The Permaculture Podcast

    Episode 1214: Natural Building with Cliff Davis


    Click here to download the episode. | Open Player in New Window

    The guest for this episode is Cliff Davis, a permaculture designer and teacher from Tennessee who, along with his wife Jennifer, operates Spiral Ridge Permaculture. Together they offer classes on permaculture, natural building, homesteading, edible forest gardens, earthworks, and many other topics of interest for anyone seeking a lifestyle that consumes less energy and lives closer to the earth.

    They also offer professional design and build services for permaculture and edible forest gardens, eco-education, base mapping, natural building, and soil fertility management.

    I was first introduced to Cliff through one of my PDC instructors, Ben Weiss. After my PDC, I looked for a permaculture teacher training and saw that Cliff and Jennifer planned to host a class taught by Jude Hobbs and Andrew Millison through Spiral Ridge Permaculture. Though it didn’t work out to attend that session, the time that Cliff and Jennifer took to answer my questions and keep me informed left a positive impression on me. I sought him out as a guest when relaunching the show in mid-2012. Fortunately, he involved in a great deal of hands on projects both teaching and working on natural building, a topic of interest to me.

    My original plan for this interview focused on the various forms of natural building, such as cordwood, cob, post and beam, and so on, with a corresponding discussion of the techniques involved. However, while we spoke it became clear that, like every situation in permaculture, the applications of natural building are unique to the building site and needs of the inhabitants. As a result our conversation turned into to a general one, looking instead for the ways to gain a knowledge of building with natural materials and touching on some of the legal pitfalls and other complications of doing so.

    Disclaimer: Before you rush out and start building, please call your local government or administrative body and find out the legalilty of natural building in your area including building codes and any necessary permits. I don’t want you or anyone else to run into legal trouble because of code or other violations. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to consult a lawyer familiar with construction practices. These professionals who deal with the law. If you find that the law isn’t to your liking or need, you can also work with your government to change it. Sometimes all it takes is one person making the right phone call to make all the difference.

    We mention several times in this episode that good natural building starts with a good design. Take your time, work through your needs, and draft your thoughts until they become clear. You’ll thank yourself for it in the long run. As Cliff says, the little details bite you in the end.

    If you have any questions for me, email: show (at) thepermaculturepodcast (dot) com
    Or leave a message on the voicemail line: 717.827.6266.

    Spiral Ridge Permaculture Cliff and Jennifer Davis’s Website.

    The Last Straw The International Quarterly Journal of Straw Bale and Natural Building
    Building with Cob: A Step-by-Step Guide (
    Natural Building Network
    Other Natural Walls
    ReCode Oregon
    Timber Framers Guild

    Web Resources on Natural Building Techniques
    Cob (Wiki)
    Building a Cob House

    Cordwood Masonry
    Cordwood Construction (Wiki)
    Cordwood Masonry
    F.A.Q. About Cordwood Masonry

    Earthbag Construction (Wiki)
    Earthbag Building Index Promotes and shares information on Earthbag building.
    How Earthbag Homes Work A How Stuff Works article

    Lime Plaster
    My Recipe for Lime Putty and Lime Plaster
    How to Make Lime Building Plaster (E-how)

    Post and Beam or Timber Framing
    Timber Framing (Wiki)
    A House With No Nails: Building a Timber-Frame Home
    Raising a 12×16 Timber Frame

    Round Pole
    Pole Houses
    Round Timber Introduction (PDF) From the Great Britain Forestry Commission.

    Slip Fill
    Light Straw-Clay
    Light and Limey Clay Wood Chip Slip
    Clay Infill Systems

    Stone Masonry
    Stonemasonry (Wiki)
    Prehistoric Construction Techniques A resource full of pictures showing low-tech stonemasonry technologies from throughout history and around the world.
    The Different Techniques Used in Stone Masonry

    Staw-bale Construction (Wiki)
    Straw Bale House Construction

    The Thatcher’s Craft A 10 part pdf download from the Herefordshire Collefe of Technology of The Thatcher’s Craft, a complete book on Thatching.

    Similar posts
    • 1909 – Essential Rammed Earth Construction with Tim Kr... My guest today is Tim Krahn, a Canadian engineer, builder, and author of Essential Rammed Earth Construction from New Society Publishers. Donate online to the Winter to Spring Fundraiser Tim joins me to share his thoughts and experiences with rammed earth as a natural building method. This includes the distinction between raw and stabilized rammed [...]
    • 1826 – Essential Earthbag Construction with Kelly Hart Our guest for this episode is the carpenter, architect, and builder Kelly Hart. He joins me today to talk about Earthbag Construction, the subject of his recently published book Essential Earthbag Construction from New Society Publishers. Learn more about my Moment of Need In this interview, Kelly walks us through many of the steps required [...]
    • 1811 – Designing for Disasters with Natural Building here to download the episode. | Open Player in New WindowMy guest today is Oliver Goshey, founder of the regenerative design and natural building company Abundant Edge, and host of the Abundant Edge podcast. During this interview we talk about natural building and designing for disasters, including the nature of and increase in these [...]
    • Episode 1536: We Can All Be Builders here to download the episode. | Open Player in New WindowLike this post? Become a Patron. This is Episode 1536: We Can All Be Builders, and is the complete audio, including an audience question and answer session, from Eric Puro’s keynote address at Radicle Gathering on August 21, 2015. For those of you who [...]
    • Episode 1507: Timber Framing with Patrick Shunney here to download the episode. | Open Player in New WindowLike this podcast? Support it on Patreon. My guest for this episode is Patrick Shunney, a timber framer from Kearneysville, West Virginia. In this interview we talk about his background and how he came to timber framing, how this type of building differs from [...]

    1 Comment

    1. LeonLeon
      December 12, 2013    

      File download doesn’t work for me – seems that the link is broken. Thanks,

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.