Glenn's Underground Cabin Update

Started by glenn kangiser, January 30, 2005, 10:24:03 PM

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Glenn--good grief!  That is incredible!  I looked at all 143 pictures, and your soil must be much different there than here.  No way that would stay together in this area.  But looks like it is working great there, and you have some really cute inside pictures.  I nearly had a nervous breakdown just looking at some of the pictures-expecting them to fall right out of my computer screen!   What is rammed earth??  and cobbed earth??  Is it some sort of clay?  Anyway, amazing.


Thanks, Judy.  Glad you liked it.  It is also mostly salvage materials - the logs were weeds that were thinned so the rest of the trees could grow bigger - or salvage or down logs.  Glass was mostly given to me.

Cob is like adobe but not made into bricks 30%clay 70% aggregate including any in the clay - straw to taste per Becky Bee - water - then just build it in place rather than making bricks.  The traditional way is to squish it with your toes but I like to use my Bobcat - faster.  The clay is from the excavation and sand with pea gravel is added to it.  Try to use locally available stuff - if too much clay add more straw.

Here is an online book by Becky Bee - for the full book you can order it from her.

Becky's book to order -

Rammed earth - the previous pictures in the album is similar with the exception of the straw and about 7% cement is mixed in.  For a better explanation check out my $200 RV storage garage.  (I salvaged a bridge, boat docks and corrugated iron for this one.)


Glenn has evolved a way of building that is uniquely appropriate to his climate, site and soil conditions. He has made optimum use of the natural and free materials available close to his projects. When you build this way your structures naturally fit into the landscape and seem like they belong there.

Most people reading this will not have the same set of conditions nor the same materials that are available to Glenn. Much of the U.S. has either too much rain or the air is too humid to make cob and adobe long term solutions (at least without turning them into concrete).

Over 68,000 visitors to this thread attest to the interest Glenn's underground house project has created. Perhaps someday he will write the definitive follow-up to "The $50 and Up Underground House Book"!

In the mean time, perhaps the best lesson to learn from Glenn's ever evolving swirl of projects is not how to build just as he does (or to copy Mike Oehler or Ken Kern) but to capture the same interest in gaining an understanding of how to work with the local climate, conditions and materials. Then you can use these materials to "dance" a project into reality with the same sense of experimental/fun/work that Glenn seems to have.

Many creative builders like Glenn and Ken Kern talk about never finishing a project. My house too is not yet finished. I think it has something to do with not wanting the dance to end.  ;) To finish something creative like this means the end of a relationship - not just the completion of a goal or a check mark on a to-do list.

Save that kind of building for the folks who pay you!


That was a beauty of a posting, John.  I always enjoy your comments.  I guess that is why you are the master and I am but a lowly student. :)  Very deep thought there.  At least it made me think.

The first thing I do in any situation is to survey my natural (and or unnatural) resources.  I got the truck stuck turning around on a dead end road the other night -sitting on the front axle and the back bumper - soft ground had given way under the rear axle.  I surveyed the area  - boards by an old barn - rocks in a ditch - jack under the seat - air under the rear axle, dump bed on the truck. :(

I put the rock under the trailer hitch - raised the bed and lifted the truck part way up to get the jack under the axle.  I took the jack and raised the axle high enough to get the boards under it, lowered on the boards, then backed the truck out.  The other
option was to walk a couple miles out and get a tow truck.

The point is not about the truck.  It's about surveying your resources -- What do you have?  What can you get?  What can you afford? What is free?  What can you get away with? Who can help?  

Do you have money?  Do you not?  Is it possible to build with your soil? Rocks? Clay? Sand? Straw?  Conventional? Code? Alternative? Who knows what to do if you don't?  Can they teach you?  Can you learn? Where can you study it?  Will you make yourself study?  

Get to know your area, your soil, your trees, your sand , your rocks.  Learn about your area history, neighbors, businesses, sawmills, hardware stores, craftsmen, retired craftsmen, truckers, farmers, day workers, glass shops with take-outs, kids looking for a few bucks (use discretion on some of this).  This is what I mean by resources.

Will you try?  Will you fail?  Will you learn and try again?  Will you succeed?

Thanks for the thoughts, John. :)


Glenn was case study / type cast for the McGeiver show , or how ever you speel McGiever :-/

Resourseful guy,  ole Glenn ;) Good guy to have around , knows a lot about a lot! And ain't afraid to experiement/ share what he knows.


PEG's right!

(MacGyver--they had to get complicated--there are people with basically the same name who spell it differently)


PEG, Amanda, you're making me blush.   :-[ :)


Not quite as good for your skin as, say, a steam bath, but it will do in a pinch!


I should point out that there is a very practical side to my philosophic post about Glenn's creative building. It is one Glenn and I, at least, will find useful. You are welcome to subscribe as well.

