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Natural Building School

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Natural Building School

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It had been Jirka’s dream for the past year to attend a course at the School of Natural Building in Slovakia. Finally after the long wait, we signed up for a 10 day workshop where we would learn how to create beautiful houses from natural materials.

To be honest I was quite sceptical when Jirka told me he wanted to build us a house out of mud, yep, mud. Can you see where my scepticism came from? I imagined living like the Flintstones, and had flashes of my future home melting with the first rain; however, the 10 day workshop dissipated all my concerns.

After a long day of hitchhiking from Czech to Slovakia, we arrived in time to meet Petr, our super relaxed, informative and spiritual leader for the following 10 days. We set up our tent, grabbed dinner and met the other participants around the camp fire.

Our tent spot, in the background is purpose built darkness theropy villa.

Our tent spot, in the background is a purpose built darkness theropy villa.

The course took place amidst the mountains in Slovakia, the closest village is 4km away and the atmosphere is calm and peaceful. There were about 50 of us that were there for the workshop, plus a few other longer term volunteers. Food was taken care of by two ladies who slaved away in the kitchen 24/7 and served up delicious vegan degustations.

A duel level yurt, the top floor used as sleeping quarters, the bottom as a kitchen.

A duel level yurt, the top floor used as sleeping quarters, the bottom as a kitchen.

The first two days consisted of theory; we all sat inside as Petr blew everyone away with his knowledge on building with natural materials. He explained how to construct with natural materials including hay, clay, sand, water, grass, wood, wool, straw, hemp, wood shavings and much more. We learnt about insulation, protection against the elements, mice and insects, how to create and ferment plaster, make our own bricks and live a sustainable environmentally friendly lifestyle.

A natural house still in the making, it has a thatched roof, straw bale insulation and will be an additional darkness theropy house.

A natural house still in the making, it has a thatched roof, straw bale insulation and will be an additional darkness theropy house.

After two days of theory, we had two days of practise, a nice free flow approach where pretty much whatever we wanted to try out or practice we got a chance to do it. All around the area there were projects in the works, walls half complete, roofs needing to be tiled and materials needing to be made into plaster.

The team hard at work applying a layer of fermented natural plaster.

The team hard at work applying a layer of fermented natural plaster.

After getting dirty for two days, we were back inside for our last two days of theory. What I liked the most was Petr’s tips and tricks on saving money whilst constructing. He told us how to find second hand building materials, helping others recycle while also getting free windows, bricks and other things.

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Inside the double story yurt

Our final four days were spent outside, working on projects of our liking. The beauty of the course, and I guess the beauty of paying for it, is that we weren’t obliged to work, but could freely move about the area, watching, learning and trying things out.

Jirka is featured in the middle, mixing up some plaster, the others are watching intently.

Jirka is featured in the middle, mixing up some plaster, the others are watching intently.

A group of us set about making a clay oven for the garden. Something I’d never imagined I’d be able to do without a team of specialists monitoring my every move. But with our little group of amateur clay oven enthusiasts, we actually started to create our own little masterpiece. Some set about building the foundations; others mixed the materials whilst different groups of people did the calculations. We all worked together really well, even though every step of the process had five to ten people giving their own opinion about how it should be done, it all worked out in the end.

A clay oven that was made by the previous course participants. We took full use of it with a pizza night.

A clay oven that was made by the previous course participants. We took full use of it with a pizza night.

People were also decorating the walls with plaster, carving spoons and whistles, painting the clay sauna, creating beautiful mosaics, playing on the guitar and relaxing.

A volunteer decorating the inside of the clay sauna.

A volunteer decorating the inside of the clay sauna.

When we had done as much as we could with the clay oven, and was waiting for it to dry, Jirka got started on creating a dehydrator powered through the use of a solar panel and incorporated greenhouse aspects into the design. With a bit of help, he finished just in time on the final day, and the result was a success.

Jirka showing off his two days worth of work on a dehydrator.

Jirka showing off his two days worth of work on a dehydrator.

The course ended up being so much better than I had imagined, the information was fantastic, the hands on work was even better and we both got to try out a bit of everything over the 10 days. I can actually see myself building and living in a house made from natural materials knowing that it won’t be blown down by the first fart.

The clay sauna, a most effictive one with a wooden floor, fireplace, chimney, vent and handmade door.

The clay sauna, a most effictive one with a wooden floor, fireplace, chimney, vent and handmade door.

And in case you are interested:

http://www.ekovesnice.cz/

Raw materials ready to be mixed to make plaster.

Raw materials ready to be mixed to make plaster.

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Leave a Comment

    • Gabi
    • December 15, 2015
    Reply

    Sounds super fun and very informative! I guess after a course like this it would be very possible to just go off and start on your own house :) I was just wandering if the course is only for Slovak-speaking people? Or English is welcome as well?

      • J&T
      • January 22, 2016
      Reply

      Hi Gabi, yeah the course was amazing but unfortunately the one we did in Slovakia was run just in Czech language which Slovaks understand too, but makes it hard for English speakers.

    • Štěpán
    • August 10, 2015
    Reply

    It is really nice this architecture. Not only people but hobbits could live there :)