Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"DIRT" — Review by Jennifer Morkunas, Eco Metro (Celilo Group Media)

Michael Van Hall’s The Cheap-Ass Curmudgeon’s Guide to DIRT offers a fresh perspective on building outside the box, and some great advice on avoiding the shape of a box.

A whole range of topics are covered, from building with your own earthen building blocks without having to wait for them to cure, to interior walls and making your own doors.
His trademarked Self-Locking Pour-in-Place System is a time-saver, and his easy-to-read style convinces you that all you need to do is cast aside your doubts about what you are able to do with your own two hands, and show some willingness to get them dirty.

Van Hall is in touch with the creative process, and guides you through developing your own. Have you ever considered that DIRT is your greatest asset? The book is full of useful tips that would be hard to pick up anywhere else, such as using cactus juice as a non-toxic waterproofing agent. Who knew? I love how he placed cans and bottles in his bricks to add insulating properties. Now THAT’S what I call recycling! Not since Frodo and Sam’s journey with the ring has a story about Mortar been so riveting. This guide has come at a great time, when many people are seeing the benefits of changing (i.e. downsizing) their lifestyle, voluntary simplicity, and the Freegan movement. Van Hall has some sustainable suggestions that hardly cost any money. The illustrations are also really amusing.

Growing up in the land of Reagan-era tract homes, I can really appreciate and advocate Van Hall’s concept of creative building and tuning into your surroundings. His section on windows is a must-read in this respect. For example, it’s common to want to make windows as large as possible, but Van Hall recommends using them like frames that narrow down a view to a specific scene. You will learn to always ask, “Why do we have to do it that way?” and to question conventions.

I also didn’t know that houses used to be made out of sod, and they were warmer than a lot of stucco homes. That's wild! It is empowering to start to learn how to create very basic building structures, as well as cabinets, desks, and countertops, The Cheap-Ass Curmudgeon’s Guide to DIRT is enthusiastic, accessible, and encouraging. Check out what Michael has to say and get in touch with that child inside who wants to play in the dirt.

-Jennifer Morkunas, Celilo Group Media

Find the best of what’s green and local with our EcoMetro guides and at ecometro.com.

Celilo Group Media publishes Chinook Book in Portland and Seattle/Puget Sound, EcoMetro Guide in East Bay, CA and Blue Sky Guide in Minneapolis/St Paul.

No comments:

Post a Comment