Circa 1997-98. This clip is from “A Sampler of Alternative Homes – Approaching Sustainable Architecture” by Hartworks, Inc. Our thanks to them for allowing us to share this clip of the late Mario Bellestri and Pat Bellestri-Martinez talking about building homes with Rammed Earth. The quality of the video is from 1998 when HD was not available. The methods used then are the same methods as what we use today.
Greetings Soledad Friends,
January left as quickly as it showed up! 2013 is upon us—13 is a number that is known for its “bad luck” qualities. Not something I put much credence on. But yet there is a little bit of wariness about it! As I got to thinking about it a bit more I realized 2013 is 30 years after 1983! Go figure! Thirty years ago is actually very significant in my life. This is the year that Rammed Earth entered my life. Rammed earth—an ancient building method. A way to build a home with dirt–a way to build ”green”. In 1983 that was not a way to describe building methods. Fast-forward thirty years and building rammed earth homes is green, but so are building methods using frame construction! There are now industries focused on green building. You can have your home rated to let everyone now how green it is. But back in 1983 all we wanted to do was create a home that worked with the living environment–solar orientation, mass walls, local materials, low maintenance, and energy wise. Little did we know it would take 30 years for those simple methods to become standard practice in the building industry. We were building green when green was brown! Click on the link below to view a video made some 16 years ago. It is an excerpt from the video “A Sampler of Alternative Homes – Approaching Sustainable Architecture” by Hartworks, Inc. Mario & I were interviewed about building with rammed earth. Remember high definition was not available back then!!
The way to learn about rammed earth in 1983 was books and actual face-to-face contact. Unlike today just Google rammed earth and you will come up with hundreds of pieces of information and images from around the world. In 1983 Mario and I attended an Earthen Technologies Conference in Tucson, Arizona. People from around the world came together to learn from each other. We latched on to Rammed Earth immediately. A proclamation was made: “This is how we will build our home.” The intention was one home, our home. We are now building our 75th Rammed Earth home!! See photo below. Along with the many more frame homes we have built we are very grateful for the last 30 years of creating “Green Homes”-many shades of Green!
I still live in my rammed earth home we built 30 years ago. A home that has provided a home environment that is good for the environment. Its permanence is foretold, its permanence is a living testament to building with earth.
I regularly receive email and phone calls asking about building rammed earth homes. From a man who wants to create rammed earth subdivisions in Utah, to a person that wants a 400 square foot home somewhere in New Mexico-location to be determined! Last week I received an inquiry asking how far we would travel to build. Two and a half hours is too far, an hour and a half is doable. The common thread is people who want their home to have physical permanence. The thick walls, the sense of security that those walls bring, and the delight of coming home to a rammed earth home.
We are equally excited to create an energy efficient frame home in the near future. A home that will provide a backdrop to family gatherings, a home that brings out the creative juices, and will provide jobs for many families! We are in the middle of making selections, getting prices and putting out the plans for bids. I can’t wait to do brick red kitchen cabinets!!
February is For the Love of Art month in Las Cruces. There are many fabulous artists in our community. Be sure and make an effort to go out and enjoy the Art and buy a piece! It will bring joy to your home or work place. One of their main shows will be Feb. 15 & 16 at the Las Cruces Convention Center. For more information see link below. Here’s a photo of my latest pieces of art in our office. Two pieces–graphite artist Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt’s “Buck and Booner” and photographer David Shaw’s – a Portrait of Shoofly. A quote by Walter Pater out of Shoofly’s: The Point of My Pencil. “Art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass.”
Rammed Earth Homeowner for 30 years & General Contractor
Friends of Soledad Canyon,
I am glad I don’t count on my writing for a living! It’s been awhile since I have been inspired to write our Newsletter! I wonder why.
The end of autumn brings the beginning of Ramming Walls on our Berrenda Ranch project. We are at the end of week two. The weather has been very good for such activities!
