Earthen Hand

Bad lighting. Scott teaching dynamically.

Scott Howard’s Earthen Hand Natural Building Workshop – Earthbag building basics was awesome.  I highly recommend anyone to take a workshop by him.

Granted, I live in Charlotte, NC, and the workshop was in Portland, OR.  So I’m sure that kind of trip isn’t easy to do for everyone.  Nor was it entirely easy for me to do either.  But it was worth it, that’s for sure.  I got to see a really cool city, meet some really great people.  But I got some really great hands on experience.

Earthbag building to me means an affordable (can be roughly 10$/sq ft.), sustainable (you’re building with dirt), structurally sound(nearly earthquake proof if built correctly) home that kicks conventional buildings asses.  A year and a half ago I didn’t have a major dream to accomplish, except to love my family well (for the rest of the time I’m living), and love my vocation (just occupation currently).  Then I discovered it through the stumbleupon! button and fell in love with the idea of building my own home.  So I’m trying to take one step at a time towards this goal.  So my first step was to build my own test wall (per Owen Geiger).  My second step was to take a class by someone who really knew what they were talking about.  My third step is to get involved locally.  There’s a guy up near Asheville, NC (3 hours away) that is building an addition to his existing Earthbag home that I hope to take part in.

So I blogged about my progress on the wall yesterday, now I’m going to blog about Scott’s workshop.

Let me say something about Portland first.  Their transportation system is so much better than ours.  A lot of people compost (which nobody does here unless you live on a farm, and most haven’t even heard of it).  People ride bikes places.  Some have living roofs, rain catchment systems, and lots of other awesome green things.  And they’re surprised I ain’t got no southern accent.  All-in-all, a very cool atmosphere.  When you see the world through someone else’s eyes you get more grounded.

So when I went to Earthen Hand’s workshop, it was pretty cool to meet the locals.  One guy lives in a sustainable community, some wanted to build their own homes like me, and some just wanted to learn more about building with earth.

Scott taught the class in a relaxed style, which was great.  We learned by questioning things and doing them, rather than being told exactly what to do all the time.  I guess it was somewhat reverse-Socratic at times, haha.  We learned how to start the foundation, the first parts of the wall, how to build a door frame, and a window.  We learned a lot more than that, but those were the main things we actually accomplished.

River Rock Foundation

Scott took these pictures, and you can see the progress of it from the same frame.  To the left is the river rock foundation with a layer to keep clay from seeping up in to the rocks, also to keep us from tamping the rocks into the dirt, and other uses that I’ve forgotten about, ha.  You can see the cement tampers we were using.

Gravel bags laid.

Here are the first rows of gravel bags (to keep moisture from wicking into the walls).  There’s also a door frame there.  The tarp above is to keep the Portland rain from getting everything soggy.  Also notice the kiln inside the building for now.  It might be too big for the door frame, so they went ahead and put it in before the walls got too tall.  I just hope that kiln never breaks, or they’ll have permanent uncomfortable furniture.

Group photo

And here is 7 of the 12 or more we had at the workshop.  I’m slightly photo-bombing on the left with the wooden tamper.  Glad I didn’t get splinters with that honkin’ thing.

Here are a couple of my photos at the end of the workshop.

Another Angle (window frame just there for illustration, it’ll be much higher, later.

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