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El Salvador Earthbag House: October Update

Well, we have been making progress slowly but surely! We have definitely been learning a lot as we go. September gave us a little surprise with bean harvesting season. Our workers had to go harvest their crops and left our work behind so we had to hire new workers and get them trained on the next steps.

We are very happy that the word is spreading throughout the community and we have had more people show up looking for work, including a woman! Gender roles are quite traditional here so that was a really pleasant surprise. We wish we could afford to hire everyone that has come to inquire but we don't quite have the fundraising power to pull that off yet.

We are SOOOO GRATEFUL for our donors this month who helped us significantly. We raised $865 with the help of Jacqui Lang, Elizabeth Branstetter, Kathi Kumta, Uma Goodman, Ben Joe Markland, Cassie Carey, Hollie Kunesh, Shane Hodgson, Roxann Giambonne, María Teresa, Sasha Letourneau, Jenni Rose, and Lita Chambers.

The tire and gravel foundation has been finished, the first layer of earthbags has been laid, and the door frames are in! From this point on we feel like things should flow with more ease... we hope.

We found our earthbags in Mercado Central and are using sugar cane bags for the project. It is going to be a sweet house! We were able to get the bags for 15 cents so we bought 1,000 of them for $150. I'm sure we will need more, but this will hold us over for a couple of weeks and we should see a true house forming soon.

These bags get filled with dirt, tampered down, and then two rows of barbed wire are laid between each layer to act as a mortar to help the bags stick together. It is quite an easy process but the bags are quite heavy and weigh about 70 pounds each. As the walls get higher it will get a bit trickier and more laborious but we can use buckets to fill the bags right on top of the wall.

Earthbags do decompose in the sun so we will be doing our cob work to cover it every few layers. Our cob samples are finally dry so we will be testing them out this week so we know the exact ratio of sand and dirt to use for the strongest material. We will have a new blog post and video all about that coming soon.

This month we need to raise at least $865 for labor, it would be great if we could hire one more person but that will bring our donation need up to $1152. We will be putting in electrical boxes and window frames this month. We still have some wood left over from the door frames so overall we are hoping material costs won't be more than $300 this month if we include additional bags and wood and the electrical boxes and wiring. Ultimately, $1500 would help us cover everything we need from materials to labor. We were $165 under our goal for September so we need to cover our loss there as well.

If we make good progress this month, we will also be able to build the "trash" wall that will separate the bathroom and the bedroom. That will require more wood to frame it out, and aside from some chicken wire and nails, the rest of the materials are free! A school in San Salvador has 90 students working on filling bottles with trash that will make up the inside of our trash wall. We are so grateful to Jacqui Lang for initiating this project at her school. We are going to be dropping off some empty bottles from our beach cleanup this week to help them out. Bottles seem harder for them to find than soft trash to fill them with and we have the opposite problem at the beach. It is a perfect partnership!

If you would like to donate and help us reach our October goals, please do so through the Givebutter page! We can't wait to see what progress we make this month and we will share it with you very soon.


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