Emerald Earth Natural Building Intensive

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Ever since I found out about natural building, I realized it was something I just had to get into. Having been in and out of the ceramics world for over two decades now, it seemed a natural progression to sculpt homes. If you have never been in a passive solar designed natural home, I highly recommend it. Else, it is likely you might think of some shanty shack or that old children’s story of the three little pigs.

Finally, after a couple of years of lollygagging I signed up for a Natural Building Intensive with Emerald Earth. Not only are Michael Smith, Darryl Berlin and Brent Levin a fountain of knowledge on the subject of natural building, they also are walking the walk when it comes to sustainable building/living. There are several amazing buildings there. Most if not all are a hybrid of several natural building styles. A pattern I noticed throughout is the use of straw bale walls on the Northern walls of the structures. This allows the colder side of the home to have a very well insulated wall so as to keep the cold out.

This place however had much more than natural building to offer. It is a functioning, albeit, smaller than they would hope community. Set in 189 acres of off grid goodness, this place has MANY things going on. Cows, goats, chickens, micro hydro, ponds, sweat lodge, harvestable timber, several composting toilets just to name a few. These are only some of the physical attributes of the land. There is also a comforting sense of community that envelopes all aspects of life. Where to begin… How about holding hands around delicious food before every meal and singing a song. Or holding circles after meals to play games and or stretch.

Some of the most influencing things I took away from this week long adventure were:

  • The amazing freedom building with these techniques provides you.
  • The incredible amount of embodied energy that goes into “conventional” building is deplorable.
  • You could be perfectly comfortable in a passively designed home without air conditioning or fans while it is over 100 degrees outside.
  • The mere act of building your own structure is not only very fun, it is also very empowering and creates a powerful bond with the land, structure and people you are building with.

I could go on and on but then you might fall asleep. So in the spirit of sharing more about natural building with you I will use an age old technique…

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