September 12th-16th, 2022

EARTHEN PLASTERS AND FLOORS

Instructors: Sasha Rabin, Michael G. Smith, and Special Guests to be Announced. 

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Cost:  $850 Includes 5-7 days camping, 5 days of organic meals, and a pocket full of skills. Early bird discount $800 if registered before August 1st

A great opportunity to develop your skills and understanding of earthen finishes, including:

• straw-clay base coat plasters for sculpting and protection

• endless variations of clay finish plasters for durability and beauty

• durable, water-resistant earthen floors

 

These techniques are suitable for natural buildings including straw bale and cob, as well for “eco-renovation” of conventional homes, where they can add natural beauty, thermal mass for increased energy efficiency, and health-enhancing moisture modulation. Plus they are fun, artistic, and inexpensive!

 

Each day includes many hours of hands-on skill building, with an emphasis on proper tool use, recipe development and testing, and site organization for efficiency and flow. Learn to find, test, and ecologically harvest your own clay; how to choose the most appropriate finish option for your building project; how to prepare various wall surfaces to improve adhesion; and how to design your home to make the plasters last.

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The building you see above is the building we will be working on. The timber frame was built from lumber harvested on site to stack functions with watershed regeneration and fire prevention. All of the dimensional wood was milled and pond-cured on site. Walls were built during the workshop in 2021 from straw bales, straw-clay, slip-and-chip, ricecrete, and other lightweight insulating systems, with a sculptural cob wall for the Water Altar, as well as arches and other decorative design elements.

Three meals a day will be prepared on site, largely from local organic ingredients. Camping is also available on site. Access to the land is somewhat challenging due to our steep unpaved road. Participants will park nearby and be shuttled to the site. Guided morning yoga asana practice will be offered 2-3 times a week, with space available for your own practice the remaining mornings. 

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Located 20 minutes from Willits in the heart of Mendocino County, Abuela Gardens is a working demonstration site dedicated to helping the growth and healing of all beings through a continued dialogue with nature, water, food, and medicine. This approach is accomplished by incorporating community, music, healing arts, and silence within a multidimensional design strategy. Our action plan is to communally care for the Earth by growing as much of our own food and medicine as possible, regenerating the forest and aquifer we depend on, building with earth and regeneratively harvested materials as well as developing habitat for a diverse interface of wild and domestic creatures including bees and hummingbirds. This workshop will enhance the infrastructure of the center by constructing a focal point for meeting and eating as well as cold storage for seeds, fermentations, roots and other food.

 

Michael G. Smith co-founded the Cob Cottage Company, along with Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley, in Oregon in 1993. He helped organize the first Natural Building Colloquium in 1994. He wrote “The Cobber’s Companion” in 1996 and co-authored “The Hand-Sculpted House” (published by Chelsea Green, 2002) and “The Art of Natural Building (2nd edition, New Society, 2015).” He has experience with a wide range of effective low-cost, low-tech building techniques including cob, straw bale, and many lightweight natural infill systems. He has taught hundreds of hands-on natural building workshops, ranging from one-day earthen oven builds for children to 12-week professional trainings. He enjoys consulting with owner builders to help them design and build successful energy-efficient natural homes. He is also on the Board of Directors of the nonprofit Cob Research Institute, which wrote the first building cob for code in the world and successfully advocated for its adoption into the 2021 International Residential Code. With his partner and children, he stewards a 20-acre organic farm in Yolo County. Learn more at strawclaywood.com.

Sasha Rabin fell in love with natural building in 2002, when she began her building career with an apprenticeship at the Cob Cottage Company. Since then she has taught extensively through organizations that she co-founded, Seven Generations Natural Builders and Vertical Clay, and through collaborations with The Yestermorrow Design Build School, The Canelo Project, Cal-Earth, The Solar Living Institute, and Quail Springs Permaculture. Teaching natural building has brought her as far as the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI) Jordan and PRI Kenya and runs her own natural building organization, Earthen Shelter.  She also directs the Natural Building Advocacy program at Quail Springs.  She recently relocated to Northern CA where she was born and raised, and is excited to be teaching up here once again!   

Sasha was drawn to natural building due to her interest in the impact that shelter has on our lives and what it means to live in beautifully created homes, of natural non-toxic materials. Building a non-toxic home is a profound experience. When people create shelter together their lives are changed forever through connections with one another and the shelter itself. Just as people are inspired when learning how to grow food, people are inspired when creating the structures we depend on for comfort and health.  More at www,earthenshelter.com

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