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Natural Building

Natural Building is one of our passions!  Using clay-rich soils, sand, and straw we can make beautiful, durable, functional, locally-sourced & environmentally-friendly creations for any house or yard.

All of our classes and workshops are part of a holistic design and philosophy of earthen building we call VersaTerra. 


We offer classes and tours throughout the year at our urban homestead in Reno and in the region.  We've got three for 2020. Scroll down for more info on those.  

To learn more about Versaterra and to see loads of great photos visit our building buddies at House Alive.


VersaTerra 28-Day Complete Cob & Natural Building Intensive

January - February, 2020


  • 13 participants from around the world, 2 local participants, 2 hostesses, 4 instructors, 4 kids, 2 cooks, 1!

  • We camped, ate, and did the majority of lectures at a campground on the beach just a short walk from town and shuttled up to the site each morning. Without fail "Mambo" the dog would greet us with his freakish smile and a sneezing fit.  Camila and Alejandra were our hosts at Mambo Mambo where they've been living and building for two years.  

  • We built from about 8:30 - 1:30 and then back to camp for lunch, swimming, and lecture.  At week three we started returning to the site in the afternoon for lighter work including plastering, installing windows, oven work and sculpting.  This session generally coincided with happy-hour.

  • The site was steep with very little flat space which challenged us for mixing and building. We made lots of cob with the Canadian method and adobe bricks with the help of a mortar mixer.  Materials were further from the pad than desirable so we used a human chain, a zip-line, and a German to move materials. 

  • We visited two other earthbag buildings in town as well as the community garden where we checked out the dry toilets and bamboo construction techniques.

  • Carole Crews - the renowned plasterer - gave a lecture and taught some plastering and aliz at the site to the delight of all.

  • There was unusual big rain for a couple days at the start of week three which soaked several tents and slowed the constuction a bit.  It was good learning, too, about how to deal with rain while building with earth.  

  • Loretto and Lisandra cooked truly delicious vegetarian meals (often supplemented with quesadillas using hand-made tortillas).  Overeating became a pastime.  

  • I'd be remiss if I didn't include the popular 11:00-ish snack break which was often fresh-roasted peanut butter and fruit or tostadas and hummus, sweet potato mash, salsa, peanut butter...basically anything one can spread on a tostada. 

  • "Puerca", the tiny chihuahua, was the perfect little camp mascot.

  • And let's not forget our theme song from the 4-song van CD, the magical Elton John/George Michael duet of "Don't let the Sun go Down on Me"

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