Natural Building Intensive - St. Paul, Alberta

Dirt Craft will be teaching 3 back to back natural building workshops at Blue Quills First Nations College in St. Paul, Alberta in July 2014.

This partnership presents a unique opportunity for some serious hands-on learning.

A War on Wood Heat? - EPA Proposes Tough New Emission Standards

Recently I've seen a number of alarming posts on new changes to regulations coming down from the EPA regarding wood stoves. One such blog is titled, EPA Takes an Axe to Self-Sufficiency; another, Off Grid Attack: EPA To Outlaw Many Wood Burning Stoves. The EPA's proposed changes (you can read all 354 pages here) are certainly aggressive, with a call for an 80% reduction in fine particulate matter from wood stoves by 2019. These changes will have implications for wood stove manufacturers and those heating with wood...and for Canadian's too, as regulators here have been quick to adopt the new EPA guidelines in the past. So what are we to make of these changes?

8 Drywall Alternatives – A Natural Builders' Perspective

Drywall (a.k.a. Sheetrock, plasterboard, gypsum wallboard) is king. The average 2,000 square foot North American home today has over 16,000 lbs of the stuff making up its walls and ceilings!1 But for those of us building with materials like straw bales, light-clay straw, wood chip clay, hempcrete, cob, or those looking for options to include in more conventional “green” homes, the big question is, does drywall provide the best option for interior walls?

An Experiment in Living Tiny

It all started with an offer to house sit. We met Bonnie about three and a half years ago. She was a student attending one of our plastering workshops, but we quickly became friends. For the last few years, we've been spending some time in our second home, our twelve foot yurt, which was perched at Bonnie's place in Kaleden, BC.

Natural Building & Cultural Bridging

We love teaching natural building workshops, and we love getting people involved through our workshops. This summer we had an opportunity to teach nine days of natural building in a row. We were invited to lead this series of workshops at Blue Quills First Nations College, in St. Paul Alberta. So, not only were we excited about the educational opportunities of a multi-day, multi-technique workshop, but we were intrigued by the cultural context as well.

Building a Rocket Mass Heater - Using a New Trick

Helping to heat green houses everywhere, one rocket mass heater at a time...This project was certainly an example in collaboration, as we worked with Groundswell Community Green House in Invermere BC to the host the event, and built the actual heater in a green house out at Edible Acres farm in Windermere, BC. If it was an excellent effort in collaboration, it was also a great, and humbling, example of our continued influence, as many of the students traveled from far and wide to attend.

Plastering an Earthship in Sounthern Alberta: A Lesson in Light

In August, we headed back to Alberta to start on a project that we've been looking forward to for awhile now: applying the finish clay plasters to an Earthship our friends are building in Southern Alberta. We were honoured and excited to add our little bit of creativity to this ambitious build.

A New Kind of Project for Dirt Craft: A Retrofit with Consciousness

Our intention was to take a little R & R this past winter, and the previous year had been a busy year of projects and workshops, but when our friend and collaborator, Bonnie (see story here) asked us to oversee the restoration and renovation of her house, though tempting as it was to say no, we just couldn't. We weren't super keen on taking on a conventional build, but we knew Bonnie's desire to do it with integrity, healthy materials, and to use as many natural building techniques as possible would make it a really great project. It would be a great opportunity to get to work with the local trades (and as it turns out, spend a lot of time educating them about alternatives), begin a dialogue with local permitting officials (RDOS and slowly start introducing the idea of building a straw bale structure in the area), and to serve as a demonstration on how the two worlds of natural and conventional building can be bridged.

Book Review: Earth Render The Art of Clay Plasters, Renders and Paints by James Henderson

Here's a compact, easy-to-read and understand book on one of my favourite topics – finishing buildings with clay and straw. James, who has done extensive natural build

Installing an Earthen Floor in the Straw Bale Roundhouse

In the summer of 2013, we started work on the straw bale roundhouse, through a week long workshop we taught, near Millarville, Alberta (read more about that part of the project here), and in mid June 2014 we installed a rocket mass heater (read more about that here). The floor is the final step and workshop in that series!

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