Mud on the wall, mud on the floor – mud, mud everywhere!

Even though building the natural way can sometimes seem to take quite awhile, time still flies in many senses. The last two weeks of the Shelter Series certainly flew by!

We spent week 6 learning about natural plasters and finishes with Eva Edleson of Firespeaking. I fell in love with plastering when I first came to Aprovecho in the spring, and welcomed the chance to learn some new techniques and add to my muscle memory. Our first project was putting a skin onto the strawbale walls of the Boathouse.

These walls will receive several layers of base plaster, to flesh them out and make them smooth(er) and flat(ish) and more plumb.

Our second project was putting a (closer to) finish plaster on the cob wall, which was especially satisfying to me as it has been a project I have worked on here and there as long as I’ve been at Apro.


Pretty, isn’t it? It still awaits its bit of roof and its twin wall across the path, and then the new garden wall (rampart?) will be complete.

We then moved inside and repainted a wall in the meeting hall with a lovely aliz. This wall has been an ongoing experiment with using a natural paint over drywall. The first time round there were a couple of spots where the paint didn’t stick. After prepping those areas by sanding and then coating them with a glue mix, we went at it with the aliz and this time had fantastic results.



We also painted some sconces and window frames, playing with pigments in the aliz and generally having a fun time. It is so nice to work with natural paints, knowing that there are no nasty fumes to inhale or that if you drip it on yourself (as I inevitably do) it will wash off with more than relative ease!

Our last project that week were some repairs and a fresh coat of lime plaster on the interior of the yurt that was built last year during the Shelter Series. Lime plasters are a bit less natural than the plasters made out of simple clay and sand and straw, but the historical significance and practical applications of it pleases me, and I was really excited to learn how to use it.

Although your hands are really the only tools you need for plaster jobs, something about the floats and trowels and hawks and other tools that you can use delights me.

I’m looking forward to many more plastering and aliz projects – and there will be plenty more as we bring the Boathouse closer to completion!

During the 7th and final week of the Shelter Series we learned all about earthen floors. Led by Sukita Reay Crimmel of From These Hands, we put a floor in the Boathouse. We were working with a slab on grade, so we had a bit of work to do before we could pour the floor. First we filled the space with crushed gravel, then laid down a vapor barrier, then added insulative volcanic rock. Our base floor pour was more crushed gravel mixed with a clay slip. We compacted everything thoroughly.


Finally, we mixed up our finish floor mix, and bit by bit we smoothed and leveled and fussed with it until it was a thing of beauty.


After burnishing it, we left it to dry and moved to the finished and year old floor of the library, which was in need of a little love. We swept and mopped it, then went to work rubbing in a new coat of beeswax. The result was a lovely, shinny, like-new floor which will compliment the promised new bookshelves and make the library an even more enjoyable space.

After a final presentation on Friday followed by a tea party, the Shelter Series took it’s bows and left the Apro stage for this year. It was an excellent learning experience, and left me feeling confident and empowered, and even more excited about natural building than I had been before.

After all, who wouldn’t want to spend their time building forts and playing in the mud?