Our owners paid a visit to the site this week just in time to see the actual walls being constructed. After 29 years of watching rammed earth walls go up I take it for grant it. It reminds me how special and permanent these walls are. In their raw state they evoke images of Stonehenge! We are building a home that will stand the test of time…..way beyond our time. It is sustainable, it is providing jobs, it’s providing a home, and it is more than just work. It is building relationships, being creative, and working through challenges. Everyone in our company, Soledad Canyon Earth Builders, is very grateful to be able to build this home.What a thrill to experience their dream home becoming a reality. Watching them seeing the ramming for the first time is very heartwarming
We are also beginning a new set of plans for our clients who left Las Cruces some 15 years ago saying they would be back. And sure enough they are here to begin their life in a newly created rammed earth home. The process of designing a home to meet the needs and dreams on our clients is fun and intriguing. Reading the subtle hints, the mentions, the twinkle in the eye, the excitement of envisioning sitting out on the porch watching the mountain sunset, etc. We again, look forward to the process as unique as the home that is built.
Las Cruces is a great place to live. I realize, through the eyes of those clients, who are rediscovering Las Cruces after 15 years. They are pointing out all the great changes. We only hope that the growth of Las Cruces continues in a way that businesses prosper, thus allowing families to prosper.
As we settle in to the end of 2012 we look back at what the year has brought us, we look forward to what we can make of 2013. I leave you with this thought…….
Do we need more, or do we need to offer something to someone who just needs some.
Thanks to everyone who has entered our lives this year, and those who continue to be in our lives as we continue to build homes.
My best to you and your family,
Greetings to everyone across this great land of ours!
September is upon us — school zones, Aggie Football, green chile roasting in the air, Salsa Fiesta, Wine Festival, Election Time…Fall activities are in full swing.
This summer was full of activities and trips, as well. Our most recent TEG (The Earthbuilders’ Guild) meeting was held in Bernalillo, NM. After our productive Board meeting we toured several historic adobe buildings built from 1857-1930. Some of the structures were 2-3 stories high, some in use, some being restored. The buildings are a testament to the beauty and durability of building with earth. They included The Molino, The Graber House, the WPA Building, a two-story barn, The Old Convent, The Zocalo and the Old Adobe Church, Santuario de San Lorenzo, all within a few blocks of each other in Bernalillo (north of Albuquerque). The two-story adobe barn was my favorite. The Youth Conservation Corp of Bernalillo is currently using it as a woodworking shop under the direction of Rich Catanach, adobe builder and preservationist. The earthen floor was impressive.
Soledad Canyon Earth Builders has begun our next rammed earth home in the beautiful wide-open country of The Berrenda Ranch. It is located 90 miles from Las Cruces, 14 miles from Hillsboro, NM in the foothills of the Gila National Forest. As with each of our projects, this one has its own set of challenges. Challenges that turn into beautiful homes! We begin every project with dirt work – building the pad. In this case we are not calling it dirt work, it is rock work! We are so very thankful for being given the opportunity to build this home for Cindy & John.
We have done several jobs of late with Venetian Plaster. A photograph does not do it justice. It makes for a beautiful accent wall, a fireplace, or a whole room. If you are interested in seeing what it can do for you give me a call. The color palette is endless. We have also laid floating cork, engineered wood flooring, laminate and cedar flooring on several projects…. tearing out carpet and replacing it with a “hard surface”. The cork is especially nice feeling, the cedar is especially aromatic! Again, call if you are interested in looking at the options.
Events that we are involved with this Fall include: Picacho Hills Art in the Garden Tour Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, ll:00-4:00 p.m., Renovate & Decorate – a different kind of Home Show at the Las Cruces Convention Center Saturday & Sunday, Sept. 22-23, 2012. Watch for more information. My work continues with the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce Armijo House project as well as with the Board of Directors of the Las Cruces Home Builders Association, and the election of my friend, Dolores Lucero Connor for County Clerk. Along with family activities – visiting the quadruplets, a family wedding in Las Vegas, a trip to Michigan, a visit to the Henry Ford Museum to see the Titanic Exhibit, Santa Fe Parade of Homes, Art openings with friend/photographer extraordinaire, David Shaw, (next one Sept. 14th at the Adobe Patio Gallery in Mesilla), we continue to be very grateful for our ability to design, plan and execute homes for our clients. The best clients in the country!
Our thoughts are with all the people in the south as hurricane Isaac bears down on them. May they be safe from harm. Mother Nature is a mystery when it causes such devastation. We ask why?
May your spirit lead you to the peace you deserve,
For us the beauty of summer has been here for more than a month-officially it was here Wednesday afternoon at 5:09 p.m. I have already had many activities that ooze with summer-a day at the water park (how can you be cold on such a hot day!), salmon on the grill, a visit to Santa Fe, watching the sunset at 8:30 p.m., sisters weekend, cold lemonade, and of course the feeling of stepping from a hot day into the coolness of my home with its 24″ thick rammed earth walls.
