Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Cheap-Ass Curmudgeon’s Guide to Dirt (Building, That Is) — Rosana Hart

The Cheap-Ass Curmudgeon’s Guide to Dirt: Hand-Building with Adobe, Papercrete, Paper-Adobe, and More
, by Michael Van Hall, is a delight.

This downloadable ebook will take you through the steps to make your own simple dirt structure. He doesn’t go into all the details of how to build a house, as he points out that you can find that information everywhere. (I will add you can find that sort of thing at our natural building bookstore.)

This 100-page ebook focuses on… as you might guess from the cover… dirt. With close to 100 photographs and numerous drawings, the book is a relatively quick and very enjoyable read. It will motivate you even if you already are excited about natural building. And it will give you enough information to pile up the dirt with his special method.

(One quibble: he says you can also do this approach with papercrete and other materials. Kelly and I used papercrete as the exterior covering on our earthbag house in Colorado, and we have several friends who built all-papercrete homes. Don’t do it just before the rains come or during the rainy season, as it needs to really really dry or there can be mould problems. If you want to use papercrete, do a lot more homework on it specifically.)

Okay, back to this ebook. After an upbeat introduction with some history, there is an illustrated section on the traditional way to make adobe bricks, with comments on how much work it it – both to make them and to carry them to the building site. Not to mention the patience required to wait for them to be dry enough to use.

Much better, says Michael, is his Self-Locking Pour-in-Place System (trademarked.) Much of the book describes how to do this, and it looks like a lot of fun. Okay, any play with dirt is still going to be a lot of work, but this sounds like fun work!

I specially enjoyed the chapter where he did everything wrong… at least by traditional standards.

Michael’s website is fun too – click here to see what else the cheap-ass curmudgeon has to say, download some chapters of his ebook at no cost, and buy it if you want to.

Rosana Hart

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