link to Home Page


I found a neat book that discusses this concept and how to build a bermed greenhouse - the $50 and Up Underground House Book by Mike Oehler. It was advertised in the magazine Backwoods Home. Basically it is a house below ground level with an exposed dome roof, the greenhouse, also below ground level, is butted up against the south side of the house with plexiglass roof panels slanted to the south. Inside the greenhouse against the house wall we've planned tall water filled drums to absorb heat from any possible sunlight. we're also trying to figure a way to run tubing through the drums that can be used to heat the water from house heating system for when the sun is "on hiatus". We are trying to figure out the thickness needed for the roof panels, which direction the sun will be coming from, the best heating system for the house, and a zillion other details. One person I talked to suggested putting the greenhouse between the house and a barn so the animals would benefit too and be easy to get to in case of severe weather. Any one have thoughts on that? I thought about insect infestation and sanitation, but many pioneers had their barns attached to their houses.

Offered by Teresa.

The design of many European farm houses is one in which the animals live underneath the human occupancy level. In this way heat from the animals rises up through the flooring, adding both to the insulation of the animals and the heating of the humans. I think dealing with the smell was basically a bit of manual labour mucking it out every so often. Simple maintenance, perhaps a weekly chore. My father grew up in this environment before and during WWII and said it works quite well, or did until the war over took Italy and they had to run for the hills. The war completely disrupted the rural communities all over Italy and from my father's generation on everyone went seeking cash in the cities. Anyhow, by segmenting the underfloor area, they were able to house different animals during the winter and store all their preserves, dried fruit, smoked meat and sausages. My uncle still keeps a couple of pigs in this environment and makes the best pork sausages I've ever tasted. The farm house in question is high in the mountains and gets snowed in during winter.

I think if you were to incorporate your greenhouse into this arrangement, you could sweep the droppings, hay, etc. directly into the garden as a source of nutrients. Indeed, if you incorporated the composting type earthworms (Red preferably, with a few Tiger worms perhaps) into your garden beds, they would consume the manure and other organic waste, returning it directly to the plants. A one step fertilisation process. This is a project I'm working on at the moment and seems to show a lot of promise, with minimal effort to maintain. Worms seem to look after themselves quite well and do wonderful things to the soil if you feed them organic waste.

Offered by Gino.