workshop review: earth bag building with Patti Stouter

A couple weekends ago, a couple guys from my church and I trekked over to Patti Stouter's house to learn from her how to build with dirt and bags and barbed wire. We want to provide permanent shelter for Haitians in a sustainable, affordable, culturally appropriate, disaster resistant manner and she has already designed and seen constructed a few buildings in post-earthquake Haiti. She has a website, Simple Earth Structures, which has a page for training workshops at her house. Her classes are not just for relief minded people such as myself, though she has had much interest from ex-patriot Haitians who want to go back and do something for their friends and family. There are Americans who want to build additions or entire domiciles out of earth bags for themselves, in the USA. One such couple was also in our class.

The class was great. We worked on rubble bags for the first rows of the foundation. Then we mixed dirt to the right mixture of clay and sand and moisture and added them to bags to lay on the foundation, and made sure two lines of barbed wired were between each layer. We tamped the bags and shifted them around so our walls stayed vertical. We looked at an earth bag that had been re-opened after tamping and marveled at how solid it had become. We learned how to determine if the local soil needs modification before use. Patti is a great teacher. I appreciated her scientific approach to this building method. She has multiple experiments in progress around her property and in her basement. She answered our questions, not as a salesperson, she is not selling bags, but as a friend. Sometimes she didn't have an answer, and put it on her mental list of things to either experiment with or ask someone else about.

We took a lunch break and got these massive Philly cheese steak BLT sandwiches on long rolls, that were out of this world. The calorie count was massive, but we worked hard. We didn't stay for dinner with Patti and her husband, but we had at least an hour of conversation in their living room. Her husband is an architect, but also a great guy to talk with. We were treated like old friends. I can't speak highly enough of this workshop. I highly recommend it to anyone considering building with bags.

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