Learning About Building

We’ve mentioned multiple times that we use WWOOF and WorkAway to find farms and homestays throughout our travels. We’re currently on our 3rd one and have found that these stays have been some of the most rewarding times we’ve had traveling.

For starters, we’ve made new friends in several states that we will be sure to go see again. Second, these stays have given us a chance to see how locals really live in the areas we’re in and learn more about the culture of these areas. Finally, we’re learning plenty of new skills and getting hands-on experience with new things that our former city life never really gave us.

Like we talked about in our Learning While Traveling post, for the most part, we’re gaining new skills and ideas that a classroom wouldn’t teach us.

Sustainable Building

On our current stay, we’re staying with a couple that built their own house. And when I say “built their own house,” I don’t mean it in the sense that they designed it and a builder built it. They quite literally built their house with their own four hands.

They bought the adobe bricks instead of making their own (in the interest of time), but from there, they designed the 2 story layout, laid the bricks, covered the bricks in stucco, and built the interior. From that start 25 years ago, they have proceeded to add onto the house, including two additional small bedrooms and an attached greenhouse.

They have been a wealth of knowledge about using sustainable resources like adobe, straw bales, and cob to build a house that is just as strong and well-insulated as any other home (in some cases, even better insulated). It’s an area neither of us had ever really even thought about and it’s definitely started some ideas kicking around in our heads.

Passive Solar

One of the additions to the house that they’ve made has been the addition of two passive solar rooms on the south side of the house. Not knowing a thing about passive solar prior to arriving here, it’s been a unique learning experience. It’s also been an experience that we’ve been able to actually get our hands dirty with by helping to build the second passive solar room.

The house is definitely not off-grid, but they are able to put a dent in their energy bills by harnessing New Mexico’s winter sun. Passive solar, at a high level, is basically like putting a greenhouse on the south side of the building (in the northern hemisphere), then moving that really warm air to other parts of the house.

In this house, when it’s 20-40 degrees outside, these two rooms, which span about 80% of the length of the house, are running 80+ degrees. They then use a simple duct and fan system to blow that air to the first floor at the opposite end of the house from the stairwell. As hot air rises, it heads up the stairway, so there’s an exchange of hot air from the second floor to the first, which then cycles back up to the second after traversing the length of the first floor, helping to warm the whole house.

Really, really interesting stuff!

There’s A Whole World Out There!

Our exposure to things like this are definitely one of the coolest aspects of our travels. We’re learning things that we could have learned at any point in time, but the thought never crossed our minds. Now we’re able to put ourselves in situations to get hands-on experience with things we hadn’t even thought of a couple months ago. With any luck, we’ll find plenty more opportunities to learn this kind of stuff.