The Best Way to Learn About Natural Building

by ziggy on March 25, 2013 -- 3 comments -- Follow

Natural Building Workshops

People often write me and ask how to get into or learn about natural building and living a more sustainable lifestyle. Unfortunately (?), the answer is fairly predictable, but all the same, it is worth addressing here. The answer is this: the best way to learn whatever you want to do is to get firsthand experience. Sorry to say, but it’s that simple.

When to comes to a specialized skill, there is no replacement for getting firsthand experience. Reading books and looking at images online is one thing, and one thing only — a mere taste, a slight dip of the spoon. All of that goes out the window when you try the thing (say, building) itself. Because putting an idea into practice is an entirely different experience from intellectualizing or daydreaming about it.

But that is the “business” I feel most passionate about, and want to encourage more than anything to the readers of this blog, to the people I meet, and to anyone who has an itch to do anything new. Go out there, get experience, create connections, and give it a try.

The reason I built a cob house is because I fell in love with the material after working on a cob kitchen for several months during my first year here at Dancing Rabbit. Building my own home felt like a logical next step, although of course I could have spent more time gaining experience on different projects, too. I’ve been learning as I go, too — it hasn’t stopped yet. Far from it. (And that is part of the excitement, too — there is always something new to learn!)

Another point to make is that you shouldn’t assume you’ll have to travel to Oregon to learn about natural building. There are schools and workshops that happen throughout the country, and if you’re lucky, you may not have to travel too far to learn about cob, or straw bale building, timber framing, earth bag construction, etc. (If you do live in Oregon, good for you — you won’t have to go too far!)

It pays to do some research online to see what kinds of projects are happening in your region. Plenty of people who are building their own home are happy to have volunteers, or even interns. Workshops are more commonplace than you might think, too. You really just need to do some searching, get out of the house, and create some connections.

Spring is coming, and that means new opportunities are likely to come with it. Of course I’ll have to plug our 2013 Natural Building Workshops selection here — we’re offering both a new Timber Frame Workshop and Cob Oven Workshops later in the summer/fall. Part of the highlight for participants who do workshops with us is the chance to see a wide variety of natural buildings in person, and to get a feel for what community life looks like, too, so there is a twofold effect for those folks really wanting to delve into building and sustainability.

Anyway, consider whatever it is that you want to learn about this year, and see if you can volunteer, trade your time, or travel to take a workshop this year. The best way to learn is to get your hands dirty.

If you still need help with more specific suggestions, contact me.

Send Me More Updates Like This!

  • Ellen

    We found a workshop coming up at Pichard’s Mountain Eco-Institute in North Carolina this month. It would be hard to get all the way to you right now so we were happy to find something on the east coast. We hope to get out to meet you sometime soon. It is so important that the world know that alternatives to high priced cookie cutter houses exist. Thanks for all you do for the movement!

  • Stefano Trinca

    Really interesting and craveing to learn more.Built a few rocket mass heaters with ”cob” here in my own country(Italy).Live near lake Garda….would you please inform me whenever you’ve got som’ going on i can partecipate….

  • Michael Fogas

    Hey Ziggy, I watched the full reel of pics from your “Year-of-mud”!! Awesome stuff. So cool to see how strong the materials are when you did the post build demo/remodel. I have been considering buying some land south of us STL and was considering an RV as a starting point. A few weeks ago I remembered some cob structures on the permaculture site connected with my college in Prescott, AZ and started looking around and WOW! Cool stuff. Glad to know you guys are close to us. Thinking the Cob oven class would be a place to get some hands-on experience in prep for a house project. Can we bring our kids (4 and 5)?

Previous post:

Next post: