In 2019, we set up a workshop to build a tiny house on our community property. It was an eight-day workshop–the longest we had done to date, and it filled up quickly. As most readers probably already know, tiny houses have been one of the biggest trends in alternative building.
I had the opportunity to ask Jasmine Dale, wife of Simon Dale, some questions about their Hobbit House in Whales. If you’re interested in natural or alternative building, and unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you’ve probably come across pictures of the Hobbit House...
In 2019, we had an eight-day workshop at our property, to begin work on an earthbag tiny house. This and footage taken since then has been turned into an online, earthbag tiny house building course.
Several years ago, I got an opportunity to work on a hempcrete house for a couple of days. By that time I’d heard quite a bit about the technique and was very excited to get a chance to try it out.
Here’s a modern hobbit home that uses some very sound design principles and has a decidedly organic feel to it. It was designed by Architect Javier Senosiain and was built in 1984. Javier mostly used cement with metal reinforcement to accomplish the sensual curviness of this structure. Much of the same feel could be achieved with less impact using natural building methods such as earthbag or cob.
I’ve been a proponent of earthbag building for well over a decade now. When I tell people what I teach, I’d say that at least 95% of folks haven’t heard of it. The premise is simple: put dirt (a mix of sand and clay) in sandbags and build walls with it. We built our first earthbag house in 2009 and I have been an avid spreader of the dirtbag gospel ever since.
My first exposure to the concept of bottle walls was through one of Mike Reynold’s earthship books. Mike developed the idea of earthships in the 70’s when recycling was in it’s infancy. Landfills were filling up with glass bottles–a foolish waste of an amazing material. What Mike found was that you could build walls of amazing beauty and durability, that evoke the feeling of stained glass, by using these discarded (dare I say, “disgraced”?) receptacles.
In 2014 our small intentional community purchased twelve acres of prime land in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Over the next year and a half, we helped our community members build infrastructure and their earthbag house. In the spring of 2016, we began work on our own earthship-inspired earthbag house.
I quickly fell in love with earthbag building after discovering it in 2007. The fact that you could build an extremely strong, extremely inexpensive house using materials from under your feet was very appealing to me. in 2019, after building two of our own larger earthbag houses, I decided to go small and build an earthbag tiny house. I was having a bit of a midlife crisis and wanted to downsize and simplify my life or to at least model that possibility for others.
One of the more frequent questions I hear is where to find a good deal on sandbags. I usually buy mine from eBay. Bags come in two main sizes, 14″ x 26″ and 18″ x 30″. We always use the smaller bags which weigh about 40 to 50 lbs each when full and make a wall about a foot thick when plastered. We buy 1000 bags at a time so you get a better bulk buying discount.