Darfield Earthship Edible Landscape

An earthship gets a thriving edible landscape and shelter from cold winter winds.

Project Details

Darfield Earthship
Barriere, BC, Canada
5b, Subarctic With Cool Summer
405 m
278 mm
Element Eco Design
Design, Instructor, Lead Installer
Compost Tea, Farm, Hugelkultur, Install, Perennial Landscape, Raised Garden Beds, Workshop Install


Zoned for agricultural and other industrial uses, this 13-acre had been mostly colonized by opportunistic pioneer species. Used as a forestry centre since WWII, and more recently for the clients’ log cabin building company, it was located on one of BC’s major highways for northern traffic. After having built a fully permitted and engineered 2200 sq. ft. earthship, their plans included off-grid power, solar hot water, gasification, rainwater collection, greywater, a rocket mass heater, and abundant food production. Existing structures on-site included a barn, shop, chicken coop, and cabins.


The clients, a capable and innovative family of 2 adults and 3 teenage children, had gardening experience and were looking for a more independent and regenerative living system. Further integration of the earthship into the property and local area was a high priority as was outdoor living space.


Major challenges included strong winter and shoulder season winds due to location in a north-to-south valley; mitigating highway noise; and improving poor soil quality, particularly directly outside the earthship.


As the site had been used for log cabin building for 40 years, there was ample material on site including shavings, sawdust, and scrap. With strong social connections, both through the earthship’s notoriety and their commitment to local community and lifestyle, the clients were very motivated, capable, and enthusiastic to make the project happen.

Key Elements

  • 2 large high-beds to buffer wind and sound, and catch rainwater, planted out with native species for nitrogen fixation and shelterbelt building
  • Fruit trees on inside of upper high-bed to trial perennial food close to the house
  • 25 foot hugelkultur for further food production (In their first year, the hugel produced 40-45% of their greens)
  • Herb gardens and perennial flowers adjacent to the earthship to take advantage of solar catchment and increase season extension
  • Raised garden boxes for accessibility, with hugelkultur base for increased water retention and organic matter
  • Compost tea application with soil amendments as needed
  • Entire residence area installed in 2-day workshop (with preparatory excavation and materials acquisition previously completed)


Update - 2021/07/23 - Before and After

Screen Shot 2021-07-23 at 3.33.22 PM