Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Projects of 2010

Eco-Village Adventure

As you may have noticed, we took the year off from workshops to tackle some exciting projects.
From March though July we had a marvelous opportunity to work on some of the first natural buildings in a new eco-development in Amarillo, TX. Mariposa Eco-Village is selling lots in a development planned to have over 300 natural homes! Nothing like it has ever been built before. This new neighborhood is sited on a used up strip mine, making it a perfect site for regeneration through permaculture and natural building. Because all the top soil has already been removed from the site, we won’t be damaging anything by building on it. In addition, the site is virtual shopping mall for natural building materials like clay, sand, and gravel.
Our team of intrepid natural builders camped out on the high windy plains of Texas as we took on some unique natural building projects. First on the list was finishing a “Hospitality Center” built from giant compressed earth blocks. This building was one of the first ever built with this new Megablock technology. I got to meet the inventors of the Megablock machine and I think this has enormous potential for the future of natural building. You can see their website here
The Barefoot builder team got started in the Hospitality Center by installing a hydronically heated earthen floor.
The floor was too large to hand trowel in a single day, so we avoided seams by dividing it into tiles. I can’t wait to run with this idea by dividing a floor into more intricate patterns!
Once the floor was done, we moved on to plastering the center inside and out. In order to show off all the variety available with natural clay plasters, each wall was done in a different color.

The second project on the list was a weekend rental cottage intended to give potential home owners an idea of what it is live to live in a cob house. We designed and built the cottage using materials mostly from the abandoned mine. Using a Bobcat to mix, we were able to complete all the cob in under two weeks.

We battled outrageous winds, triple digit heat, and even a small tornado that removed several day's work when it lifted the newly framed roof off our cob guest house. In the evenings our crew enjoyed good times around the campfire telling exaggerated stories and eating yummy food. In the end we completed the walls and roof of a beautiful cob cottage which

we will plaster in the spring.

Finally, before heading on to west Virginia we took a little field trip to see some 3,000 year old earthen homes in the Taos Pueblo. What an inspiration!

Special thanks to the "Pit Crew": Whitney, Allen, John I., John II, Helena, Mike, David and to the many wonderful volunteers who turned up to help!

A Cob Retreat in West Virgina

We spent August in West Virginia building the first of several buildings in a little retreat. The house is nestled into the side of a hill on a beautiful mountain site. The house was designed by Kindra Welch ( and when finished will have a living roof disappearing into the hillside on the north. We used a Bobcat to mix and were able to complete the walls in just a week! We will be returning in the spring to plaster.
Many thanks to Whitney Owen, John Maiers, and Helena Sadavary, who were invaluable both in Texas and in West Virginia.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Free Advice! I Know 'Ya Want Some ;-)

Hi Everyone,

I receive numerous emails each week from people with natural building questions, so I thought this would be a good way to answer some of them and spark new discussion! Please send me your questions, comments, drawings and ideas. I'll post some of them here like a sort of natural building "advice column".

Also remember to sign up for the newsletter so you can get seasonal updates on happenings here and in the wider world of natural building.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

2011 Workshops are Here!

All About Cob
Austin, TX area
March 17th-26th
Learn all the basic skills you’ll need to build a small cob cottage. This workshop will be a hands-on building experience taking place on a Texas ranch. You will learn all the basics of building with cob for anything from a shed to a small cob cottage. In this workshop we will construct the walls of a cob cottage from the ground up! You will have the chance to get hands on experience with foundations, windows, doors, plumbing, electricity, plasters and decorative details. You will also learn how to select materials, mix cob by foot and with heavy equipment, use passive solar design, plan a realistic budget and schedule for your project, and approach the building department. This is an excellent workshop to take if you are considering building your own cob home or any fully enclosed building.Workshop fee includes all meals and camping near the building site. Indoor showers are available and there is room for you to park your RV if you want to bring one. We offer some discounts for couples, families and groups. Please contact us if you would like to work out a special group rate.

Plaster Master
Woodbury, TN
April 9th and 10th
Learn to make and apply beautiful earthen and lime plasters, paints, and washes on finished cob walls.
This workshop is followed immediately by the earthen floor workshop and you get a $100 discount when you take both workshops together

Beautiful Earth Floors
Woodbury, TN
April 11th and 12th
Learn to make a beautiful clay floor. Earthen floors are incredibly beautiful and durable, but you’ll need to pick up some skills if you want to include one in your natural home. In this workshop we will install a multi layered and multi colored earthen floor. We will have a second floor already dry and ready for the natural linseed oil and beeswax sealer, so you’ll get to learn all the steps of a two week process in only two days!

Building With Cob Off-Grid
Daffodil Meadow, Woodbury, TN
June 24- July 2nd
Build a small cob building from the foundation up. This workshop will be a small, off the grid cob building and will offer the chance to learn all the basic skills for building a cob house, especially on a remote off-grid building site. We will start with the building of a stone foundation and then learn to mix cob both by foot and with machinery. We will also frame a simple round pole roof and apply lime and clay plasters. This is an excellent comprehensive introduction to building with cob and is perfect if you are planning to build off the grid.