Earthships and Blacksmiths

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The "mudders" filling in the tires. Check out those pants!


Pounding tires and drinkin’ beer is what we had in store for us on Tuesday in Stevensville. Our first agenda item for our Stevensville stop was to meet with Gretchen Langton, a local massage therapist and women with an incredible home building dream. Gretchen grew up in the Bitterroot Valley and left Montana for a bit, her travels leading her to teach at the University of Oregon and then returning home to the Bitterroot to build on her family’s land. Her home is no ordinary home. She’s constructing an Earthship, a home that’s build from re-used materials. Re-used materials are different from recycled materials. Recycling of goods requires processing. Gretchen’s using old tires, soda cans and glass bottles in their retired states to build her home. 

We lent a hand with the smashing tire process. This is not an easy nor speedy process. Gretchen has no set timeline for the completion for her house, and after an hour of work, we began to understand the depth of her dream and also admire her patience. 

So, smashing tires? The walls of the house are formed by tires that are filled with dirt. Our job? Stack and fill the tires with dirt and then with a sledgehammer, pound the tire until it’s rock-hard and full of dirt. And to line the bottom of the tires, Gretchen uses the empty grain bags from the local brewery, Blacksmith Brewing Company. 

We were fortunate to have Missoulian reporter Betsy Cohen on-hand to write a story about the partnership. Check out the front page story here. It’s a well-written piece on Sarah and Red Ants Pants and Gretchen’s huge and important undertaking. 

Gretchen (r) and her cousin, Julie (l) at the brewery.


And when we first arrived to Gretchen’s land, which has been in her family since 1887, we were so excited to see a woman working in her Red Ants Pants! 

We connected with Gretchen through her friend Kimmi who thought it’d be a perfect partnership with RAP. Kimmi and her husband, Rob, met Sarah a few months ago when they stopped in White Sulphur for a job interview at a local ranch. 

With several friends and workers at the job site, we spent a few hours alongside the “mudders”–this is not a technical term but more of a description of the task. Take mud and slap it between the tires and then add pop cans to fill up any space in between the layers. It’s a dirty job but a fun one. Or so thought Maggie after sledging away for an hour on one tire… 

Although we would have liked to stay longer to finish more tires and graduate to the “mudder” position, Kimmi escorted us to the Blacksmith Brewing Company so we could set up for our party. We knew we’d see a tired Gretchen and friends at the brewery later for some post-work refreshments. 

Our Blacksmith Brewing Company host was the brewery’s manager, Trisha. Trisha welcomed us wholeheartedly into the stunning brewery. Many of you in Montana and elsewhere may not have heard of this damn fine brewery yet, but you should know about it. And taste their excellent, excellent beers. Kimmi treated all the patrons to a baked potato bar and we set up our racks of pants and goodies. The event was open to the public so we had a great mix of folks who came just to see RAP and others who came to their local hangout but ended up buying pants for their wives at home. 

Our friend, local EMT, ski patroller and fly fishing guide, Eddie.


Perhaps it was the beer or perhaps we had some bold men on hand, but we had several men drop their drawers right in the middle of the bar to try on Red Ants Pants. With beers named Pulaski Porter, anything can happen when the Red Ants Pants gals come to town! 

We had a great mix of new friends at the brewery and we were overjoyed when longtime friends from Missoula surprised us by making the drive down. 

Our three great hosts: Gretchen, Kimmi and Trisha organized a great day for us and we were most grateful for their hospitality. And a huge thank you to all the folks at the brewery for all of their support and help! Stevensville was the last stop on our MT/ID/WY tour and it was fabulous night to end the tour on. We believe Montana’s called The Last Best Place not only for the open spaces, the big sky, the stunning mountain ranges, glaciers, wilderness,  and free-flowing rivers but also for the people. And we’re just so touched by their goodness. 

Sarah and friends from Missoula & Stevensville
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