Update 4: New Home Design, Supplies, and Test Earthbags

We’ve been making steady progress on the land these past few months! In the last update, the foundation trenches for 3 circles were dug and ready to be filled with gravel. Unfortunately, July had heavy rainstorms – TONS of them – which caused our trenches to cave in before they could be filled. 🙁 Yet another lesson learned for us homesteading newbies.


After seeing the 16′ diameter circles in person we realized they were just too small. Since we had to essentially start over on the trenches, it was a great time to revisit our floor plan and make some adjustments. With earthbag construction you can have either square or circular rooms. We opted for circular because of the structural integrity, plus we think the round design is fun and interesting! This new floor plan has 4 circular rooms at 24′ diameter each, totaling about 1800 square feet.

earthbag plumbing dwv

To make room for the new plan we first had to cut down more trees. In the Lake of the Ozarks they come in all shapes and sizes, some 50 feet high or more! Felling trees is quick, it’s chopping them into moveable chunks and hauling them away that takes a long time. Since July, Neal has cut down around 20 more.


 Luckily we had some help! Neal’s dad came to visit for a full week and by the time he left we had finished clearing the area. All and all, since March of 2016 we’ve cleared roughly ½ an acre by hand.

So what have we been doing with all of those branches, leaves and logs? Firewood. Hugelkultur raised beds. Compost. A lot of them went towards the creation of a hedge wall. We stacked the tree canopies and scrap wood along the edge of the property, bordering the road. It keeps our construction site hidden from view while also fertilizing the soil as it breaks down over time.


Learning from our previous trench cave-in mistake, we ordered everything we needed in advance. Though the gravel pile for the french drain rubble trench had been waiting since July, there were a few more items we wanted on hand:

• A 1,500-gallon water cistern (which is technically a brand new septic tank which we are retrofitting for our water storage)

• Railroad ties that make up the door frames and lintels

• Plumbing supplies

• A few piles of dirt and a pile of leveling sand.
earthbag dirt unloading truck
leveling sand water tank

• Drainage pipe

Finding the supplier for the dirt and sand was no easy feat! Several local companies refused to deliver since we were too far away. The company who originally provided us the gravel decided they did not want to deliver that far again. It took a bit of hunting but finally we tracked down a place nearby. While we are loving the small town life, some of the businesses are behind the times when it comes to their online presence. A lot of the business around here don’t have websites!  Neal had to manually track down the supplier in person, which proved to be quite the scavenger hunt.

We took some soil samples home and did a few tests. The piles of dirt are for filling the earthbags, so we wanted to find a dirt and clay mixture that would work well and form solid adobe bricks when dried.

soil tests

Now that we had everything we needed for the next few steps, Neal rented an excavator. He dug up and removed all of the tree stumps, leveled the land where the home will be built, dug out for our water cistern, marked where the home will go and dug out the trenches…with a little help from me ;).

level land excavator
mark circles
dig trenches

We also got to fill our first earthbags! The trenches needed to be wide enough to accommodate the earthbags, so we filled and tamped two bags to test and measure.

neal and elisha 3

My mom, dad, and nephew came to visit over the summer. It was such a blast getting to show them around the land and we loved getting to spend a full few days with them! Neal and I also took some time off to explore the lake. We rented jet skis, took a tour of the lake via boat, and visited a few of the state parks in the area.

Also, we have a new furry member of the family, Aslan!

We’re excited to be making progress again and can’t wait to move on to the next phase! Please subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date.


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