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 (Amazon.com)
Natural Building Network
Other Natural Walls
Timber Framers Guild
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
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
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.