>Photo Gallery

The following photos are a very small collection I have assembled here for the purpose of illustrating one idea: This web site and its contents are the result of experience, not the sifted contents of books and other web sites dealing with survival.

Anyone can read a pile of survival books and then write a book about the subject, or make a web site, but it will not be authoritative, it will be second-hand. I did not invent the technologies I am using - some of them are so ancient, it would be difficult to trace their origin - however, I am adapting them to specific conditions at my retreat site, and I am passing my experience on to you. The result will be a shelter with integrated systems which provide basic necessities (water, heating, cooling, hot water), requires no power nor much maintenance and operates with little human intervention.

This photo collection is not intended to be instructional, although you may get some ideas from it. My DVDs, when they become available, will provide instruction on various technologies and methods, so you can repeat everything I have done.

Digging air cooling chamber and house footings

Digging the underground air cooling chamber (large one) where the front porch will be.

The soil was hard, but difficulty only came when I hit decomposing granite, about two feet down.

Had there been deeper soil, I would have made this cooling chamber much deeper, to ensure that it remains cool all year.

Three sides of the footing are also being dug - the other sides were solid rock and were not dug.

Air cooling chamber lined with metal lathe The air chamber lined with expanded metal lathe (diamond screen), in preparation for plastering.
Plastering air cooling chamber

The 'floor' of the chamber has been plastered with concrete and is now nearly white.

I am plastering the walls with concrete made from the soil I removed from the chamber.

Site showing house location and underground chamber

The building site, showing the air cooling chamber in the foreground and the hexagon house footings behind.

The site was chosen for its location, overlooking the ravine and most of my property to the South.

Notice the second air cooling chamber which is under the floor slab. Air first enters and circulates in the large chamber, then enters and circulates in the small one, then comes up in one corner of the house.

Filling and tamping footings

The wall footing have been dug down to bedrock, about as dedep as the air chamber. I installed rebar reinforcing, then filled them with concrete.

The air chamber right has been plastered, except for the wall closest the footing. The metal lathe will later be removed and the chamber enlarged, by removing the 8" or so of packed soil. The soil was left to create a form for filling the footing. The chamber was then enlarged out to the footing.

Screeding floor slab Screeding the last few pours of the floor slab. Previous pours are covered to prevent drying.
Watering newly poured floor slab to let cure

Watering the floor slab to keep it wet during curing. After watering, I covered it with plastic sheeting.

The framed hole is where cool air enters the house from underground.

The spots in the floor are quartz rocks which have been made into lights, by hollowing out the back sides and putting in 12-Volt LED lights and reflectors.

When I walk in the front door at night, a switch on the wall will light the room through these quartz rocks.

Wall form ready to be filled with concrete

Slip form ready for pouring concrete. The electrical consuit with both 12 Volt and 120 Volt wiring are already in place, as are two circuit boxes, one for each voltage.

The white 4" diameter pipe sections are plugs to allow water pipes from outside and air vents for the solar air heater.

Looking inside the wall form at electrical wiring and plugs

Looking inside the slip form just before pouring concrete. They are held together with bolts (top) and spaced exactly 4" apart with red blocks (far end of form, top and bottom).

The electrical outlet (bottom center) will be pushed up against the form with a stone before concrete is poured, making it flush with the wall later.

Funnel for filling wall form with concrete

I made a funnel to direct concrete from a gallon bucket (old paint can) into the form.

This funnel slides along the form, so I can pour one area, slide the funnel and continue pouring the next section.

Wall form filled with concrete and curing A wall form full of concrete. Remesh reinforces the corners.
Cured wall showing plugs for plumbing and air vents

Outside view of a fresh wall, showing the pipe plugs for solar heating (right side) and hot water (left side).

The 2 x 2 blocks are nailing strips for 'fake' 2 x 6s which I will add later to hold insulation. 'Fake' means that I will not use real 2 x 6s, I will screw 2 x 4 blocks to these nailing strips/blocks, then 2 x 2s to the 2 x 4 blocks, making a support nearly equal to a 2 x 6 with less wood.

New wall showing two circuit boxes

Inside view of the wall with two circuit boxes, side by side, still covered with masking tape to keep concrete out of the boxes and allow the covers to work properly.

One is 12 Volts, the other is 120 Volts. All outlets are double, to include sockets for both voltages.

120 Volt sockets are standard. 12 Volt sockets are different, so appliances will not accidentally be plugged into the wrong voltage.

Hexagon formed by first pour of all walls

The hexagon shape now shows, formed by the first pours of all walls.

The frame that looks like the door frame actually holds nailing blocks for the actual frame that will come later. These blocks (with nails in them) will later be embedded in the walls on either side of the door, so that long bolts can hold the door frame to the walls.

The frame also keeps the concrete in the right place for the door frame to come later.

 After using up the nearest sand in my wash for making concrete, I made a series of dams from huge boulders, to harvest more.

They slow the water down during flash floods, so that sand and gravel will drop out and stay behind the dam.

By making these dams every twenty feet or so, I have been able to harvest many tons of sand and gravel.

I carry about 100 lbs on a backpack to my building site, then screen it into sand, pea gravel and rocks.

Spot where shed will be built For a tool and storage shed, I chose a place near the large water tank and leveled it. It was on a slope, and it was difficult to create a usable shape.
Wall frames for shed I made four wall frames from 2 x 4 and 2 x 2, then connected thenm with screws, leaving a small doorway.
Start rebar dome roof

My plan was to cover the roof with stucco, so I began with rebar, bent into curves to make a dome roof shape.

I wired the ends of the rebar to the frames and filled in the grid thus formed with baling wire, to support the Tyvek which was applied next to the shoel structure.

Reber dome roof done From above (I'm standing on the water tank), you can see the dome forming from rebar.
Stucco walls done

After stapling Tyvek on the walls outside, I made stucco from the soil I removed from the air cooling chambers and cement.

What happened to the roof? Well, I got it half covered, then ran out of water for the stucco, so it sat there unfinished for months, got rained on, and the rain pooled in the Tyvek and collapsed the roof! So I tore it all off (still lying there).

Sheet aluminum roof on

The sheet aluminum roof I put on was far superior anyway, and it protects my tools and gear from rain.

I realized, after getting all of my tools and other valuable things in the shed that I should have built it even before starting the house.

It doesn't look very attractive, because it's not finished, but it works really well.

Dam made from large bulders to slow water to catch sand

Dams made by moving large boulders into the wash slow the flash flood water down, allowing the sand and gravel to settle out and stay behind.

After hauling this material up to my work site, it is screened to give me sand and gravel and is mixed with Portland cement to make concrete.


On Growing
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More DVDs
Are Coming

This web site is here because the knowledge about survival is critical to many of us right now. This survival retreat in the desert is the demonstration of various technologies which help us become free of dependence on fossil fuels, the grid and other things which are part of the problems we face as a global community.

The DVDs will appear here as they become available.