I was excited to find this video documentary about Japanese clay plaster as it’s currently being practiced by sakan (a.k.a., traditional plasterers). From what I gather, clay plaster is a niche craft in Japan, but the tradition has been unbroken for hundreds and hundreds of years. It’s not practiced as widely as it once was, yet the quality of the work that is done is exceptional. It’s serious business, and absolutely beautiful and inspiring too.
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South Slope Farm rainbow

The number one rule of trying to maintain a homestead seems to be this: there’s always something else you could be doing. Even when there’s a lull, really, it’s just relative to the busier times… because it’s not that there’s nothing to do, it’s just that stuff won’t fall to bits if it doesn’t happen this second. Thankfully, April and I are getting better at not taking on too much at once, and having a toddler has certainly been helping us to hone that skill. We joke that we operate at 40% capacity with Hazel in tow. Well, it’s actually not a joke as much as it is the truth. Naturally, priorities are different now.

Where am I going with this? Well, in our second year on this land, the deeper realities of being a landowner/land steward/enter your preferred term here is definitely settling in. It’s a pendulum really. One moment I feel like there’s no way we can keep things up, and then the joy of even the smallest bit of progress washes my fears away… only to be repeated again and again.

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cob stomping mixing

We recently wrapped up our September Natural Building Essentials Workshop. Fourteen folks came out to participate, traveling from Texas, Florida, Kansas, Illinois, and beyond. It was an enjoyable ephemeral community for the week — everyone was eager to jump in the mud and help out. I enjoy this workshop format because it’s a chance to spend some quality time with the basic building blocks of a natural home — clay, sand, and straw.

Read ahead to view a photo gallery of the workshop!

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Our friend Dan Durica of Hardcore Sustainable visited us here at home in Berea, Kentucky earlier in the spring. While he was here, April gave him a tour of the off-grid straw bale house we helped friends design and build during our first two years living in the area. Dan whipped up a video tour of the house in progress, which you can watch above.

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This week, I traveled to eastern Pennsylvania to work with Gabe Franklin of The Art of Plaster to install a large earthen floor in a straw bale home. We’ve been in talks about collaborating and this project was the perfect opportunity to sling mud together. And here I thought the 900 sq. ft. floor of this spring was big — this floor comes in at 1500 sq. ft. Earthen floors represent a lot of hard labor, so  the good company and our mutual love of clay carried us through to the end.

Read ahead for some more photos of the process!

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