the Tire Bale house project


October 2011 -

cistern setupEarthship type homes typically have a roof rainwater catchment system built into their design and this house is no exception. We designed the north side of the house to accommodate four 1700 gallon cisterns that will be buried under a dirt berm. First we leveled the ground area where the cisterns will be placed and added a layer of 3/4" gravel. Should any of the cisterns ever leak or any of the connections ever leak, the french drain is between the house and the cisterns so that any water will be carried away from the house.


You'll notice the sheets of old OSB against the house. We've found that piling a dirt berm directly up against the black 6-mil plastic really puts a strain on it and stretches it until it starts to tear. This wood was destined for the trash, so we put it to good use.

first cistern


It took a few phone calls to find some place that carries these underground cisterns, but (to make a long, boring story short) we were able to get them through a local farm and ranch store that got them from other stores in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Here's the first one we brought home on our trailer.


all four cisterns cistern size


It took about two weeks to get all four, but they're here and ready to be plumbed. Check out the size of these tanks compared to Steve (right picture).


Winter finally started to hit just before Thanksgiving. We had started to berm over the cisterns when it started to freeze and we could no longer dig the dirt we needed for the berming. We decided to stop outside work until Spring and start concentrating on the inside electrical and plumbing.


I don't have a decent picture of the roof washer, so this one will have to do. The roof washer is located between and slightly above the first and second cistern. It is in the center of the photo. We covered it with 2 inch rigid blue foam since it has a small capacity and might be prone to freezing in the winter. The roof washer is nothing more than a square 200 gallon cistern. The object is to catch the first flush of water from the roof and stop the larger chunks of leaves, bugs, and whatever from entering the cisterns. When we installed the gutters, we added a screen for a little more protection from bugs and mice entering our water supply. When the water level in the roof washer gets almost to the top of the washer, the cleaner water flows into the cisterns while the dirt settles to the bottom of the roof washer. There is also a valve we can open that completely drains the dirty water from the roof washer. As you can see from the pictures, we don't have any trees around to gum up the gutters with leaves, so we are more concerned about the bugs, mice, and other little nasties.


berm bunny


Soon after the snow started, we began seeing a cottontail rabbit just above the cisterns under the eaves. He was totally safe, warm, and had a great view.





cistern berm


April 2012 - As soon as the ground was thawed and dry enough, we went to work finishing the earth berm that covers the cisterns on the north side. It looks like a gigantic dirt pile. The deer love to climb up this.




July 2013 - We really needed to get gutters up on the north side so that we wouldn't have to keep rebuilding the berm each summer from the rain and snow melt that kept washing deep gullys down the side of the berm. We could not find any pre-made gutters that were big enough to accomodate the overhang from the roof or the snow load so, once again, we had to design and build our own. It was actually easier than we thought. We took a trip down to the local Home Depot and found some galvanized "w" valley roof flashing that we bent into a "v" shape and put metal straps over the top to make the shape we need. These gutters measure 10" wide and 10" deep.


The next step was to paint and install them. Kathy painted them blue to match the fascia and we installed them as soon as the paint was dry.

In the center of the gutters is the drain pipe that leads to the roof washer. In the picture on the right you can see the screen in the gutter that we made to catch the critters, bugs, etc. before they get into the roof washer. It's right above the pipe. Also, there are two pipes in the foreground (left picture) that house the valves for the roof washer dump and the cistern dump. For more information on the cisterns, click here to go to Steve's Blog DifferThink.



December 2011

BobcatOff and on thru the years we have lived here, we have seen the tracks of a bobcat, remnants of rabbit fur near where the rabbits hide, and actually have seen bobcats from time to time. It was December 26 that we saw another bobcat just outside the little cabin where we live. He (or she) was scouting out various piles of pipes, wood, and other junk we have lying about nearby. He spent the night next to some metal pipes that the rabbits call home. He was still there the next morning just after 7:30 AM. We don't know when, but the bobcat's patience paid off. Later on that day there was a pile of bunny fur near the pipes. We saw him roaming around the cabin for a total of three days consuming at least three rabbits, then he disappeared. As things go, we bought a new camera for Christmas and the battery was not charged nor did we have a memory card for it.



Just a few weeks later, on January 13, 2012 we saw him again, this time the camera was ready to go. Kathy snapped these pictures standing about 20 feet away from the bobcat. He didn't seem to see any threat so he kept on searching for rabbits. He's looking under the covered woodpile that is sitting on some pallets. We only saw him this one day so it was lucky we got the pictures. What a beautiful creature. He'll be back.




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