that rate, we would have the walls done in 141 days. By breaking everything down into achievable tasks, building this house becomes a series of steps rather than a heroic task.

How does an Ant eat an Elephant? One bite at a time!