The hidden Psychology of being poor 

Growing up my grandmother had some very odd quirks. She would save every shopping bag she had, especially the little paper ones.  She had an entire drawer where she filed them. She saved all of her butter wrappers so she could use them to butter pans for baking. Looking back she probably had some sort of mild hoarding disorder, but it all stemmed from her growing up during the aftermath of the depression, and the world wars when everything was rationed. You didn’t throw things away because you never knew if you would need it again, or for something else, and you may not be able to find it or afford it again. 

This isn’t just a physiological phenomenon within that generation. This is the reality of what it is to be poor, really poor. I caught myself today reusing my coffee grounds. I know this sounds gross but coffee is expensive and for so long we had to ration it. I would brew a pot one day and then add a small amount to that the next day and re-brew it. I had to force myself to throw away (compost) my coffee grounds even though they were only from yesterday, because we can now afford coffee everyday. 

I still mend socks, pants, underwear, and anything else that is in mild disrepair.  The idea of throwing things away and buying new is a privilege many don’t have. Even though we are no longer food insecure the idea of wasting food is unimaginable to me. We spend +/- $100 on food every week, almost nothing boxed, mostly fresh food. What isn’t frozen or canned is eaten by the following Friday. There is very little need to clean out the fridge because there is nothing going bad.  

It is so difficult to be wasteful when you spend so long saving everything.  Waste is a privilege many can’t afford. I am glad I learned to ration and not be wasteful. It may be a privilage money can afford but the planet cannot. Maybe everyone should spend time being really poor and learn to appreciate the things they have. I know I am grateful for my daily coffee. 

Heartbroken

The tire wall fell again. It was completely unexpected. We had a torrential downpour that caused a mudslide that took out part of the wall. It collapsedpart of the inner walls we had built and probably sets us back by about a month.  It’s frustrating because I should have paid the extra $400 to have the backhoe another day so we could prepare the hill properly so water wouldn’t drain into the house.  It’s frustrating because our next thing we were going to do was put up 6inch concrete pillars to reinforce each inner wall to the tires. It’s frustrating because we have 2 days a week to do any kind of work if it’s not raining and I feel  the rest of the 5 days we are fighting destruction of everything we did those 2 days. I’m just tired and frustrated. 

It’s like a comedy out here!

We cannot yet put in the septic because C still has to take a class to get the permit. However, we went ahead and picked it up so it would be on premesis when the permit is obtained. 

The story of A and C and the septic tank

We ordered the tank and about two weeks later it arrive. A week after that we finally have the time to go pick it up. We arrive at the store with our F250 and are led to the back for loading purposes. C, two young guys who work there, and I proceed to load the thing into the truck. After much pushing and pulling it is jammed into the truck with its butt hanging out. C buys a cheap strap and straps the back in. We slowly drive the 10 miles or so to the home site. Our idea was to push the tank out of the truck so it sits beside the partial hole we have started for it, so that when we can start to install it we can finish whe hole and slide it in. Great plan right?  I push from the back of the truck and C pulls and guides it. All is well until the tank slides off of the truck, bounces twice, and lands backward and sideways in to half dug whole. Meanwhile we are standing with our mouths wide open in disbelief.

I guess we will tackle this problem later. 

The loft has been started 

As the tires are almost finished for the first level we have purchased the wood for the walls and the loft. There is still much to be done before the loft can be errected, however walls can go up!  

The arrival of the wood was nothing short of a mess, as these things typically are for us. So far we have had four gravel trucks and four concrete trucks down to the end of our driveway to unload their goods that we have paid for. The lumber guy refused to bring his truck down the driveway (it was a flatbed that was in between a large truck and a small semi, it was not larger than a gravel truck or a concrete truck).  He proceeded to load the lumber onto his forklift and bring the 2x12x16 beams down the length of the driveway. Needless to say they got caught on a bush and almost fell off. He decided that was a bad idea so he left the rest of the lumber midway down the driveway for us to carry the rest of the way. I was less than pleased. 

After that fiasco and having to go out to the store to pick up things we had forgotten (like nails and such), and back to the house for our giant compound miter saw, we were able to put up some walls. This was very exciting, and surprisingly didn’t take very long. Another day out there and we should have all of the walls up.  Now if only we could finish the tires!