When a spouse or relative asks, "Why the &*#@ haven't you finished the (fill-in-the-blank) project?" You can answer, "I'm still dancing it into reality".  :D


That sounds like we should find you a nice tutu as well. Maybe we could get Amanda to knit you one, seeing as it's so cold in your neck of the woods. Any color preference?  ;D


Maybe a kilt would do if a tutu is well... not manly enough.  :-[
Is there a Kangiser clan tartan?   :-?


The woman working for me can at least knit a cap.  You wouldn't want anything I'd knit.  Maybe something crocheted.

My contribution to those outside in cold weather this year was out of polyester fleece--a little beanie-shaped hat--with or without a fringe, and a neck warmer.  The ones with the fringe were easier, but took a bit more material.

Neck warmers--just a tube about the size of the hat--in both dimensions, open on both ends, no hems.


QuoteMaybe a kilt would do if a tutu is well... not manly enough.  :-[
Is there a Kangiser clan tartan?   :-?

Sorry Don.  We were forced to give up wearing Kilts due to modern building construction practices.  Street ventilation exhausts are a real killer.

..and who ever heard of a Lithuanian in a kilt? :-?


QuoteI should point out that there is a very practical side to my philosophic post about Glenn's creative building. It is one Glenn and I, at least, will find useful. You are welcome to subscribe as well.

When a spouse or relative asks, "Why the &*#@ haven't you finished the (fill-in-the-blank) project?" You can answer, "I'm still dancing it into reality".  :D

I have been working on perfecting different versions of this excuse for years, John.  I'm not finished yet though...


I think my grandmother may have had ancestors in Scotland -- she was a Mann.  People sometimes don't believe me when I tell them that my grandmother was a Mann.

Old Family photo?

I just don't see any of my family wearing kilts.  Sorry. :-/


I don't think I'd be caught dead in one either. I don't think much of bagpipes either. Nor Haggis.


Don, I've eaten a lot of weird things, but Haggis isn't one of them, nor is it likely to ever be. :P


I sampled some in Scotland.  Before the trip I swore to try a traditional food from each country visited as well as their national drink. I didn't like the haggis all that much, but then I'm not an oatmeal fan (there's a lot of oatmeal in traditional Haggis). I did find that accompanying the haggis with equal parts of the national drink (Scotch - single malt is the best) made the haggis more palatable.  ;)

I liked most of the foods and most of the drinks. (could never acquire a taste for Greek retsina though... tastes like turpentine to me.


Quoteret·si·na Pronunciation (rts-n, rt-sn)
A Greek white or rosé wine flavored with pine resin.
[Modern Greek, probably from Italian resina, resin, from Latin rsna; see resin.]

Well - that explains the taste.

The native Americans here used to chew pine tree resin - pitch as a gum.  I tried it - also taste lit turpentine.  

You may not want to try this at home, kids.  I also ate poison oak -just a little at a time. :-/



 I also ate poison oak -just a little at a time. :-/

That explains  alot  ;D :o


I never gave that statement much credence Glenn. If you did eat it it wouldn't kill you. But you would have a rash all over your lips and inside your mouth. That wouldn't be too pleasant. And I think you're too smart for that.  :)

I've never met anyone who would have even thought of eating it,   :-/  till now.

Stay above 5000 feet and you virtually completely safe from exposure to it. BTW don't burn it... the oil that causes the reaction can be spread thru smoke.

I can vouch for its unpleasantness. Mildly put... itches like the Devil   :'(  I think I got it from my dog; they don't get the rash but can spread the oils from their fur to you. I don't think he meant it.  ;D


I can certainly agree that poison Ivy is very miserable.  However, there are people who don't have any response to it.  I went to school with a boy who showed me that he could rub it all over him, and he chewed on a piece, etc (showing off) and nothing happened.  Have known a few others who can't catch it.  Unortunately, I am not one of them. :-/


I was serious. :-/  I got it pretty good when  we first moved here.  Big ol' itchy scratchy splotches.

I read about the Indians eating it to get immune to it.  Didn't know if it would work so tried it gently.   No guarantees.

I ate first a quarter leaf then a week or two later a half leaf then a couple weeks later a bit more.  I don't get it now - maybe I avoid it better, but after I ate it I gave Sassy a little smooch and she got it on the lips. :'(

I do occasionally get brushed by it or break some out of the way.  I don't seem to be affected by it.

I can't avoid it, Don -- I farm it.  We live at 2910 feet elevation -property goes from about 2560 to 2975 elev.

Note that I never did get a rash inside my mouth - or even an itch,  YMMV eh, PEG. :)


Wow! That's most interesting and good for you. I've had it twice, many years ago as a kid. Never since but don't know why for sure. As you said being more careful may help. Or maybe I'm just too high  :o now to run into it.

I read something years ago about immunity maybe building up in some people, but IIRC, it's an immunity that decreases over time. Not sure tho'.

BTW, how did it taste?