Since I last wrote an e-newsletter we have completed the Showcase Home in Picacho Mountain. The owners have moved in and are making their way through unpacking and discovering their new home’s features. It takes a lot of reading and learning—new appliances, new HVAC equipment, new switches, new electronic connections, new everything! To help them with the transition we presented them with a new iPad at closing. They were able to “connect” quickly without having to set up their computers right away! On the iPad is the history of the construction of their home. With over 1000 pictures they can easily reference the process of building their home. As well, all the documents relating to the home are on the iPad—warranty information, subcontractor contacts, all invoices from all subs & suppliers—all accessible at the touch of the screen. We were very excited to present them this house-warming/thank you gift. We think it has turned them into iPad lovers!
Between the completion of this home and the start of our next one we are able to get back to some of our past clients’ homes for maintenance and refreshing updates. The Fusco Home built some 15 years ago is getting a whole new interior paint job. Paint is magic. We used a beautiful golden color in the office and the laundry room (they were an off white). What a great change. The rest of the home has gone from that off white color (probably Ranier White, if I remember right) to our favorite Crisp Khaki and Lulled Beige. Feels like a new home!
As well, we are managing a stucco & wood restoration and reconstruction on exterior steps up to the pool on a home that will be put up for sale in anticipation of us building their new home. They wanted to enjoy the home with it repairs & maintenance completed while they are still living there. Again, it is a refreshing update.
Our next start has begun. The contract is signed. The closing with the bank is scheduled. The permitting process has begun. This rammed earth home will be built on the Berrenda Ranch-90 miles from Las Cruces. We have been working on this project for several years-it is great to be at this stage. We look forward to creating this 3,008 sq.ft. home (+503 sq. ft. porches and 1,049 sq. garage) on a beautiful spot near Lake Valley.
Hope you enjoy the summer in your favorite way. I always welcome email correspondence. If you have any questions related to home building, rammed earth, home maintenance, PV solar panels, or sustainable building I’d like to hear from you.
“It is as you perceive it to be. You have the power to change your perception.”
Dear Soledad Canyon Earth Builders Fans, Friends & Family,
You are cordially invited to attend our Opening! Spring Showcase 2012 opens its doors this coming Friday at 4:00 p.m.! It has been a road well traveled. What began about 4 years ago is coming to a close. Bob & Cindy Oheim’s home at 1332 Saltillo Place is just about completed. Another week of final decisions, more problem solving, and realizations and we’ll be ready to turn over the home to the Oheims!
There are many, many people to thank. All our great subcontractors, suppliers, our crew of hard workers—Chuy, Nemesio, Raul, as well as Antonio and Junior, and of course, Max, Melissa & Samson — “Team Soledad” which, for this home, included Bob & Cindy Oheim. In order for any project to be successful it takes a team effort. Each person in the team contributes to the success, each person contributes ideas, suggestions, expertise, comfort, support and laughs. The difficulties become softer, we overcome the challenges together. I must note that even Mario had a part in building this home. Bob tells the story….the Oheims met Mario at the property, took one look at it with a very sour face. Bob was worried. “Well, this lot is challenging!” and with a smile, Mario turned around and said “But, I love a challenge!” Mario began the design process, and with Bob & Cindy’s patience Max, Melissa & I completed the design, faced the challenges and went on to complete the home.
Let me tell you some of the features of the home…….
A walk-out basement, an elevator, a media room, a pool, a greenhouse room, hardwood oak floors, tumbled brick patios, photovoltaic solar panels, a 1700+ sq. ft. garage, rosa travertine tile, adobe kiva patio fireplace, on demand water heaters, dual flush commodes, and of course 18″ rammed earth walls. Come by and tell us what your favorite feature of the home is. As well, Vote for us! There is a Scavenger Hunt being sponsored by Radio of Las Cruces and the Showcase. On page 9 of the Showcase Magazine you will find the details along with the ballot for your favorite home. We are in the $800,000- $1.5 million range. Vote for House #4 !!!
You can see an e-version of the Showcase Magazine here:
As an extra bonus we will be showcasing art work from the Border Artists. With featured artist, photographer, David Shaw. You will be awed by the beautiful images. Work will be available for purchase. In support of artists who bring joy & beauty to our lives.
