Exploring Carson National Forest and a Visit to Earthship Biotecture

Hiking in Carson National Forest and seeing the mountains around Taos had been on my list for some time; I had in fact intended to go in December but that didn’t quite work out. We were only visiting the area for 2 days but we certainly packed a lot in driving through the mountain route called the Enchanted Circle, hiking a couple trails in the Taos Ski Valley, stopping to see Rio Grande Gorge, and trying out the beer at Taos Mesa Brewing Company.

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My favorite part of the visit to the Taos area however was stopping at the Earthship Visitor Center on the morning we left. Though it’s possible to schedule tours of functioning earthships in advance, I was unprepared and so only did the self-guided tour at the visitor center. Earthships are essentially passive energy houses made of natural, renewable and recycled materials that use solar and wind power; they are the ultimate off-the-grid houses so to speak. The core of every earthship are rammed earth upcycled tires. These are most often covered with adobe, a natural covering made of mud and straw. Used together the thermal mass of earth-packed tires and adobe regulates heat retention inside the home, necessitating only cross ventilation and skylights as well as deliberate placement and angling of window and door openings to keep a comfortable temperature within the building.

In addition to using solar and/or wind energy (stored within deep-cycle batteries) to power the home, earthships do not require outside water as they use rain water harvesting in rooftop catchments, re-using the water 4 times for drinking/bathing purposes (1), gray water plant/food irrigation (2), black water toilet use (3), and outdoor plant irrigation from septic leaching (4). Finally, these incredible structures include a sizable greenhouse or food production area within the design, intended to grow a significant portion of the inhabitants food, mostly in space-saving suspended hydroponic buckets and planters. They are a remarkable achievement, boasting energy and water independence regardless of the precipitation or climate in which they are constructed.

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