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The Hummingbird Project
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Cleveland, OH, US
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The Hummingbird Project

The Hummingbird Project

Cleveland, US

Jason Liechti Jyoti Deshpande Mark Brown Sarvesvara Dasa Thomas Sommer Vinit Rathod

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Building An Earthship & Community

Project: The Hummingbird Project

Posted by Marilyn McHugh about 11 years ago

A reflection on our recent visit to Higher Elevation Permaculture Center in Driggs, Idaho: you will not only learn about permaculture, natural building and how to build an Earthship, but more importantly–> Community!

After a thirty-one hour drive from Ohio, we arrived at the new Higher Elevation Permaculture Center, which is sprouting up in picturesque Teton Valley, Idaho. Just over the mountains from Jackson, Wyoming, at an elevation of 6,200 feet, an Earthship is being constructed in a valley steppe surrounded by monoculture potato and barley farms. The Tetons and the Big Hole mountains are snowcapped and form the beautiful backdrop where high country snow feeds artesian springs. Forested stands of pine, aspen and firs paint the nearby hillsides.



An Earthship is an off-the-grid home which derives its electricity from the sun and wind, its water from rain and snowmelt, and its ambient temperature from the earth.

Between the valley steppe and the mountains, our hosts have already begun transforming the former industrial potato farm into a perennial, edible slice of heaven– alive with chickens, pigs, numerous gardens and a vibrant community of friends.

Our work began with the most glamorous of jobs: digging and laying secure footers for two new buildings. One will house solar showers and compost toilets, the other a large outdoor kitchen and volunteer gathering place. Once the footers were in place, the structures, beams and roofs quickly grew into the Idaho landscape.

Roof Rafters

Taiga and Christian, the founders of Higher Elevation Permaculture, are devoted to using as much recycled waste products during their construction as possible. A biweekly visit to the local dump one Friday was incredibly fruitful. We hauled away three truckloads full of lumber, wood, rebar, plywood and an old water-heater for the solar shower.  It is remarkable to think of the cost in dollars and embodied energy that went into the manufacturing of this usable material, left for garbage.

The diverting of the waste stream became serendipitous when a source of windows, possibly the largest expense in an Earthship’s construction, accidentally drove onto the property looking for another address. A few days later, over 100 windows ranging in all sizes were hauled to the site instead of the landfill. Score one for the Earthship AND for Mother Earth!

All of this construction is in preparation for next month’s build, which will bring together volunteers from all over the country to help co-create Teton Valley’s first Earthship. Higher Elevation Permaculture is run on the gift economy and does not charge for room or board, natural building workshops or permaculture design courses.

Our days were filled with meaningful work, inspiring people & conversations which lasted well into the night. Our afternoons were often interrupted by beautiful hikes into the surrounding wilderness foraging for nettles and the oh-so-elusive morel mushroom. A refreshing (read: freezing) plunge into the nearby mountain streams became a routine way to cap off and clean up after a hard day’s work.

We also helped build a tipi (in the Sioux Indian Tribe fashion) which quickly turned into a community hangout space, hosting warm fires, afternoon naps, band practice and more than a few spirited poker games.


Christian and his wife, Taiga, are fabulous hosts and go out of their way to make sure everyone’s needs are met. We have learned so much about building structures, especially with ‘upcycled’ materials from the local scrap yard. Taiga is a fabulous cook and most everything we ate was organic and locally sourced (much was harvested right from her own garden!) and cooked using their solar oven.


We are grateful for the time spent and friendships made at Higher Elevation Permaculture Center. We would recommend a visit to anyone who is interested in permaculture and natural building; you will not only learn how to build an Earthship, but more importantly–> Community!

For more information about Higher Elevation Permaculture, check out their website here. And to see more photos of our visit, feel free to browse our Flickr gallery.

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Robert Hones
Robert Hones : What you’ll find here instead is professional service from mechanics who’ve been to school and know the ropes. Fullerton Pro Fence Company
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Kate Wilson
Kate Wilson : When something goes wrong with an industrial vehicle’s steering or suspension, it’s tough to just call it a day. Killeen Mobile Truck Repair
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