Look forward to seeing you at 1332 Saltillo Place – Picacho Mountain!
Directions: Head west on Picacho Ave. to Picacho Hills Dr. Turn right, go 1.1 miles. Veer left on Barcelona Ridge Road and go 1 mile. Turn right on Anthem Road and go .4 miles. Turn left on Calle Estancias and go 3 streets up on the right. Follow signs and look for the fuchsia colored Showcase flag.
Showcase Hours: Friday, April 27 4:00-7:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 28 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, April 29 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Same hours the next weekend: May 4, 5, 6, 2012
Friday, April 27 4:00-7:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 28 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, April 29 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Same hours the next weekend: May 4, 5, 6, 2012
Put it on your calendar now. We always look forward to visiting with everyone and showing you our latest project. We are very grateful to our clients, the Oheim’s for allowing us to show their home! Thank you!
Speaking of solar panels…..over the last 5 years we have worked with our partners, the Holguin’s to install Photovoltaic Solar Panels on several of the homes we have built. We would like to formally introduce you to Solar Power of Las Cruces—a partnership between Soledad Canyon Earth Builders & Holguin’s Electric. Holguin’s Electric – Frank, Sal, & Lil have been our Electricians the entire twenty seven years we have been building. We are proud to be working with them in installing solar panels that produce enough electricity to power all the electrical needs of the homes we build. If you have an interest in Photovoltaic Solar Panels on your home call the Holguin’s office at 575-527-5699 for information or an appointment.
Aside from the hustle of finishing our Showcase Home we are busy working on plans for three other homes and waiting to hear from the bank on a home we are anxious to start! Details as they become a reality! We completed a small project on an adobe home built in the 40′s. Broke through a wall to open up the kitchen to the dining room—now that is real plaster! As well, our big remodel is finishing up-hope to post pictures of it when we are complete. In between, we have been going back to homes we have finished over the years to do maintenance and repairs. A reminder to all, your homes age as we do—take care of them. A yearly roof inspection is important, refinish your exterior wood, and have your mechanical equipment serviced regularly.
Other events and activities that we have been a part of over the last few months have included The Mission of Mercy (a free dental clinic-over 1521 patients treated, $928,195 in donated care, 9642 procedures), Casa de Antanos Home Tour (7 homes in Downtown Las Cruces built by 1912- of which 6 were adobes), The Earthbuilders’ Guild (monthly meetings & networking with many goals-one of which is to establish an educational program in earthbuilding at the Dona Ana Community College), Vision Dona Ana County (a group of 10 community leaders meeting 2 times a month to discuss our Community and what we want it to be over the next 10 years), Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce Armijo House Restoration/Renovation Committee, and meetings of the Las Cruces Home Builders Association (I am serving on the Board of Directors & Executive Board). I have enjoyed many fun events in our community too—Look Who’s Dancing (the winner happened to be my very talented cousin, Debbie!), Aggie Basketball (congratulations WAC champions!), Brad Paisley concert, a trip to Santa Fe and some family celebrations.
Family news! My niece & her husband gave birth to Quadruplets on January 26th! The two boys and two girls are doing great. Everyone is home and steadily gaining weight. What a sight to see! Precious, beautiful babies. Now that is something that doesn’t happen every day!
I do want to say “Goodbye” to one of our dear Soledad Canyon family members-Marie Barker. We built Marie & Bill’s home in 2009-2010. Marie passed away in January. Although I only knew her for about four years, I felt like I’ve known her for 20 years. Her spirit, her laughter, her outlook on life was the best! I will always miss being able to see Marie.
As always, give those who are important to you your time and your love because you can.
Happy Spring 2012,
Soledad Canyon Earth Builders recently completed a 750 square foot addition on an earth home built in the early 80′s. What a joy to pack so many green features into this jewel. The additional space added a main bedroom, main bathroom and a flex room (exercise/office w/washer/dryer space. In addition to the 18″ rammed earth walls, the project featured cork flooring in the bedroom (and the existing kitchen), ceramic and Talavera tile, double pane, low-e, aluminum clad/wood woods and doors, solid wood interior doors, dual flush toilet, metal roof, custom knotty pine cabinets, Air cycler, rain catchment system, and a grey water system. A model for how to go green!