Backfill #1

The time finally came to backfill the first floor of the house. We rented the backhoe for a day and C went to work. 12 hours later and we have the backfill almost complete. We also dug out the hole where the septic will go. That was entertaining. There will be a post in a few days on how that part went!  The backfilling has made filling the tires so much easier. I was able to get 10 tires done in less than 5 hours. I think the day the tires are done champagne will be in order. I am so tired of tires. 

Closer and closer

We are about a week away from backfilling and starting the loft. A few days ago we put up the water barrier around the outside of the tires.  We still need to put in the concrete pillar that will the one edge of where the front door will be, and I need to put in another two rows of tires. It’s really exciting. We haven’t had this kind of energy since we did the concrete pad. 10-12 tires a day feels like nothing. Three months ago we could hardly do 8 in a day. 


Once we put up the loft we will need to add another 6 rows of tires and the walls will be up!  That to me is exciting. We can’t do it alone though. Hopefully we can talk the guys into coming out to do one more round of tires. They hate doing the tires though. Two have already quit. If we can get another 3 people out for 2 days we can get 2-3 rows done in one shot. We are so close yet still so far away. My hope is to be able to finish the tires by mid May without spending too much money. 

Movin on up

This past Wednesday and Thursday we had the guys out for the first of three “weekends”. I would say we got a lot done. The first day we finally fixed the rest of the wall. After trying very hard to NOT completely rearrange the tires, we rearranged the tires. By the end of the day the wall was back to where it was before the monsoon caused it to collapse.  The second day we lost one of our four guys.  That’s ok. We had one less person to pay on Thursday and we have the opportunity to hire someone else next time. Hopefully we don’t lose more people. The second day was hard. Very hard. We added a whole new layer. The wall is now 6ft tall. 


My finger got in the way again. I’m not the best at taking pictures. 

Friday and Saturday was spent with me adding all the rest of our usable tires to the next row and filli the first 6.5. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain, so instead of filling tires I will be collecting new tires and adding them to the next layer (the layer that will bring this to 7ft). I’m tired.  

This is currently my view, from 7ft high. It’s pretty nifty, and a little scary. 

Strengthening the fortress

We spent the past few days concreting in between the tires on the interior side of the wall.  

Please disregard the giant finger in the way. 

The actual earthships have Adobe filled in between the tires but with the high rainfall in Kentucky we chose not to use this method because it would become unstable. Once again we encounter the coulda, woulda, shoulda. We should have had the forsight to realize that we needed to use concrete instead of Adobe and not decide to skip the step all together. We didn’t fill the entire gap with concrete. We filled the large spaces with cans and such to decrease the amount of concrete used. It makes entire structure much more stable and we don’t use nearly as much concrete.  


We also replaced all of the tires on the fourth layer. At first we tried pulling the tires up by first removing the dirt from the middle and then using a winch. After 20 minutes we finally got one tire back up and decided to try something else. We then rolled the tires around to the concrete pad and up a ramp. After 2 tires were put in place in less time than the first tire was put up using the winch we decided the ramp was probably the best way to go. We will see on Sunday if this still works as the best method. 

No more rain!!!

We have been planning to hire 4 guys to come out and help us finish the tires. We have the whole thin worked out to where the tires should be finished by the end of April. On one condition: it stops raining on the days C is off work. It never fails: it will be dry all week and then we will have a major downpour on either Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or any one of those days individually. The guys are supposed to come out next Wednesday and Thursday and guess what?  They are calling for thunderstorms.  We will finish. I know we will finish. Hopefully. 

Steps toward progress

Two important things happened this week. The first is, despite all the rain, we bought 2 pallets of 60lb bags of concrete. These will be used to reinforce the tires that we had to fix and will be used to frame up the front door and possibly the framing for the greenhouse (although we may have a truck come out and pour that for us). 

My plan is to have the tires stabilized enough for me to start filling tires by the end of this week. 
The second piece of news is that we have decided to hire 3 guys from C’s work to come out every few weeks (for a total of about 6 days in all) to get at least 1 layer of tires up per day. We should be only 11-12 layers away from being done. With this we should have the tires done by mid May at the latest. It cuts into our budget but it’s totally worth it.